Debut Review Challenge with Heather Kinser

Debut author Heather Kinser is kicking off a new round of the Debut Review Challenge by sharing her journey to publication on the blog. Welcome, Heather!

Photo Credit: Di Starr
Heather Ferranti Kinser writes at the intersection of story, poetry, and nature from her home on the San Francisco Peninsula. She’s a former technical editor who now spends her days writing small stories—to make a big difference for kids! She also enjoys listening to podcasts, making pesto for her family, and watching her golden mystery snail eat algae off the aquarium wall. Small Matters, which started as a 50-word poem, is her first book.
Can something small matter at all? Of course it can! In this book for young readers (who know a thing or two about being small), you can take a super close look at details too little to be seen with the human eye. Powerful shots from scanning electron microscopes show shark skin, bird feathers, the hairs on a honeybee’s eye, and so much more, proving that tiny details can make a BIG difference. (Millbrook Press, 2020)


Number of years writing: 6 (focused on picture books), but actually ever since 3rd grade

Number of years from contract to published book: 1 year and 3 months

Date your book was released: April 7, 2020

Number of pages: 32

Number of launch events: 0 (due to shelter-in-place restrictions)

Number of days per week that writing takes a backseat to marketing & publicity: 1-2

Number of critique partners: 8 (in three different groups)

Number of books you hope to publish over the next ten years: 10!

Number of times you’ve pinched yourself that you really have a book out: 365


Why do you write for children? 

Picture books are a natural fit for me. I love to write short, highly distilled pieces with either poetic or rhythmic or lyrical flair. And that’s also all I seem to have time for, since someone is often interrupting me. I also believe in the power of picture books to create empathetic human beings with outstanding vocabularies, whose lives have been expanded beyond their personal experience. Also, reading with kids is pure joy—an opportunity to connect, to learn, to dramatize, and to share meaningful moments. Finally, I’ll admit that I live in a self-constructed world of naïve hope and wonder, and writing for kids helps me stay there.

What does your work space look like? Tell us about a typical work session.

I live in a fairly small house and am, sadly, deskless. I work on a laptop—either from a living room chair in the evenings (sometimes with an extension consisting of a TV tray or hassock) or at the dining room table during the day when the family is at school/work. I get my best writing done in the evenings—sometimes staying up too late, if I’m on a roll. My favorite stay-up-late-and-write snacks are either dark chocolate or roasted unsalted sunflower seeds. My writing life is very much like the “Is the jar full?” story, about a jar filled with stones that looks full, but can still fit pebbles and then sand. I fit in my writing wherever I can.

What was the first memorable thing you ever wrote? 

Probably around 5th or 6th grade, I wrote a humorous poem entitled “Squash.” It was about how my mom grew tons of squash in her garden and served it for dinner every night, and how reluctant I was to eat it. It was my first experiment with poetic wordplay, and I thought it was clever and hysterical. I cracked myself up with that poem! From then on, I was hooked. My dad tried to warn me that I couldn’t make a living as a poet, so I became a proofreader/editor of engineering materials—but in my heart, I remained a poetic writer. I can remember reading Where the Sidewalk Ends, over and over, from a young age. I also memorized The Owl and the Pussycat and Jabberwocky at some point in my youth, and loved to go around reciting them. 


Think about all the stories you’ve written that have hit a dead end or are hidden away in a drawer somewhere. For each of the items below, lift an element from a different story to create a weird, unexpected mash-up. Who knows? It may even inspire a new manuscript!

Characters: an octopus, a baked potato, a rubber duckie

Setting: a bathtub

Theme: cooperation

Problem: Mr. Potatohead has fallen into a bubble bath

Pitch: The bubble bath is no place for a dapper spud like Mr. Potatohead, who’s always trying to one-up his rivals with his dashing style. But plop!—there he is. Even soaked, he still looks better than that odd purple octopus or that dingy rubber duckie. Mr. P. shows off his buoyant style—until his mustache, loafers, and vest drift to the tub bottom. Now would be a good time to make friends instead of rivals. 

Ha, ha! I’d love to see the illustrations to go along with this story! Thanks for playing!


With many libraries closed, Millbrook Press has relaxed their copyright restrictions and Heather has made a recording of her book. Reviewing should be easy-peasy! Here’s the link for SMALL MATTERS.

Leave an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other online site. Every time you write five reviews for debut Kidlit creators between May 1 – June 30, 2020, you can fill out this ENTRY FORM for a chance to win prizes. Heather has generously donated a signed book (US only). Thank you, Heather!

For a chance to win Picture Book SWAG by Debut Review Challenge creator Laura Renauld, enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!

You can find the complete rules of the Debut Review Challenge and a downloadable record sheet to keep track of your reviews HERE.

1 thought on “Debut Review Challenge with Heather Kinser”

  1. Great post Heather. I really liked your story smash idea, I love Mr Potato head :-).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *