Interview: Cindy Baldwin — Plus: WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW Book Trailer Premiere!

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I was super excited when Cindy Baldwin reached out to us about sharing her book trailer for WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW at the MG Book Village. Book trailers are such a great way to invite viewers into the world of a book, to give them a small taste of what they’ll find behind the cover. And making sure that taste is tantalizing enough to get those potential readers to actually pick the book up and give it a read is no easy task. I was curious to learn about the process behind the creation of Cindy’s trailer — and, of course, to see it! Check out our interview below, and stick around to view the trailer.

~ Jarrett

Thanks, Cindy, for choosing the MG Book Village as the place to host the premiere of your book trailer! Before we get to that, though, can you tell readers who aren’t familiar with WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW a bit about the book?

Sure! It’s a middle grade novel set in rural eastern North Carolina (about two hours from where I grew up!). Twelve-year-old Della would do anything to heal her mother’s schizophrenia permanently—even trying magic honey from the Bee Lady, whose honeys have tended the wounds and woes of Maryville for generations—but when all her efforts fail, Della has to realize that loving her mama means accepting her just the way she is.

The book has been out for a month and a half now. What has this time been like for you? Is it as you expected? What has most surprised you about finally having your book out there in the world for others to read, share, and discuss?

It has been so, so much more wonderful than I expected, actually! For much of this year I’ve felt like an anxious, neurotic mess of nerves, and I was really afraid that my release month would be the same, just more intense. But it hasn’t been like that at all! It’s been so cool to see people all over the country reading a book I wrote. It’s been especially meaningful to me how many people have privately shared with me the ways that their lives resemble Della’s, and how much the book resonated with them. That’s been really special.

Now, onto the trailer. Many books have trailers these days, though not all do. What made you decide that WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW should have a trailer?

I have always been intrigued by book trailers, and I also really enjoy doing little video projects in my spare time. (Every Christmas, for instance, I make a family year-in-review video for us to watch on Christmas Day.) Initially I wasn’t planning to make a trailer, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to try! I also know that middle grade book trailers can be really helpful, because teachers and librarians are able to use them to get students excited about the book. I don’t know if I’ll be doing trailers for future books or not—probably just if inspiration strikes me again—but it was a really fun project to do this time.

Were there other book trailers you looked to for guidance, ideas, and/or inspiration?

I really loved Ellie Terry’s trailer for Forget Me Not last year, and I knew that I wanted mine to be somewhat similar, in terms of having real people and a voiceover, rather than just text. I looked at a LOT of other book trailers, too, to get a feel for length, pacing, and tone.

I know you made the trailer yourself. Can you tell us what that process and experience was like? Did you have a vision for it straightaway? Did it evolve?

I had a couple of different ideas to create a trailer, and I ran them all past some critique partners who had read the book. All of them voted unanimously for the one we ended up doing! I knew that I wanted the voiceover to be a girl with a wonderful Southern accent, so I outsourced to some of my friends who still live in the South (I now live in Oregon) and ended up using a friend’s granddaughter, who did the job beautifully. The actress in the video is actually a different girl—a local friend’s daughter, who was a great sport when I gave her instructions like “okay, now take a bite of the watermelon and smile. Okay, now sit on this uncomfortable gate and do it all again.” We shot the trailer at a local farm, Stoneboat PDX, whose CSA I’ve participated in for several years. It’s a really gorgeous property, with rolling hills and big trees and beautiful vistas! Originally I’d planned to share the trailer in late spring, and so we shot the trailer in May and actually had to buy watermelons from the grocery store to make it look more like a watermelon patch. That was kind of funny. It’s not often you roll up to the checkout lane with nothing in your cart but ten watermelons!!! My husband and I also had way too much giggly fun dropping a watermelon off the roof for the closing shot.

Most book trailers are about a minute long. That’s 60 seconds to tantalize potential readers, to compel them to go out and get their hands on YOUR book as opposed to the countless others vying for their attention — a tall order, for sure. How did you come to decide what to include in the trailer?

Like I mentioned, I ran a couple of different ideas by critique partners, and they picked what they felt was the most compelling and best representation of the book. I spent several days working on the voiceover script—it’s based on some text in the book, but also very different. I wanted to make sure that it was short and concise, but also showcased some of the things I love best about the book, like the tension and the lyrical language. Much of the trailer mirrors the first chapter of the book, and both have the same goal: to hook a reader and get them excited about reading further.

Let’s take a look at the trailer!

It’s wonderful!

Thanks! I really enjoyed making it.

One last question before I let you go. In the coming months and years, your book is sure to reach many, many more readers. What do you hope those readers — the young ones especially — take away from Della and her family’s story?

I always feel like there are two kinds of children I wrote this book for—children like I was, who feel like their lives are very different from (and much more difficult than) the kids around them, and struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation as a result; and children like my daughter, who are growing up with disabled mamas who love them very much, even if their mothering, and what they’re capable of, doesn’t always look quite like other mothers. I hope that Where the Watermelons Grow is a reminder to children in all kinds of difficult situations that their lives have meaning, value, and beauty, even if they look different from the lives of their peers!

headshotsmallCindy Baldwin is a fiction writer, essayist, and poet. She grew up in North Carolina and still misses the sweet watermelons and warm accents on a daily basis. As a middle schooler, she kept a book under her bathroom sink to read over and over while fixing her hair or brushing her teeth, and she dreams of writing the kind of books readers can’t bear to be without. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter, surrounded by tall trees and wild blackberries. Her debut novel, Where The Watermelons Grow, was published by HarperCollins Children’s Books on July 3rd of this year.

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