The Happy Writer with Marissa Meyer

Tziporah Cohen and Steven Salerno - On the Corner of Chocolate Avenue: How Milton Hershey Brought Milk Chocolate to America

December 12, 2022 Marissa Meyer Season 2022 Episode 138
The Happy Writer with Marissa Meyer
Tziporah Cohen and Steven Salerno - On the Corner of Chocolate Avenue: How Milton Hershey Brought Milk Chocolate to America
Show Notes Transcript

Marissa chats with Tziporah Cohen and Steven Salerno about their new picture book - ON THE CORNER OF CHOCOLATE AVENUE: HOW MILTON HERSHEY BROUGHT MILK CHOCOLATE TO AMERICA - as well as the process and timeline of a picture book, from manuscript and revisions to artist selection, preliminary sketches, and beyond; the vast amounts of research that go into the creation of a nonfiction picture book, for both the prose and the illustrations; why its important for writers to leave room for the illustrator to bring their own ideas and interpretations to the story; how so often rejection is a result of poor timing, not necessary the quality of the work; having the confidence to identify as a writer; and a few different inspiring stories of perseverance - from chocolate makers to writers!

Books discussed in this episode can be purchased from your local independent bookstore or buy them online from the Happy Writer bookshop.org store (that benefits indie bookstores) at https://bookshop.org/shop/marissameyer

Find out more and follow The Happy Writer on social media: https://www.marissameyer.com/podcast/

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to the Happy Writer. This is a podcast that aims to bring readers more books to enjoy and to help authors find more joy in their writing. I am your host, Marissa Meyer . Thank you so much for joining me. Heads Up. This is going to be our final episode of 2022 , as Joanne and I will be out on break for the next few weeks. Uh, I am not sure exactly when our first episode in the new year is going to go live, but we are already starting to book next year's fantastic guests , so stay tuned for more in the new year. Also, don't forget, we have our monthly contest running. This month's prompt is bookish gifts. So please share your favorites on Instagram and you'll be entered to win a free book. You can check out all the details on our Instagram feed . Happy Writer podcast. Alright , so what is making me happy this week? It is actually another podcast. Uh, many of you know that I am a runner, which still feels weird to say, given that I hated running for most of my life. But I think at this point, having run a half marathon earlier this year, I think it's safe to say I am technically a runner. Um, and I am working on training for my next half marathon next spring. And one thing that has been really helping me stay inspired is a podcast. It is called Not Your Average Runner, by , uh, hosted by Jill Angie. Uh, and the show is Running Advice and also just like general life advice and encouragement aimed at women who want to be runners or who are runners, and yet don't see themselves as particularly athletic, which is me in a nutshell. So the show has been so motivating and encouraging, and every time I listen to it, I just puts a smile on my face and makes me feel like I have my people out there. Uh, so if you are also a runner ish , um, check it out. It is the Not Your Average Runner podcast, and I love it. I am also so happy to be talking to today's guests . Sapora Cohen is a psychiatrist who has an M F A in writing for children and young adults, and is the award-winning author of the middle grade novel No Vacancy. Stephen Salena is an author and illustrator who has illustrated more than 30 picture books, including five that he also authored his many illustration Credits include Pride, the story of Harvey Milk and The Rainbow Flag, and the brand new Madeline Books. Yes, that Madeline together, Sapora and Stephen are the author and illustrator duo behind their newest picture book, which comes out tomorrow on the corner of Chocolate Avenue, how Milton Hershey brought Milk Chocolate to America. Please welcome Sapora Cohen and Steven Sono .

Speaker 2:

Hi

Speaker 1:

Everybody . Hi, <laugh> . <laugh> . Hello. I feel breathless reading your bios. You both are so accomplished, Stephen , looking through your list of things you have illustrated, it's amazing what a wonderful career.

Speaker 2:

And it's, it's, yeah, half , half of my career , uh, I I didn't start illustrating picture books until I had already been an illustrator in the industry for 20 years. It's, it's just the last 20 years that I've illustrated. Uh , I think it's like 30, 38 picture books . So it's kind of half, half my career.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Well, it's very impressive. And since you've already brought up the , uh, this is not your career for the until the last 20 years, the first thing I always like to talk about is your origin stories. And I'd love to hear from both of you what brought you here? How did we get into writing and illustrating picture books? You wanna , you want <laugh> ? Okay . Sorry .

Speaker 2:

Oh , no, go poor . Go ahead,

Speaker 1:

<laugh>. So, I , I don't have the typical writer's journey story of, oh, I wanted to be a writer since I was five. I never thought about writing other than medical papers and textbook chapters. Never thought about writing for kids for adults , uh, other than outside of the medical arena. Um, and then when my son was little, I, oh , no, even before that, I'm sorry, before you was born, I had an idea for a picture book . I , I heard a story, a family story on my husband's side, and I thought that would make a great picture book. So I signed up for an intro to <laugh> picture book writing at the local adult ed , uh, you know, Brookline adult ed back in when I was living in Boston. And that led to another chorus and picture book writing . And that led to a couple online courses through different writing schools, which led to meeting some people , uh, who are , um, actively writing in the Kid Lit community, which then led to somehow my doing an MFA and writing for children in young adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Don't ask me how this happened, <laugh> , but here I am . I I , it kind of just, you know, it didn't fall in my lap. I mean, obviously there's a lot of years of hard work throughout this process, but I , I sometimes I just don't know how this happened, <laugh>.

Speaker 2:

It's, I'm glad that it did. Otherwise I wouldn't have had a story to illustrate. Right, <laugh> ,

Speaker 1:

Definitely. That's true . And, and can I just say, like, compared to your 38 , uh, books, Steven , this is my very first picture book. So , uh, you know , we're , we're sort of at different ends, <laugh> of the spectrum. Great . It comes to , that's a great

Speaker 2:

Start , a notification from our editor , uh, that on the corner of Chocolate Avenue has already been named , uh, an Amazon Book of the month.

Speaker 1:

Congratulations. Yes . That's fantastic. Yeah , yeahs , very exciting. So, seora, I'm curious, you know, because you did have, you know, you have one of these origin stories where, you know, you sort of just stumbled into it in a way. I guess, do you, like, are there memories if you go back into, you know, childhood or, you know, your younger years, were there hints of it? Like, can you see like, oh, but I did love storytelling in this regard, or, or is it really just, it just came out of the blue? Well , I loved reading. I was a voracious reader. I was one of those readers who didn't hear anything when, when I was reading. You know , it's like you become deaf to the outside world. Hmm . Um, so I was a huge reader. Uh, and so I loved books. I, I never thought I liked writing. I did like writing, but it , I liked writing essays in high school , <laugh>. I never, so yes and no. I mean, I think the roots of loving writing were there, and certainly the love of children's literature and books. But I , I honestly can't say before I had that idea of a possible picture book story, I took that first course that I had ever thought about it. So you never know. You never know <laugh>. You never know. No, that's so true. Life throws us curve ball sometimes, and it's, yeah . You know, a lot of people will ignore those , uh, the opportunities when they present themselves and you didn't, and here we are. Yeah. I , I , yeah . I think you have to be open to these things when they come to you. But I think the other huge part of my journey was meeting very generous writers who became mentors to me, and who really encouraged me and made me think that this was something I could do. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So that's really key as well. Yeah, definitely. And the, the Kids Lit community is incredible. I mean, just some of the most supportive people. Mm-hmm . <affirmative> . Yeah . So how about you, Steven ? You said that you have not been doing picture books your entire career. What's, what was the path for you

Speaker 2:

<laugh> ? Um , uh, uh, the path, the path probably started , uh, you know, probably a age two or three when I could pick up a , a pencil or a crayon. So I've been drawing images every day for 60 years. Uh, so I'm hardwired to create images. I think of myself as an illustrator, not a writer. Even though I've had five books published, I still identify as an illustrator. Um, and I think as a, as a kid and as a teenager, I did write stories completely just for myself. I probably wrote a lot of opening paragraphs to stories, you know, rather than the , the whole, the whole book. Um, and I then came to New York City and attended Parson School of Design, and one of the instructors I had was Maurice Sendek . And you know, what a what a great, a great start . And so when I was in , uh, design school, I had every intention of illustrating picture books. Um, and when I first started showing my portfolio around to magazines and advertising agencies and publishing houses, I did, I did go to publishing houses and show my illustrations to do children's books, but no one, no one took me on. And so my whole career flourished with creating editorial and advertising , um, illustrations. And then, like I said, 20 years in, I was talking to my agent one day and said, geez , why , why am I not doing picture books? I mean, I love picture books. Um, and so we, we re geared up a little bit and started advert self-promoting , uh, towards specifically , uh, art directors at publishing houses, picture books. Um, and I immediately started getting offers to, to illustrate picture books. Um, so it was kind of like a delayed start, but I had every intention right from the beginning of design school to become a children's book illustrator. It just, it just took a while. Yeah. And, and since then , um, mostly I illustrated fiction stories. All my books are fiction. And then , uh, about I think 10 years ago exactly , uh, I was offered to illustrate my first non-fiction picture book. And then since then I've done 10 more, I think , uh, Zora's story , uh, about Milton Hershey is my 10th non-fiction picture book

Speaker 1:

In 10 years.

Speaker 2:

Wow. In 10, I think , uh, 2012 Brothers at bat came out. Hmm . I , Audrey Vernick , and that was my first non-fiction story. And so this is 2022 , um, yeah, my 10th,

Speaker 1:

10th

Speaker 2:

Non-fiction. Uh, and, and I love doing both. I, I love illustrating fiction and kind of two different beasts, but I love also illustrating , uh, non-fiction stories.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So, I'm curious, what do you think changed between, you know, that first attempt to become a picture book illustrator and, you know, the jobs weren't really coming in 20 years later, you try again and, you know, we're instantly in demand. What, what do you think the difference was there

Speaker 2:

Internally? From my perspective, absolutely nothing changed. I mean, I I, at any point in those 20 years that I had not done a picture book at any point along the way, if I'd been offered a picture book, I think I would've commenced in the same manner that I have now. Um, it just, I don't know, it's just happenstance in the , in the way that it, that occurred. But nothing really changed. Um, well, I guess I'm assuming, I guess I'm , uh, as I grew as an artist, I would say, okay, ma'am, I'm , I'm a better artist 20 years later than I was say, five years in, so mm-hmm. <affirmative> , um, yeah, no , I , I don't know. The answer to the question is no, I , I , nothing changed <laugh>.

Speaker 1:

Okay . That's fair. That's fair. Sometimes it is just timing.

Speaker 2:

Yes. It's timing. And we came down to timing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Alright . And so now we have , uh, Sapora , your first picture book, and Stephen , your 30 something <laugh> . Yeah . 30 something

Speaker 2:

Like a TV show, 30 something.

Speaker 1:

Oh , exactly. Um, would you please tell listeners a little bit about on the corner of Chocolate Avenue, how Milton Hershey brought Milk chocolate to America? The book is about Milton Hershey, who , uh, started out , um, in Pennsylvania , uh, as a very poor boy on a farm. Um, but , uh, found a love of candy making when he did a , a , an apprenticeship , uh, for an ice cream and candy store. And , uh, decided he wanted to try and make candy. So he actually started out in caramels. Um, he had multiple failed businesses trying to get his caramel , uh, business off the ground , um, until he became wildly successful at it. Um, and was a millionaire basically even back then. Uh , cuz this was in the , by the time he was doing caramels, it was the late 18 hundreds, early 19 hundreds. And , um, then he discovered , uh, chocolate making machines as a Chicago World's Fair and decided chocolate was the future , uh, sold his caramel business, bought all the chocolate making machines, had them shipped back to Pennsylvania, and then spent the next five or six years trying to crack the recipe for milk chocolate, which had been discovered in Europe, but they , uh, were being very, very , uh, secretive about it. So he basically started from scratch over many years, many failed attempts , uh, until he figured out how to make milk chocolate. And then just as importantly, figured out how to automate the process so that it could , uh, it could go from being , uh, sort of a treat for the rich to something that the everyday person could, could afford. Um, so it was discovering the , the formula and then figuring out how to automate it and make it available to everybody , uh, until it became the icon it is today. Nice. And I love this book for a number of different reasons. First and foremost, because we did take a family trip to Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania a few years ago. Um, my girls were, I don't know , five or six at the time. They're eight now. Um, and so I was, as soon as I heard about this book, I was like, oh, it's perfect. I can't wait to read it with them. And we loved seeing, like, all of the little references to things that we were familiar with, the , the picture of the factory, you know, it's like we were there and we remember like learning about the chocolate making process and making our own chocolate bars at the park. And so, like, there were so many little things that it , it felt very nostalgic for us, and we just loved it. And then of course, as a mom, I love a failed and failed and failed and failed and finally succeeded story. And he , this is a great inspiration tale surrounding chocolate. It's just perfect. It's a made to be a picture book , <laugh> . That's what I thought. <laugh>, yes . It took, it took about 10 years to convince the rest of the world, but , uh, <laugh> . Well, so how did this book come about? I know we talked to a lot of , uh, authors of novels on this podcast. Um, I think you're only the, the maybe third picture book that we've had on , uh, and I know that the process is really different. So take me through , uh, the process of where the idea came from. Um, how did you write it, Steven ? How did you become involved? How do you work together? Just talk me through it. So I guess, Steven , I have to start this one. Yes. <laugh> ,

Speaker 2:

I'm , I'm , it's , if it's snapped the whip, I'm very , I'm at the very end of the whip

Speaker 1:

<laugh> , so I , I actually got the idea while on a family vacation to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Oh, how perfect. I was gonna ask, you've been there, right? <laugh> ? I had been there as a kid , uh, back when you actually toured the, the real factory. Now you do sort of a reimagined tour that's, it's not of the actual factory anymore. But , um, I wanted to go back. I wanted take my kids. I, I took a trip there , um, for two nights. And , uh, I was also in the second semester of my master's , my MFA program in writing for, for children and young adults. And I knew that I wanted to try my hand at writing a picture book biography while I was there, but I didn't have a subject. And then of course I had a subject <laugh>. Oh , how funny . It was kind of a no-brainer. I just looked around and thought, oh, this is perfect. But then I thought, of course, it's been done before. And so as soon as I got back to Toronto, I did some research and there were, there were, there were a handful of pure non-fiction, more traditional non-fiction books about Milton Hershey, but no creative non , uh, no creative narrative non-fiction. Mm-hmm . Uh , and which I couldn't believe my luck. And so I started working on it as part of my mfa. And that was in, that was the summer of 2013. Wow . Um , oh yeah. It was a long , I didn't realize time ago. Yeah . Yeah . <laugh> that

Speaker 2:

Long, that long a time coming. Wow.

Speaker 1:

It did, I worked on it for a while and then, I mean, we can talk later about the submission process if you want, but I mean, it, it went through a lot of submissions and revisions and , um, until it found its home . Um, so

Speaker 2:

When you say submissions, it was through a literary agent that you made the submission? I ,

Speaker 1:

Well, I was submitting it. I didn't have an agent. I was submitting it on my own to agents. Um, and it was getting rejected. And then, and then I had an agent just for this picture book, who was, who's wonderful. And she did a first round and it didn't get picked up. I mean, everybody always said, oh, they loved it and chocolate, and it's such a great idea, but, you know, we have enough picture book biographies, or it's just not quite right. Or they didn't like the focus in the beginning, the focus changed a lot. So in the beginning, the focus was more on , um, his family and, and this idea that his mother had been a very hard worker who believed in education. And his father was a sort of a dreamer who started all kinds of amazing projects, but never finished anything. And, and how I looked at Hershey as this great combination of those two , uh, characteristics. You know, you need to have the big dreams, but then you have to be able to work really hard and stick to it. And I was very interested in that part. And I was very interested in his philanthropy and his creating Hershey. And so the early drafts were actually not as much focused on the actual chocolate making process, believe it or not. And, and I , it wasn't, it just wasn't, hi . It wasn't the , it was what interested me as an adult, but it wasn't what would interest kids. So it took a long time , um, that with that first agent, it never got picked up. I then ended up with a different agent. Um, and after a number of revisions, some in response to feedback, I got a , at a conference to make it more about the discovery of milk chocolate. Um, then she sent it on the first round, and I think within a month we had an offer about a week before we all went into lockdown in Toronto. Interesting. So March of 2020 .

Speaker 2:

Well, it's just , you showed the same perseverance that Milton Hershey did. <laugh> .

Speaker 1:

That's right. If Ali had only taken six years, <laugh> <laugh> . And was that, so what the , the manuscript that was finally picked up, would you say that's like 100% different from that earlier manuscript or like taking pieces of it and rearranging it? Or like, how different was it? Well, it's funny, the first line is exactly the same. Um, and then there are different, there are definitely lines in there that are taken from those very early drafts, but I'd say 60 to 70% different than those early drafts. Okay . Yeah. And a lot more words. It was much more sparse. It was almost a v not quite verse, but verse like , um, so yeah. And, and none of those sidebars were in it , uh, before it got acquired. Those were editors. I like the sidebars. Yeah . Yeah. The sidebars are fascinating. Yeah. No, it evolved. It evolved quite a bit, I have to say. Yeah. No, that's so interesting too. Cause I think a lot of people who are getting started in picture books, the tendency is to write long and then you realize, wait, it can can't be more than 500 words. I need to edit it this way down. So I think it's interesting that you went from a very sparse draft and then ex ended up expanding it more. Yeah, no, it , it , it was the reverse trajectory for compared to most of my books. That's, that's true. Yeah . All right . So it gets a book publisher, it's on the course to publication. Steven , at what point do you enter the picture?

Speaker 2:

Well, let's see. The book is coming out next week. That , which means I probably turned in all the artwork to the publisher and the design , uh, team back in, I'm , I'm guessing March or April of 2022. And then I worked with it six months prior to that mm-hmm. <affirmative> . Um, so I started working on the book, the sketch stage, probably in the fall of 21,

Speaker 1:

Between that March when it was acquired. And, and that fall I went through many rounds of revisions with our , our original editor and writer at H hmh . Right . Who then got acquired, it got acquired by Harper Collins. Mm-hmm . <affirmative> . But , uh, but I think probably before we even just started talking about illustrators, she had, she worked me hard <laugh> Yeah, right. Um , until that manuscript was done, and then she was ready to send it to, yeah .

Speaker 2:

I don't, I don't step into the picture until the editor feels that, that it's sort of the final draft. There still might be a little tweaking at the very end, but it's essentially considered the final draft. Okay . And then, and then the publisher that, you know, the editor and the art director, however, they come to the , uh, determination as to which illustrator they want to offer it to , they make that consideration. And then I'm offered the book, and I'm , I'm sent the manuscript and I read it, and of course, in this case, it's so wonderfully written, I could make the determination as to whether I wanted to take on the project immediately. So I, you know, contacted Anne writer back and said, I'm in, you know, count , count me in . So , um, and then I just , uh, well , you know, being the illustrator, you hash out the con my contract with the, with the publisher, which might entail another couple of weeks or so. Uh, and then it's a green light, and I'm, I'm ready to go. And , uh, I'm just starting out with tiny, tiny little thumbnail doodles as I read it. And then the little thumbnail doodles become maybe a little two inch by three inch little sketches based on the doodles. And then they become a formalized kind of storyboard. But it's all, it's all my eyes. Only no one sees any of this because it's a lot of trial and error and doing, going off on tangents that aren't the best way to illuminate the text. And then I retrain and I back up and, you know, take the other fork in the road. So once I've reached a stage where I have kind of these three by five sketches that I feel I've hammered out the path for what the entire book is gonna look like, then I bring those into Photoshop, enlarge them up to the size that the book is gonna be printed out. And then I , uh, touch up the sketches a little bit further to a stage where I call them the final presentation sketches, and then I show them to the editor and the art director. And at that stage, maybe they're even shown to Sapora . I, I have no, no idea. I don't know. Hmm . I'm getting feedback from the editor who's kind of like the quarterback of the team between the author and the illustrator, and the art director. She's quarterbacking. So when I get feedback on the sketches from Anne , it may also be including comments that Sapora had made about the sketches as well. I, I don't know mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Uh, but , uh,

Speaker 1:

Isn't that interesting how we're kept at arm's length?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. A lot of people who don't know realize , uh, people that don't know the children's book industry or how it works, they're assuming that from the word go , that the writing and the illustrating that you are , I , you and I Zora are elbow to elbow, you know, working this out and drinking late night coffee and hash all out <laugh> . But no, you're , I don't even know you yet. And you're, you know, you're writing the story and you started 11 years ago. Right. <laugh> , uh, so you're writing the story , uh, and then once it comes to me, I'm working on the sketches and it's, it's, you're not there at my side. So we're kind of working to create what we feel is gonna be a fantastic children's book at the end, but we're doing our part separately. Um mm-hmm.

Speaker 1:

<affirmative>, but there were, there were, I think there were points at which we crossed, we just weren't necessarily aware of it. Like, I can fill in for you that once we were done with all those final edits, I was sent , um, portfolios for seven illustrators that they were considering. And I was

Speaker 2:

Asked , yeah . I don't, I didn't realize , I don't realize that .

Speaker 1:

And I was asked

Speaker 2:

To, my ego tells me that they saw only me out. No ,

Speaker 1:

No , no . And , you know , and , and for all I know, and, and Anne could probably answer this , uh, they already knew they wanted you, but they were just letting you know me think that I had some influence on this . He's the author <laugh> , they sent me seven different, you know, you know, links to websites or their styles. Um, and I was, I was asked to pick my top three. And, and I can say, with full honesty , Steven , you were number one. It was a no brainer to me. Thank you, <laugh> . Um , and, and you know, you said you, you, you read the manuscript and decided pretty quickly, but during that point of time, I was on tender hooks thinking, oh my gosh, is he gonna take this? Um, and I was just overjoyed when Yeah . When , uh, when you

Speaker 2:

Said yes , I was also wanting to work with Anne again because I, I had just finished another non-fiction picture book for her. Um, so I was very happy that she wanted to work with me again.

Speaker 1:

And you, you'd done other non-fiction of this era, like the Ferris wheel book is , is the same world fair where the chocolate machines were .

Speaker 2:

Exactly . As a matter of fact, there's a scene in, in your story, Sephora , where Milton Hershey goes to the World's Fair, which was a col Colombian exposition of 1893 in Chicago. And that's where he saw all those German chocolate making machines. And I already had all this research and stuff from the Ferris Wheel book that I did. Um, so , uh, I, I, you know, that was already in my hand. Uh, so I knew Yeah. That era , uh, middle to late 18 hundreds. Um, and in this case, your story goes a little bit further. We go up to like middle twenties, I think. Mm-hmm .

Speaker 1:

Yeah , there's another intersection point. I I, by the time, the , the first time I saw any of the artwork, they sent me quote , preliminary drawings, and they were practically finished from my view.

Speaker 2:

Oh, my sketches, my presentation

Speaker 1:

Sketches here . Yeah . You're they're , they look pretty done to me. Um, I , I was, I was amazed. I said , these are preliminary. Wow. Um, now I understand they weren't so preliminary.

Speaker 2:

Oh, gosh. No, no,

Speaker 1:

No, no. But I did, they did ask me for feedback, I think in part because this is non-fiction. Right. And I'd done years of research and they wanted to make sure that our, both our researches were, were synchronized in terms of Right . Of , and so there was one thing, cuz I'll ask you was the , um, in the book, there's uh , a scene where the, it's the wrapping room where the, where the employees are wrapping the chocolate bars or, or , um, knock the kisses, knocking them off the, the kisses. Right? Right . And you had , um, men , uh, working in that room. And my, I knew from my research that it was only women who worked there. Men worked in the That's right . Factory with the more hands on stuff. And the women worked in the wrapping room and what they called the knocking room, which was they knocked things out of molds. Um, and I remember telling Anne that needs that, that's needs to be changed. Cuz there were ,

Speaker 2:

I remember that . I do remember, remember that? Yes .

Speaker 1:

<laugh> . I actually wondered , um, you know, speaking of, of research, I had wondered with the, the world's Phin where we actually see like the, the German chocolate making machines, and it looks like something straight outta Willy Wonka. Were like, how accurate were those? Were you able to actually find pictures of the machinery that he bought? Or was this like a lot of imagination going into that?

Speaker 2:

No, those , those , uh, those those machines that I depicted in that, in that scene, I'm not gonna even attempt the German names of them. <laugh> , um,

Speaker 1:

<laugh>

Speaker 2:

The mixer and the rolling machine and the cacao roasting machine and the twin cacao grinder and the de aeration machine, <laugh> all those machines. Um, I found , I did research on German chocolate making machines, and I found machines that were I in , in production and existed in the late 1880s , uh, 1890s rather. So I don't know if the, if the machines that I depicted were literally the ones that were at the exposition Fair that Milton Hershey went to, I have no idea. Sure. But the machines that I depicted are, are real. Um, and they still exist in museums today. Oh, cool. And I think some of them actually are still used. There's these chocolatier crafters that ha that use these old machines, but there was no fantasy involved. In other words, I didn't, I didn't make them up.

Speaker 1:

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's just as non-fiction for you as it is for me. It has to be accurate.

Speaker 2:

Right. Yeah. Yeah. When I, when I create illustrations for non-fiction picture books, if you compare the look of them with the illustrations for the fiction books that I've illustrated, obviously I take a much more, you know, realistic approach to these images. And that's because I want the young readers to see what the people and the fashions and the items and the , you know, the cars look like from the era is , uh, accurately as as possible. So , um,

Speaker 1:

Sure. You'd mentioned earlier that illustrating fiction versus nonfiction, that is kind of a different beast. Is that largely because of the amount of research that you have to do

Speaker 2:

From, from the research aspect? Yeah , it's an , it's entirely different. For example , um, I did a , I illustrated a picture book for Hyperion, Hyperion Press, Hyperion Books, which is, which is Disney. And it was a story about a dog that was afraid of thunder. You know, that's, that's the storyline. And , uh, for that book, I had to do research for one image. I had to get research on an orangutan cuz there was an orangutan mentioned in the story <laugh> . And so I had to have one image for reference. Whereas the Ferris wheel book, or this book, I will plow through about 3000 photographs.

Speaker 1:

Oh my goodness.

Speaker 2:

Prepare it down to about a hundred or so that I'll use a specific reference. So from a research research standpoint, it's, it's completely, completely different because , um, when I'm illustrating for non-fiction, I'm usually just making up the objects and the looks of things out of my own imagination. Um, so it makes it a little bit faster. Cause I don't have that sort of month long , uh, added on research stage , um, that I do with non-fiction. Yeah. But it's fascinating. I , you know, I love to do it. It just takes longer.

Speaker 1:

Right, right. No, I also am a , a research nut. It's one of my favorite parts of the process. Uh, Sapporo what about for you? I mean, was that, I would think that would be one of the challenges of writing a book like this is, I mean, you just must have a vast array of knowledge and resources about Milton Hershey now , um, you know, how was it really difficult, like trying to pair down and decide what, what can I include, what's important? It, it definitely was, and like I said before, I had to shift my focus from what was really interesting to me as, as an adult , uh, to what might be more interesting to a child. Yeah. I was, and , and maybe this is part of, you know, being a psychiatrist, I was very interested in, in this distillation of both his parents' characteristics and how he sort of took both of these things and combined them to be this, this person with big ideas who, you know, had a lot of grit, but that's, you know, not, maybe not as interesting <laugh> to sure to a reader. Um, but yeah, a lot of research, this was particularly challenging in that there's not a lot of primary source material from Hershey. I mean, there are some quotes, but he's being quoted by other people. There are no memoirs or autobiographies or big long essays that he wrote. Uh, so a lot of the research is from secondary sources. Um, and there's some great , um, fantastic , uh, sources written for adults that were , uh, my primary go-tos. Um, plus the Hershey archives, I don't know Steven if you used their archives, but they have an , a huge online archive filled with newspaper clippings and photos and all kinds of Hershey related paraphernalia that you can I did, yes . Easily view. Yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> , that , that's a treasure trove. Um, as well. Um, the archivist there was helpful for me in terms of picking some photos for the back matter. Um, but, but I think I had this a similar experience to you fiction versus non-fiction, because my novelist fiction and the other picture books I had worked on were fiction. And, you know, in the revision process for my novel, my editor would say, you know, I'd say that she was the , the , the , the character was cleaning up garbage in the motel parking lot. And my editor would say, can you , you be a little more specific. And so in 30 seconds I could make up, you know, that she picked up gum wrappers and popsicle sticks, you know, whereas Anne would say, you know, can you put a little bit more in here about why the price of sugar was so high in a sidebar? And that was 48 hours of research, <laugh> <laugh> . So it was, it , it's harder. Yeah. Yeah . It's funny, I think that we, we have this idea of, you know, things that are shorter should be easier. But I mean, I know that whether it's picture books or poetry or songs, I mean, the short form can be so difficult. Um, was that, I mean, do you, obviously, I I think it takes longer, well maybe, maybe not, but for you writing your middle grade versus writing a picture book, like do you have a, a feeling of which was more difficult or even like, maybe which one you felt like you enjoyed the process more? Or are they just like two totally different types of writing? They're very different types of writing. And to steal a phrase from , uh, Omar Krishna Swami , who , uh, is on the faculty at, at , at Vermont , uh, college of Fine Arts, I am a reluctant novelist. <laugh> <laugh> . I came , I came to Vermont College as a picture book writer with the intention of only doing one semester. They have a, they have a picture book semester you can do. And I, and I got sucked in and ended up doing the whole mfa. But I, I, I have a love hate relationship with writing novels, <laugh>. So , um, so the ver very different processes for me in terms of what takes longer. I mean, obviously writing a 35,000 word novel takes longer in terms of time at the laptop or the typewriter. But I think the picture books take longer over time because you, you get an idea, you write some crappy first drafts and then you let them sit and then you come back months later and then you come back in a year. You know, it , it's not like you're working on it constantly over those 10 years. But the process for me, at least the ones I've written so far, have taken longer. Yeah. So they , it's kind of apples and oranges. Um , but they're, but they're, they're , um, the same and they're different. Not very helpful answer, but

Speaker 2:

Apples and chocolate.

Speaker 1:

<laugh> chocolate. Oh . And I ate, I don't know about you Steven , but I ate a lot of chocolate while I missed on this book . <laugh> , you can't not be eating chocolate when you're constantly reading about chocolate. That's funny.

Speaker 2:

And which brand, which brand did you eat?

Speaker 1:

Well, what do you think? <laugh>. <laugh> . You just see a little bowl of Hershey kisses there. What do you need? <laugh> . But I have to say only the American ones. Cuz here in Toronto the recipe's different and I don't, and I'm not a big fan. I grew up , that's a

Speaker 2:

Little , the states it's more but more bitter. In, in Canada it's ,

Speaker 1:

It's sweeter, it's sweets . More sweeter European milkier creamier. Oh . I think a lot of Europeans and Canadians, if they eat the original, you know, the , the , the , the US Hershey's chocolate think it tastes sour or burnt or something. Hmm . Um, which is part PR probably related to the process he discovered on about how to make it. Um , but, so yeah. I'm curious .

Speaker 2:

Might read somewhere, maybe it was some notes that you made or something, but the , in their , in Milton Hershey's process and his recipe, it was purposely a little bit sour. Like a , like a touch of sourness. Right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. I don't know if it was on purpose or not, but , uh, that's certainly how it ended up. And it's very American taste, I think. It doesn't, it doesn't convert well. Interesting. Outside of the states. Yeah , yeah, yeah. So whenever I, whenever I'm visiting family, I bring home a stash of American Hershey's

Speaker 2:

<laugh>. Where , where did you , uh, grow up in, in , uh, in New York City?

Speaker 1:

I, I grew up out , out on Long Island, actually in Huntington Station. Yeah. And then I spent 18 years in Boston before coming to Canada. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So if someone's listening to this and they, maybe they have a picture book idea or maybe they dream of being a picture book illustrator someday , what would be like your top tip or your top recommendation? Why don't you start with that one, Steven ? Oh ,

Speaker 2:

Uh ,

Speaker 1:

<laugh>, because you've done both written and illustrated.

Speaker 2:

Um, if someone wants to become a , a picture book illustrator , um, I , I would say a little bit take with a grain of salt studying , uh, or , or rather trying to find what you think is a, a visual children's book way of creating illustrations. Don't, don't do that. Just, just create the images the way you want to make them. Mm-hmm . <affirmative> , uh,

Speaker 1:

You have to develop your own style

Speaker 2:

Rule , rule number, rule number one , um mm-hmm . <affirmative> , because you see a lot of books out there where the illustrations look like cliche children's book illustrations. And I think it's because the , the illustrators fell into that trap of trying to find a way that , uh, uh, of trying to , trying to create images that they think will be children's book illustrations. And it , it , it is like a watering down effect. It just doesn't work as far as I'm concerned.

Speaker 1:

Hmm . I think that the corollary to that in writing is trust your reader. You , you know, I think we , the inclination sometimes is to dumb things down for children, but they don't need that. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Right. And that yeah , that same, yeah . That , that can happen with

Speaker 1:

Vision , with the writing as well. Yeah . Yeah . Yeah . The writing and the visuals. Yeah. It's really interesting. You know, I , I don't know that I'm the best person to answer this question having not really thought about it as I was doing it. But I , I would say you have to just write and write and write and write and write . Yes . And know that the stuff in the beginning will be terrible and that you will get better. You have to read a ton. You have to get lots and lots of feedback and critiques. You can never get too much feedback. You can, you can always decide to ditch some of it, but somebody else is always gonna see a way of doing something that, that might, you know, be the clincher for you. Um, and when you're writing picture books , um, to leave room for your illustrator, I mean, obviously Steven , I'm sure you can speak to that from, from maybe doing fiction more than non-fiction. But I think that's one of the things that's maybe the hardest to ,

Speaker 2:

Did you say make , make , make sure and make room

Speaker 1:

For the illustrator make to make room. We say make room for the illustrator. Like let them illustrate . It's, it's a collaboration. It's not an illustrated storybook. It's not like, take every word that I've written and illustrate it. The illustrator brings their own story choices. Yeah , yeah . Layer to it . Yeah . And you have to leave room for that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I mean, that's an interesting point. For example, if, if hypothetically, if you and I were literally working on this book together simultaneously at the same time and say, you know, you've written a paragraph and I, I , I, you know, and I see that paragraph, I could say to you, well, you know, you can drop out several of those sentences because I'm gonna create a visual that's gonna show , describe that anyway. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it might allow you to be , uh, more concise and a little more minimal in your writing.

Speaker 1:

And I think that happened in the revision process. I couldn't give the example now, but I think there were one or two times when Ann came back and said, now that, now that I've seen the drawings, can we get rid of this line or these two words? Cuz you Right,

Speaker 2:

Right, right. Yeah , yeah . Right , right. Yeah. That's, that's, you know, like I said, the , the editors, the quarterback and kind of oversees the whole play and is able to straddle between our , my role and your role Yeah . To make everything better.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. One plus one equals three. Yeah , exactly. True.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. You know, you were saying that the , the sketches that I create were kind of looked kind of polished and finished to you. You hadn't seen all the horrible stages I'd gone through to get to that point. But even when I show those final presented sketches to the , to the editor and the art director and , and the design team, they will find little things or little adjustment suggestions for me and say, if hypothetically, I'm kind of like 95% there, the little suggestions that they make brings it up closer to a hundred percent mm-hmm . <affirmative> and it , and it's invaluable. It's, it's fantastic. Um ,

Speaker 1:

Yeah, the same with the writing. It's really, it's really is the same process. Yeah. A lot of similarities for sure. Yeah. All right . My last question before we move on to the bonus round , um, for each

Speaker 2:

Of you . Oh no , I'm dreading, I'm dreading the bonus

Speaker 1:

Is so not a big deal , trust me .

Speaker 2:

Oh , I gotta go. I have to , I have to leave before the bonus .

Speaker 1:

<laugh> . Um, for each of you, what would you say is one of the biggest challenges that you've had to face so far in your career, and then how are you able to overcome that?

Speaker 2:

Hmm . Zora , you can go first

Speaker 1:

On that. Oh , thanks. <laugh> <laugh> . I think for me that the , the biggest challenge has been seeing myself as a writer. Hmm . And maybe that's in part because I didn't come to this as a writer , um, and I came to it later, but just being able to, to this isn't go , this isn't very elegant, but to , I, I thanked in, in the acknowledgements for my novel. I thanked my kids and my husband for, and I'm quoting here, seeing me as a writer before I did mm-hmm . <affirmative> , that was probably the most important part. And I stand by that. Um , I think that you can be working on your craft and learning how to do this, but unless you believe that you can, you, you , you almost, you run the risk of failing yourself, you know, like failing before you even get a chance to succeed. Um, and, you know, I think a lot of that, that encouragement comes from the people around you, but at some point you have to buy into that. Like, I'm a writer or I'm an illustrator is the case maybe for Steven or both. But for me it was that psychological piece. I mean, not that there weren't other challenges and lots of rewrites and, and frustrations and rejections. I mean, I probably did 40 drafts of this before it's sold, but I do think that the psychological piece for me was the, was the biggest challenge and , and continues to be, even now that I've published a novel and a picture book in terms of writing the next one, <laugh>, imposter syndrome, it comes up a lot. Mm-hmm . That's a real thing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah . Yeah. I guess it's interesting that , that self-doubt that one might have actually interferes with you understanding or comprehending actually how close you might really be. Mm-hmm .

Speaker 1:

You know ? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Right. Steven , how about for you?

Speaker 2:

Um, from a writing standpoint, what I find frustrating is getting my new stories accepted by editors. That's very difficult. I, I have found that sometimes , uh, initially when I would send a story out to my little circle of different editors, I would send my stories to, and then, and when you get rejected, you think, oh, well, it must be I'm being rejected because the story is horrible, you know? Um, or , and I'm , I'm not writing it well enough. Um, but I found actually over time that sometimes it's a matter of bad timing, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> , if you present a story and then say it's about a dog and they say, oh , we just published three books about the story of dogs and that's why they're rejecting, not because it isn't well written or interesting. Um , but the biggest challenge in terms of picture books, the biggest challenge I'm having and continue to have is getting my, my, my own news stories accepted. Because I'm always wanting to illustrate my own stories. So that's a challenge

Speaker 1:

For sure.

Speaker 2:

So maybe I do need a literary agent at this point. So <laugh>,

Speaker 1:

You're gonna , your , your inbox is gonna be flooded now, Steven , after this goes to Air <laugh> .

Speaker 2:

I'm , I'm working on my first non-fiction story right now because I had one editor say to me, you know, you'd make a great non-fiction writer. And I had never crossed my mind, cuz I've always been writing fiction, so I'm slowly working on a, a news story, but whether I finish or not remains to be seen.

Speaker 1:

So , <laugh> . Oh, how interesting. Is it hard finding time to work the writing into your illustration day?

Speaker 2:

Um, well, when I'm working on a picture book, and plus I still do create illustrations for other clients in advertising and, and magazines. Uh, when I'm working on a picture book, I have zero time for writing mm-hmm . <affirmative> . Um , but there's, there's in between time in between projects , uh, where I find time to write. But I , like I said before, I still only think of myself as an illustrator <laugh> . So , which might be in a good, might be good because I'm kind of like coming in under the radar and I don't put as much pressure on myself.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah. But's so interesting that Sapporo was just talking about how it took her a long time to see herself as a writer. Um, sounds like you also are struggling to kind of see yourself as a writer,

Speaker 2:

But you know what , I I, I, I don't think I'll ever think of myself as a writer, but I lighting , you know what I mean? <laugh> . So yeah, I take the pressure off myself,

Speaker 1:

Fake it, fake it till you make it. Right. Wise, wise words. Yeah . Okay , here we go. Our bonus round. Chocolate or caramel?

Speaker 2:

Oh, chocolate.

Speaker 1:

Chocolate. <laugh> . What is your favorite kind of candy? Chocolate. I , uh, with gummy bears a sec. A a a

Speaker 2:

Close second . I have say something with peanuts in it, I guess. Not necessarily chocolate , um,

Speaker 1:

Carousel or rollercoaster. I , I have to say for me, because I have vertigo now, it's a rollercoaster. I'd rather go flying down at insane speeds than go in a circle.

Speaker 2:

<laugh> oh, oh oh. For me, it's definitely carousel. I'm frightened to death of all roller coasters. I avoid them like the plague.

Speaker 1:

<laugh> . What is one small thing that brings you a lot of joy? I, I would say tulips. Hmm ? <laugh> tulips . I love it in the gra like, tulips in, in April. Not, not tulips from the store.

Speaker 2:

Oh, I , I know. I would have to say a nice sunny day with a perfect temperature. Not too hot, not too cool.

Speaker 1:

What book makes you happy?

Speaker 2:

Oh, oh , well, I keep in the , in the vein of picture books, I would've to say the stories that I read when I was a kid. The , um, Robert McCloskey stories, Homer Price always makes , puts me in a good place.

Speaker 1:

Oh yeah. Make way for Ducklings McCloskey. Mm . Yeah. I , I I I'm what's coming to mind for me right now is a , a , a novel for adults. I just finished that I adored called Lessons, lessons from Chemistry by Barney Garma. Hmm . Huh . Fantastic. Just fantastic. That book just gave me so much , um, so much joy, laughter, joy and tears, everything. It ha it had all the things. It's fantastic. I love , I love it when they have all the things. <laugh>, what are you working on next?

Speaker 2:

Oh , uh, I , I'm , uh, I I I had a project that came in , uh, two and a half years ago or so, and I'm illustrating five new Madeline Picture books and four of them I've completed, three of them are already out , uh, in , in print. And , uh, the author who is Ludwig Bemelmans grandson , um, John Marciano Bemelmans, he, he kind of stumbled a little bit and didn't finish the script for the fifth story. Um, and I'm assuming that that is gonna be coming to me in 2023. So very soon I'm gonna be working on the fifth and last Ma Madeline book. Um, and plus I'm gonna , in starting in January, February, I'm gonna be working on a new non-fiction picture book about an architect, but I can't give the name

Speaker 1:

<laugh> <laugh> . We gotta wait, huh ? I, I am fortunate enough to have two picture books coming out in March, so I'm not really working on those anymore cuz those are done. Um, but very exciting for me. Um, one is called City Beat , uh, illustrated by U Lugo . That's coming out by , uh, sleeping Bear Press. And then I have another book called AFI Coleman , uh, which is actually a wordless picture book illustrated by , uh, Yara Eche . So that's a whole nother podcast and story about how one writes a wordless picture book . Um, so tho those are coming up, but what I'm, what I'm hard at work on now is another picture book Bio who's subject. I will also , uh, keep , uh, quiet for now. And, and I'm working on another middle grade novel that I've been working on what's feels like all my life, even though that's clearly not true <laugh>. Um, so I am , I'm just determined to, to finish this novel <laugh> . Yeah. So yeah, sounds

Speaker 2:

Like you're very busy. You

Speaker 1:

Yes . And then , and then I have, you know , all the rest of the things going on in my life. So lastly, it's all good. Lastly, where can people find you? I'm in terms of social media. I'm only on Twitter for now. And , um, and I do have a Facebook author page , uh, or my website, which is www.saporacohen.com. Um , my Twitter handle is at sippy M F A T Z I p P Y m F A .

Speaker 2:

Uh , and people can see my work and read my bio@stevensono.com.

Speaker 1:

Awesome. Sapporo , Steven , thank you both so much for joining me today.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. Thanks.

Speaker 1:

This was super fun. Yeah, I, I haven't gotten to talk in depth with Steven before today, so this is really great. Oh , good. No , it was wonderful to have you both terrific readers. Be sure to check out on the corner of Chocolate Avenue how Milton Hershey brought Milk chocolate to America. It comes out tomorrow just in time for the holidays. Of course, we encourage you to support your local indie bookstore. If you don't have a local indie, you can also check out our affiliate store at bookshop.org/shop/marissa Meyer . And if you're enjoying these conversations, please subscribe and follow us on Instagram at Marissa Meyer author and at Happy Writer Podcast. Again, we will be on break for the rest of the year, but I so look forward to talking with many more writers in 2023. Until then, I am wishing you all a healthy and cozy holiday season and whatever life throws at you today, I do hope that now you're feeling a little bit happier.