MEET THE AUTHOR! A Conversation with William Palumbo, Author of “What’s in a Cloud?”

MEET THE AUTHOR! A Conversation with William Palumbo, Author of “What’s in a Cloud?” 768 1024 Reader Views Kids

What’s in a Cloud?

William Palumbo
Independently Published (2023)
ISBN: 979-8392757725

Children’s author William Palumbo knew he loved writing after winning a school poetry contest in the fifth grade. That early seed for storytelling was planted and resulted in his newest children’s picture book release, “What’s in a Cloud?” a beautiful rhyming read-aloud about a young girl’s playful imagination.   

William’s stories are often inspired by memories such as a frightening thunderstorm he remembers as a young child, with his aunt telling him it was God and Jesus bowling to put him at ease. That memory invoked ideas for what else could happen in a cloud and gave rise to his book. William believes a great book is one with relatable characters. He hopes his young readers come away from his story understanding the importance of imagination and the feeling stays with them long after the book is closed.

A U.S. Air Force veteran, when he isn’t writing dreamy stories for children, William enjoys gaming, reading, and spending time with family where he lives in Kuna, Idaho, with his two pit bull rescues he lovingly calls his “pretty pitties.” “What’s in a Cloud?” is his debut children’s book.

Hi William, welcome to Reader Views! What is What’s in a Cloud? about?

What’s in a Cloud? is about a little girl who, instead of thinking about what shape a cloud makes, she imagines what is inside the cloud.

What specific moment or experience inspired you to write What’s in a Cloud? and how did this initial idea evolve into the story’s final form?

When I was about Aaliyah’s age (approximately 8 years old) I was looking out of my aunt’s back window on a very stormy day. I was getting scared because the thunder was very loud. My aunt told me not to be scared because the noise was just Jesus and God bowling. And when they got a strike, the lightning would crash down from the sky. Picturing that comforted me. Fast forward to 2023, while I was standing in my backyard during a bad thunderstorm, I recalled the memory of what my aunt told me. That got me wondering “What else could be in a cloud?” I sat down and wrote it out.  What readers get in the book today is almost exactly what I first wrote. There have not been any major changes from my first draft of the story.

How did you develop such a vivid character with a rich imagination like Aaliyah, and what were your intentions for her to resonate with young readers?

I think that pulling from my own real-life experience really helped me to create such a vivid character. I hope young readers resonate with Aaliyah’s imagination.  

Given the pivotal role of featuring a diverse main character, can you discuss the importance of representation in children’s literature and your approach to developing Aaliyah’s character authentically?

 To be honest, creating a “diverse character” was not even in my mind when I wrote the story. Aaliyah is a girl because it was brought to my attention that most of my stories feature a young boy, and they do. They do because that’s what I relate to, having been one myself once upon a time. As far as Aaliyah’s race, I didn’t give it much thought. When I write a story, I see it as a movie playing out in my head. When I was writing What’s in a Cloud? The character “Aaliyah” you see in the book is what I saw in my head. That’s all.

How did the distinctive choice of the violin for Aaliyah come about, and what does it contribute to her character’s depth?

When choosing what instrument Aaliyah was going to be playing in the book, I wanted to go with one that was not super common and was kind of feminine. I’d like to think that it does give young Aaliyah some depth. It gives the reader some insight into her life. It also shows that young Aaliyah has other interests and does not spend all of her time staring at clouds.

How do you see What’s in a Cloud? encouraging children to engage more with the outdoors and their own imaginations, contrary to the trend towards screen-based entertainment?

 My hope is, after reading What’s in a Cloud? children will be inspired to go outside and see what they can imagine.

The inclusion of an interactive element at the book’s end is innovative. What inspired this decision, and how do you envision it enhancing the reading experience for children?

 I wanted to give the readers a chance to put their imagination to work right after reading about Aaliyah’s imagination. I think doing this will help the message stick with them better.

Tell us about your collaboration with the illustrator, Nate Myers. What was it like working with someone to bring your story to life?

 Nate Myers was a pleasure to work with and I feel like I got very lucky, as a brand-new author, to find him. He fully answered any question I had and at no time did he make me feel like a question I asked was “dumb.”

How did your collaboration with the illustrator enhance the storytelling, especially in visualizing Aaliyah’s imagination?

I think Nate and I being on the same page really helped him bring the story to life beautifully. It really allowed him to use his creativity and the end results are the lovely illustrations you see in the book.

Your book subtly critiques the prevalence of technology in play. Can you share an observation or experience that motivated this theme?

To be honest, the thought of my book “critiquing the prevalence of technology in play” never crossed my mind. I just wanted to write a story that encouraged children to use their imagination more.

Can you describe your writing process for this book, especially the development of its rhyming and rhythmic style?

After I decided that I wanted to turn my storm experience into a story, I opened Word on my iPad and I sat. I just sat in my living room, kind of waiting for the “movie” that will become my story to start playing in my head. Then I write it down as if I were reading it to a classroom of kids. I had a teacher in an early grade (first or second, I think) who was very good at reading to us. She did so in a very over-animated way, and I loved it. I also really liked it when the books rhymed. So that is how I choose to write my stories.       

Were there significant challenges you faced?

 In writing the story, no. I really love to write children’s stories. As for challenges in getting it from “story” to book” the only real challenge was money. It is not cheap to get a book illustrated (don’t get me wrong, Nate Myers was 100% worth it). Then there is ongoing marketing. But the story writing itself is easy, for me.  

What do you hope readers take away from their experience with What’s in a Cloud?

I hope that anyone who reads What’s in a Cloud? will take away that you can always use your imagination in any situation.   

What feedback have you received from children, parents, and educators about What’s in a Cloud? and its message?

From children and parents, the feedback is that they loved the book and can’t wait for the next one to come out.

From educators, (including a school district SPED director, a speech pathologist, and a psychologist) the feedback is that the rhyme style really helps kids, particularly kids that are not strong readers, keep up with the reading.

Is there a piece of feedback that stands out to you?

Yes. I have a friend who is a licensed psychologist and has a child who is neurodivergent. She got What’s in a Cloud? for her child. Much to her surprise, her child was able to read the whole book even though her child was not a strong reader. She said this was largely thanks to the rhyme style it was written in.  

How do you measure the success of What’s in a Cloud?

Every time a child tells me they enjoyed the book; I feel it was successful.

 What impact do you hope it has on its readers?

 Again, I hope it will encourage the reader to use their imagination more. And if it is read to a class by a teacher, I hope it will encourage the teacher to promote imagination in/to their students.

Are there any future books or projects you’re currently working on?

 Yes. Next up from me is going to be The Grumpy Old Tree and then The Life of a Wild Orange.

Can you share any themes or concepts you’re exploring?

 I, at the suggestion of a friend, am going to try and write a book or two, helping children understand other children with ADHD. I am going to do this in the hopes that younger kids will, after reading the book, understand a little bit about children with ADHD and how to interact with them without making the child with ADHD feel bad or out of place. I am doing this because one, I have a child with ADHD and two, children with ADHD can’t always express these things to their classmates. I hope this new book will help with that.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors who wish to write children’s literature, especially those looking to incorporate meaningful themes and diverse characters?

 Do it. That sounds simple but to a writer, sometimes that can be the hardest part. Just starting the story. So just write. Anything. No matter how silly it feels at the time. You can always go back and edit it. I wouldn’t focus on the “diverse characters” and “meaningful themes” part. Write what speaks to you.

If you could imagine anything in a cloud, just like Aaliyah, what would it be and why?

If I could imagine anything in a cloud it would be a cloud full of happy children. Running, playing, and having a blast. It would be completely safe and there would be plenty of toys and playground equipment for all. As to the why, because I feel right now in the world kids have to go through too much. They can’t just be kids anymore. They can’t just go outside and play anymore without having to worry about all the evils that the world now has. That makes me very sad to think about, but it’s true.

Does this reflect any personal dreams or creativity you hold?

 It is very much a dream of mine.

Is there anything else you’d like to add today?

I am a member of the SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) You can get What’s in a Cloud? on Amazon.com and ingramspark.com.

GET THE BOOK!
Amazon.com: What’s in a cloud?: 9798392757725: Palumbo, William, Myers, Nate: Books

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