Ask the Author: Ann Marie Stephens
What would you like readers to know about you?
Hmmm, there’s all kinds of quirky stuff I could share but how about this? I’m a scuba diver. I travel all over the world so I can meet new people, explore different dive sites, and interact with sea creatures. I am happiest when I get to see sharks, octopuses, and spotted trunkfish.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
My newest book, ARITHMECHICKS TAKE AWAY, comes out in August. It’s a book about fuzzy, little chicks solving subtraction problems, blended with bedtime mischief and a mouse. It’s a story that makes it acceptable to mix play and creativity with something that can be difficult for kids.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
This book follows ARITHMECHICKS ADD UP, which came out in 2019. It’s a story about the same chicks from ARITHMECHICKS TAKE AWAY, but this time they are working addition problems on a playground. I can’t really say there was a lightning strike of inspiration but there was a moment. Years ago, I created a math project for my students that involved making chicks out of construction paper. Each student made different addition problems for their chick to hold and we hung them in the hallway with a title “Arithmetic Chicks.” I thought it would make a good story so I jotted the idea in a journal. Many years later the idea crept back into my brain, took on a less clunky title, and became a book.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
My favorite part of ARITHMECHICKS TAKE AWAY has to be when Mama is looking for her chicks in hiding and “she spots a foot, two tails, and one giggly beak.” It makes me think of all the times I played hide-and-seek as a child and would try so hard not to let anyone see me or hear me giggling.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
I definitely have authors from childhood whose work I still admire. Richard Scarry and Arnold Lobel were two of my favorite. As an elementary teacher, I read hundreds and hundreds of children’s books a year. I gravitate to work by Bob Shea, Ame Dyckman, and every illustration Vashti Harrison ever does. My current favorite book is THE LOVE LETTER, by Anika Denise.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
If you want to write a book, sit down (or stand up) and do it. BUT if you want to sell a book, read 1,000 books like the kind you want to write. Then read more! You have to understand how to write in that genre in order to be successful. Don’t make excuses either. You will always be busy, and tired, and distracted. If you want to write, make it fit into your life.
Ann Marie Stephens is the author of several picture books including Scuba Dog, Cy Makes a Friend, Arithmechicks Add Up and forthcoming titles, Arithmechicks Take Away, and CATastrophe!. She has been an elementary teacher for over 29 years. She was a contributing writer for Kwame Alexander’s The Write Thing, a co-writer for Trait Crate Plus for grades 3 and 5, and has had dozens of original ideas published in Instructor and The Mailbox magazines. Represented by Emily Mitchell at Wernick and Pratt Agency, Ann Marie is a seasoned presenter for both children and adults.
She blogs for teachers at http://2happyteachers.blogspot.com.
You can find her on Facebook, Ann Marie Stephens (AMStephensAuthor), and on Instagram and Twitter @AMStephens_.