Nerdy Babies Cover Reveal by Emmy Kastner
Hi. I’m Emmy Kastner, author/illustrator of the Nerdy Babies series, coming from Macmillan’s Roaring Brook Press in Spring 2019. The Nerdy Babies series is such a thrilling entrance into the children’s lit world for me, reflecting many facets of who I am and who I’ve been: writer, artist, science teacher, mother, educator, reader. They’re an amalgam of my life, so it’s safe to say these books have been in the making forever. At least since 1982. (I guess that’s not forever, though it feels like it some days?) Really, Nerdy Babies made their way onto paper as sketches in 2017. At the beginning of that year I’d committed myself to make creative endeavors a daily priority. I have always wanted to be a writer of books, and my desire to illustrate them was more of a private dream. Being creative is such a vulnerable act. It’s easy to let self doubt win the tug-of-war when one is busy with the happenings of jobs and marriage and parenting and, just, life!
I’ve spent the past seven years of my life, from 2012-2018, as cofounder and executive director of a literacy nonprofit, Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK), inspired by 826 National. At the heart of this organization, I spent my days encouraging youth to use their words, to be bold and brave in their art, and to take that often terrifying leap and share themselves with others. By 2017, I had realized that I needed to listen to my own advice. I wanted to be making books but just didn’t see enough hours in the day. At the beginning of that year, the world felt dark and heavy, and I felt moved to counteract that—even if that meant sharing a quick illustration of a dancing pencil or a tiny vampire. I committed to making art and writing daily, and sharing it with others through an Instagram account to document the endeavor (and to hold myself publicly accountable to sticking to it). I posted at least one drawing on Instagram every day for a year, hoping that eventually the practice would lead me closer to my own bold, brave artistic dreams.
The seed for the Nerdy Babies series was planted as I listened to my daughter play, repeating lines from a favorite book to her stuffed bunny. We spend a lot of time with our favorite books in our house, many of which are committed to memory, so hearing her repeat picture book lines was a regular occurance. But on this day I thought, “How great if kids were walking around reciting science facts? … That’d be a great book … Wait … I should make that book … I can make this book!”
I tested it out: “Mabel, can you say ‘Jupiter has 67 moons’?” She obliged in her tiny 3 year old voice, and I knew this book really needed to happen. [Fun fact: Jupiter now has 79 moons! They were discovered in time for me to revise that spread in the book, adding 12 moons!] Already carving creative time into each day, I had a full dummy ready to send to agents rather quickly. During that time, my friend Joanna, owner of our indie bookshop Bookbug/this is a bookstore, urged me with feverish enthusiasm to attend Nerd Camp. She sung praises of the Nerd Camp community, of the conference, of Colby Sharp and Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer was already a celebrity to me!) and all the authors, illustrators, librarians and educators who attend. She was certain I would love it. I did. Instantly. I attended a session listening to literary agent Molly O’Neill and Associate Director of Publicity at Macmillan Mary Van Akin talk about the publishing world. I spent 40% of their talk plotting a real cool/casual/I’m-not-incredibly-nervous hello to Molly, who was already following me on Instagram (she’d found me through our mutual love of Bookbug). We sat down for a quick hello that turned into a 90 minute conversation about the books I’d been working on including Nerdy Babies, art and process, writing, favorite books, and listening to the arc of each other’s professional careers. She offered to take me on as a client and represent my work, encouraging me to take some time and think about it. I didn’t have to think about it for too long. My Nerdy Babies are appropriately interwoven with Nerd Camp and Nerdy Book Club magic.
And so here we are, all together for the Nerdy Book Club cover reveal for both Nerdy Babies: Space and Nerdy Babies: Ocean. It’s incredibly fitting to share their covers for the very first time with all of you. I am grateful for this community, for the love and excitement you all share for the magic that we wield through books. My hope is that these Nerdy Babies draw on the innate curiosity that lives within us all, and that they encourage the smallest among us to explore, ask questions, and find answers. And with adult readers in mind, I’ve intentionally shared some details in the books that may be new and fresh for you! We’re all learning. We’re all explorers of the world.
I can’t wait for you to see the books in their entirety, May 7, 2019. Until then, I’m thrilled to introduce you to some sweet, nerdy babies.
As a child you could find Emmy Kastner with some crayons or a pencil, a typewriter, or a paintbrush. When anyone would ask what she’d like to be when she grew up, Emmy would let them know, “A writer … or everything. And I’m not waiting until I grow up.” Emmy taught high school English and science for a handful of years in the Midwest, and then in San Francisco. After moving back to Michigan, she co-founded literacy nonprofit Read and Write Kalamazoo in 2012, and was named Western Michigan University Distinguished Alumna for 2018-19. She lives with her husband in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with their three young kids who keep them on their toes. Emmy’s arts and writing studio lives above the family’s coffee shop, which makes caffeinating her days quite efficient.