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
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.
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!
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)
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)
Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)
Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)
Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)