Welcome to another exciting installment of Tuesday Debut!
I realize of course that it’s the 22nd of October – 9 Nights Before Halloween, and 64 Nights Before Christmas – but if it’s okay for the local Stop & Shop to be putting out their holiday items already then it’s okay for us to share and enjoy today’s debut picture book!
I’m thrilled to introduce Tuesday Debut-ess Dawn Young and her fabulously fun picture book, The Night Baafore Christmas!
The Night Baafore Christmas
Written by Dawn Young
Illustrated by Pablo Pino
published by WorthyKids, Hachette Book Group
fiction, ages 4-8
It’s Christmas Eve and Bo can’t sleep, so he starts counting sheep. But when the sheep get a glimpse of the Christmas goodies, they scatter, wreaking holiday mayhem all over the house. With a house full of sheep and a mess to clean, will Bo get to sleep before Santa comes? Find out in this hilarious story of a night before Christmas gone baa-dly wrong.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Dawn! And thank you so much for stopping by to chat with us today and share your journey to publication! Where did the idea for this book come from?
DAWN: The idea for The Night Baafore Christmas began a long time ago, when one of my daughters was having trouble falling asleep because she kept worrying about bad things after watching the movie Barnyard. Every night I’d tell her to think good thoughts and imagine herself at fun, happy places like the circus or the zoo.
With that in mind, I wrote about a child who, struggling to fall asleep due to bad thoughts, went to those same fun, happy places. But a story about a child going from adventure to adventure felt flat and needed something more, so I had the child attempt to count sheep to fall asleep. Soon, those mischievous sheep were tagging along on the adventures. At that point, the story had some spark but things went from flat to frenzied and I knew I needed to tighten the story.
Also, I wanted the story to start on a more positive note, so instead of having the child worry about bad things, I had the excitement over an upcoming event, like the eve of a birthday or a holiday, be the reason the child couldn’t fall sleep. I played around with both, but found myself heading down the birthday path. Then, after seeing the holiday mishap contest on Susanna’s blog, I shifted to Christmas, and wrote a draft of what is now The Night Baafore Christmas.
[And now a brief message from our sponsors – enter the Halloweensie Contest (which opens in a week)! You too could write a new story or find a new angle on a work-in-progress that might be worthy of publication just like Dawn!
…aaand back to our regularly scheduled programming…! 🙂 ]
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
DAWN: Years! I began writing the story in 2008. Getting feedback from my critique partners and creating dummies were a big part of getting the book to where it is today. I love to write in rhyme, and I wanted this story to be in rhyme. Knowing that most publishers prefer prose because too often (they say) they see rhyme that is subpar, I worked on my perfecting my rhyming skills. Also, I wanted this story to be fun and funny, so I focused on wordplay and humor.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
DAWN: This story went through many, many, many revisions. Even after adding the sheep, the story went through rounds and rounds of revisions. Early drafts were written in first person, and now the story is in third person. Playing around with POV is a great exercise.
Also, originally, the sheep appeared by number randomly to mirror the craziness of the story. Then, I received feedback suggesting I number the sheep in ascending order when the action escalates and in descending order when the momentum slows down. I revised accordingly, and it worked great and gave the story a smoother flow. I’m grateful for the feedback!
For me, critique groups/partners are key to the process. We look to our critique partners for feedback to help us revise our stories, and their suggestions are invaluable. I find that I make a great deal of progress with my manuscripts when I, not only consider the feedback I get, but also the feedback I give. When I do a critique, I think my inner self is trying to speak to me through someone else’s work. Often, I find myself saying, Wait I just did that same thing! A critique you’re doing for someone can act as a mirror, enabling you to reflect on your own writing as well.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
DAWN: When that nagging, unsettling, “something’s missing,” “if you stop now you’re cheating,” “you can do better than that,” feeling, the one that keeps me up at night, is gone, then I know the manuscript is ready for submission.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
DAWN: Unagented at the time, I read on Kathy Temean’s blog that WorthyKids was seeking submissions for holiday stories, so I subbed the old-school way, via snail mail! Shortly after the submission, I assigned with my (now) agent and she handled the contract.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever! 🙂 )
DAWN: Four months after I submitted, I got an email from the editor asking if the story was still available. I was ecstatic! Then around ten months later I got the offer.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
DAWN: I cried, the happiest of tears, and eventually I went out to dinner with my very supportive husband.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
DAWN: At the time I submitted to WorthyKids, they were a smaller publisher so I figured the advance might be on the lower side. I really liked the publisher and the timeline for publication was unreal. I signed the contract in Nov 2018 and they gave me a Fall 2019 pub date. I felt so fortunate. In the meantime, WorthyKids became part of Hachette Book Group, so my small publisher isn’t so small anymore.
SUSANNA: What was the editorial process like for you?
DAWN: They requested two minor changes and that was it.
SUSANNA: What can you tell us about your experience of the illustration process?
DAWN: The illustration process was unlike most I’ve read about. The editor suggested that I send her names of illustrators that had a style similar to what I was envisioning for the book. One of the names I gave her was Pablo Pino. Since they had Pablo in mind as well, they asked him and he said yes. His illustrations went beyond what I could have ever hoped for. They’re are beautiful, fun and funny. I feel so fortunate that Pablo Pino is the illustrator. The Night Baafore Christmas couldn’t have been in better hands!
One way in which illustrator’s vision departed from mine was that I envisioned the sheep’s numbers to be on their bodies, but Pablo put their numbers on tags around their necks, and I’m so glad he did because they’re visible but subtle. Having big ole numbers on their backs may have overpowered the page.
I saw digital files of the entire book before it went to print and I was blown away! The editor asked for feedback. Other than saying Wow more times than I can count, I think I had only two (minor) comments.
I did have art notes. Looking back I can see that they weren’t necessary.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
DAWN: No, not yet.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
DAWN: Ten months.
SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?
DAWN: It just released on Oct 1st.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
DAWN: My publisher has been amazing. They made the most lively, fun, festive trailer, and they’re contacting book reviewers, making memes, and doing a great deal of promotion.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
DAWN: I had flyers, bookmarks, stickers and a banner made. I reached out to bloggers asking them I could be featured on their blogs to share my journey and the book’s journey. I will be featured at bookstores in November and December and I’m booking other events as well.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
DAWN: I started writing in 2007, but at the time, my kids were small, and I was busy with toddlers and very involved at their school, so I’d say I was more of a part-time writer. Around 2010, I got really serious about writing and began attending conferences and writing retreats, taking classes, joining critique groups and writing ALL the time. Strictly a rhymer, I thought it would be best to branch out and be more diverse with my style, so around that time, I started writing in prose as well. In 2018, I sold my first picture book, Counting Elephants, which releases in March 2020 and sold The Night Baafore Christmas shortly after.
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
DAWN: Way back when, I submitted the very early versions of this story and they got their share of rejections, as they should have. Those versions were nowhere near ready and should not have been out in the world ‒ much like a 13 year old behind the wheel of a car! The rejections I received were a blessing. As much as I dreaded them and resented them, they made me work harder, thinker deeper and get more ingenious. I learned to welcome them. I have a quote I like to remember when things aren’t going as expected: “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” ― Dalai Lama XIV
I learned that getting published requires more patience and persistence than I ever thought I had.
I also learned to celebrate the positive things. Back in 2013, I submitted this story to an editor who spoke at a conference I attended. Shortly after I received a rejection letter from her, but this time, I also got positive feedback. The editor called the story “fun and engaging” and she called my writing “fresh” and had other nice things to say. Even though it was a rejection, I celebrated her encouraging feedback, and to this day I still have her letter on my desk.
I feel very fortunate to be a part of such a fabulously generous and thoughtful kidlit community. The support and encouragement is incredible. No one knows a writer’s life like a writer does.
SUSANNA: Wow, Dawn! Such a lot of wonderful, helpful insights you shared with us today! I especially enjoyed your thoughts on critique groups/partners, when you know your manuscript is ready, and what it’s like to be a writer and part of the writing community. I’m sure our readers will all have their favorite parts as well 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers!
Dawn Young bio:
Dawn graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and later with an MBA. For years, Dawn worked as an engineer and, later, manager at a large aerospace company, until her creative side called her to pursue her dream of writing children’s books. After reading and writing hundreds of corporate documents, none of which were titled The Little Engineer Who Could or Don’t Let the Pigeon Fly the Airbus, Dawn is thrilled to now be reading and writing picture books instead.
Dawn is also a math enthusiast. When she’s not busy writing and reading, she can be found doing math problems, sometimes just because… In high school, Dawn’s dream was to have a math equation named after her, but now, she believes having her name on the cover of books is a million times better! Dawn lives with her husband, three children and golden retriever in sunny Arizona.
Readers, if you have questions for Dawn, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Dawn’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)
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!