Updated: Apr 4
Tell us about that moment when you first considered yourself a writer?
Well, first I would say that I think of myself more of a storyteller rather than a writer, or rather I wear many hats. Mostly, I love to live in stories.
As an Environmental Ed teacher, my favorite thing in the world was dressing up as a settler or French Voyageur and teaching through reenactment. In the classroom, my favorite thing was reading books to kids. As I dove into the world of stories, I realized that not only did I want to write, but I liked performing other people’s words. I just love bringing stories to life. This is why I started a storytelling podcast for kids (The Story Tree) and why I began narrating audiobooks.
Where do you think that storyteller in you first appeared?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved stories. I loved listening to them, performing them, and reading them. But it really started with a love for imaginative play. My childhood was spent sitting in the branches of the maple tree in our yard and pretending to be in the middle of a battle, or commanding the wind, or being queen of the world.
I think the transition from play to words on a page started with a teacher. You see, I struggled with reading when I was a kid. I’m not sure at what age, but I was taken out of class to work on reading, and for one activity, we created narratives for wordless books. These books, with their new cut and taped on dialogue and narration, were put in the school library for everyone to read. I was so proud of this that I think it triggered a deep love for turning my make-believe into something on the page.
When I was a little older, probably 5th or 6th grade, I made up puppet shows that I performed for the younger classes. I made the puppets and wrote the script, and some how, I convinced the librarian and teachers to let me perform. Once, we were learning about electricity in class, so I used some batteries and wire to create a character with a lightbulb head that would light up when he had ideas. I think that show was a real hit with the kindergartners. And then in the seventh grade, my first poem was published in a book. I’ll never forget the moment when my dad said they had submitted my poem into this contest and it won. What an incredible thing to happen... So, over all, there really wasn’t an exact moment, but rather a childhood of moments that continued to spark and fuel my love for stories. From loving to live within make-believe and being aware of the possibilities of the imagination, and finding support from teachers and parents, all of these moments and individuals inspired the confidence I had and have to pursue this love of storytelling.
How are you a story teller today?
What’s great about this specific moment in time, is that I am involved in storytelling on so many levels. I continue to narrate and edit my storytelling podcast The Story Tree (www.thestorytree.org), and I work with authors and at Flying Ketchup Press as an audio book narrator and producer. My picture book Flour Sack Girl is in production and slated to come out in 2023, and I get to bring more books to an audience as the Children’s Book editor for flying ketchup kids.
What advice would you give a new writer starting out?
My advice for any writer is just do the work of writing. I forget who said this but it’s something like “inspiration needs to find you working.” I’ve had weeks and months of uninspiring writing. Writing that just didn’t work and wasn’t going to go anywhere. But without that work, I would never have gotten to the work that matters or to truly understand the craft. I listen to this podcast by a comedian named Mike Birbiglia, and he talks about how we all start out not creating with our authentic selves and that it’s ok. I remember, I wrote a novel once that was written in the narrative voice of The Golden Compass because I had just read the book and that style and tone lived in my head. It wasn’t my authentic self. But it taught me a lot about crafting a novel. You have to get through your drawer novels (writing that only belongs in a drawer) in order to find your voice and to start writing as your authentic self. But none of this can happen unless you do the work. So make mistakes, write horrible drawer novels, but do the work so when inspiration finds you, it’ll find you ready.
What other creative art or artist inspires your work?
I think we need to talk about Robert Munsch. A Canadian picture book writer that is hilarious. He hits everything that I love about picture books. He is fast paced. He uses repetition and the rule of three like it is God’s rules. It works so incredibly well. Whenever I’ve read 50 Below Zero or I Have to GO! to a group of preschoolers, the kids are able to read along out loud within a few pages because the repetition is so much fun and easy to learn. Even his author picture is fun and hyper. I feel like we could be best friends. I think a lot of people know him from his book “I Love You Forever.” The tragic and emotional tale of a mom caring for her boy and then the roles reversing. This tear jerker makes every parent and adult child crumble into a pile of emotional goo. But even though the pace and tone is different than his usual, it’s still classic Munsch in that it uses repetition to weave the theme throughout the story. His books are the perfect subjects to examine picture book craft. He’s a master. And if you’re reading this Mr. Munsch, I’m pretty sure we’d be best friends!
Nina Bricko: In addition to her work for Flying Ketchup Press, Nina Bricko is also an author and voice artist. She has an MFA in Creative Writing for Children through YA from Hamline University. Her written work has been published in journals and art subscriptions, and performed live. In another life she worked as an Associate Editor for Amazon Crossing (the translation imprint of Amazon Publishing) and as a Production Manager. She is also an English instructor for Madison College, an advocate for outdoor education, and a mom of two awesome kids.To find more about Nina and her podcast The Story Tree, check out Ninab.org. Twitter: Bkpokora and StoryTree2
Flying Ketchup Press ® founded in 2018 to champion new and diverse voices in short fiction and poetry. Our dream is to share worlds of wonder and delight. At flying ketchup kids, our mission is to produce books with a brilliant new spin on learning and reading, a fantastical twist in story, and characters who light up our imaginations. From concept books to folk traditions, we want to connect diverse writers to young audiences.