I’ve been connected with Chelsea through social media and Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge for a few years. She’s shared some lovely poetry, photos of her adorable daughter, and some other posts that brought me to messaging her and ultimately to this interview. She’s one of many authors I haven’t met in person but I feel like I know her. Today we are celebrating her debut picture book, A HOME NAMED WALTER, illustrated by Ginnie Hsu which will be out in the world on April 19th. This means you can preorder it now from your favorite indie bookstore and you’ll be able to read it in a few weeks. I’m super lucky because I received an advance copy and I fell in love with Walter and the way Walter deals with his loneliness in such a beautiful way. This picture book is a love story dealing with loss and learning to love again. The illustrations are magnificent, too.
Chelsea is offering one lucky winner a picture book critique (under 500 words) or a 30-min zoom chat. All you have to do to enter is comment on this blogpost.
What were you like at the age of your target audience?
My mom answered this with: You were happy and bouncy all the time. You drew lots of pictures and poems. You were quite sensitive. You loved making friends. You could also be very stubborn.
I remember being lost in my head a lot – very daydreamy. I remember being a little more melancholy, which I find fascinating that my parents remember me being happy all the time. I was definitely a deep-feeling child. I think it was easiest for me to express joy.
What inspires you?
To avoid answering this with the “I find inspiration everywhere” answer, which is likely accurate for most of us, I will focus on music specifically. I love entering an emotional and experiential state through music most of all.
When I listen to Case of You by Joni Mitchell, I am transported to a different time. A time I never existed in but somehow I exist there with her. A past life, perhaps? I can smell marmalade and wildflowers and can see the box of paints in the corner.
When I listen to Man on the Corner by Genesis, I am haunted and saddened by the story of this man no one seems to notice or care about. The song courses through my body like a dramatic pulsing.
When I listen to Precious Love by James Morrison, I embody a full body yes for life. I feel lighter and confident and my soul feels like it’s breaking out to celebrate the only thing that matters – love!
What does any of this have to do with inspiration and writing children’s stories? Case of You teaches me about world-building. Man on the Corner teaches me about dramatic pacing and tension. Precious Love teaches me about the rhythm of voice. I think in many ways I see music as a cloak, a costume, a time machine. With a background in theater, it’s like method writing – music helps me embody a mood that allows me to feel a perspective. I pay attention to the ways in which music can emotionally arc a story – and I have a soundtrack playing with every story I write.
What’s one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
I hope readers walk away with a new perspective on what it means to love after loss and how to be there for someone else (or something else). ☺
What’s next for you?
Ooh! I have lots to share! I have several more books coming out between 2023-2024. I will share the few that have been announced already. I have ODE TO A BAD DAY, illustrated by Hyewon Yum and A TRIP TO MISS PEATREE, illustrated by Alison Farrell, both coming out from Chronicle. I can’t wait!
To get in touch with Chelsea and learn more about her books: