Meet Rising Star
Author Ashlee Hashman!
AD: Let’s start with a speed round…
- Top three favorite children’s books of all time? The Bad Seed by Jory John, Mootilda’s Bad Mood by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call, The Redwall series by Brian Jacques.
- Coffee, tea (or neither)? Both!
- Where is your safe place? The Jeep with the top down driving back roads.
- Dogs, cats, (or neither)? I love dogs!
- Early bird or night owl?Used to be Early Bird, but now I’m a Whenever-the-Toddler-Is-Sleeping Bird!
- Three words to describe what it takes to make it in the kidlit world…Confidence, flexibility, community.
AH: I am a former math teacher turned stay-at-home mom and kidlit writer. Raised on a small farm in Kansas (that sounds like a cliché beginning to a romance novel?), I settled a whole 30 minutes over the state line into Missouri with my husband and daughter where I still enjoy small-town living, fried food, and being outdoors.
When I’m not wrangling my toddler or writing, I love to play music, re-watch the same TV series over and over (mainly MONK and PARKS AND REC), and read. My favorite genres are historical fiction, mysteries, and romance. For picture books I tend to love laugh-out-loud humor or sweet, whimsical concepts.
I began writing seriously in the kidlit space in January 2020. A new mother, I desperately wanted to have some sort of creative outlet. So, I started writing stories I thought my daughter would love. Since last January, I’ve written 8 picture books, an MG adventure novel, and began a YA historical romance. Along the way, I’ve found an amazing community of friends, had a ton of fun, and even placed in a few contests!
AD: Wow, Ashlee! You’ve been quite busy this past year! Impressive and inspiring!
AH: My first love has always been STEM. The objective nature of math was a comfort in an unpredictable world. I earned my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in math and went on to teach for several years at the collegiate and high school level.
Until recently, I never considered myself an author. Looking back, though, I see that writing was always part of my life. Essay contests in elementary, songwriting in middle school, journalism in high school, and enough composition and literature classes in college to nearly get me to a second degree in English. My dad said something when I was young that will always stay with me. “Everyone has the potential to be a Da Vinci.” Artist, Inventor, Engineer, etc. I didn’t ever want to be only a math teacher or only a mother or only an author. I want to be all of those things and more! When I was navigating my intensely “left-brained” courses, I desperately needed the “right-brained” ones to keep a sense of balance. My hope is to always be open to learning something new and keep my left and right brains in sync.
AD: Balance is key, and I think giving both sides of our brain a workout benefits all of our work. I love how you highlight the idea that we can have multiple identities and professions. It’s also a reminder that it’s never too late to explore other passions or take on new challenges.
AD: What topics or themes do you tend to focus on in your writing? Favorite genres you like to write in?
AH: I think the most common word I get in response to my picture books is “whimsical”. I love to take obscure ideas and tell stories from a different point of view, whether that means using the setting as the protagonist or creating a story based on lines from my favorite 80’s song. All things STEM are my jam, so that often shows up somewhere in my work. I love having several different projects going at once so I can focus on whatever is pulling at me any given day. That means I usually jump around between PB, MG, and YA several times throughout the week.
AD: Oooo I can’t wait to read one of your 80’s song inspired stories! How fun! Maybe a STEM/80’s song mash-up? 🙂
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: I think my biggest obstacle so far has been myself. I’ve tried to fit stories into a nice formula that magically spits out instant success. As it turns out, writing doesn’t work like a math problem!
To help me overcome this tendency, I started purposely avoiding the “list of rules” you’re supposed to follow during my drafting process and let my imagination have free rein. Then, when revising, I take a look at all the recommended guidelines and follow as best as I can while remaining true to the story. This adjustment has helped take away a lot of the self-imposed pressure to “get published or you’ve failed” and just have fun with the stories.
AD: Yes! I’m all about breaking or bending the rules 🙂 If done right, I think that’s what can make our stories stand out.
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 think I’m most proud of my ability to generate unique ideas. There was a wonderful opportunity several months ago hosted by 389 Literary in which I had the privilege of winning two “above the slush pile” reads from a couple of very kind agents. The feedback I received was encouraging and praised the originality of my writing. It was such a confidence boost for a newer writer!
AD: In a similar vein, what do you feel are your strengths as an author? What makes your writing unique to you?
AH: Some other strengths in my writing are my ability to objectively revise based on critiques (thank you AMAZING CPs!!) and my penchant toward brevity.
AD: I could use some of your brevity. I tend to be more verbose but as with anything else, I think brevity is also a skill that can be learned and sharpened. 🙂
AD: What inspires your work?
AH: Everything I write has to be either fun or heart-felt (or both)! I want my daughter and the kids reading my stories to feel all the warm fuzzies when they finish my books!
AD: Tell us about your creative process and what you do to keep ideas flowing or what you do when feeling stuck?
AH: To be honest, I haven’t found myself getting stuck yet because I have so many different ideas to bounce back and forth between. I generally get ideas from one of two places: contests or my kid.
Contests force me to view the world from different perspectives and jump out of my comfort zone. If you are around kids at all, you have probably also felt that comfort zone stretching. They put such unexpected objects together!
Like, “Look, Mommy, my shopping cart full of llamas just crashed a tower of doughnuts!” And I think to myself, “Ya know…that might actually be a fun story!”
AD: Kids and contests, love it! 🙂
AD: What sorts of things have been most integral in your growth as an author?
AH: COMMUNITY, COMMUNITY, COMMUNITY!! I seriously don’t know where I’d be without all of the incredible people who’ve encouraged me, instructed me, and challenged me along the way!!
AD: YES! This community is seriously THE BEST! It’s filled with so many generous, knowledgeable, and kind people. We are lucky ducks!
AD: What advice do you have for fellow kidlit creatives?
AH: Find your people and dive in head first! I think it’s so important to not only take a chance on yourself, but also to take a chance on other people. Send that email! Enter that contest! Like that post! It’s all about community, and I’ve made such amazing friends over the past year by investing in and receiving from other creators.
AD: Invest, receive, repeat! 🙂
AD: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
AH: I’d love to connect with you! And thank you, Amanda, for having me! It’s been so fun joining you for this series!
AD: Of course! Thank YOU for stopping by the blog, Ashlee, and congrats again on signing with Elisa! Thank you so much for sharing a bit about yourself and contributing to the Rising Stars in Kidlit series! We can’t wait to read your fun and heartfelt stories and I’ll be holding out hope for that STEM/80’s mash-up! Feel free to drop a comment below to support Ashlee and her work, and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out and follow along on Twitter at #RisingStarsinKidlit! If you are interested in being featured in the Rising Stars in KidLit series, please complete the following Getting to Know You form to be considered. Thank you!