Meet my author friend, Heather Pierce Stigall. Her debut picture book, PAISLEY'S BIG BIRTHDAY, is out now! Read more about Heather's journey to publishing.
Could tell me how many years you have been working on this book before you got a contract on it for publication?
I wrote the first draft of PAISLEY’S BIG BIRTHDAY about eight or nine years ago and then put it in a virtual drawer for a few months. Then I revised it several times over the course of about nine months. It was the first picture book I had written that I felt was “polished” and had the stamp of approval from my critique group. But, as anyone in the picture book writing world who wants to be agented knows, I needed to write and revise and polish more stories. So, it sat in a virtual drawer, for years this time. When I ultimately decided to submit it to Clavis Books, I did one more small revision before sending it out. A month after I submitted it, I received an email from the CEO saying they were interested in publishing the story.
Is this your first publication? If yes, do you have other manuscripts under contract or preparing for submission (if you want to share)?
Yes, PAISLEY’S BIG BIRTHDAY is my debut picture book. I have another picture book
coming out with Beaming Books in fall 2026, illustrated by Jess Mason, called GILBERT AND THE GHOST. It’s about a boy who believes a ghost lives in his neighborhood, even though no one else believes. But Gilbert knows how hard it is to make friends, especially when you’re invisible, so he tries every gesture he can think of to befriend the ghost. It’s a sweet tale of overcoming obstacles and finding friends in mysterious places for kids who often feel unseen.
Do you write full-time? If not, what do you do besides write?
I am a part-time writer and a full-time wife and mom to one canine and five human children. When I’m not writing, you can find me reading, working out, eating chocolate, baking, or creating things out of fabric, paper, or photographs.
What inspires you to create picture books? Do you write any other genres (MG, YA, adult)?
In a word, it’s children that inspire me to create picture books! But I’m also inspired by picture books themselves. Picture books are often a child’s first introduction to reading (a “gateway” book, if you will) that will hopefully open the floodgates to the wonderful world of books. They not only introduce kids to the mechanics of books, but show them how reading can entertain, inform, and teach them something about themselves, others, and the world, all wrapped up in a beautiful piece of art. Plus, picture books are meant to be shared, so they foster a connection between reader and listener. I know some of my fondest memories of picture books are not just about the stories themselves, but of the time spent on the lap of a loved one or with a loved one on my lap. Picture books will always be my first love, but recently I have been dabbling in the world of chapter books. We’ll see how that works out!
Where do your ideas for new manuscripts come from? Has a manuscript ever started out in one direction and by the end been a totally different story?
Everywhere, of course! Sometimes I hear overhear (or even mis-hear) something that gives me an idea for a conflict or a title. Sometimes I see something in the news, on the internet, or on TV that sparks an idea. Sometimes, as in the case of my debut, one of my children does or says something that gives me an idea for a picture book plot. Ideas are all around, you just have to be open to receiving them. And, yes, very often I start to write a manuscript that ends up taking a turn in a different direction.
When you are “stuck” or have “writer’s block”, what do you do to help you over the hump?
When I’m feeling stuck, it often helps me to set the project aside for a while. Sometimes it’s enough to go for a walk or a run and then return to the manuscript with a fresh point of view. Sometimes it takes longer—days, weeks, months, or even years. But if I do set a project aside, I usually work on another one, either another manuscript or a creative project that’s not writing-related like baking, sewing, or scrapbooking.
Do you write in the morning, evening, or late at night? Do you have any music or background sounds to keep you focused on writing?
I am not an early bird, but I can’t stay up as late as I used to be able to, so I’m most productive in the middle of the day, after I’ve gotten a workout in and while the kids are at school. I don’t often work with music on, but I do find that listening to music at other times can get my creative juices flowing and inspire me to write.
When you first started out, where did you find the most positive influence or support to help you with the process of becoming a children’s author?
I would say that joining The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) was the most influential thing I did to help me on my path to becoming a children’s author. Through SCBWI I found my critique group, connected with industry professionals, attended websites and conferences, and learned about other kid lit organizations and influencers.
To date, what would you say is the biggest moment of your career?
Getting that first “yes!”
Tell me more about your book and share about your illustrator.
PAISLEY’S BIG BIRTHDAY is about a bunny who hops out of bed the morning of her birthday
expecting to be transformed into all things “big bunny.” But when she still has trouble reading, still has trouble jumping in the Hopstacle Course, and is still in Bunnygarten, she wonders if she’ll ever be big. This sweet story, about having patience as we grow, is for everyone ages 4 years and up.
The illustrator, Natallia Bushuyeva, was born and grew up in Belarus in a small town surrounded by lakes and forests, the beauty of which affected her imagination and gave an impetus for her future creative work. Her artistic talents started under the influence of her granny for whom painting was a favorite pastime. Her other passions are traveling, taking photographs, and collecting picture books. Natallia currently lives in Paris with her husband and daughter.
What is next for you as an author? Any news you can share about an upcoming project?
Besides GILBERT AND THE GHOST, I have a couple of other manuscripts on submission, and I’m always working on more picture books and chapter books.
If you could tell an aspiring author one thing, what would that be?
I’m going to cheat and suggest four things:
Prepare – read, write, revise, repeat!
Practice – study your craft, get critiques, research agents/publishers, learn about the industry, find your community
Have a Positive Attitude – rejection and tough times are inevitable, but you can celebrate even your small achievements
Persist! – the only guarantee to not getting published is to quit, so keep doing the work; it only takes one “yes!”
For more information about Heather, you can follow her social media at: