Blog Tour Questions for MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT: Mindy Baker
Happy December, Everyone!
I am so excited to feature author, Mindy Baker, on my blog this week. Mindy's debut picture book, MOUSE'S CHRISTMAS GIFT, was the first book I sold as an agent, and it is a book that will always have a very special place in my heart! To get us all in the Christmas mood, Mindy has answered some great questions for her blog tour stop. She discusses her writing process, tells us a little bit about her special book, and shares a few of her favorite Christmas traditions.
I will be doing THREE giveaways to go with Mindy's blog tour stop.
Giveaway 1: If you comment, and share this blog post, you will be entered into a query critique giveaway. I will choose five winners at the end of this week for the query critique. To enter, you MUST comment on the blog post and share it via twitter. Please make sure you tag me @R_EliseWrites so I can enter you into the drawing.
Giveaway 2: You have the chance to win a Christmas themed gift basket. To enter your name into the giveaway, you need to show proof of purchase of MOUSE'S CHRISTMAS GIFT. If you already have a copy of the book, please snap a book selfie and share it with us on twitter!
Giveaway 3: If you share this blog post on twitter, you will be entered to win a copy of MOUSE'S CHRISTMAS GIFT.
All winners will be announced on Friday!
Tell me a little bit about your book, and what inspired you to create this story?
Mouse’s Christmas Gift is about a tiny church mouse who must find a way to save the Christmas Eve service when Parson gets sick and decides to cancels it. Mouse sets up the nativity and lights a candle in the window of the church, sparking a chain reaction in the village, and leading to the service taking place, much to Parson’s surprise.
I originally wrote Mouse’s Christmas Gift in response to a “call” I saw by an editor who was looking for stories that would explain the meaning of Christian traditions or holidays. At the time, my husband was an associate pastor, and each year we received different church-themed ornaments. Also, I collect nativity sets.
I have always loved the Christmas Eve service at our home church. I can vividly remember several difficult years in which the candlelight service had a significant spiritual impact in my heart as it reminded me that God was in control of all of my doubts, questions, fears, failures, and worries. Even when I didn’t understand the present situation I was in, because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I could still worship and say “All was well.” Here is a link to a song that inspired the last line of the book.
All Is Well Link
What was your writing process for this story? (Tell me a little about how long it took you to write MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT, and your general writing process).
Unlike other manuscripts, this story was surprisingly quick to the page. I remember staying up until the early hours of the morning for several nights in a row as I answered the “call” for the holiday story. I know once I was finished, I did wait several months and made a few edits, but from beginning to the end, this particular manuscript was not altered too much, even with the professional edits.
In the original draft, Alexander Stevens was the main character and main idea was that there was not enough money to celebrate Christmas. As a writer, it is always very difficult to cut major portions of what you have written. But, when I finally did cut the initial beginning, and moved Mouse to center stage, the story began to flow.
Generally when I write, I have a spark of an idea and make different lists. I play the “what if” game, thinking about possible directions to take the plot. When I am stuck, the best thing for me to do is go for a run, clean the house, or just let the idea settle for a few days. Then I force myself to write something down, no matter how terrible it is. Then I shape it. And shape it. And shape it some more. Honestly, with picture book writing, sometimes I can sit at the computer for 45 minutes and maybe change three words. Sounds crazy, but it is true.
Lately I have been experimenting with “dummie” books in order to get a better sense of the flow of the page turns. It has been a helpful tool. Also, I am currently involved in a critique group through the SCWBI which been extremely helpful. They see things that I miss, and help me when I am “stuck.”
What has been your favorite thing about your book being out? (school visits, seeing your book on shelves, sharing your book with friends?)
Well, the first thing that pops into my head is simply that I have a feeling of relief. My journey to publication was not quick, nor easy. It was actually a very humbling process. But I am proud that I stuck with it and did not give up.
But another answer to your question is that I have really enjoyed watching people’s reactions as they read or hear the story. They seem to be enjoying it, and “getting” the message. That is a very special thing to me.
When you are reading MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT to a group of children, what has been their favorite part of the story so far? I think their favorite thing is Mouse. He is just so endearing! I love the way Dow drew him. He is absolutely perfect.
Zonderkidz helped me create a teaching guide Link to teaching guide to go with the book, and one of the crafts is a paper doll mouse that can be put into a matchbox bed. I love giving those little beds and paper doll mice out to people. Everyone melts at receiving them.
It’s actually one of my son’s FAVORITE stories right now and his favorite part is finding mouse on each page. He loves to look for mouse! That makes me so happy that he loves finding the Mouse! I love that part, too.
What do you love most about Christmas?
I love everything about Christmas! The decorating, the cookies, the music, going out to look at lights, but especially spending time with my family doing all of these special activities.
MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT feels like such a great Christmas classic for families. Do you have a story that is a family must read during Christmas time?
We bought a little kit called Adorenaments, put out by Family Life. Back when my kids were little, this is what it looked liked.
However, a quick search on Amazon, and I found this link. It looks like the updated version. Basically it is a set of ornaments based around the names of God. It is a perfect way to bring Christ into your holiday and have a short devotional thought for twelve nights or you can break it up and do several ornaments per night, or do the entire thing in one night.
Click link to view
A similar kit that we purchased was called What God Wants For Christmas, also by Family Life. It is a set of boxes, each containing a figure of the nativity. You open one box per night and read a short devotional. Then the final box (SPOILER ALERT) has a mirror. Because what God wants for Christmas is you. My kids loved the little boxes and figurines, and I loved the truth that it was hidden in their heart as we opened the boxes and talked about them together. Our kit looked like this:
But on Christianbook.com it also has an updated version.
Clink link to view
Your illustrator, Dow, did an incredible job bringing this story to life. When you first saw the final illustrations for the story, what was your reaction? Do you have a favorite illustration in the book?
I fell in love with Mouse right away, and marveled at Dow’s talent. I loved the artwork and couldn’t believe how special the book looked. It seemed too good to be true. But it was true, and it I feel very thankful.
My favorite page is where mouse has lit the candle and is staring up at the light, holding his tail.
Your debut year as a picture book author has just started. Now that you have a book published, do you have any inspiration or words of advice to share for debut authors?
Expect a long road, and be teachable. Anything truly is possible…just keep taking the next step and don’t be afraid to try new things! This journey will challenge you, and demand that you do things that you have never done before. When you get stuck or don’t know something, ask questions of those who are one step ahead of you, and then work hard to apply what they tell you to what you are working on. Remember that what is published on social media is usually the glossy and the success. All the bloody, sweaty, ugly fears and failures are usually not posted, so try not to compare with others…trust that you are on your own path with its own timing for a reason. And never give up, because your biggest breakthrough could be just a few days or weeks away! So press on!
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Patience with the process and being content with where I am in my writer’s journey.
In those tough moments, where did you find the motivation to push through? My faith in God and also running. This past fall I ran a half marathon. Before that I worked on getting to the 10K mark. Those accomplishments were fueled by writing frustrations and discouragement. I have found running to be very therapeutic. It helps me to connect with God and also work off those tough moments when I feel like quitting.
These last few questions are Christmas related.
What is your favorite Christmas movie to watch? Is there one that you watch every year, or do you like to watch all of the new Christmas movies?
I love the movie Elf. Our family usually watches it at least one time together for a good laugh. I also love the Hallmark channel.
What are your top 5 favorite Christmas books of all time?
I came up with six.
The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett
Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson
One Splendid Tree by Marilyn Helmer
Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
This little well-loved chunky board book J The First Christmas by Standard Publishing
About the Author
Mindy writes character driven picture books with read-aloud potential. She likes to embed seeds of truth within the story lines of her books. Mindy resides in Indiana with her husband and three children where she is a high school Spanish teacher. She has been involved in full time ministry with her husband for twenty years. She is passionate about her faith, family, people, travel, books, and living life to the full. She can never turn down a cup of coffee, especially if it is shared with an old or new friend.
Follow Mindy on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MindyBakerBooks
Mindy's Website: http://www.mindybakerbooks.com/