Interview: Ali Bovis

Hi there, Ali! Thanks so much for stopping by the MG Book Village to talk about your upcoming chapter book series and to share one of the four book’s covers.

Hi! Thanks so much for having me. I’m honored and excited to chat with the MG Book Village community.

Let’s get right to it. The four books in the Sylvie series are coming out all at once, but together, they constitute your debut. Can you tell us about your journey to the printed page?

I started writing about five years ago. Growing up in New York City I spent a lot of time volunteering and attending rallies with my family, from a very young age. When I had children of my own, I looked for books reflecting those experiences and values. I found so many beautiful stories centered on themes of kindness and helping others, which was amazing. That said, most tended to be set within the context of one’s family, school, or friends. I did not find as many books showing the characters in a larger context, or specifically engaged in service activities reaching through their communities and beyond. So I was inspired to try to create some myself.

I discovered a welcoming and active kid lit community on twitter. I joined wonderful groups online (including MG Book Village, Kidlit411, Sub it Club, Debut PB Study Group, Storystorm, ReFoReMo) and programs (including 12×12 Picture Book Challenge, Making Picture Book Magic, the Manuscript Academy, WriteOnCon). There I learned about the craft of writing and the business of the children’s publishing industry. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and attended conferences and workshops. I read hundreds of children’s books. I read books on the craft of writing too. I took long walks with my dog, Janie, to process it all. Perhaps the most important part of my journey was connecting with my talented and supportive critique partners. They challenge and inspire me every day. They also helped create Sylvie from her earliest character study to the last lines of the final book. 

Interestingly, I initially wrote Sylvie in a picture book format. An editor said she loved Sylvie. She called her a young “Leslie Knope” (from NBC’s Parks and Recreation) and suggested I age Sylvie up and build out her story into a chapter book. I took the advice and wrote Sylvie as a chapter book. Soon after, one of my critique partners introduced me to the team at ABDO who would bring Sylvie to life.

Thank you for mentioning all of those fabulous resources — aspiring authors take note. Also, as a HUGE fan of Leslie Knope, I am now even more excited about meeting Sylvie! Now, back to you — did your work previous to writing influence and inform your writing at all?

All of my previous professional and volunteer experiences provide me with an unusual but invaluable foundation for my writing, especially for writing Sylvie.

Like Sylvie, I’m a lifelong altruist. Prior to writing, I served as Director of Corporate Affairs and Philanthropy for Polo Ralph Lauren. I’ve also worked or volunteered for numerous government, political, and nonprofit organizations including the White House, the United States Senate, three presidential campaigns, two presidential inaugural committees, and Special Olympics. These experiences, as well as the volunteer projects from my childhood through today, inform the events for this series. 

In addition, I believe resilience is a key for success in the publishing industry. My experience in the political arena was an incredible lesson in giving your all and enjoying the journey, regardless of the outcome.

I couldn’t agree more, and sometimes think resilience is the key to success in the publishing industry. Now, on to Sylvie. Can you tell us a bit more about her?

Sylvie is fiercely determined to make a difference in the world, no matter what might get in her way. She’s an altruist and an optimist. She is intensely passionate about the things most important to her (especially making the world a better place, her adopted puppy Snickers, her best friend Sammy, and ice cream sundaes with extra rainbow sprinkles).

Now, since today also marks the first time you are sharing any of your book’s covers, let’s talk about that. What did you think when you first saw your character, Sylvie, brought to life by illustrator Jen Taylor?

The first thing I noticed on the cover was Sylvie’s megaphone. The inclusion of that personal item showed how well Jen captured the spirit of this character. It was thrilling to see Sylvie come to life with so much energy and excitement on all the covers and interior art scenes.

Why do you think it’s important for kids to read about a character like Sylvie?

More than ever, this generation is growing up in a world with high-stakes challenges—environmental, political, economic, social, and more. I hope they see these challenges as opportunities to make a difference.

What do you hope your readers – especially the young ones – take away from the Sylvie books?

I hope readers can see that you are never too young to change the world for the better. And that there is no one way to make it happen! I also hope the Sylvie books show kids they can do anything they set their mind to, particularly when it comes to helping others.

Many of our site’s readers are teachers and librarians. Is there anything you’d like to say to them – in particular those planning to add Sylvie books to their classrooms and libraries?

First of all, I’d like to say “thank you!” I have so many fond memories of my teachers and librarians, who encouraged my love of learning and helping others. Educators bringing Sylvie into their classrooms should check out the back matter. Each book has a page with resources for extension activities, which I hope will serve as a helpful roadmap. Information for events featured in the books is all included (Make a Difference Day, Earth Day, beach clean up, and winter coat drive).

Good to know! One last thing: where can our readers find out more about you and your work?

Thanks so much of this opportunity to connect with the incredible MG Book Village community! Readers can visit me at www.alibovisbooks.com or follow me on twitter @alibovis.

Ali Bovis is a children’s writer and lifelong altruist. Her debut chapter book series, Sylvie, releases in 2020, published by ABDO books. A Georgetown University graduate, Ali grew up in New York City and now lives in Bethesda, Maryland with her husband, two children, and two playful poodle-mixes. Like Sylvie, Ali is always dreaming up ways to make a difference in the world. Prior to writing for children, Ali served as Director of Corporate Affairs and Philanthropy for Polo Ralph Lauren. Ali has also worked or volunteered for numerous government, political, and nonprofit organizations including the White House, the United States Senate, three presidential campaigns, and Special Olympics. You can follow Ali on twitter @alibovis or visit her at www.alibovisbooks.com.

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