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Welcome to BookEnds, Eija Sumner!

Tell us a bit about your writing process. Where do you write, and how often? 

I try to write everyday, but it really depends on my work schedule. If the week is too busy, then I make sure I’m getting some decent writing time in on the weekends. I usually write at my kitchen table so I can spread out. I do have a computer/writing desk, but it is always a mess, so it’s more difficult to spread out. If I’m working late at night, I’ll usually write at my desk and ignore all the papers surrounding my keyboard and computer. If I’m writing during the day, I’m at the kitchen table. I don’t know why it works that way, but it does.

Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g. burning a candle if you’re having trouble getting started at the computer or writing longhand first if you’re feeling uninspired.)

When I’m writing during the day, I have a nice ritual of cleaning the table, making tea, setting out some pens and notebooks, and then I hide my cell phone in a different room and write. If I’m writing in the evening, I have zero routine. I just get right to writing— I think there’s some urgency in writing in the evening.

What do you love about writing picture books?

Picture books are little poems and puzzles in disguise. I like how playful and silly picture books can be, but I also like trying to distill an idea or subject into a tangible story. I think my absolute favorite thing about picture books is that kids can be very generous readers, and I feel like they’ll go wherever the story wants to go.  

Why did you choose the genre you’ve chosen?

I love writing for children, and how hopeful and playful those stories can be. I love how the illustrations and words work together to tell the story in picture books. Picture books are so smart, and I like how they can guide children to explore and discover new ideas. I especially love how weird picture books can be. Sharing books with kids feels like magic sometimes, and it is such a treat to be able to write for young children. 

What is the hardest part about writing picture books?

Picture books are like little Rubik’s cubes, so if you change one thing then another part changes, and it just keeps changing until you wind up on draft 32 with something completely unrecognizable from where you started. 

If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?

Hmm, if money were no object, I would like to include my writing friends. I think my dream writing location would be a writing retreat with all my writing buddies. But I’d be so excited to see them, that I may not get anything done! I’m not a coffee shop writer, I need it to be quiet-ish when I’m writing, so my dream writing location would be anywhere where I can take a break from writing and people watch or take a nature walk. 

Do you belong to any writing organizations?

I’m currently working on my MFA in writing for children and young adults at Hamline University. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I’m so grateful for my Hamline cohort and community. I’m also a member of SCBWI and found my local writing group through SCBWI. 

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