Now that it’s official, Happy Spring, everyone!
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And welcome to Tuesday Debut!
Today I’m delighted to introduce Debra Daugherty and her beautiful and meaningful picture book, THE MEMORY JAR!
Title: THE MEMORY JAR
Author, Debra Daugherty
Illustrator, Victoria Marble
Roan & Weatherford Publishing, LLC/Young Dragons
Date of Publication: 4/11/2023
Multigenerational Fiction for ages 4-8
Synopsis: Amelia’s Grammy has dementia. She’s forgotten the special moments and people in her life, including Amelia. Amelia is determined to find a way to give Grammy back her memories. She has an idea, but will it work?
SUSANNA: Welcome, Debra! It is so kind of you to stop by today and share your journey to publication. We are delighted to have you! Where did the idea for this book come from?
DEBRA: When my aunt Luella could no longer live alone, I cared for her in my home. At the time, she was 92 and had Alzheimer’s. It broke my heart to watch as this brilliant and talented lady who loved doing crafts and crossword puzzles, lost all her memories. She didn’t remember her family. She didn’t know me. As I wrote this story, I thought about her. The words came easily as they came from my heart. I believe this story helped me heal from her loss.
Debra’a Aunt Luella and Uncle Elmer. Both had dementia. Aunt Luella was the inspiration for my book.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
DEBRA: I wrote the first draft in two hours, and then spent close to a year revising it. Sometimes, I changed just a word here and there. Other times, I crossed out entire paragraphs and started over.
My critique group was most helpful, especially with the ending. I didn’t like the ending I had. Amelia wrote in her notebook that Grammy remembered her. THE END. This story needed a bit more, something to tie it all together, but what?
After expressing my concerns with my critique group, I had an ‘Aha!’ moment. I shared my thoughts and everyone agreed. I had the perfect ending.
Belonging to a critique group or having critique partners is so important. My stories always improve after I’ve shared them with my group. They see stuff I missed. They ask the right questions to help me realize what my story needs.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
DEBRA: Once my manuscript had gone through several revisions and I’ve shared it with my critique partners, when I felt there was nothing more I could add or change, I started the submission process.
Something about me: I’m never satisfied with my writing. I continue to second guess my work, especially after receiving rejections. If there are comments with my rejections, I consider them and make the changes, but only if they adhere to my vision and my voice.
Debra in her office.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
DEBRA: I wrote THE MEMORY JAR in 2018 and started submitting in July 2019. At this time, I didn’t have an agent, so I researched agents and publishers online, seeking those open to submissions from PB authors. I read their bios to see if my genre fit their criteria.
When submitting, I check out #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) on twitter, and the website Manuscript Wishlist.com. These are great resources for those querying. On twitter, the agents list the genre and type of story they are seeking. The MSWL website lists agents, publishers and genre. You can read about the agents and publishers, and check out their websites to see if your story fits their criteria. Also, I am subscribed to several author blogs and newsletters. Submission opportunities are often shared on these.
At this time, I didn’t have an agent, so I did all the research and sent out the query letters. (In 2022, I signed with Dawn Doodle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Dawn is an amazing agent and I feel tremendously lucky to have her.)
From July 2019 until April 2021, I submitted this manuscript to eighteen agents and seven publishers.
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”?
DEBRA: I read about a new publishing company seeking stories that showed children in real world situations. I followed the submission guidelines and sent THE MEMORY JAR to Young Dragons Press on April 1, 2019. That same day I received a letter saying their acquisitions department process takes six weeks. They also wanted additional information. Was I a member of SCBWI? Was I an author or an author/illustrator? What was my social media presence? I responded immediately with my answers.
On April 5, Young Dragons Press’ editor, Clarissa Willis, sent an email, saying, “The Memory Jar comes at the right time. I am in the process of looking for a premiere book to lead off our inter-generational series and frankly yours is one of the best I have read in quite some time. I would like to formally offer you a contract with Young Dragons Press….”
I read this email over and over. Is my dream of being traditionally published coming true?
I scheduled a zoom meeting with Clarissa for April 9. She asked if I had other manuscripts I’d like to share. I sent her three manuscripts the next day. Of those three, two were chosen.
On April 13, 2019, I signed a contract for three picture book manuscripts.
SUSANNA: That’s amazing! What a wonderful day that must have been! How did you celebrate signing your contract?
DEBRA: After signing the contract, I couldn’t wait to share the news with my brothers and their families. Of course, they were happy for me. They knew how long and how hard I’ve worked toward this goal. I’ve had two books published previously, but they were e-books. THE MEMORY JAR is my first traditionally published picture book.
I celebrated by treating myself to a special dinner from my favorite Italian restaurant.
Debra’s writing buddies, Honey and Cece (who is an angel now 😇) 💕
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
DEBRA: Before receiving the contract, I went to the SCBWI website and looked up contracts in THE BOOK. I wanted to familiarize myself with what a publishing contract would look like. I made notes and asked questions. My publisher worked with me, and I was happy with the final signed contract.
Because of confidentiality, I can’t be specific about my contract. I can say there was no advance, which is common for many small publishers, and I will receive royalties. I was told to expect a publication date sometime in 2023.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
DEBRA: After I signed the contract, I sat back and waited. I knew the process would take time as my release date was two years away. I kept busy writing new manuscripts, revising old manuscripts and attending zoom meetings with my critique group. We usually met in person, but Covid happened.
It wasn’t until November, 2022 that I received the illustrations to review. Victoria Marble did an amazing job and I loved her vision for my story. There was one illustration that I felt needed more work. Victoria showed the teacher in the story from the waist down. I felt the image should show the entire body of the teacher. I emailed my concerns with my editor, Amy Cowan, and that day it was rectified.
(Victoria told me later she had concerns about that same image and knew she’d be making changes.)
Another month passed before I received the first Internal Galley. This time my text was on the pages! Everything checked out, spelling, punctuation, the text fitting the illustrations, but since so much time had passed, my dedication and author bio pages needed to be updated. My original dedication seemed too long, and Victoria didn’t have one.
An author and illustrator are partners. It’s not just my book, it’s our book. So, I changed my dedication to one line, and asked my editor to add a dedication from Victoria.
My bio needed more personal information, not just a list of what I’ve written. Also, my photo was not the headshot I requested.
When I sent Amy my suggestions/requests, I knew they would be taken under consideration, but there was no guarantee they would be used. The publisher had the final say.
On January 13, 2023, I received the Final Galley. All my concerns were met except for the photo change. When I mentioned that to Amy, she said it was a slight, and she would take care of it. And she did!
I’m lucky to have such an understanding publisher. I felt heard. Amy and the staff at Young Dragons Press listened to my concerns and did as I asked.
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
DEBRA: As I already mentioned, my editor sent the illustrations to me in November, 2022 before adding the text; however, I saw some of the illustrations before then.
April, 2022, Clarissa sent two character sketches that Victoria did of Grammy, Amelia and her mother. My characters had faces! I couldn’t help but notice how much Amelia looked like my niece. In August, 2022, Amy shared three more illustrations with me. These were more detailed and in color.
Victoria and I corresponded with each other on Facebook, and she shared some illustrations privately with me in messenger. I loved her work and didn’t offer any input. Also, I never used art notes with my story. Somehow, Victoria managed to connect with my vision.
Before Victoria was chosen as the illustrator for THE MEMORY JAR, we had met on twitter. I won a copy of one of the books she had illustrated, THE WIZARD OF OZ. I also own another book illustrated by her, TUX AT THE ZOO. When I found out she was illustrating my story, it seemed like fate.
SUSANNA: That is very cool! It certainly seems like serendipity. How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
DEBRA: I signed the contract April 13, 2021. My release date is April 11, 2023. It’s been a two year journey for THE MEMORY JAR.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
DEBRA: I asked my publisher this question. The response was: they produce an attractive, quality book that appeals to its audience. They make my book available to booksellers in stores and online, and push stores and libraries on a regional and national level to stock my book on their shelves. They push the sale of subsidiary rights and get it in as many formats and markets as possible. They help me get more books out to build an audience through backlist titles. Why? Because it’s easier to market me as an author instead of just a single book.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
DEBRA: To promote my book, I contacted authors such as yourself, letting them know I have a book coming out soon and asking if they’d consider doing an interview about my book on their blog. I created bookmarks and postcards on Visa Print to send out. I have posted and plan to continue to post information about my book on social media, twitter, Facebook, #MightyKidLit, and Instagram. I’m making memory jars for giveaways. I’ve sent the ARC pdf to reviewers. I’m planning book and merchandise giveaways, and library visits. I’m available for school visits online and in person.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
DEBRA: I have been writing since eighth grade. My teacher liked my essays and encouraged me to continue writing. After high school, I mostly wrote for my nieces and nephews, stories about unicorns and knights, fairies and princesses. I also wrote two novels, and cringe now at how amateurish they were. It wasn’t until I joined SCBWI in 2012 that I started writing seriously. Being part of a critique group, and attending conferences and webinars helped to improve my writing. I began to query, and sold my first picture book, CALAMITY CAT, to MeeGenius, an online publisher, in April, 2013. It was published on their website in December of that year.
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?)
DEBRA: On my journey toward publication, I’ve discovered positivity and kindness from other authors and illustrators. They freely offered their time, advice and encouragement. Having a critique group or critique partners is vital. My stories always improved after being critiqued. When querying, it’s important to research the agent or publisher to be certain your book is the right fit for them. It’s also important to follow the guidelines on their websites. The most important advice I can give is don’t give up! Keep writing. Keep learning. Envision your dream of becoming a published author and make it happen.
Thanks, Susanna, for giving me this opportunity to share my writing journey and my book with your readers!
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today and giving us the opportunity to learn from your experience, Debra! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the best with this and future titles!
Readers, if you have questions for Debra, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
Author, Debra Daugherty
Beverage of choice when writing: hot green tea.
Favorite snack: M & M’s
Twitter – https://twitter.com/dmddeb or @dmddeb
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/DebraDaughertyauthor/
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7579797.Debra_Daugherty
Instagram: Debra Daugherty (@authordebradaugherty) • Instagram photos and videos
Debra Daugherty https://mighty-kidlit.mn.co/
You may purchase Debra’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 HERE!
65 thoughts on “Tuesday Debut – Presenting Debra Daugherty!”
Congratulations Debra! It sounds like your book journey began when you took your Aunt Luella into your heart and your home. What a lovely story and I got the chills reading when the publisher said they were looking for a book to be the premiere book to lead off their intergenerational series. How special. Enjoy and celebrate every moment!
Such a lovely comment, Laura! And I agree – for the publisher to say they were looking for a book to lead off their intergenerational series and Debra’s was it is high praise indeed!
Thank you, Susanna. This was one of the book journeys that really touched my heart and you know I read a lot of them. It was so wonderful to read this! And also wonderful, I was chatting with my friend who received ALPHABEDTIME and she thanked me again because it’s a favorite at their house!
Well you just made MY day! 😊 Thank you for letting me know! And yes, this was a moving interview – very genuine.
Thank you, Laura. My Aunt Luella was a special lady. She’s been gone a few years, but this book has brought her back to me in a way. She’d be pleased knowing she inspired me to write it.
Sounds like a beautiful book with a sad inspiration, but one that will bring comfort and joy to many, I’m sure. As I read Debra’s responses to your questions, I couldn’t help but feel the excitement of her journey. It’s contagious.
Hi, Norah. Thank you for this lovely comment.
She conveyed that beautifully, didn’t she, Norah? It’s almost like she’s a writer! 🤣 But I agree – her excitement and enthusiasm were palpable and it’s great to see such a genuine response.
That is funny, Susanna. Thanks for the smile.
Congratulations, Debra! A three book deal sounds wonderful! I’m predicting many happy memories for you.
Thank you, Wendy. I hope your prediction comes true.
A three book deal is amazing, Wendy, isn’t it? I would take that! 😊
Great interview, congratulations on your first traditionally published book (and 2 more in the works-amazing!)!! Thank you for sharing your journey, Debra!
So glad you enjoyed the interview, Andi!
What a beautiful book! This comes from your heart and it shows.
Congratulations and best wishes!
Thank you so much!
You are very welcome :)!
So many of the best stories do, Phyllis!
Congratulations, Debra! And thanks for sharing your inspirational journey.
Thank you, Rose.
So glad you enjoyed it, Rose!
Congrats Debra! I totally agree with you about critique partners. They elevate your writing to the next level. Thanks for sharing your journey.
Thanks, Deb. I owe a huge debt to my critique partners. They’re the best!
So true! What would we do without our CPs?!
Congrats, Debra! So happy for you!
Oh, Debra! What a wonderfully inspiring road to publication you’ve had. You followed your heart and stayed committed to your voice through the whole process. I applaud you and your “grit,” which I like instead of perseverance. LOL
Thank you for sharing how much hard work there is in becoming a good storyteller as well as the continued struggle to keep believing in ourselves. I look forward to reading my own copy of The Memory Jar. Sending you inspiration and energy for your continued success…
Susanna, You always find the jewels among the hundreds of published picture books. Thank you!
Thank you, Marshaelyn. Your words touched my heart.
I’m so glad you enjoyed all that Debra had to share, Marsha! And thank you for your kind words!
Congrats Debra! This story sounds very moving, and I’m happy that you have such a supportive critique group – they really are the best!
Thank you, Laura. And you’re right, my critique group is the best! I’m the writer I am today because of what I learned from them.
Congratulations, Debra! Your story strikes home. My dear grandmother had dementia. Critique partners are the best. I look forward to reading your book.
Thank you. I’m sorry about your grandmother. I know how hard that must have been for you and your family.
Thank you, Debra. It’s heartbreaking. Sending you hugs.
So sorry about your grandmother, Charlotte ❤️ It’s so hard to watch someone we love lose their sense of who they are and their connection with the people they’ve loved fade. I think this is a book that a lot of people will relate to.
Thank you Susanna. It’s a heartbreaking experience for the family to watch a loved one disappear. I’m appreciative that there will be a book for young and old to read.
Great interview! Loved hearing about your journey to publication. Definitely looking forward to seeing this book.
So glad you enjoyed Debra’s interview, Marie!
Thank you so much, Marie!
Congratulations Debra! Your story is so beautiful/moving. Wishing you all the best.
Thank you, Laura.
The best stories come from the heart, I think!
That’s wonderful, Debra! Congratulations! I loved reading about your journey to publication and I look forward to reading your new book! Yay!
Thank you, Angie. I’m glad you enjoyed Susanna’s interview.
So glad you enjoyed Debra’s interview, Angie!
Congrats, Debra! What a lovely way to honor your aunt and to give comfort to those dealing with similar circumstances.
Thank you, Marty.
It really is, Marty. It’s wonderful to be able to do both.
Hurrah Debra! I loved reading this blog post. You have earned this. Congratulations on your book birthday in April!
Thanks, Louann. I appreciate your support and encouragement. I’m also glad you’re one of my critique partners. You’ve helped to make me a better writer.
I feel lucky to have YOU as a critique partner!
Thanks for stopping by to cheer on your CP, Louann! 😊
Oops, I hit the button too soon! Congratulations, Debra! I’m so looking forward to reading The Memory Jar. Thank you for sharing your journey so far!
Thank you, Sarah.
You do a GREAT interview, Debra! This was such an easy read. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. It looks simply beautiful. Congratulations!❤️
Thank you, CJ. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. It helped that Susanna asked some great questions.
Debra’s interview really was a great read, wasn’t it, CJ? So natural and genuine!
Adhering to your vision and your voice must be so hard to do, especially when aiming for publication, well done!
Thank you so much, Patti. I just wrote from the heart and words came. I can’t say that all the stories I write are that easy.
So true, Patti, but Debra seems to have nailed it!