Rising Stars continues in 2021! Hooray! The goal of this series is to highlight my fellow kidlit creators who are working their tails off to birth their beautiful book babies into the world. These interviews will cast a light on the wonderful work of these pre-published authors and author-illustrators who are destined to be stars!
Meet Rising Star
Andrew Hacket is a writer and a second-grade teacher of 16 years. Andrew’s background of being surrounded by children, both at work and at home, has been a treasure trove of inspiration. A nature lover, Andrew can be found exploring the woods of Massachusetts with his wife and three kids. While often witty and imaginative, Andrew’s stories can also delve into the more serious and emotional topics that children can experience.
Welcome, Andrew, and thanks for joining me on the blog! I'm so excited to have you here (a fellow Salve Regina alum, to boot!) and to learn more about who you are and the work you create for kids. You are another Rising Star who had a recent milestone so before we jump into your interview, please tell us about your BIG news....drum roll please....
AH: I am so thrilled to be represented by Dan Cramer of Flannery Literary. After a short stint in the query trenches I happened upon a query critique giveaway that Dan was offering on Twitter. I was thrilled to receive positive feedback from Dan on my query and even more excited that he expressed an interest in my story and encouraged me to send it his way. As quick as I could, I shipped it off and before I knew it we were setting up the call. It was quite the whirlwind!
AD: That's amazing, Andrew! Quite the whirlwind is right!! Congratulations to you and Dan. It sounds like a great match and a good reminder to take advantage of opportunities such as contests, and giveaways. You never know what they may lead to. Best of luck as you begin this new phase in your journey. Alright, let's dive into some questions to get to know more about you and your work. As a fellow nature-lover, I also can't wait to share your beautiful and inspiring nature photography with readers.
Let’s start with a speed round…
AD: Okay, now down to the series stuff...please dish us the dirt on who you are and your journey into the fabulous world of children’s books.
AH: I have always had an interest in writing children’s books and dabbled off and on for years, but never committed the time or effort necessary to have it become anything more than just a dream. This past summer was when I finally decided to give it a serious go. I signed up for SCBWI, joined critique groups, entered the world of Twitter and most importantly, began writing.
AD: Inspiring that you chose to make your dream a reality. Sounds like you are well on your way!
AD: Did you always know you wanted to be an author? Have you explored other paths or had/have other jobs?
AH: I can not say that I am one of those people who always knew I wanted to be a writer or that I grew up with a passion for writing. I didn’t. I always liked the idea of being an author, but never really knew what that entailed or how to begin.
What I have always had is a passion for working with children, which is why I have been a second-grade teacher for the last 16 years. Working with children is incredible and the relationships I build with my students are something I truly enjoy. I love the creativity I get to infuse into my classroom and the ability to observe my students loving learning.
AD: Thank you for your dedication to teaching. As a fellow educator myself, I can truly relate to the joy that can be found in the relationships we build with our students. It's pretty special! :)
AD: What topics or themes do you tend to focus on in your writing? Favorite genres you like to write in?
AH: Fiction picture books all the way! I have discovered two sides of my writing personality. On the one side, I love to write light-hearted stories filled with wordplay. But I have also come to find an ease with lyrical and emotional realistic fiction stories.
AD: Breaking into the publishing industry is not easy! What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far? What have you done to persevere?
AH: The biggest challenge for me was having the self-confidence that this could be more than just a dream. I needed to give myself permission to believe it could be real and permission to be vulnerable and open. After I did that was when the dots began to connect.
AD: Yes! Giving ourselves permission is key. I'm glad you had the courage to do so and are moving forward on your path to getting published!
AD: As creators (and humans), we tend to focus on the flaws of our creations or areas for improvement. This helps us grow and develop, but we need not forget the many things we are doing well. With this in mind, what has been your biggest accomplishment or something you are most proud of thus far on your writing journey?
AH: I am incredibly proud of the relationships I have built with the kidlit community. In the real world I am shy and anxious in new situations, and I certainly do not put myself out there. I am so grateful for the friendships I have made. I have grown significantly as a writer as a result. If not for my writing friends this journey would have been a much lonelier one and way less fun.
AD: Totally! This community rocks! Without the support of others who truly understand the ups and downs of the industry, I think I would be lost at sea. As you said, everyone is so welcoming and knowledgable. It is a refreshing!
AD: In a similar vein, what do you feel are your strengths as an author? What makes your writing unique to you?
AH: At the moment my writing is leaning towards tough subjects such as loss, grief, and divorce. I aim to handle these topics with a gentle touch while also embracing the emotions of the situation. These stories are lyrical and hopefully within them children and parents will find a touch of comfort.
AD: Thank you for writing these stories, Andrew. I think it's so important for children to have stories that reflect these difficult topics as they are a part of life. We can't shy away. Your stories will make a difference and allow both children and adults to help process.
AD: What inspires your work?
AH: My kids and the kids I am surrounded by in my career are a constant source of ideas and inspiration. My playful stories often come from bits of phrases I overhear in the classroom or on the playground that I mix and match until the story finds me. My more emotional pieces, while not autobiographical, tend to have a component that is pulled directly from my memory bank.
AD: Tell us about your creative process and what you do to keep ideas flowing or what you do when feeling stuck?
AH: I carry a journal with me constantly, except for when I forget, but Notes on my phone will do. My creative process involves a lot of staring blankly and incessant rereading of lines written. I like to doodle and outline before writing, filling my brain with loads of possibilities. Then I often begin drafting without ever looking back at my notes, letting the character lead the way.
AD: Oooo I like that..."let the character lead the way". Nice!
I also tend to write in spurts. When inspiration strikes I throw everything else aside and dive in. Then other times, when those ideas are nowhere to be found, I find I have to stop trying. At these times I try to get out into nature and wait for inspiration to strike when it is ready.
AD: What sorts of things have been most integral in your growth as an author?
AH: Twitter, while stealing away precious writing time, has also been the place where I found my people and became part of the writing community. The amazing people I have met and their endless support as CPs has been critical to my growth. I love critiquing others’ stories, and I find I learn so much just by being exposed to the various styles, themes and techniques each author uses. Also, contests like Fall Writing Frenzy and Halloweensie have pushed me to write outside of my comfort zone and revealed facets of my skill set I didn’t know I had.
AD: Yes! I completely agree. Twitter is a great networking tool. It sounds like pushing yourself outside your comfort zone has led to growth in your craft. Walk towards that discomfort!! :)
AD: What advice do you have for fellow kidlit creatives?
AH: Be open to the possibilities. Sometimes we have a pre prescribed plan of how and when we want to accomplish our goals. Be open to new opportunities, new paths, new people. Be open to taking the risk on yourself, even when the outcome seems destined to be a “no”. And also, find your people. These are the ones with whom you will commiserate with if rejections come your way and who will cheer the loudest for you when you find success.
AD: I couldn't have said it better! Thanks for the knowledge bomb, Andrew!!
AD: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
Thank you so much for sharing a bit about yourself and contributing to the Rising Stars in KidLit series, Andrew! We can’t wait to read your stories and see your work in the hands of young readers! Feel free to drop a comment below to support Andrew and his work. Stay tuned for next week where we get to meet another Rising Star in Kidlit, and be sure to subscribe so you don't miss out and follow along on Twitter at #RisingStarsinKidlit!
Who Am I?
Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness. Amanda is the author of the award-winning picture book, 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag, Moonlight Memories (summer, 2023) and a yet to be announced forthcoming title. She also has poetry and illustrations featured in The Writers’ Loft Anthology: Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children. Amanda has over ten years of experience as a classroom teacher and was selected as Massachusetts Secondary Art Educator of the Year. When she’s not busy creating, you can find her sipping tea, petting dogs, and exploring the natural wonders of The Bay State with her family and her rescue pup, Cora. You can learn more about Amanda at www.amandadavisart.com and on Twitter @amandadavisart and Instagram @amandadavis_art.