Tuesday Debut – Presenting Karen Greenwald!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut, Everyone!

Apologies for the late posting! I hope everyone will still get to read about today’s debut-ess, Karen Greenwald, and her fabulous book, A VOTE FOR SUSANNA: THE FIRST WOMAN MAYOR!

Let’s jump right in, shall we? Not another second to lose!

A Vote For Susanna, The First Woman Mayor
written by Karen Greenwald
illustrated by Sian James
Albert Whitman, October 1
Nonfiction
4-9 (and beyond!)

In 1887 the state of Kansas gave women the right to vote in municipal elections. But some men in the city of Argonia, Kansas didn’t think women should have a say in choosing their next mayor, so they put a woman on the ballot—as a joke. That woman was Susanna Salter—and soon the men would find the joke was on them! Narrated by a grandmother who remembered what happened on that election day, this is the true story of a woman who stood up for her right to vote and accomplished so much more.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Karen! Thank you so much for joining us today! We’re all looking forward to hearing about how A VOTE FOR SUSANNA came to be! Where did the idea for this book come from?

KAREN: I believe I was researching another idea when I saw a sentence about Susanna Salter. Immediately, I was captivated. I’m a non-practicing lawyer with a background in government and politics. I was also raised in a very “girl power” environment. My parents instilled this in us. Reading this brief reference about a woman in 1887 that became the first to hold this position interested me—and the fact that her election arose as result of a prank, even more so. I had to investigate this! As kidlit writers, we are told that it is important to write the story you can tell. My passion for equality and my experiences in the political realm led me to Susanna’s history.

I did not start out writing this version. One and a half years into the research, I was introduced to members of Susanna’s city that shared pieces of the history I had not prior been able to access. Also, I “met” (virtually) her great-granddaughter who, along with her brother, entrusted me with copies of personal letters written by Susanna and other family members. Thanks to those precious documents I was able to write the version that became my debut book (and gained friendships along the way)!

As for my idea “process,” it is hard to describe. I look for certain elements in an idea, like whether it has been written about, and ask myself if I see broad appeal, if the topic child-friendly, and if I feel enthusiastic about telling this story. If I can visualize it in my head, I know I need to start researching.

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?

KAREN: It took two and a half years from beginning to end, but under six months to write the version that became the book.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

KAREN: Yes! I had four different manuscript versions—three of which were based on the fact that there was only so much information I was given access to…but, once I had more access I was able to write the story I knew needed to be told.

SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?

KAREN: I knew it was ready when I teared up writing the final words. It was very emotional, and I felt I hit the right note to wrap it up. As I typed the ending, I left open on my screen a letter Susanna had written. I felt like I was doing for her what history should have long ago!

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

KAREN: I submitted my manuscript in March and found out in April that it was going into acquisitions. But, it didn’t actually happen until August—that was one long summer of inbox refreshing! At the time of submissions, I wasn’t agented. In fact, I left my first agent a few months earlier when they switched houses and stopped representing picture books. I really didn’t enjoy the querrying process (does anyone?!), so I took a year off from it and spent that time working on this manuscript.

Karen’s writing buddy 😊

SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?

KAREN: I believe around four months.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

KAREN: I got an email and then call about it going into acquisitions. I was beyond thrilled! However, it didn’t go into the meeting until the beginning of August. I quickly sent out a couple of queries to agents. Two days later, I had “the call” with my agent Liza Fleissig (Liza Royce Agency). I learned about the offer by email. What a beautiful email! Lol!

SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

KAREN: One month or more.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

KAREN: Well, it was in the middle of the pandemic, so it was hard to go full out, but it did involve an impromptu dance party (so very kidlit-esque!) and the laugh-until-you-cry-until-you-laugh moment. I also held a Zoom family meeting!

SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?

KAREN: I had an extremely positive experience with the editorial process. I wound up having two different editors because the first changed houses I think around the time we finished the main revisions. Both editors were amazing to work with and extremely responsive. I don’t remember there being many changes to the manuscript. I felt extremely respected, listened to, and that my opinions were valued. I honestly can’t imagine having a better editor/author experience.

SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?

KAREN: I was able to share tons and tons (and tons—I delved deep!) of content, links to clothing styles, pictures, et al. As I mentioned, I had access to things nobody else would have since it came directly from  members of the family. This is the first and only book to tell Susanna Salter’s story, so I wanted to include as many details as possible. I studied not only Susanna and her family, but also the townspeople where she lived. I shared every one of these “swatches” of their world. I felt extremely respected in this process as well.

I included various art notes.

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?

KAREN: I got a review from Kirkus and nearly cried with joy! Their verdict was, “Get it” and they called my book, “factually accurate and accessibly told.” This meant the world to me, especially because my topic involves election rules and processes unlike any we have today. The fact that they feel I made this landmark moment (that has been brushed aside by history) accessible to children feels incredible. I am extremely proud of being reviewed by Kirkus!

SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

KAREN: One year!

SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

KAREN: I am doing a blog tour and am being interviewed on some podcasts, too. The National Women’s History Museum hosted a launch I did with Nancy Churnin and Songju Ma Daemicke. I have an Election Day event I’m doing with them. I’m also engaged in many other avenues, but you’ll have to look around to see them! (Can’t give all my secrets away😉)

SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

KAREN: It is hard to say because I’ve always been a writer in some form or function. In my “real world” job, I write articles for both print and online sources. However, picture book writing has been a focus for around five years.

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?)

KAREN: Write what you know, what you’re passionate about, what you feel others will connect to—and then take breaks from it and let it marinate!

Author Karen Greenwald

Twitter: @karenmgreenwald
Website: karengreenwald.com

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers. Karen! We so appreciate the opportunity to learn from your experience and wish you all the best with this and future titles!

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!

You may purchase Karen’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

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!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)

Jenna Waldman – Sharkbot Shalom

Karen A. Wyle – You Can’t Kiss A Bubble

Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)

Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)

25 thoughts on “Tuesday Debut – Presenting Karen Greenwald!

  1. rebeccajoymullin says:

    Wow! What an amazing story! I love all the primary source research you did to bring this book to life. Also, love your advice to write what you are passionate about…then “let it marinate.” Thanks for sharing your journey!

    • Karen Greenwald says:

      Thanks so much, Rebecca! Finding the information was not easy, but each piece was thoroughly exciting to read. Best, of course, was reading her letters in her own cursive. Powerful! Glad you enjoyed reading about this:)

  2. seschipper says:

    Karen, congratulations!! It is wonderful that you were able to reach out to Susanna Salter’s family! Looking forward to reading your book! (Love the picture of your writing buddy!) 🙂

    • Karen Greenwald says:

      Thank you so much–yes, it was an extraordinary experience to connect with them. I also gained a friendship! Hope you enjoy the book:) Lol re my writing buddy…(probably better to call him my distraction buddy):)

  3. authorlaurablog says:

    Karen, I’m so happy for you and everyone who gets to read your book! So cool to read this blogpost interview with you the same day as your interview on my blog! Wishing you huge success with SUSANNA!

    • Karen Greenwald says:

      Thank you for all of your love, cheerleading, and support! You are so sweet! How did I schedule two things on the same day? I thoroughly enjoyed both of your blogs and love both interviews! 🙂

  4. Ashley Sierra (@AshleySierra06) says:

    I checked it out out on Hoopla. I really enjoyed it. I liked the structure you chose and agree with Kirkus, it was very accessible for young readers. Overall, you wrote a wonderful story. Congratulations!

    • Karen Greenwald says:

      Ashley, thank you so much! I am so glad that you liked it–and so honored by Kirkus. Looking forward to reading more of your work!:)

  5. Norah says:

    Wow what a fascinating process and a great story. It’s wonderful to bring these little-known stories to life. This one sounds really interesting.

  6. viviankirkfield says:

    This is such an amazing book and Karen is such a dedicated kid lit person! Love reading these interviews because each time I get to learn a little bit more about the author’s journey! I was lucky because I got to see earlier drafts of this wonderful story!

    • Karen Greenwald says:

      Thank you, Vivian! I agree with you about these interviews and am so grateful for your love and cheerleading! xoxo

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