Nonni’s Moon is a beautiful story about a young girl named Beanie who lives across the world from her Nonni (her Grandmother) and misses her every day. She soon figures out a way to send messages to her Nonni through the moon. The story is a touching reminder of how being away from your loved ones can have a significant impact on children and teaches them how to cope with the absence of loved ones. We were lucky enough to interview Julia Inserro, the amazing author of Nonni’s Moon this month.
Interview with Julia Inserro
- Tell me about yourself
I’m Julia Inserro. I’m a writer and mother, wife and expat. I have three kids, a six-year-old and two soon-to-be four-year-olds (double 4th birthday party in a week). My husband and I moved overseas six months after the day of our wedding. That was ten years ago and since then we’ve lived in four countries, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan and now Bahrain. We also have four cats, two Jordanians, and two Bahrainis.
- What motivated you to write Nonni’s Moon?
My mother actually inspired me. She’s our Nonni, and one day we were talking on the phone and she said, “I was really missing you the other night. Then I looked up and saw the moon and realized that you get to see the exact same moon and it made me feel better.” I didn’t know it at the time, but the seed was planted. A little while later, I decided to write out a draft. I dropped the kids off at nursery school and went to the little public beach behind the school. I sat in my car and wrote out the first, very rough, draft of Nonni’s Moon.
As expats, we know all too well the sadness of missing loved ones who live far away. But it’s also true for military families, and families who had to move away due to jobs or housing or opportunities. Very few of us get to live close to our loved ones any more. Moving is something many families have to deal with throughout their lives. And because of that, missing friends and family is a universal feeling.
- What books or stories inspired you when you were growing up?
Oh, there are thousands! From my childhood, I loved Frances the badger, by Russell and Lillian Hoban. I loved Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Corduroy, Ferdinand, Blueberries for Sal, Make Way for Ducklings.
And as an adult, reading to my kids now, in addition to those from my childhood I love anything by Sandra Boynton, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dr. Seuss, Jan Brett, Adam Rubin, Karma Wilson. And there are so many great books that have come out just in the last 5+ years: Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty, The Dot by Peter Reynolds, Be Kind by Pat Miller, Chalk by Bill Thompson, The Day the Crayons Quit, Beekle by Dan Santat, the Snowmen series by Caralyn & Mark Buehner, and Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown.
- Nonni’s Moon is all about coping with having relatives that live far away from you. What advice would you give to someone about coping with having loved ones far away?
This is tough and everyone handles things so different. Some people can bounce back and look forward to new adventures, others have difficulty moving forward. When you’re talking about kids, you have to know your kids and know which way they lean. Some parents I know create photo books so the kids can see friends and family whenever they want. Some set up regular Skype or FaceTime calls so they can have that visual connection. Sometimes writing letters, notes or post cards helps.
I find my kids love seeing photos of their friends and cousins on Facebook. Then they want to send some back. We have one friend who sends us little videos just saying hi. If they’re really sad about it, then we call immediately (depending on the time zone), even just to say “we miss you.” I also make sure that my kids know I miss people, too. They see me cry when we say goodbye to Nonni at the airport, but then I talk about how we can talk to her soon, and will see her at Christmas, etc.
There isn’t an easy answer. But like much of parenting, it’s an opportunity to teach a life lesson. And sometimes that lesson is simply that it’s okay to feel sad; now let’s look at the same moon they see and marvel at the world.
- Beanie is such a clever little girl. Can you tell us about a problem you encountered when writing this inspirational tale and how did you overcome this?
There were lots of problems along the way. I was diving into a world I knew nothing about. So, I floundered around a bit. But I never gave up (though there were some panicky moments my husband had to sit through).
Despite being a voracious reader my whole life, I suddenly found myself dissecting books much more closely. I studied the ones l loved and also the ones I didn’t love. I had to figure out how to create a social media platform beyond my blog (www.juliainserro.com). I had to study marketing and I read lots of books and took copious notes.
But the biggest problem occurred when I got the physical proof for my hardback copy. I wasn’t happy. The paper quality was not what I wanted. The colors weren’t as rich as my illustrator, Lucy Smith, had drawn them. It just didn’t make my heart smile. But I didn’t know what to do about it. So I pouted and whined for about a day, then dove back into research mode and started getting referrals to other printers and then got quotes from them. Then I narrowed it down, got samples, discussed it with my husband, crunched a lot of numbers, and then committed to one and sent the deposit. This all meant that there was going to be a delay – I was going to have to push back my launch date by 6 weeks. I was terrified. I reached out to my Facebook launch team and told them the news. They were resoundingly supportive and that made all the difference. I’d rather delay the release and put out a higher-quality product, then release something that I’m not proud of. It was a terrifying decision, but a good one.
- Finally, what advice would you give to someone who wants to be an author?
If you have a story burning inside you that needs to get out – then do it! But do it well. First, do some research and if you want to write children’s books then read a lot of children’s books. Note the words they use, the number of words they use, how many pages it is (it’s often 32 pages), how the layout is, how many illustrations there are and what style would you want for yours. Get lots of feedback from friends and family and then branch out to strangers (they’re called beta readers). And read it aloud – that’s how most kids’ books are read, so it can change your word choice when you hear it that way. Get it professionally edited – this is a must, regardless of who you are. And decide what this means to you. Is this a family story you want to produce so your immediate friends and family can buy it? Or is this something you want to really make a go at and reach thousands?
Like most people I did not consider self-publishing at first. I had heard it was hard to get traditionally published, but I started looking into that first. But as I collected my research and realized the process, and verified just how incredibly difficult it could be, I found myself thinking more and more about self-publishing. I felt really strongly that Nonni’s Moon was a story that could resonate with lots of people. So, I dove into it.
I did a lot of things wrong in the beginning and wasted some time. What I hadn’t realized was that I needed to look at this as an investment. It can be incredibly easy, and inexpensive, to self-publish a book. But if you want to publish a quality book, that’s well-written with beautiful illustrations and high-quality printing, then you need to invest in it – time and money.
Once I had it professionally edited, I then worked on finding an illustrator. I found mine through a Facebook group and she was such a perfect fit. I’m so grateful for Lucy and how she brought Nonni’s Moon to life. We’re actually working on two more books together as well. (If you want to be the first to know about all my books, just subscribe at www.juliainserro.com – you can also get some free Nonni’s Moon coloring pages there, too!)
Bottom line, it’s definitely doable.