Tuesday Debut is always fun, but today it’s even more fun than usual!
First, we have a humorous nonfiction book to enjoy!
Second, our Tuesday Debut-ess, in addition to being an author, is a freelance editor, and she’s offering a PB manuscript critique (one book, 1,000 words or fewer, text only) to one lucky person! All you need to do to qualify is leave a comment on this post between now and Sunday June 13 at 5PM Eastern and your name will be tossed in the hat for a chance. One random winner will be drawn and announced next week! If you’d also like to share this post link on social media, that would be lovely 😊
But now, without further ado, allow me to introduce the lovely and talented Christine Van Zandt and her debut picture book, A BRIEF HISTORY OF UNDERPANTS!
A Brief History of Underpants
written by Christine Van Zandt
illustrated by Harry Briggs
June 1, 2021
Funny nonfiction picture book with STEM
For ages 4-8
From bloomers to boxers, everyone wears underwear! One part humor, one part history, A Brief History of Underpants explores the evolution of fashion’s most unmentionable garment.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Christine! Thank you so much for joining us today. We can’t wait to hear about where the idea for this book came from!
CHRISTINE: My (then) third-grade daughter came up with the topic after I volunteered at her elementary school’s week-long Book Fair in 2018. Nonfiction books were prominently featured, yet kids resisted the awesome titles, complaining that nonfiction was boring. I set out to prove them wrong!
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
CHRISTINE: I loved my daughter’s suggestion and looked into whether similar books had been published. Finding that my ideas were different enough, I began researching the history of underwear, taking lots of notes, trying to figure out how to pull that info into something enjoyable for kids.
Next, I typed up first draft in a 32-page layout. The structure with pagination helped me analyze whether my text could work with art (for example, if I’d left enough room for the illustrator, or if maybe there was not enough to draw). Writing in two-page spreads placed focus on each scene and the subsequent page turn. This process works well for me whether writing nonfiction or fiction. I’ll gladly share my template, just email me.
I’m in several critique groups and kept workshopping then revising, trying to find funny ways to bring a bunch of facts together in an interesting manner. I knew I was ready to start querying once my groups gave it a thumbs-up and when my manuscript represented what I’d set out to accomplish.
It took 235 days from the first draft until I connected with a publisher via #PitMad (a Twitter pitch event). This is very fast and I was lucky that someone who was looking for a book like this found me. Since I worked directly with the publisher, this book was published unagented.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
CHRISTINE: Quarto decided to expand the book to 48 pages during the early months of the pandemic when libraries and bookstores were closed so I bought reference books—a lot of reference books. And hunted down underwear facts from every continent, back to the beginning of fossilized undies. I thought I’d have a hard time finding a fact from Antarctica, but that ended up being one of the funniest ones. I think the reason underwear is called “unmentionables” is because it’s not mentioned in reference books!
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
CHRISTINE: I was thrilled Harry Briggs was chosen to illustrate the book; his style suited the book well. The publisher worked with me throughout the process, showing me the early sketches through to the final drafts.
Today’s tech world makes it easy to share things. Since the many styles of underwear had specific ways they looked in real life, I linked the publisher and illustrator to artifacts, reconstructions, and such.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc.? What was that like?
CHRISTINE: The publisher sent the reviews to me. I was curious to know how the book would be received so I read them immediately and, thankfully, reviewers are finding it funny and educational.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
CHRISTINE: It took about seven months—which I know is lightning-speed in the publishing industry!
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
CHRISTINE: The publisher secured some fabulous opportunities for me including being featured in their April educator newsletter and in a podcast. I also have a column coming up in Shelf Awareness which has a readership of ~500k!
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
CHRISTINE: I’ve been boosting the book myself too. It’s amazing how much time and money you can put into this aspect. Joining up with other authors has been beneficial. I belong to 21 for the Books (we’re all debut picture book authors) and to STEAM Team Books (a mix of experienced authors and some newbies like me) [LINKS https://oneforthebooks.wixsite.com/2021/authors and http://www.steamteambooks.com/].
These groups provide a place to ask questions, swap information, and vent when needed. The pandemic changed things a lot. How do we sign books remotely? What’s the best way to film virtual author events? There’s a lot to learn beyond “just” writing and selling a book!
I’ve had bookmarks and stickers designed and printed, as well as material for the classrooms such as a word search and “Beyond the Book” questions. Promotional materials are a way to engage elementary students or get the word out about your book.
I purchased copies of my book and am donating them to elementary schools so if you’re a teacher for kids age 4-8, please reach out to me!
SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?)
CHRISTINE: Regularly participate in one or more critique groups. Attend workshops or conferences to learn and work on your craft. Read, read, read, then write, write, write.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Christine! We so appreciate the opportunity to learn from your experience, and your very generous offer of a critique!, and wish you the very best of luck with this and future titles!
Christine Van Zandt hasn’t found fossilized underwear, but loves digging up ideas that make great books for kids.
She’s a literary editor and lives in Los Angeles, California, with her family and a monarch butterfly sanctuary. Visit her online at christinevanzandt.com.
Readers, if you have questions for Christine, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond! Remember, one lucky commenter will win a PB manuscript critique!
You may purchase Christine’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!
Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)
Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)
Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)
Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)
Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)
Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls (dyslexia-friendly font)