Cheryl Minnema’s picture book, Hungry Johnny, is illustrated by Wesley Ballinger and will be published May 1, 2014 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. Cheryl will graduate from the Hamline MFAC program in July 2015. She lives, writes, and creates beautiful art in Milaca, Minnesota.
Please describe the book.
Hungry Johnny is about a five year old Ojibwe boy who likes to eat, eat, eat. He attends a community feast with his grandmother and experiences a series of events before he gets to eat, which teach him to be patient and have respect for elders.
As the story progressed from inception to copy-edited version, what were the major changes? How did those changes come about? When did you first begin work on it? When did you finish?
One of the main editor changes was taking out any Brand Name toys and television characters. Another main editor change/suggestion was to add more information about who Johnny was (fleshing out his character a little more). I first began working on Hungry Johnny in 2010 and tinkered with it until submitting it to the Loft in 2012. This was my first attempt at writing a children’s picture book and have been surprised by the success of the story.
What research was involved before and while writing the book?
One of Cheryl’s beaded bandolier bags. See more.
This is partly based on a memory of my little brother always going into the kitchen when grandma was cooking and how he had to wait to eat if she was cooking for a feast.
Did you ever workshop this story at Hamline?
Did you discover and fall in love with any books while in the MFAC program?
Without naming names, tell us who your first readers are (e.g., live-action writing group; online writing group; editor; agent). When do you share a piece of writing?
I have been writing poetry for an adult audience for many years have shared my work with a published poet, who has since become my mentor. As far as writing for children, my first readers were a writing group. I start to share my writing when I feel like I’ve done everything I can and need direction.
What’s your current favorite jolly word?
Howah, “An expression used exclusively by Ojibwe to express awestruck wonder or amazement at another’s or ones own actions.”