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Ten Questions with Author Molly Nero of the Children’s Book Series, Smarty Pig

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Debut author Molly Nero loves to sing, dance and read. She spent more than 18 years teaching elementary school. Reading to her own children, she was inspired to write. She recently signed with Halo Publishing, Int. and her first children’s book Smarty Pig, part of a new series with child-centered plots, was released December 2011. The second book in the Smarty Pig series Smarty Pig and the Test Taking Terror is due to release in spring 2012.

As the youngest of seven kids growing up in Texas, Nero kept busy protecting her dolls from her five brothers. “Curling up in my closet with a good book from the library was always a wonderful way to escape the onslaught of G. I. Joe and his army,” shared Nero. This is one reason Nero has decided to tackle the problems children are facing today, from study habits to bullying.

Nero’s first book, Smarty Pig, is about a family of pigs just beginning their school year. The only one in the pig family who has not given up on school and doing her homework isthe lead character. Although she is teased, her report card shows her hard work, while the others fail. The other pigs reach out to her and she becomes their tutor, by creating games in their home. They all realize learning can be fun and that it is not just for school, it’s for life.

Molly, can you share how the Smarty Pig children’s book series came to life?
Beginning my 18-year career teaching elementary school, I found myself in the fourth grade classroom, which became my training ground for writing. Writing rough drafts, editing and revising to model the process for my students allowed me to grow in my own abilities and desire to write. After five years, I became the music teacher, giving me the opportunity to work with hundreds of kids from Kindergarten to fifth grade producing grade-level musicals each year.

Stepping out of the “classroom” teacher role also enabled me to work with kids in a different way. Never spending a class in chairs at desks, I would have my students dancing and “proving” they could “show me the beat” in a fun song to start class. Music gave them a chance to break out of the strict boundaries of classroom etiquette by yelling answers to show dynamics, counting using nonsense syllables and acting out emotions without words. I worked hard to create a risk-free environment for my students so I earned their trust and respect. Students began to talk about their frustrations concerning different things to me and that has given voice to my writing.

Could you share about any current writing projects?

Bullying has become a national issue because of the ramifications that result from kids bullying each other. In my current book, Smarty Pig and her family experience several different kinds of bullying and must find a way to deal with these situations. The main message is to talk to someone. Kids won’t tell anyone what’s going on, so the bully continues and the victim suffers in silence with self-esteem, confidence and social acceptance being damaged in the process.

Kids today are dealing with such a different world, not just with the electronic devices becoming imbedded in their hands at all times, but the school atmosphere and demands also made on them. Parents need to be aware of their kids and how things are going in their lives. Too many things happening around us on a daily basis stop us from keeping a close eye on our kids. We have been led to think everything is okay when we drop them off at school each day, but they are the ones walking through those doors into a world of peer-pressure, rigorous academic demands and a daily deluge of kid-stress. Talk to your kids! If they have vague, generic responses, be specific about your questions. Be genuinely interested in their lives even though you have bills to pay, dinner to make and deadlines to meet. Your children need you.

If you could have coffee with anyone (living or dead, real or fictional) who would it be and why?

Wow! Such a great question! I’m sticking to the writing part of my life here and will say Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. I have begun to realize as The Grinch (original cartoon version) has been playing over and over in my home during this holiday season that my love for his books at an early age influenced my writing of today, many years later! The rhyming that flows from his pages amazes and inspires me. His ability to reach children and adults with ideas that were both childlike yet worldly as in The Lorax was unprecedented for his time. Just to be in his company and have a glimpse of the man who wrote so many delightful works would be incredible.

Do you have a favorite quote?
Asking if I have a favorite quote is like asking if I have a favorite book or piece of music. There have been endless amazing quotes that have made me laugh, sigh, cry or ponder something, opening my eyes to a new way of thinking. I couldn’t even begin to pick one.

Molly, can you describe your desk/workspace?
I have a three-season room in my home with 12 windows, a fireplace and a big couch that I find to be the best place for me to write. There I sit on the couch with a small dog snuggled up on either side keeping me company as I write. I can write anywhere as long as I have a window to look out of. The endlessness of the sky always reassures me that there are also endless words and ideas.

What was your favorite book as a child and why?
I remember Ramona and Beezus books were favorites in elementary school for me. Even Ellen Tibits, another book by Beverly Cleary was checked out quite regularly. I loved escaping to the neighborhood where Henry Huggins had Ribsy walking with him to school. Kids were happy there most of the time, except of course, when Ramona would have a complete meltdown and embarrass her big sister to tears.

What are you currently reading?
At this time, I am working through my public library’s children’s book section, especially picture books. Because I have entered this world of writing, I want to research what has been written and discover what stories excite, entertain or motivate kids. Twenty years ago, I remember reading some storybooks to kids thinking, “Yuck! I didn’t enjoy that at all and neither did they!” Therefore, if I am going to reach my audience, I want to understand the authors that are successful at this. Reading their books is the best research I can think of and I love it!

What is the best advice you have ever received?
I do not know who told me, but the best advice for me concerning writing was to “write about what you know.”

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Many times, I will be writing with my eyes closed and fingers typing. It is easier for me to “see” in my mind what I want my readers to experience so the words come from the picture in my thoughts. Sometimes, the words are flooding through my thoughts so fast that I can’t even stop to see what I’m typing. I just keep typing until I am through with the ideas then I go back to sort out and organize what I wrote. It’s quite crazy sometimes.

What are your current marketing strategies for Smarty Pig?
Because this is a book about school issues, I have contacted many elementary teachers, librarians and parents I know or have worked with about the book and upcoming books in this series. I just had an interview with World of Ink Network: Stories for Children’s Blog Talk Radio show on January 9, 2012. I also recently had an invitation with Renee Hand on her BTR show Unknown Authors on January 16, 2012. Both shows can be listened to on demand at Blog Talk Radio.

I will begin author visits to schools and organizations with Smarty Pig now that the holidays are over. The best way for schools, libraries, teachers and readers to contact me is through my email mollynero AT smartypigbooks DOT com.

You can find out more about Molly Nero and her World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule here. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Nero and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.

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