Welcome to my newest blog series, “Picture Book Interviews!”

This series will connect you with a wide variety of picture book authors from all walks of life. I hope this list helps you find new reads to treasure with your children for years to come.

Today, we kick things off with One More Yearwritten by Allison Ione Ballenger.

Hi, Allison! Tell us about yourself.

Outside of my author life, I serve as the Communication Manager for a water-focused civil engineering firm. I’m also a coach for the Miracle League of the Triangle, helping children and young adults with special needs play baseball.

I hold a B.A. in Creative Writing & Literature from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. I currently live in Cary, NC, with my husband and two silly dogs.

Do you have a favorite picture book?

One of my prized possessions is a 1970s treasury of Mother Goose nursery rhymes illustrated by Tim and Greg Hildebrandt.

(Fun fact: They created the first Star Wars poster!)

Flipping through the pages is like going back in a time machine to visit my childhood friends and favorite places.

How did you know you wanted to be an author?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I didn’t really KNOW that I wanted to be an author until I got the idea for One More Year. After I had that spark, I knew the book would come to life someday.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Find a good editing team and be open to feedback.

Is there anyone who has been instrumental in your path to becoming a writer?

Oh, so many people!

After working on my book for years, I was on top of the world when I finally completed my first draft. I was confident it would be a bestseller.

I sent it to every publisher I could find. After the initial defeat of what felt like 10,000 rejection letters, I joined a local writing critique group hosted by a vibrant children’s book critic/writing mentor named Susie Wilde.

Susie gave me stacks of picture books to study. The group helped me reduce the word count and polish the manuscript for publishing. I also received helpful feedback from several trusted family members and industry professionals along the way. One More Year might have my name on it, but it is the product of many creative hearts and minds.

Tell us about One More Year.

There is magic to be found in every moment…if you just keep looking!

In this colorful tale, a big brother introduces his little sister to the many characters she might encounter with each passing year. From elves in drawers to mighty dragons to snakes that sing sweet songs, there is always something to look forward to–and plenty of fun to have in the meantime.

Who do you hope to reach with this story?

While art lovers everywhere will enjoy Carlos’s beautiful illustrations, I think the story really resonates with emerging readers (ages 4 to 7) and siblings of all ages.

What is the main message of One More Year?

One More Year is all about finding joy and magic in every moment of life, particularly with those that you love. We tend to long for something that is just out of our reach, while also looking back with nostalgia on the past. I hope my book encourages folks to pause, if only for a second, and appreciate the treasured present they have now.

Tell us about some of the characters or pictures.

It has all of the best fairytale creatures!

A wizard, an elf, a dragon, a fairy, a genie, a mermaid, a unicorn…the list goes on!

What inspired you to write this picture book?

The book is a tribute to my older brother, Scott, who passed away unexpectedly in 2017.

You can probably tell from the book that we had a beautiful childhood friendship. Scott loved to dream up magical worlds and I loved to believe in them. I often describe him as sparkly–just one of those people who knows exactly how to make you feel special. In the dedication, I refer to him as “the magic maker.”

As you can imagine, losing him was absolutely devastating. Finishing the book became an important part of my grief journey. One More Year allows me to share a little bit of his spirit with the world. That has been such a gift.

How long have you been working on it?

I began writing it in 2012. I tinkered with it for years. It wasn’t until Scott’s passing that I had the fuel and vision to finish.

What other professionals helped bring the book to life?

Illustrator Carlos Velez Aguilera could not have been a more perfect fit. In a world full of talented illustrators, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. Carlos is a diamond. A true artist.

His style is so unique. His characters are magical. And those vibrant colors–wow–he makes every scene pop off the page!

He was also able to brilliantly capture the emotional depth of a story through nuance and subtlety, which takes a sentimental story to a whole new level. I am forever indebted to him for truly bringing One More Year to life.

What has been the most rewarding part of creating this story?

There is nothing quite as rewarding as hearing a child recite your work. Knowing that I am playing even the smallest role in helping youngsters fall in love with reading is incredibly special.

Find the book!

Thank you, Allison, for sharing such a beautiful story with us. If you’d like to learn more about One More Year, you can read a portion of it for free on Allison’s website!

One More Year is available for purchase on: