Writer Amy Baron sees through her kids’ eyes, and through a bulldozer that paves its own path
The hero of Amy Baron’s “The Gentle Bulldozer” dreams of something bigger than working at construction sites. The children’s book, with Baron’s words illustrated by Rogério Coelho, is available at the Harvard Coop, MIT Press and Porter Square Books, among other locations and is expected to be featured on the “Reading With Your Kids” and “Storycomic” podcasts this month. We talked with Baron, a Cantabrigian mother of two, on Oct. 18 via Zoom; the conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you go from optometrist to full-time writer?
I’ve always loved writing – I’ve been submitting novels to literary agents and publishers for forever. But I’ve always gotten rejected. Now that I’ve finally gotten a “yes,” I’ve been writing full-time.
When did you start writing?
Since I was able. I was always writing books when I was little, making my own covers and writing the stories inside. I remember submitting my first book to a literary agent when I was in college, through the mail, but like I said, it was a lot of rejection. Looking back, I don’t think those books were really ready, and I’ve learned a lot since then.
What’s your advice for writers hoping to publish?
Of course it’s very cool to write something and be able to share it. But I do write for myself, and I’d also say: Celebrate all the small things, not just getting published. If you figure out the character arc that was missing from your story, celebrate that – celebrate the little details. There’s a lot of things to really enjoy along the way.
Do your kids inspire you to write?
Oh, absolutely. My kids are so creative. And when I asked them questions, I noticed that there are certain things they find interesting, that stand out to them during the day, that are not even things that were meaningful to me. It’s really fun to see how they think, and to keep that in mind as I’m writing. It’s always great to be inspired by the things they say and what matters to them.
What do you love reading to your kids?
My childhood favorite is Louis Sachar’s “There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom.” I still have the same copy by my bed, and I just love it. As for my kids, we love picture books – they both really love “Library Lion” by Michelle Knudson. That’s a classic in our house. “Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct” by Mo Willems is also a really good one. We have some favorites, but like to mix it up, sometimes reading funny books and sometimes ones with bigger themes.
What do you love about your book?
I love my book because it really does celebrate being yourself. My main character is a bulldozer, but even though his job is destroying things, he just doesn’t fit into that mold. So he has this full-on identity crisis. He’s so tall, but he’s not supposed to be. And then he sets off on this journey and learns that the way he’s different is his greatest strength. It really shows these concepts of thinking outside the box and working together.
What do you hope readers will take from your book?
The hope is to enjoy the book and also realize that you can be yourself, whatever that looks like. You don’t have to fit into a box just because people put you under a label and expect “Oh, you’re a bulldozer.”