My friend, Jessica Whipple, is having a banner year – she has not one, but TWO debut picture books coming out this year – within months of each other! Although it’s not something one can really plan, it’s certainly thrilling when it happens.
Jessica and I have been following each other’s careers for several years now, so I was honored when she asked if I would be interested in hosting the official cover reveal for her second picture book, I Think I Think A Lot, from Free Spirit Publishing.
Congratulations on your second picture book, Jessica! Your first, Enough Is… (Tilbury House, 2023), is coming out in just a couple of months and now this new one, I Think I Think A Lot is due out 4 months later, in August! That’s pretty cool for a debut author. So how are you feeling???
I’m thrilled! And thank you for the congrats! It feels like a lot is happening at once, but I’m enjoying the ride, enjoying working on all of the prelaunch promotions and making connections. It feels really good to have brought an idea this far and to see it finally coming to fruition. I feel incredibly honored and touched by the reception my books and I are getting before they’re even out in the world. (As we speak, they’re on a ship in the ocean, which is making everything so very real to me!).
I Think I Think A Lot tells the story of a neurodiverse girl who does a lot more “thinking” than others; share with us a little about the book and how your experience with OCD led you to write it.
The book follows a girl whose interior life feels different than that of her peers. She gets “hung up” on things. She worries. She obsesses. And that makes her change her behavior. For example, she worries about appearing greedy, so she says “thank you” effusively. These are just some things that she worries about, and they’re also some of the things I got hung up on as a kid.
The text of the book never says the character has OCD, but in my author’s note I share that I have it and that’s what has inspired the book. I wanted to write about OCD because I feel like it’s a unique experience that I’ve been given. So many times I’ve felt cursed by it, but I wanted to write this to redeem my experience with it and hopefully show that worry can be hard—OCD, general anxiety, overthinking, whatever it might be. But sometimes on the underside of something that seems bad, there is something good.
It’s certainly good to have a picture book in which neurodiverse kids who may struggle with ADHD, autism, etc. can see themselves, but do you think it might be something other readers will enjoy and learn from?
Yes! Because everyone worries! Some say “we all have a little bit of OCD,” but I don’t know if I agree with that. I’m not certain that’s actually true. But we all DO worry from time to time! And the girl in this book compares herself to others. Of course we all do that.
Much like mine, your children’s writing comes from a background in poetry. How did your knowledge of that genre help you write this book – or any of your books?
Well, I think of myself as a folk poet, because I don’t have any formal training or an MFA to speak of. But my enjoyment of poetry comes from the freedom of a free verse poem, the imagery that’s so helpful to readers there. It’s so similar to a lyrical picture book that I can’t help but compare the two genres/formats. So I guess because they’re similar, I use some of the loose “rules” of poetry to inform how I write my picture books. I have LOTS of room to grow poetry-wise, so I’m excited to see how my picture books change as I continue to work on and experiment with my poetry.
I know when I’m writing a picture book I have a certain vision or style of illustration in my head, and sometimes it’s similar to what an editor chooses and sometimes it’s completely different – but I’ve yet to be disappointed, ha! So before we get to the official reveal, tell me what you thought of Josée Bisaillon’s illustrations. Were you surprised at all?
Ohmygoodness. I love her work – her style is absolutely what I had in mind. When I found out Free Spirit had chosen Josée Bisaillon, I realized she illustrated Out into the Big Wide Lake, which I LOVE, and felt so lucky to be working with her. And I especially love the cover. There’s a trumpet, which is EXTRA special because I played the trumpet as a kid (but Josée didn’t know that!)
Well, congratulations again, Jessica, it’s been so nice to see your career developing over the past few years and I’m thrilled for you that you have two books coming out already!
Thanks, Matt. That’s very kind of you to say.
So now, folks, without any further ado…we present the cover…
for I Think I Think A Lot!
A little bit about Jessica:
Jessica has a background in marketing/communications. She spent some time as a copywriter; later she did communications for a Pennsylvania nonprofit. These days, she writes picture books and poetry for both adults and children. She has sold articles to Highlights that are awaiting placement and is a long-term DIY contributor to Wildflowers: A Creative Magazine for Girls. She is also a volunteer reader for Ember, one of the Empire and Great Jones Little Press literary magazines.
She and her family recently moved from Pittsburgh to Lancaster, PA. Jessica and her husband Matthew have two daughters who love to read, too. Collectively, their library overdue fines have a dedicated line-item in the monthly budget.
Jessica loves to create with words, and really anything else she can get her hands on. She is an avid crafter who has refinished antique dining chairs, crocheted sweaters, designed and built miniature mouse houses, and once hoarded a mess of zebra grass with the hopes of making a wreath. She is learning to play the ukulele.
~ Read Across America Day ~
Would you like to have an author visit your classroom for free? As I do each year, I’m once again offering free, 20-minute virtual visits all day Thur., March 2, for Read Across America Day! My day is usually jam-packed with a couple of visits every hour, all day long, and spots are filling up.
If you would be interested in having me join your class for a 20-minute visit via Zoom, GoogleMeets, or MS Teams, send me an email! I’ll read one of my picture books, share some poetry, and talk a little bit about the writing process and how they all came to be! Just email me at matt(at)mattforrest(dot)com and I’ll reply as quickly as I can.
I’m booking author visits for the 2023 winter/spring semester:
I love chatting with elementary and middle school classes about writing: why poetry is fun to read and write, the importance of revision, and how one’s imagination and creativity can lead to a fantastic career! My presentations are tailored to fit the needs of the classes and students’ ages. One day I might be sharing details of how a picture book like Flashlight Night (Astra Young Readers, 2017) was created; the next, I’ll be discussing dinosaurs, tree ferns, or origami sea turtles!
Student presentations include:
- The Making of a Picture Book
- How a Child Saved a Book
- “Once Upon Another Time”
- The Most Imporant Thing about Writing Poetry
- “I Am Today”
Adult presentations include:
- The Making of a Picture Book
- Poetry: An Introduction to the Most Important Genre
- The Most Important Thing about Writing Poetry
- Free Yourself with Free Verse
- Tight Language, Loose Narratives: Crafting a Non-Traditional Picture Book
Learn more at MattForrest.com!
If you or someone you know might be interested in having me visit your school, library, or other organization, please email me
(The Little Fig, LLC, 2023)
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I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.
Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!
You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Astra Young Readers, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!
Click here to view all my books and to order!
Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)
Thank you to everyone for your support!
- NY Public Library’s “100 Best Book for Kids 2017” AND “Staff Pick!”
- KIRKUS Starred review!
- Kansas NEA Reading Circle Recommended Books!
- “Best Reads of 2017,” Unleashing Readers
- Finalist, 2019 New Hampshire Literary Awards
- Positive reviews from Horn Book, School Library Connection, School Library Connection, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and Shelf-Awareness!
DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:
- “Rollicking rhyme!” – Booklist
- “A wild romp!” – Parenting NH Magazine
- “Cute…intriguing…4 out of 5 stars” – Tulsa Book Review
- “Rhythmic…funny and informative” – Unleashing Readers
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