Meet Rising Star
Author-Illustrator Margarett McBride
Margarett McBride, M.A. is a children’s book author and illustrator who resides in North Carolina but is proudly from Saginaw, Michigan. She uses her work to uplift the experiences of marginalized people and showcases what a safer, healthier, and more hopeful community looks like for youth of color. In addition to being a creative writer and artist, Margarett is also a Ph.D. Candidate in Developmental Psychology. She studies how neighborhood experiences influence Black youth and family well-being and development. Margarett also loves creating art through her business, Made By Margarett, LLC, volunteering at community festivals, and working with organizations to help increase community members’ sense of belonging. You can learn about her research, writing, and art at margarettmcbride.com, or you can follow her on social media @RenaissanceMars to stay up to date on her work and presentations. Margarett is currently seeking agent representation.
AD: Hi Margarett and welcome to the blog! Thank you so much for being here! I can’t wait to share more about your work and beautiful art with readers. Let’s start with your experience in the PB Rising Stars Mentorship Program. Can you tell us who your mentor is, what inspired you to apply, and how the program is going/went for you ?
MM: I have enjoyed my time as a PB Rising Stars Mentee. I’ve always been an “apply to everything, figure it out later” person. When I saw the application call, I knew I would apply, but it came at the perfect time. I had a book contract with a publisher but felt like I had no guidance, and I was in a place where I started to look into finding an agent. After seeing the fantastic mentors for the program, I was sold. Since I apply to many things, I am used to rejection and often expect it. To my surprise, my Twitter notifications were blowing up one day because I learned I was selected.
I was blessed to be paired with Tonya Abari as a mentor and Trenise Ferreira as a mentee twin. I genuinely believe these relationships will extend beyond the program and that they were the perfect people to be paired with for my writing journey. We have similar values and desires for the kidlit community and our readers.
Beyond my mentorship experience, the PB Rising Stars organizers did an outstanding job facilitating community amongst the mentees and providing training opportunities. Getting a glimpse into everything that people in the program are working towards (books, courses, etc.) was beautiful, and I am excited to see the fruits of all the seeds being planted by everyone.
AD: Relationships and community are huge! I’m glad you feel you built both through your time in the mentorship and your application story is a good lesson on never giving up! You never know when that win will come! Alright let’s do a speed round…
- Top three favorite children’s books of all time? “Of all time” is too stressful for me because I love so many books! When I was a kid I was obsessed with The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. My latest favorite book is Soul Food Sunday by Winsome Bingham. My favorite book from my first publisher, Free Spirit Books, is Jayden’s Impossible Garden.
- Coffee, tea (or neither)? Neither, I prefer hot cider or hot chocolate.
- Where is your safe place? My safe place is wherever I feel like I can be my complete self.
- Dogs, cats, (or neither)? I have a Goldendoodle named Appa so by default dog, but I like cats too!
- Early bird or night owl? Early bird!
- Three words to describe what it takes to make it in the kidlit world… Genuine, Community, Determination
AD: Okay, now down to the serious stuff….please dish us the dirt on who you are and your journey into the fabulous world of children’s books.
MM: Besides my love of books as a child, my journey into children’s book writing began around seven or eight years ago. I went to the University of Michigan for my undergraduate degree, and my first year writing course was about children’s books, taught by Elizabeth Goodenough. In that course, we learned about the history of children’s books, their components, the art, and everything in between. Our final assignment involved writing a children’s book story.
At the time, my stepfather was incarcerated. This experience and seeing how the family responded to his incarceration inspired my first book, then titled, Nelson’s Significant Letter, now titled Dear Dad, Love Nelson. The story initially consisted of one letter that Nelson wrote to his father. After graduating, I decided I wanted to see this project expanded. I looked into SCBWI and how to submit the manuscript to publishers. I also took another children’s book course with Susie Wilde through my local art center. I used that opportunity to rewrite my story into several letters, and I completely revamped the story thanks to Susie’s guidance and the feedback from our critique group in the class. After a few years of submitting to publishers, I found a breakthrough in 2021 from a Twitter Pitch Competition (#PBPi
tch). Meg Bratsch, the then acquiring editor for Free Spirit Publishing, liked my pitch and made my goal a reality. This story will come out in 2023 with Free Spirit Publishing. Since then, I’ve written another book that will be published with Free Spirit as well (details to come) and was lucky enough to be in community with the PB Rising Stars community. This is just the beginning of my journey, but I am excited to develop and grow within the kidlit community.
AD: That’s amazing, Margarett! Congratulations on both of your forthcoming titles. Dear Dad, Love Nelson sounds like both a beautiful yet difficult/important book to write. I look forward to checking it out and learning more about your next one. You mentioned you took a class in your undergraduate studies that sparked your path into kidlit but did you always know you wanted to be an author/illustrator? Have you explored other paths or had/have other jobs?
MM: When I was growing up, I thought I would maybe be an artist (not an illustrator), and I never intended to be an author at all. While I did love to read, I never thought of myself as a writer; honestly, English was always my least favorite class. Funny enough, many of the jobs I had consisted of being a writer to some degree. My first job was at a local newspaper (shout out to the Michigan Banner in Saginaw, MI). My two current jobs outside of being an author are also big writing jobs. One is a Ph.D. Candidate in Developmental Psychology at UNC. Being a student involved a lot of writing in general, but being a doctoral candidate and researcher involved so much writing that I am surprised I even found time and desire to do creative writing. My other job involved being a Senior Associate of Storytelling at Cities United. This job requires writing as well. This job also made me realize that even though I never wanted to be a writer or author, I’ve always been a storyteller who liked to fluctuate the medium where I told stories, whether with writing, art, or organizing.
AD: Always a storyteller at heart 🙂 What topics or themes do you tend to focus on in your writing/art? Favorite genres you like to write in or favorite art materials/techniques?
MM: My creative, academic, and professional writing all centers around Black youth, families, and neighborhoods. In my work, I try to build safe, healthy, and hopeful communities; in my writing, I like to tell stories about what that looks like in real life. I want to write creatively about fictional scenarios based on my own family, research, or things that could happen. Even if the context is challenging, I like to make sure the story shows hope, healing, and love. I want to highlight the positive aspects of community and the humanity of Black families. It is always a bonus if I can also throw in some humor.
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?
MM: So far, the biggest challenge was believing in myself and my story to keep going. We speak about being consistent or determined, but there is less talk about confidence and how sure you need to be in order to be consistent or determined. Thankfully I have a wonderful community that finds a way to boost my confidence when I doubt myself. The best way to persevere is to find your community and utilize them. Speak up when needed and talk about how you feel and what you experience. Finding the community is one step, but using them is the only way you can see the benefit of being in community.
AD: Yes! This is such an important reminder. Self-doubt can easily creep in and reaching out for help is crucial! In addition, 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/illustration journey?
MM: For my second picture book, I designed a character and put out the option for me to be the author/illustrator of the story. While we decided to go in another direction for the illustrator, I was super proud of myself for making the design and asking about the opportunity. So while that didn’t end up being successful, I felt great because I developed a lot as an artist by creating the images. I even feel like I grew personally since I typically don’t advocate for myself or my future goals in that way. I am most proud of myself for putting myself out there as an artist and author. Maybe one day I’ll get to wear the illustrator hat as well, but for now, I am one step closer.
AD: Good for you for taking that leap and stating your needs and wants. I’m in the same boat with the author-illustrator goal. It will come when the time is right 🙂 I adore your character below and hope to see more of them in the future.
AD: In a similar vein, what do you feel are your strengths as an author/illustrator? What makes your art/writing unique to you?
MM: Others believe and have told me that I have a gift of knowledge and voice. As a Ph.D. Candidate studying Developmental Psychology and how neighborhood experiences impact families, I have a keen understanding of not only my personal experiences but what life experiences look like for larger groups of people, especially Black Americans (youth and families). This knowledge of my own life and what happens to others has been crucial in my writing process and crafting relatable stories that hit on topics necessary to talk about on a larger scale. I have also been told I can get into my character’s voice. I think deeply about my family members and try to instill a little portion of them in my characters and stories, which helps my characters come to life and make them relatable to others. My readers can see their family members and themselves in my characters because of how I use voice in my stories. Those two factors are some of my greatest strengths and make me unique.
AD: Voice is something we so often hear about in this industry and something that is often hard to establish in our writing. It sounds like through a lot of personal and professional research and navigation, it led you to there. Yay! It’s also great that your work allows you to have a pulse on what’s going on in the lives of youth and be able to communicate these experiences in a meaningful way.
AD: What inspires your work?
MM: My friends, my family, and my research have been big inspirations for my work. As I said before, I try to instill a little of the people I love into my characters and stories. I research human development, so thinking about how the environment will impact my characters and their development is also a place of inspiration for me.
AD: Tell us about your creative process and what you do to keep ideas flowing or what you do when feeling stuck?
MM: What I do as a creative process varies depending on what is going on in my life. This season, I have been trying to let go of the feeling of being “stuck” and pivot to what feels natural to work instead. I do many different things (art, research, creative writing, work, etc.), which has allowed me not to get caught up in being stuck but to shift my focus until I get inspired to write again. Considering my inspirations, it usually works out. I think of new ideas when spending time with family or in the weeds of another project.
AD: What sorts of things have been most integral in your growth as an author/illustrator?
MM: Forcing myself into accountability groups has helped a lot. As I said before, I have taken different courses about children’s book writing and even art. These courses force me to work on my craft and share the development of my project with a group. This helps me keep going and allows me to get ideas from other people. Sometimes a new perspective is needed to push you forward and to get you out of the strict mindset we often place on ourselves. It is also a good way to make new friends!
AD: Yes, this is great advice! What other advice do you have for fellow kidlit creatives?
MM: I will sound like a broken record, but my advice to anyone trying to do anything is to find their community. Find community. Create community. Utilize community. There are things you can do yourself, but doing it with others or sharing your story makes it easier to keep going, grow, and get inspired. Find a class, create a support group, make a friend with similar goals, or even volunteer at the library. No matter what you do, you must be willing to take the first step.
AD: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
Website General: https://margarettmcbride.com/
Website Art Business: https://www.madebymargarett.com/
Art Business Twitter: @MadebyMargarett
Art Business Instagram: @MadebyMargarett