Tuesday Debut – Presenting Carrie Tillotson!

Good morning, and welcome to Tuesday Debut, everyone!

Today’s debutess is Carrie Tillotson, and just wait until you see how fun her debut picture book, COUNTING TO BANANAS is!

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Title: Counting to Bananas: A Mostly Rhyming Fruit Book
Author: Carrie Tillotson
Illustrator:  Estrela Lourenço
Publishing House: Flamingo Books/Penguin Young Readers
Release Date: April 12, 2022
Fiction, Ages 4-8

A hilarious, mostly-rhyming picture book about a banana and narrator who can’t quite agree on what their book is about.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Carrie! Thank you so much for joining us today! We’re looking forward to learning from you! Where did the idea for this book come from?

CARRIE: Thank you so much for having me on the blog, Susanna! The idea came from an interaction between my son and his swim instructor. Every lesson, my son had to perform a starfish float, where he lay on his back and floated for ten seconds. The instructor counted “One-two-three, four-five-six, seven-eight-nine, BANANAS!” and my son would laugh hysterically. One day, the instructor said, “Don’t you love my counting to bananas?” In that moment, I knew a picture book title was born.

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

CARRIE: I let the idea simmer for about a year before I even started writing it, because I had no idea what the story was about. But once I committed to it, I first journaled with a stream of consciousness approach to see what ideas bubbled up. From title idea in 2017, to first draft in 2018, to final draft in 2020, it took about 3 years.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

CARRIE: I think I had about 16 drafts from start to finish, and often took months-long breaks in between some of them. One key for me and this manuscript was receiving a critique ninja visit from 12×12 Picture Book Challenge critique-ninja-and-author, Carter Higgins. Her feedback on a couple of things was key in helping me streamline one of the layers of the text that ended up just not being necessary.

Carrie in her blanket fort office with her writing buddy 😊

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

CARRIE: Ha! When one of my critique partners was like, “Why aren’t you sending this out?!”

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

CARRIE: I attended the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Plus Conference in the fall of 2019, and had a pass to submit to agents and editors from that conference. I submitted Counting to Bananas to two of those editors and a handful of agents, and submitted other manuscripts to other editors and agents, based on their preferences and what they were looking for.

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”?

CARRIE: I don’t remember exactly, but I think it was about four to six weeks.

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

CARRIE: Because I submitted directly to editors from the conference, things went a little out of order for me. After I submitted the story, my editor requested an R&R. After that, she emailed to  say she was interested in taking the story to acquisitions, encouraged me to continue seeking an agent, and gave me permission to let agents know she was taking the story to acquisitions. I already had submissions out with several agents, so I was able to notify them of an editor’s interest. Shortly after, my now-agent Tracy Marchini set up a call with me, and happily, she and I felt like a great match! Once I signed with Tracy, it was just a couple of weeks until we had an offer for Counting to Bananas.

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

CARRIE: About 4-5 months.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

CARRIE: Oh, I’m sure I had ice cream – that’s how I celebrate everything!

SUSANNA: A girl after my own heart 😊 Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

CARRIE: The contract was pretty much what I expected, from having researched in other places like the Author’s Guild, and Hannah Holt’s author surveys. I was happy that my agent was able to negotiate some increases in various items on my behalf, and appreciated all her work during the negotiation process!

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

CARRIE: When my editor first asked for an R&R, the changes were pretty minor. Once the manuscript was acquired, we had one more round of revisions. My editor and I had a phone call to discuss, which was very helpful because it helped clarify a couple of questions I had about her comments. From there, revisions were pretty straightforward.

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

CARRIE: I LOVED seeing the illustrations take shape! I remember in particular being asked if it was OK with me for the fruits to have faces and personalities. I hadn’t considered that before, but was definitely OK with it. Once I saw the initial sketches, I was so glad I had said yes because I fell in love with all the hilarious fruit expressions! It was really exciting to get to see the process from sketches to final art, and I really appreciated the opportunity to give my own input at various stages, which I hadn’t expected going in.

text copyright Carrie Tillotson 2022, illustration copyright Estrela Lourenço 2022, Flamingo Books/Penguin Young Readers
text copyright Carrie Tillotson 2022, illustration copyright Estrela Lourenço 2022, Flamingo Books/Penguin Young Readers

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

CARRIE: Yes, I saw an advance review from Kirkus and it was thrilling! I was happy to receive a positive review, knowing that they sometimes have a reputation for being a bit blunt if they don’t like a book – and to have my book compared to one of Mac Barnett’s felt great!

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

CARRIE: The offer came in July of 2020, and publication was April 12, 2022, so just a few months shy of 2 years.

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

CARRIE: They have done so much, and I appreciate every bit of it! My publicist sent the book out for reviews and helped arrange a couple of virtual events with local bookstores, as well as preorder signing opportunities for me. And the marketing team helped create a downloadable activity guide, animated trailer, and adorable posts on social media. They probably both did so much more than I’m even aware of, and I’m so grateful for everything they’ve done!

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

CARRIE: One of the biggest and most helpful things I have done is to join a debut group of picture book creators, Kidlit Caravan. It has been really helpful to talk with other creators navigating the debut process to get ideas and see what others are doing. A few specific things I did were to create some bookmarks, which I plan to give away for school visits and at book stores, helped create the activities for the activity guide, and have appeared on a few blogs. I tried to keep my promotion efforts tied to things that would be fun for me, and not worry about the rest!

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

CARRIE: 8 years! After years of lurking on the SCBWI website and wanting to be involved in making children’s books, I finally realized that the only thing standing in my way was myself. That summer of 2014, I signed up for my first SCBWI conference, and I’ve been writing ever since.

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?)

CARRIE: Probably the most important thing I’ve done is to get out of my own way. Like I mentioned in the previous question, I thought for years that authors and illustrators were these amazing people, and I wondered how to be like them… until I realized the only thing stopping me was myself. So to everyone who has dreams they want to achieve, I say go for it!

Author Carrie Tillotson

Website: carrietillotson.com
Twitter: @carrietillotson
Instagram: @carrietillotson

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

CARRIE: Thanks so much to you and your readers for giving new authors an opportunity to share!

Readers, if you have questions for Carrie, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!

You may purchase Carrie’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

– 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)

Karen Greenwald – Vote For Susanna: The First Woman Mayor (nonfiction)

Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)

Patti Richards – Mrs. Noah

Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky – James’ Reading Rescue

Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)

Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)

Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)

Kimberly Wilson – A Penny’s Worth

Candace Spizzirri – Fishing With Grandpa And Skye

11 thoughts on “Tuesday Debut – Presenting Carrie Tillotson!

  1. Heather Kinser says:

    I’m kind of in love with that animated banana and am really looking forward to this clever book! Congratulations, Carrie!

  2. readmybook2002 says:

    I always like wise-cracking humor in kids’ books. I can’t wait to see this and read it to others. Great job! I also like your telling about how getting out of your own way helped your progress.

  3. palpbkids says:

    Congratulations, Carrie! The book is beautiful!!! Creative! Beautifully illustrated! This will resonate with kids and educators! Can’t wait to see it on the shelves!

  4. Sarah Meade says:

    Congratulations, Carrie! Thanks for sharing your journey so far. My little ones and I love COUNTING TO BANANAS! The adorable expressions on the fruit add so much to the fun reading experience.

  5. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    I, like Heather, fell head-over-heels for that fabulous banana, and have this book on my TBR list.

    I love reading these behind-the-scenes stories. It’s so much fun seeing how different or similar authors’ and their books’ journeys are. Thanks for doing this, Susanna!

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