Writers@Work: Practicing Persistence
May 25, 2021
Note From Rochelle
Today, I’m delighted to welcome Stephanie Wildman to the blog. I met Stephanie Wildman online and we became part of the same debut book group, New Books for Kids. This year, Stephanie had two books published—woot!—and she’s here to talk about the collaborative writing process, overcoming fear and rejection, and promoting books during a pandemic.
If you’d like to win a copy of Stephanie’s picture book, my new book, or any other book from our group, head over to my new blog to enter the giveaway: https://rochellemelander.com/birthday-book-giveaway/
Writers@Work: Practicing Persistence
An Interview with Stephanie Wildman
By Rochelle Melander
Stephanie, welcome to the blog. And congrats on your new books. First tell us about your book, Privilege Revealed.
Privilege Revealed: How Invisible Preference Undermines America came out of work I did with Margalynne Armstrong, Trina Grillo, and Adrienne Davis. We felt that antidiscrimination law did not address the systemic issues that provided fertile ground for discrimination. We examined systemic privileges – particularly white privilege – and how it affects antidiscrimination law in employment and housing, as well as in popular culture and the legal academy.
Now, twenty-five years later, sadly, privilege remains relevant, and NYU press approached me about reissuing the book. Margalynne and I wrote two updated sections that discuss whiteness as an invisible norm in society and the need for color insight (instead of colorblindness) to address the racialization in society.
I was happy to have another chance to write with Margalynne, who coined the term color insight. I know many authors prefer working alone, but I really do like the collaborative process.
Now tell us about your new picture book, Brave in the Water.
Brave in the Water introduces the reader to Diante and his grandmother. Diante is afraid to put his face in the water. He runs away to the monkey bars when his grandma asks if he wants to get in the water. She follows and explains she would be afraid to be upside down, like he was doing. That gets his attention, and the story tells how they help each other address their fears.
Some readers have already sent me pictures of their children trying the breathing exercise in the story, so I’m excited that this book might help some children overcome this rather common fear.
Swimming has been a big part of my family’s life from my daughter’s creation of an award-winning swim program for vulnerable youth to my son’s Olympic gold medal. Yet I grew up afraid of the water. I see how valuable and fun swimming is, but I also understand the reluctance that many have. Learn to swim!
Since you were a law professor and academic writer, I am curious about your process in writing a children’s picture book. What kind of help did you seek out?
I’ve been lucky in my children’s book writing journey that I started by taking a class from Maxine Rose Schur. I love her books, and she is a gifted teacher. I also read craft books, like Ann Whitford Paul’s classic Writing Picture Books, and joined 12×12 and SCBWI. I learned to love webinars, even though I’m more a fan of in-person instruction.
What was your journey towards publication like?
Like most writers I have had to come to terms with rejection. My first law review article was rejected at over 50 places before being accepted by the Oregon Law Review. The topic was sex discrimination law, in an era when many didn’t think that was an appropriate topic for a law review.
Brave in the Water went through many, many rewrites, and got its share of rejections, too. I was so happy to find a home for it with Lawley Publishing, a small independent publisher based in Arizona. They found a wonderful illustrator, Jenni Feidler-Aguilar. She has created a video about her illustration process and our interaction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V15-eQN8nnI. And Lawley was also enthusiastic about publishing a Spanish-language version, Valiente en el Agua, translated by Cecilia Populus-Eudave. My goal is to reach as many children as possible and I think having this edition will help.
This spring, you’re juggling promoting two books—in the middle of a pandemic. What have you found to be the most effective tools?
Honestly, I have no idea what is effective in terms of book sales. So I’ve focused on doing what makes me feel like I’m supporting the work. I’ve written a lot of emails, urging people I know to ask their libraries to order the books.
The UC Berkeley Othering and Belonging Institute hosted a debut panel about Privilege Revealed, including OBI director John Powell, Margalynne, me, and Adam Chang. We had over 700 people on the livestream and it’s gotten another 1000 plus views on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45N7C9HhiXU.
For Brave in the Water I did a more traditional (virtual) launch with Green Apple Books and children’s book author Emma Bland Smith. We each read our books, while the other one showed the pictures – it was fun.
I’m not a big social media person, but I’m learning. Again, I have no idea what really makes a difference.
What are you reading now?
My “to be read” pile is imposing even to me. I’m in the Writers Grotto, and my colleagues keep turning out books and articles, so it’s hard to keep up. I just got Ethel Rohan’s In the Event of Contact and Jenny Bitner’s Here is a Game We Could Play. I’m awaiting my copy of Bonnie Tsui’s picture book, Sarah and the Big Wave. Apart from the Grotto, I’m in the middle of reading Ibram Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning, and I want to get to Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, too.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I’m looking forward to the books from our debut group, NewBooksforKids.com, including your book Rochelle, Mightier than the Sword. Here’s a link to an interview I did about these forthcoming books and finding this debut group: https://taralazar.com/2021/05/12/how-i-found-my-debut-group/ – comments
Thank you for having me on your blog, Rochelle.
About the author. Stephanie Wildman has written five non-fiction books and over four dozen law review articles and journalistic pieces in her life as a law professor. Brave in the Water marks her picture book debut. For more about Stephanie’s writing see stephaniewildman.com and https://law.scu.edu/faculty/profile/wildman-stephanie/