For more than two decades, Franklin-based author-illustrator Marianne Richmond has been creating books that celebrate children and family. Hooray for You!, her newest picture book, is an ode to individuality and what Richmond calls “you-ness,” or “your style of being, your rhythm or vibe.”
In a series of warm, sunny spreads showing children at play, often with hands clasped, Richmond reminds child readers that they are perfect just the way they are and that they can “stand tall” and “smile big” because of it. It’s a book about connection, something Richmond encourages in every area of her life, including her school visits and women’s retreats. She answered questions from Chapter 16 via email.
Chapter 16: How do you envision your book being used in preschool and elementary classrooms?
Marianne Richmond: Hooray for You! is a celebration of “you-ness,” the “grand sum of you that sets you apart. Your body and brains, plus your spirit and heart.” This book is a wonderful way for teachers to encourage kids of all ages to embrace their uniqueness while celebrating diversity and cultivating compassion and empathy. What can we admire about ourselves? What can we share and learn from one another’s you-ness?
Chapter 16: You note on your website that you have a partnership with Sourcebooks, “the largest independent and woman-owned publisher in North America.” What does it mean to you to work with women at the helm?
Richmond: It means I feel incredibly supported, celebrated, and encouraged. Dominique Raccah started her company thirty years ago in a spare bedroom and is now a top-fifteen publisher. She shows everyone what is possible through hard work and determination.
Chapter 16: You speak at women’s events, and one of your workshops is about your experiences with epilepsy and a brain tumor. How does your work help with healing from such a traumatic experience?
Richmond: My challenging health journey left me with a lot of self-doubt, as I was misdiagnosed and disbelieved for nearly two decades. My writing and art gave me a unique voice after feeling I didn’t have one. I share my experiences in the hopes others felt seen and heard, too. It’s this same invitation I offer women through my speaking and creative workshops.
Richmond: Children are so clear and honest—and a well of creativity! They tell you what they think and feel in simple, forthright ways. I learn which messages resonate with them and which don’t. I hear about their successes and struggles. I often consult my own kids about my writing, as their feedback is spot-on and insightful.
Chapter 16: What do you do to challenge yourself artistically?
Richmond: I paint for the fun of it on canvases, furniture, or rocks. I decorate spaces within my home. Anything I can do to strengthen my inner voice helps me in my creative pursuits—hiking, yoga, and meditation. There’s a lot of people doing cool things in the world; nurturing my own spirit keeps me grounded and focused on what I do best.
Chapter 16: You’re leading a writing and art retreat for women in the Smoky Mountains in September of this year. Do you do these often and do you find that taking such breaks for revitalizing are good for your writing?
Richmond: This is my second annual writing and art retreat, and I’m delighted to say eight of our ten spots are already full. I liken it to the school visits; creating a community for input and conversation is vital. The writer’s role can be one of alone-ness, which can drive me bonkers after a while. I need to regularly fill my connection cup.
Julie Danielson, co-author of Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, writes about picture books for Kirkus Reviews, BookPage, and The Horn Book. She lives in Murfreesboro and blogs at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.