Welcome to Tuesday Debut!
One of the things I love about Tuesday Debut is what a wide variety of picture books we get to see – fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose, subjects that range from hay-making machines, to reaching for the moon, friendship, loneliness, lullaby bedtime books, clouds, and bugs.
Today we have a debut topic – a gentle, thoughtful book about a little girl who attempts to draw God.
written by Karen Kiefer
illustrated by Kathy De Wit
religious fiction, ages 5 and up
October 8, 2019
Picasso’s artistic inspiration takes hold of young Emma’s faith imagination in this beautifully illustrated debut picture book about how we all see God differently.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Karen! We’re thrilled to have you! Where did the idea for this book come from?
KAREN: It was an ordinary run to the grocery store, or so I thought. There I was, standing next to a mound of stacked peppers in the produce section when I overheard two little kids, a whisper away, talking to each other. “My mother said you shouldn’t talk about God at school, because it makes people feel uncomfortable,” said the young voice to the other. I stood still, shaking my head, as I uttered, “Oh— no,” under my breath. Needless to say, I felt uncomfortable.
For the next several weeks, that conversation would not leave my mind or heart. In a world propelled by wonder, invention and advanced communication, could “God talk” eventually become extinct? It seemed to be an astonishing possibility. All I could do was pray about it, asking God to intervene. Then on a quiet Sunday morning, out of the blue, I began to write the children’s story, “Drawing God.”
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
KAREN: The process was pretty fluid, one sitting, about 2 hours THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED TO ME. Writing is usually such a challenging and complicated process.
I sat in my bed with my laptop and started typing away.
I began to write a story about a little girl named Emma, who visits an art museum and is so inspired by the works of Pablo Picasso that she decides that she is going to draw something “beyond spectacular.” Emma decides to draw God.
I remember tapping on my keyboard, just waiting to see what might happen next. I began typing…
Emma escapes to the comfort of her bedroom and draws a brilliant sun. “It was so dazzling and radiant my cheeks throbbed. Its rays were so long they poked at my heart.” Emma knew she had drawn God. The next day, Emma takes her drawing to school to show her best friend Peter. But Peter looked at Emma and said, “ Emma, that’ s not God, that’s the sun.”
Emma tries again and again to draw God, but her classmates can’t see God in any of her drawings. They actually find her attempts laughable.
Emma finally realizes, through a prayer answered, that she doesn’t need their approval. “I knew I had drawn God. God knew I had drawn God, and maybe Picasso knew, too. That finally felt like enough.”
The story stopped there. But I remember feeling that urge to keep writing, because this wasn’t the end of the story.
Emma eventually returns to school on the following Monday, and something beyond spectacular happens. I won’t spoil the ending of the book, but when I finished writing, it was clear that if this story were ever published it might get more children and adults talking about and drawing God.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
KAREN: I polished it up here and there over the course of the next couple of weeks. I had heard that there are successful authors that actually review manuscripts for a modest fee. I Googled around and came across Susanna Hill. It took a lot of courage to write the email to her and press send. Susanna was amazing, not only did she get back to me quickly, she offered me some minor edits and was so encouraging. She thought I had a book but now just had to find a publisher. My interaction with Susanna gave me the confidence I needed at a time when you are always second guessing the value of the work.
SUSANNA: It was a privilege to read your story, Karen, and I’m glad if I was able to help you find the courage to submit! 🙂 When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
KAREN: I felt comfortable that the manuscript was ready for submission shortly after my interactions with Susanna. I was literally Googling how to write a submission letter.
I knew nothing.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
KAREN: Professionally, I’m the director of the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College. My job offers me many opportunities to form relationships with other professionals in the faith marketplace. I knew the editor of Paraclete Press and so I decided to start there. I sent him an email asking if he might be interested in looking at my manuscript. He responded, pretty quickly I might add, asking me to send it along.
I submitted it right away. I heard back within a few hours and he was very positive. He mentioned that he wanted to share it with a few other people to see what they thought.
About a week later, he mentioned that they were planning an emergency editorial meeting in the next week to review a few new manuscripts and mine was one. I was both excited and scared. That’s when self-doubt settles in. I wondered if it was good enough?
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever! 🙂 )
KAREN: A week later I got the call, it was unanimous, they wanted to publish the manuscript.
I was so excited. They didn’t want to make any changes to the story and wanted to keep the title, “Drawing God.” However, they did want me to write a teaching guide, 1000 words or so, that they would add to the back of the book.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
KAREN: It was all so surreal. I didn’t really celebrate because it still didn’t feel real.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
KAREN: Had no idea what to expect. The contract seemed very fair. I wasn’t going to be making a lot of money and I would be paid in 3 installments. I was fine with that.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
KAREN: The editorial process was smooth. The editor shared my vision for the book right from the start. I was so lucky.
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
KAREN: Again, I was very fortunate during this process too. I didn’t want to overstep, but I asked if I could recommend an illustrator. The editor assured me that they already had a group of great illustrators. I respectfully asked if I could send some samples from the illustrator who illustrated my first self-published children book, “The Misfit Sock” back in 2010.
I mentioned that we work well together. I also had to let him know that she lives in Belgium. He was very open, knowing that he believed we could TOGETHER make the book better. He reached out to Kathy De Wit and negotiated the partnership and sent her a contract. Kathy and I worked together throughout the process.
Regarding illustration notes, I did submit them in detail to the editor and he reviewed them, made a few changes and sent them to Kathy. The three of us worked together closely throughout the process. The editor kept things on track.
Here’s a sample of a sketch and a finished illustration.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
KAREN: Seeing the reviews and features has been so exciting. The publishers has been wonderful about sharing every milestone with me along the way. Was reviewed by Kirkus and featured in Publisher’s Weekly. That’s hard to do for a children’s picture book.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
KAREN: The process was about a year and a half. When I first saw the book, I couldn’t get over how beautiful it was. That was another surreal moment.
SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?
KAREN: The book just came out today, but I’m happy to say it is the #1 release in its category on Amazon.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
KAREN: Paraclete Press has been WONDERFUL. They have put the entire sales team behind this book. They have done a lot of social media, produce a beautiful book trailer, helped with flyers.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
KAREN: We had journals printed up, bookmarks, lots of different flyers, events, fun promotional giveaways. Had a big book launch.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
KAREN: NOT SURE??
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
KAREN: TODAY, Tuesday, October 8, 2019, the children’s picture book, “Drawing God” will be released into the world. May it be a catalyst for more God talk and inspire children and adults of all faiths to connect their very own faith imagination, to realize the contagious faith that lives powerfully within and to embrace the truth that we all see God differently.
The release of the book will be followed by the celebration of the first World Drawing God Day, on November 7th. This day will be a chance for our world to “draw” God, whatever that might look like, using the hashtag: #drawinggod.
Today I am reminded of the words of a friend who said that books can’t necessarily change the world, but the people who read them can. To future readers of “Drawing God,” my hope is that this book will make you a little more comfortable, knowing that there will be a little more God talk in our world because of you.
For more information, visit: www.drawing-god.com
Karen Kiefer is the director the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College and has worked at the university in various roles collectively for over two decades. A mother of four daughters, Kiefer has taught religious education at the parish level for 25 years. She is the co-founder of the grassroots bread-giving organization, Spread the Bread, and the anti-bullying initiative, the Million Misfit Sock March. Kiefer wrote “The Misfit Sock” children’s book in 2010 and is the author of the new children’s book, “Drawing God,” published by Paraclete Press. This latest book has inspired World Drawing God Day on November 7, 2019.
SUSANNA: Such an exciting day, Karen! There’s nothing like seeing your first book in print, especially if it’s #1 in its category on Amazon! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today and share your experience so that we can all benefit from it! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the very best with this and future books!
Readers, if you have questions for Karen, 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!