Nancy Pi-Sunyer plans on revising her children’s book in the new year.
Local author Nancy Pi-Sunyer was born and raised in Montclair, as was her mother; her father moved to Montclair when he was seven. The year 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of Pi-Sunyer’s family owning their current home.
“While I lived elsewhere for about 35 years (grad school, first marriage, my jobs and husband’s jobs), I came back home around 1997 to take care of my parents,
said Pi-Sunyer. “I was happy to return to Montclair because, aside from it being ‘home,’ I love the four seasons. I lived in Florida for much of my professional life, and I must say I really prefer Montclair.”
Pi-Sunyer began her writing at Watchung School. “I still remember a poem I wrote in fifth grade, about Vikings,” said Pi-Sunyer.
She also wrote poems and essays at George Inness in junior high and high school. “I was lucky to be in the public schools in Montclair in the ‘50s and ‘60s when there were extraordinary teachers who taught us well and inspired us to learn,” said Pi-Sunyer. “In college, I was really ahead of the game with the excellent foundation provided in the public schools here. My mother was a writer and I know that much of what I read that she wrote influenced me.”
The majority of Pi-Sunyer’s publications were non-fiction, scientific publications, written for general public audiences, like homeowners and woodland owners. “I wrote publications on Spanish moss, native oaks and native pines of Florida, how to buck a tree (cut it into smaller pieces) to maximize its value, how to choose and store firewood and similar topics, mostly related to natural resources,” said Pi-Sunyer.
After taking a college class on Children’s Literature, Pi-Sunyer decided that she wanted to write and illustrate a Caldecott-winning children’s book. After she retired, Pi-Sunyer wrote a children’s book which was rejected, but she has plans to revise and get it published. She got into the picture-book genre after taking a class on Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books at the Montclair Art Museum.
Revising the book will be Pi-Sunyer’s major focus for the new year. “Kristine Lombardi’s class motivated me to pick up a story I had written years ago,” said Pi-Sunyer. “During that class, I polished the story and began illustrating it. I’ve received some very nice and encouraging rejections and pretty much everyone who sees it loves it and encourages me. I am currently taking Beginning Illustration at Montclair State University, and plan to revise the story a bit, and the illustrations a lot, starting in January.”
Currently, Pi-Sunyer is working on a picture-book/counting book with a fun environmental message. “It is somewhat sentimental, as it takes place in my backyard and it incorporates a lot about nature that my mother taught me as a child,” said Pi-Sunyer. “For young readers, I hope it will be fun and informative, as well as surprising. Some of the illustrations were on display at the Montclair Art Museum last month and were very well received, so I remain hopeful that I can get it published or at least into the hands of a good agent next year.”
Aside from writing, Pi-Sunyer also has extensive teaching experience, having taught or substituted for every grade level, from pre-K though doctoral programs. According to Pi-Sunyer, her favorites to teach are fifth graders and graduate students.
“Fifth graders are a joy because they are eager little sponges and they are so excited when they have an epiphany: when something finally clicks and they understand a concept you have been struggling to get across to them,” said Pi-Sunyer. “Grad students are a joy because they are usually already committed to what you are, and you often have the pleasure of seeing them apply what they learned from you in ‘real life’ in their jobs.”
For aspiring writers, Pi-Sunyer encourages them to write as often as possible about whatever they see around them. Pi-Sunyer recommends journaling while on trips or vacations: “I write and add little sketches and I research about things I see and write about them in the journal,” said Pi-Sunyer. “Then share your writing with others. You don’t need to join a writing group, though some people enjoy that.”
Pi-Sunyer also recommends taking risks and going to an open mic night to read things you’ve written to strangers. The reactions will tell you if you should consider changing some things about your writing. “That’s how I got the encouragement to continue on short story I wrote several years ago,” said Pi-Sunyer.
When it comes to writing, Pi-Sunyer’s favorite thing is sharing stories and knowledge, whether it is a family history or a story about a mouse on the laundry lawn, or a hedgehog that wears socks. “There is always something you can teach people about the world we live in,” said Pi-Sunyer.
For more information about Pi-Sunyer, visit her website at nancyarnypi-sunyer.blogspot.com.