Bunnybear by Andrea J. Loney and illustrated by Carmen Saldaña tells a story of a bear who feels more like a bunny. Bunnybear prefers bouncing in the thicket to tramping in the forest, and in his heart he’s fluffy and tiny, like a rabbit, instead of burly and loud, like a bear. The other bears don’t understand him, and neither do the bunnies. Will Bunnybear ever find a friend who likes him just the way he is?
We were lucky enough to sit down with Andrea and discuss Bunnybear, celebrating diverse stories, and being true to yourself.
Q: Why write children’s books?
A: Over the years I’ve been a poet, a playwright, a screenwriter, and a television writer, yet becoming a children’s book author was always my dream. Why? It was through picture books that I fell in love with words, reading, and the whole world around me.
Also when I was in the second grade, my family moved from a big city with many folks of all ethnicities to a small town with few people of color. I had a hard time fitting in. So I escaped my fear and sadness by reading. Books were always there for me. Books delighted me. Books saved me. By the third grade, I vowed that when I became an adult, I would never forget how it felt to be a little kid and that I would write the kind of stories that I’d wished were available when I was a child – stories that embrace the humanity of all children.
Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?
A: Usually, I start by getting to know the main character. I wonder how my character would see the world, speak, or handle different situations. Once I have a good sense of the character, I see the story in my head with as many of the words and pictures that I can imagine. I play it in my head over and over like a movie. I tell the story to myself out loud until I have much of it memorized. And only then do I scribble the first draft into a notebook. After revising it on paper a few times, I type the manuscript up and send it to my online critique group. After they give me notes, I make changes and share it with a different critique group. I do this over and over until I have a draft that feels like a real book manuscript. Sometimes it takes a long time.
Q: What was the process of working with your editor like?
A: Working with editors is always a fascinating process for me because they see the story with new eyes. As a picture book writer who is NOT an illustrator, I never know how my story will be interpreted visually – what if the artist doesn’t understand what I was trying to say? But with Bunnybear the editors and the artist visualized the story almost exactly as I did, and I was so thrilled!
Also at one point I was fussing over a clunky line in the story, and my editor Wendy McClure made a tiny change to the text and suddenly the words just sang! It was like magic!
Q: What makes your book stand out?
A: Aside from Carmen Saldaña’s adorably dreamy illustrations? Well, there are bear books, there are bunny books, and there are even bear and bunny books. But to my knowledge, this is the only story of a Bunnybear.
Q: How do you stay true to yourself?
A: I stay true to myself by listening to that still small voice within me that says, “This is right for me,” or “This is not right for me.” Of course, the voices of people all around me are much louder than my still small voice. I love collaborating with others, so sometimes it can be challenging to stay true to myself – what if I end up all alone? But I find that when I follow what is true for me – no matter what people think – folks with similar truths show up everywhere.
I believe that we all have a story to tell, and no one can tell our story as richly and authentically as we can. But we can only tell those stories when we have the courage to be true to ourselves.
Thanks so much, Andrea! Explore Bunnybear’s journey to understanding his true self on our website.