Good Tuesday to you, everyone!
I saw this on FB yesterday, and it sums me up exactly!
I’m happy to report, though, that I DO remember why I’m here this morning! 😊 And that is to introduce you to today’s Tuesday Debut-ess, the lovely and talented Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky who has written a picture book I think so many kids will relate to! As someone who spent many years working with children for whom the written word was a challenge, I know what value this book has.
It’s an interesting one for us to learn from because a) it is written for ages 6-12 – not the usual age range for a PB, and b) it addresses, in a book, children who struggle with learning to read books. While it may seem that using a book to help kids who struggle with books to learn to like reading is a little sideways, it’s done in a way I think they’ll find very engaging. I mean, I was all set to do exactly what James does 😊
So let’s not waste another moment. Allow me to introduce Dianna and her wonderful book, JAMES’ READING RESCUE!
written by Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky
illustrated by Sara Casilda
published by Clavis Publishing
October 5, 2021, fiction
SUSANNA: Welcome, Dianna! We’re so excited to have you here today to share your journey to publication with this wonderful book which is a learning experience for us both because of the slightly older readership and the important topic. Where did the idea for this book come from?
DIANNA: JRR is based on a true story I read on the internet several years ago. It just seemed to jump off the page as I read it. My son struggled with reading when he was young and I’ve always been involved with animal rescue. My kids were raised with nine rescue cats. I knew this was a story I just had to write!
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
DIANNA: This was my first story, so I didn’t know any of the rules or expectations for picture books. I had a lot to learn and received some invaluable help from generous authors! From the first to final version I would say it took probably two years.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
DIANNA: As my first story, I had no idea if what I had written was good or terrible. I was afraid it was the latter! Researching author blogs I came across a Cdn. author whose books I had read to my children. I reached out to her and she generously agreed to look at my MS. Her comments were my first window into the world of writing PBs. I re-wrote the story entirely and then continued to revise as best I could. I didn’t yet know about critique groups. Eventually, I submitted it to an author/publisher who does professional critiques. Her wonderful assistance finally helped put the final polish on the manuscript. I have thanked both of these wonderful women in my dedication.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
DIANNA: After my professional critique, I felt that the story was the best it could be. Everything just seemed to click!
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
DIANNA: As a debut writer, I was really groping in the dark. I researched publishers to see who was accepting unsolicited submissions and reviewed their books. I also resrearched upcoming books. Publishers Weekly Children’s Bookshelf was extremely helpful in providing publishers who were unknown to me. Then I had to learn how to write the dreaded query letter! I submitted to about forty publishers and had a couple of nice refusals, one email showing interest, and one acceptance from Clavis. I had to read their email three times before it sank in that they wanted it!
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”?
DIANNA: I was never notified about JRR going to acquisitions. My experience was simply an email offering to publish my story. Short and oh, so sweet!
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”? (Best moment ever! 😊)
DIANNA: I wanted to submit to as many publishers as possible and began in fall 2019. The vast majority I never heard back from. I submitted to Clavis in Feb. 2020 and I received their email in late March.
SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?
DIANNA: The contract arrived around 4 months after their initial acceptance.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
DIANNA: This was just as covid was ravaging the world, so it was just a quiet celebration at home. Lots of emails to family and friends!
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
DIANNA: I had no idea which to expect re a contact, so I referenced the SCBWI site which was helpful. I also conferred with my son in law who is an attorney in the U.S. for clarification on a couple of things. There was no advance offered. 5% royalties on hard copies and 5 author copies in most languages. I found the information on foreign rights to be very confusing so I can honestly say I’m still not 100% sure on these royalties. So far the book has been published in Dutch (which is usual for Clavis), Indonesian, Slovenian and Korean is pending.
SUSANNA: That is so cool! Anytime I’ve had books published in another language that has always come after English, and many times they haven’t gone onto other languages, so congratulations on that! Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
DIANNA: Although I have no experience with other publishers, I know enough to attest that working with Clavis was a dream. Everyone was so helpful, in both their Belgium and New York offices. There were almost no revisions to speak of, which amazed me! I was very happy that they were keeping the manuscript as submitted.
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
DIANNA: Again, I think Clavis is something special in this department. They asked me to submit some names of illustrators whose work I liked, and they sent a few to me, as well. We agreed on one of their suggestions and I’m so glad we did! Sara and I were in touch frequently from the very beginning and she consulted me on how I imagined James to look. I also specifically requested that Ghost be a black cat, as they are the color least usually adopted. I saw proofs and made only a couple of minor comments, because Sara had such a clear vision of the story and her work was just so wonderful.
I had no art notes, having been advised that they should be avoided at all costs. My main concern was the color of the cat but as I was able to communicate directly with Sara, that didn’t prove a problem.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
DIANNA: I haven’t yet seen anything from Kirkus, but we did receive a lovely review from SLJ and also some great ones on Goodreads. It was delightful – made it feel real! Still hoping to see something from Kirkus and hoping readers will leave comments on Amazon, as well.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
DIANNA: The first copies we received were the Dutch version. Then came Indonesian and Slovenian. I have not yet received my English author copies, so my family and friends have it before me! I know they are on their way.
As for print run, I queried this the other day but as of today I do not yet know how many copies were in the first printing. I do hope to find out!
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
DIANNA: I’m afraid I’m not yet very familiar with this process. Foreign rights been sold in several languages and I’m aware that Clavis sent story ARCs to a number of reviewers. They have also submitted JRR for the Golden Kite contest.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
DIANNA: I was planning to have a launch party, but due to covid numbers still high in Montreal, gave up on this idea. I have reached out to all independent bookstores in the city and surrounding suburbs with children’s collections, all the public libraries and English elementary schools, as well. I am continuing to reach out to bloggers for interviews and reviews. I am having a zoom reading with the library in my old hometown, which is like coming full circle for me! And there’s always Facebook and Twitter, of course.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
DIANNA: It was about two and a half 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?)
DIANNA: All the rules of writing picture books (and that dreaded bugaboo that haunts us all – SHOW not tell)! I think the most important thing we can share amongst ourselves is the encouragement not to give up. Sometimes this process seems like climbing Mt. Everest – it can be so daunting and such a struggle. Tell a story you love; don’t follow trends; seek the support of a critique group where you feel at home – they will be a wonderful help and your greatest fans!
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
DIANNA: When I first read the real story, I felt an overwhelming compulsion to write a picture book about it. I just felt in my bones that one day it would be a beautiful children’s book, no matter how long it took. I feel extremely fortunate and thankful that children around the world can now read this lovely story. I hope they love it as much as I do.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and pay forward to other writers, Dianna! We so appreciate you sharing your experience and the expertise you have gained from it. I know I can speak for everyone when I wish you the best with this and future titles!
Readers, if you have questions for Dianna, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Dianna’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)
Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)