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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Gwendolyn Conover interview

Today, I'm spotlighting another of the new MeeGenius authors, Gwendolyn Conover, this year's 2nd runner up in the Author Challenge. Her awesome book, Robot Party is a lot of fun. Check it out!

The Restless Writer (RW): How long have you been writing for children?

Gwendolyn Conover (GC): In second grade, my teacher, Mrs. Spangler, put one of my poems in the glass display case in the hallway at school.  It was a poem about two birds who were in love and sang to each other.  I called them doves in the poem, but really they were inspired by the pigeons in our barn!  So I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve loved putting words together as long as I can remember.  I started really focusing on trying to get published about five years ago.  That might sound like a long time, but there is a lot to learn!
RW: Who are your favorite children's book authors?

GC: Oh, there are so many to love!  But I will try to hit the highlights . . .
I love Dr. Seuss.  One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish was one of my favorite books when I was a kid.  The Pale Green Pants is not one I hear about a ton, but I love that story.  How the Grinch Stole Christmas has so many great rhymes and cool word-smithing.  Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! is fantastic if you love to really get into a dramatic out-loud reading. 

For picture books, I also love Margaret Wise Brown, Karma Wilson, and Mo Willems.

For older kids, one of my favorite books is When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is amazing.  I also love Suzanne Collins and Scott Westerfeld.  And J.K. Rowling is awesome, but duh.

I’m sure when I read this later I will slap myself in the head and say, “How could I forget (fill in the blank)!” but that’s a good start, anyway.

RW: How did you get the idea for Robot Party?
GC: It came from playing with my kids, which is where many of my ideas come from.  My son was pretending to be a robot and his arm was a crank.  Pulling it made him say “Please,” or “Thank you.”   That’s actually where the line in Robot Party, “His Thank You Crank is out of whack,” comes from.  My daughter has a great sense of humor and lots of fun ideas come from her.  My kids also ask great questions, and those sometimes spark ideas for books.

RW: For me, it was a tough decision to try for ebook publishing vs. print publishing. Did you have any struggles with print vs. digital?

GC: The high quality of the MeeGenius book collection really turned my head.  I hadn’t really considered e-publication before discovering them.  I hope to also get a chance to go the route of print publishing at some point, but I am thrilled to count myself among the authors at MeeGenius.

RW: What do you do when you're not writing?
GC: Well, I have two kids, and I am lucky enough to spend a good chunk of my time with them.  When my youngest is in school for half days, sometimes I feather-dust four floors worth of antiques or make thirty pounds of mashed potatoes.  (I work part-time at a bed and breakfast and do a little bit of everything, including helping out with large catering gigs.)  I am one of those people that needs my daily exercise, and I also like to spend some time every day reading.

RW: I've always had a bit of a robot phobia (not about your book though). How do you feel about robots, apart from the partying kind?

GC: Ha!  Well, robots can be freaky, I agree.  That’s why I go in for the cute kind.  I guess I dig more of a Rolie Polie Olie kind of vibe versus something like AI or I, Robot (though those are both interesting films).

RW: What was the most exciting part of this whole contest process for you?

GC: Seeing Lucy Mara’s illustrations was very exciting.  Seeing my book in that bright shiny MeeGenius store, and hearing Robot Party read aloud in such a fun way via the Read To Me feature . . . those were very cool moments.  Also, the support and enthusiasm of family, friends and my fantastic little town all meant a lot to me.

RW: Are you part of a critique group or do you go it alone? 

GC: I am part of an SCBWI critique group that I love.  They are responsible for much of my growth and development as a writer, and I highly recommend both SCBWI and their critique groups to any aspiring writers out there. 

RW: If you could hang out with either C3PO or R2D2, but not both, which one would you pick and why?

GC: That is an interesting question.  While I would like to say R2D2 because he’s a fun, adventurous kind of bot, the truth is, I’m probably more of a C3PO kind of person.  I’m not a huge fan of danger, and tend to like to think things through.  Though, I’d like to think, if it was up to me to fight The Dark Side I could be brave. 

RW: I know Robot Party has JUST been published, but are you working on any other books now? 
GC: Yes!  I am trying to finish a YA novel that it seems I’ve been working on FOREVER.  I have a tendency toward obsessive reworking (especially when it comes to word choice and the way individual sentences read) that does not lend itself to finishing a longer work!  But my critique group is a great support, and a few of them are successful novel writers, so it helps that they understand and can offer support (and occasionally, a kick in the pants).  I am also always working on picture books.  Right now I have a couple that are bouncing around in my brain, one growing in complexity, the other getting some polish.  I have a couple of steampunk picture books that I really believe in, and they are ready to query.  I’ve sent them out to just a couple agents, and I need to send out more queries.  I hate querying and often procrastinate horribly when it comes to this part of my quest.

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You can hang out with Gwen on Facebook, or find her on Twitter.
Thank you so much, Gwen and best of luck with all your other creative endeavors!


  1. What fun interview ladies! It was nice getting to know you Gwendolyn. I loved hearing how you were inspired to write Robot Party. Congratulations on your publication. Great questions Sarah :)

    1. Thanks, Jennifer! I like to think I ask interesting questions, so it's great to hear you enjoyed them. :)

  2. awesome Wendy...I mean Gwendolyn....so thrilled for you and excited to share your book with others!

  3. This was great! Enjoyed getting to see the 'behind the story'.

  4. Awesome job, ladies!! I'm loving being able to follow all of my MeeGenius family around! Thanks for the peek into your life, Gwen! My boys love ROBOT PARTY... I'll make sure to use that "Thank you crank" around here, too. ;)

    1. Thanks so much for your comments, Bethany. MeeGenius authors are awesome!