Hello, my friends!
We haven’t had a Tuesday Debut in awhile… I guess we’re all in summer vacation mode 😊 But I’m happy to say we have one today! And what better than a little inspiration in the middle of summer? Maybe you’ll head off to the beach after reading this post and find yourself scribbling down a great new idea!!!
So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to our newest debut-ess, Stacey Corrigan!
The Pencil Eater
By: Stacey Corrigan
Illustrations by Steve Page
August 6, 2019
Fiction, ages 4-8
The Pencil Eater hunts for tasty treats but encounters some obstacles along the way. Frustrated by his efforts, The Pencil Eater visits an elementary school and a whole new set of problems await.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Stacey! Thank you so much for joining us today. We’re thrilled to have you! Where did the idea for this book come from?
STACEY: I teach second grade and pencils in my classroom always disappear. About five years ago, I had just sharpened a bunch of pencils and the pencils were gone 15 minutes later. In frustration, I said, “Second graders are pencil eaters.” My students laughed. I wrote down the idea and started on my very first manuscript that weekend.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
STACEY: It took 5 years to write the book in its current form. That original manuscript was terrible. I wrote what was more like a character sketch, thought it was brilliant, Googled “publishers accepting manuscripts,” and sent away. If you are new, don’t do that. Almost every picture book on the shelf has been through extensive critiques and revisions.
Luckily, an editor took the time to write me a very nice rejection letter. She very politely told me that while my premise was good, I needed to work on my craft. I Googled “picture book craft” and discovered the KidLit World.
I shelved THE PENCIL EATER for a bit and found some critique partners. After a year or so writing other stories, I went back to THE PENCIL EATER. I gave it a plot, added some humor, and took it through several rounds of critiques and edits. Illustrator Steve Page and publisher Tannya Derby also shaped the story into what it is today.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
STACEY: I must have revised THE PENCIL EATER 100 times. I found critique partners extremely helpful. I could not have gotten published without them. They are so supportive and knowledgeable. A couple of my CPs are also illustrators and taught me how to leave room for the illustrator. One suggested dummying out THE PENCIL EATER. That helped me cut a lot of words and I recommend using this strategy. To learn more about it, check out Wendy Martin’s post on Tara Lazar’s blog here.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
STACEY: A couple of my CPs yelled at me (in all caps and everything) and told me to stop revising and to send it out.
After that, I read it to a class full of Kindergarteners who didn’t know me. They listened to it and loved it. One of them drew a picture of The Pencil Eater on their own. That pretty much cinched it for me. It was time to submit.
SUSANNA: I love that your CPs gave you a kick in the…, er, that is, gave you encouragement to send out your ms! 😊 Hurray for Cps!!! When and how did you submit?
STACEY: I was a member of the KidLit411 Facebook Page and read a thread about MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing. I was impressed by Tannya Derby’s honesty and how she handled a tough situation, so I queried MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing. I followed their submission guidelines and heard back from them a few months later.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the news”? (Best moment ever! 😊)
STACEY: I was having a terrible day and remember getting the email notification thinking, “Great, another rejection.” I opened the email, saw the word “Congratulations!” and burst into tears.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
STACEY: I cried a little, high-fived my family and called my parents to tell them. Then, we ran off to my son’s baseball game. I remember the reality of it set in while I was watching the game.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
STACEY: As a small publisher, Tannya was very clear about the terms of the contract early on in the process so they were exactly what I expected. MCP doesn’t give advances but does have higher royalties so I am happy with the arrangement.
SUSANNA: How was the editorial process?
STACEY: Tannya involves both the author and illustrator in the editing process. The whole book is a huge collaboration.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about your experience of the illustration process?
STACEY: Tannya sent me digital illustrator samples and asked me to pick which one I liked best. I picked Steve. He nailed the visions I had of The Pencil Eater. In fact, an early version of my manuscript was The Purple Pencil Eater. I dropped the word purple, but Steve somehow knew that my MC was purple.
At first, I was super intimidated about giving feedback. Both Tannya and Steve have years more experience than I do and I didn’t feel comfortable making suggestions. But they were really good about asking me what I thought. It was the best experience. I think that’s what makes MacLaren-Cochrane a great publisher to work with.
SUSANNA: That sounds amazing, Stacey. I know the amount of input authors and illustrators get varies from publisher to publisher and editor to editor, but it seems like you got to be very involved which must have been fantastic on so many levels – both artistically in terms of creating your book and educationally in terms of learning about the process. Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?
STACEY: I haven’t yet.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
STACEY: It took about 26 months.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
STACEY: Promoting the book was one area I was nervous about. I am quite shy around strangers and am not much of a salesperson. I quickly learned though that so many people in my day to day life are willing to help. Friends, family members, my agent, my work colleagues, and members of the writing community have really come through for me and put me in contact with the right people. My husband found a venue for my release party, a cousin wrote a grant to fund an author visit, another organized a summer park event around The Pencil Eater, my school is throwing a big event at the beginning of the year, and the list just keeps growing.
I have also been sending out flyers for Author Visits and have been doing blog tours all summer.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
STACEY: It took me about two years. I credit that to having great CPs, good timing, and a little luck.
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
STACEY: Don’t give up. If you are serious about writing, learn the craft, find good critique partners, and believe in the process. Lots of the CPs and writers I started with are starting to get agents and get published right now. It takes time but it has been worth the wait!
Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Stacey! We are all grateful to you for sharing your experience and expertise and wish you the very best of success with this and future books!
Readers, if you have questions for Stacey, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:
– purchasing their books
– recommending their books to friends and family
– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians
– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores
– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries
– sharing their books on social media
Thank you all for stopping by to read today! Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday! Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂
Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts? Check them out!