Joana Pastro a Damsel Not in Distress

Here a little bit about this Brazilian-American-English girl and her path on becoming an AMAZING picture book writer.

Her Childhood in Brazil,

United States and England.

I had a happy and pretty interesting childhood. I was born in Brasilia, and when I was a month old, my mom and I moved to the United States to join my dad who was at Cornell University, working on his doctor’s degree. Three years later we moved back to Brazil. When I was seven, we moved again, this time to England. We lived there for only two years, but that experience impacted me profoundly. Living in England allowed us to travel all over Europe and exposed me to a lot of art and history, two of my favorite things! It certainly influenced my interests and taste, and it helped shape the person I became. 


the Agent.

When I finished writing my middle-grade novel I thought, Okay, what do I do now? I did my research and found SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I became a member and joined a critique group. I queried my (terrible) MG around the same time and only got rejections. But in 2016 I found my calling in PBs. I joined 12×12 and Storyteller Academy in 2017 and by May, I had four polished manuscripts and began querying. In July, I participated in #PBPitch on Twitter and Natascha Morris from BookEnds Literary liked it! I sent her my manuscript the following week. About a month later she requested more, and offered representation in September.  

Becoming a

Picture Book Writer

The short answer on why I decided to write picture books is because I had kids! I worked as an architect until my second child was born. Visiting the library with my kids and reading all those wonderful books with them made me wish I could write to them, but I wasn’t a writer! Still, that wish stayed with me. At one point I listened to that wish and began writing down ideas in a notebook. About five years later, I decided to give writing a shot. At first, I wrote in Portuguese, but then one day I began writing a middle-grade novel in English. In 2015, I wrote a short story, and my critique partners encouraged me to make it into a picture book. It became my debut, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS. The following year I took the ReFoReMo (Read For Research Month) challenge. Being immersed in picture book mentor texts sealed the deal for me. By the end of that month all I wanted to write was picture books.

Her Debut Book –

LillyBelle, a Damsel not in Distress

My inspiration for my debut book – I was brainstorming the topic Knights and Castles from a call for submissions from Cricket magazine, and remembered the phrase “damsel in distress”. The first spark for the idea came from adding the word NOT to it. I wanted to tell a story of a girl who loves being damsel-y, but doesn’t like that damsels must wait for rescue. I like to think of LillyBelle as a girl who loves both ballet and karate, you know? A girl who can’t decide between being a fairy or a dinosaur on Halloween. In the book, LillyBelle refuses to be a damsel in distress and is set on proving that a damsel can very well save herself. It’s a story of girl power, friendship and also of accepting our differences.

It’s up for pre-order now.



BISA’S CARNAVAL was a completely different process. I wanted to write a book about Carnaval, so I researched everything I could about the topic. With that information at hand, I sat down to write and… nothing. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to write. So, I put it aside, and about a year later, I read FESTIVAL OF COLORS by Kabir and Surishtha Segal and fell in love with it. I realized I wanted to write a book with that level of energy and vibrancy, and most importantly, with that emotional resonance. After digging deep for my personal connections, I wrote about Clara and her Bisa (great-grandma) sharing the love for Carnaval and each other, while preparing for it. It’s coming out Fall 2021. 


More Plans

I have a couple of books out on submission, and three other that are submission ready. Right now, I’m working on marketing with my debut group, the Soaring 20s, and with Las Musas. I’m revising other picture books and trying my hand on an early chapter book. I’m pretty excited about that new challenge.


Fun 💃🌅

Besides writing and reading, I love dancing. It’s my therapy. I’ve been taking a wonderful Broadway Jazz class for the past seven years. It’s the only activity that enables me to leave all of my worries outside the door. I miss my dancing friends so much now that we’re all social distancing. I love learning about art history, and I have a special place in my heart for ancient Egyptian history. I love being outside by the pool or at the beach, and watching movies and TV shows.

Tips for

Aspiring Writers

Don’t try to do it alone, find other writers, if you’re writing for children, join SCBWI, join a critique group. We all learn to write in elementary school, but that doesn’t mean we know how to write a book. Each type of book has a different set of rules. Learn those rules! Celebrate the small victories. And be patient. 

Pay attention to everything around you. Turn on your senses, absorb information, and read all sorts of materials. Ideas really are everywhere, you just need to have your idea catcher on at all times!

Some of

Her Favorites

Favorite Book -Little Women/Favorite Food -Desserts/Favorite Quote-Albert Einstein – “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

How to Support

Debut Authors 2020

Requesting our books at your local library and adding them your Goodreads “want to read” tab is a huge help. If you have the financial means, pre-order/order our books, and if you enjoyed reading them, please post a review. The more reviews we get, the more our books get seen.

If you’re buying for children, ask around. Classics are great, but there are sooooo many amazing new books being released every week. Give those a chance too!

Pre-Order Joana’s Book Here


Joana Pastro always wanted to be an artist of some sort. So, she became an architect. But once her first child was born, all the visits to the library, and the countless story times made Joana start dreaming of becoming a children’s book author. After a lot of reading, writing and revising, her dream is coming true. Her debut picture book, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz, will be published by BM&K in 09/08/2020. Her second book, BISA’S CARNAVAL, illustrated by Carolina Coroa will be published by Scholastic in Fall/2021. Originally from Brazil, Joana now lives in Florida with her husband, her three extremely creative children and a rambunctious Morkie. You can find her on Twitter @jopastro, Instagram on @joanapastro, on her website at


Twitter: @jopastro

Instagram: @joanapastro


9 thoughts on “Joana Pastro a Damsel Not in Distress

  1. Great interview. I love learning about authors’ writing journeys. These pbs sound fascinating. Congratulations!


  2. I can relate to her start in wanting to write picture books. I wasn’t a writer, but reading to my oldest opened up that world for me. Congratulations! Love the cover.


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