Children’s Author, Susan Ross on Creating Picture Books

Hello everyone. I thought I’d use this article to answer some frequently asked questions at school visits.

How did you become a children’s author?

Over 20 years ago, I began telling storytelling and doing crafts with children at venues such as schools (when teaching), Western Fair, Fanshawe Pioneer Village, The London International Children’s Festival, etc.  One day, at the end of a storytelling event, a woman approached me and suggested I write my stories down for my (as yet non-existent) grandchildren.

I started working on my stories in earnest when I saw The Bucket List starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. The movie basically reminds you that life is short, and if you have things you want to do, do them. So I did.

Do you like being a children’s author?

No, I LOVE being a children’s author! I get to use my imagination and watch my stories come to life.  I also LOVE doing author presentations at schools. I teach the children all about writing, illustrating and publishing a book so that they realize it’s a looooong process. We have lots of fun!

How do you come up with your storylines?

Three of my stories were originally created for events at Fanshawe Pioneer Village.


The Great Bellybutton Cover-up was created for a sheep shearing event. I thought, “What would happen if one of the sheep (named Violet) did not want to be sheared because everyone would see her bellybutton?” The setting was changed to the fair for the book.


The Rose and the Lily was created for a strawberry festival. The prince’s search was initially for the “perfect” fruit (which was, naturally, a strawberry). I changed his quest to one for the “perfect” hairpin.

Kit-Kat-CaperThe Kit Kat Caper was created for a Halloween event. It was about a mysterious little witch trick-or-treating just for Kit Kats! I love Kit Kats! Hmmmm. Is this my autobiography?

I wrote Say Please to the Honeybees because children asked me to write a second “Violet” book. But they were so fussy! “It’s too much like the first one!” they’d complain. I must have rewritten that story at least 50 times until they were satisfied! The location is modelled after Fanshawe Pioneer Village, London, Ontario. I felt one of the stories should reflect the original site of my inspiration.

How do you pick the names of your characters?

Sometimes I use names from real life; my family’s names are in The Kit Kat Caper; “Violet” is named after a sheep at pioneer village. Some names are used for symbolism; Princess Rose is beautiful but not very nice, so she’s named after a beautiful but prickly plant. Some names are used because of their meaning; “Sterling”, the prince’s name, means worthy and admirable. (His name was initially “Gallant” but someone else had a popular prince with that name, darn them.) Some names are used to make funny alliterations; “The village’s huge horse, Harry, was horribly hungry.”  And some names are used just because they “feel” right.

Do you draw your own pictures?

Noooo (please read this with a wail and a whiney voice)! I tried and tried but my pictures were horrid. So I searched for someone who could take my ideas and put them on paper. A young artist named Megan Stiver illustrated my four books. We collaborated on each picture and the results are fabulous (if I do say so myself).

How do you make sure the books are ready to publish? (Okay, I admit it. I made up that question.)

I refine my books by reading them to hundreds of children in schools, editing them, and then reading them again and again until 95% of my audience (some people are soooo hard to please) considered the book an 8+. I also had professional critiques done for two of the books.

I hope you enjoyed reading my article. If you are interested in purchasing my picture books or wish to view articles on self-publishing (bottom of “about the author” page) please go to .