It’s Tuesday Debut time again, and wow have we got a doozy!
Before we get to today’s dairy delightful debutess, I am so happy to announce the winner of last week’s giveaway of Aimee Isaac’s gorgeous new picture book, THE PLANET WE CALL HOME.
And the winner is. . .
Woohoo! Congratulations, Angie! You’re going to love the book! Please email me so I can hook you up with your prize!
Now. Everybody hold your noses! We’re diving into today’s Tuesday Debut, PEW! THE STINKY AND LEGEN-DAIRY GIFT FROM COLONEL THOMAS S. MEACHAM, written by the cheese-loving Cathy Ogren!
Title: PEW! The Stinky and Legen-Dairy Gift from Colonel Thomas S. Meacham
Author: Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Illustrator: Lesley Breen
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Date Published: March 15, 2023
In 1835, Colonel Thomas S. Meacham presented the president of the United States with a colossal gift – a 1,400-pound wheel of cheese. The cheese sat in the White House for over a year. The heat and humidity of the Washington D.C. summer caused the cheese to stink. Learn how the president got rid of the hunk of odiferous cheese in this slice of American history.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Cathy! Thank you so much for joining us today! Where did the idea for this book come from?
CATHY: If you keep your eyes and ears open, ideas are everywhere. I overheard the word “cheese” mentioned on a program my husband was watching. Cheese happens to be one of my favorite foods. In seconds, I was by my husband’s side watching the history channel. I learned about a 1400-pound cheese that was presented to the president of the United States. My first thought was, Who does that? My curiosity was piqued. After checking to see if anyone had written a picture book about this cheesy tale and finding none, I began my research.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
CATHY: In 2019, with a bit of research behind me, I began writing a fictional picture book about a mouse who was a tour guide at the White House, sharing the story of the enor-mouse cheese gifted to the president. With the help of my fabulous critique partners, revisions took place. As it turned out, the mouse as a narrator didn’t work. In 2020, I changed my approach and began writing a nonfiction telling of the smelly event. More research was needed. With COVID lockdowns in place, I relied on the internet, and I contacted historical societies in New York where the cheese was made. The historical societies were very helpful. When I had all the information I needed, I began writing.
My first draft had lots of historical facts, but no pizazz. I began again. This time I concentrated on the cheese – how it was made, how it traveled to the White House, and what happened to it after it got there. I called it The Big Stink. It was better, but I felt it still needed something more. Are you familiar with the saying, “Kill your darlings?” That’s what I did. I tighten the manuscript, removing unnecessary words and phrases. I also sprinkled in humor and some cheesy wordplay while keeping historical facts accurate. More revisions followed until my critique partners agreed it was ready. I continued to look it over and make little changes until I was satisfied there was nothing more I could do.
EAT CHEESE! Cathy’s work space 😊
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
CATHY: I’d like to share a bit of background here. It wasn’t until I retired from my teaching career and became a full-time writer that I was able to put forth my best effort into writing. In 2018, I entered Vivian Kirkfield’s #50PresciousWords Writing Contest. I won first place. It was from that contest that I signed a contract with my agent. In 2021, after more revisions with my agent, my nonfiction picture book manuscript went out on submission. There were more rejections, but not long after those came in, my agent informed me that an editor was taking my book to acquisitions. Woo-hoo! Ultimately, it was rejected. Boo-hoo! I was disheartened but also encouraged by the editor’s note that said, “Cathy is a real talent and would love to receive more submissions from her.” Now that’s what I call a champagne rejection!
SUSANNA: If you’re going to get a rejection, that is the kind you want to get! 😊 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”?
CATHY: Using comments from the rejected manuscript, I revised it – again. My agent sent it out – again. A few months after my rejection, my agent informed me another editor loved it and was taking it to acquisitions. I kept my fingers and toes crossed. Then, on August 9, 2021, I got “the call” from my agent that my manuscript was accepted. I cried happy tears. On November 18, 2021, I signed my contract. That champagne rejection turned into a champagne celebration!
SUSANNA: Woo hoo! 🎉 Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
CATHY: My editor and I had an initial phone call. She immediately put me at ease, and we had a wonderful conversation about the book. I totally agreed with her vision. My first task was to come up with new title suggestions. The original title was similar to a nonfiction picture book that had just been released. There were no significant changes to the manuscript, but there were several rounds of text edits along with illustration edits.
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
CATHY: The editorial and illustration processes were closely connected. Before doing any text edits, my editor sent me a digital file of rough sketches from Lesley Breen, the illustrator. She is very talented, and I was impressed with what I saw. For the sake of historical accuracy, I added several art notes to the manuscript. The back matter included descriptions in “More to the Story.” After we agreed on what the illustrations would look like, I received editing notes. While I worked on editing, Lesley worked on the illustrations. I was sent another digital file of illustrations to review. Some changes needed to be made which Lesley did to perfection. I was pleased that both my editor and Lesley respected my requests for changes. It was a team effort. Below is an example of a before and after. Notice the edited text and the illustration of the horses. People and buildings were removed to better illustrate Sandy Creek, NY which was a small community.
Text copyright Cathy Stefanec Ogren, 2023, Illustration copyright, Lesley Breen, 2023, Sleeping Bear Press
Text copyright Cathy Stefanec Ogren, 2023, Illustration copyright, Lesley Breen, 2023, Sleeping Bear Press
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
CATHY: I saw reviews from Booklist and Kirkus. Writers always dream of starred reviews, but it’s always good to see something positive said about your book. Below are excerpts from the reviews.
“The appealing story is both a crash course in cheese making and an entertaining historical account, with lively illustrations wonderfully conveying the action and the hilarity of the developing odor. An entertaining ode to a funny footnote in American history.” —Booklist
“This narrative competently imparts the facts and relays the basics of cheesemaking. A slice of history, accurately presented.” —Kirkus
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
CATHY: I received the offer on August 9, 2021, and had the book in my hands on January 27, 2023. One year and five months.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
CATHY: Sleeping Bear Press has promoted my book on social media. Marketing is in the process of arranging book signings and school visits. Now that my book has been released, there is more to come.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
CATHY: I have a list of what other authors have done. Before I knew what the marketing department would do, I began arranging a blog tour six months before my book came out. Every blogger I contacted was incredibly supportive. (A special thank you, Susanna.) I also arranged for book signings, story times, and interviews on podcasts. Along with that, I made bookmarks and color pages, and I have swag for book signings. As the release date of my book got closer, I started posting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, encouraging people to pre-order my book. I’m also in the process of creating activities that link to a STEM curriculum. Promotion is time-consuming, but I’ve met and talked with many wonderful people who are willing to help.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
CATHY: In 2015 after retiring, I became a full-time writer. In 2021, I sold my first picture book.
SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication?
CATHY: If your passion is writing and your dream is to be published, do everything you can do to master your craft. Study. Read. Learn. There are many ups and downs in the publishing industry, but if you love what you do, believe in yourself and never give up.
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
CATHY: Working with my critique partners, agent, editor, illustrator, and the team at Sleeping Bear Press has been a very positive experience. I’m proud of the “stinky and legen-dairy” book that’s now out in the world.
Since I signed my contract with Sleeping Bear Press, they offered me a new contract for a fiction picture book, LITTLE RED CHAIR that will be released in the fall of 2024.
SUSANNA: Wonderful! We will all look forward to that! Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Cathy. We so appreciate the opportunity to learn from you, and wish you all the best with this and future titles!
CATHY: Thank you, Susanna, for giving me the opportunity to share my writing journey with you and other writers. It has been a pleasure.
Author Cathy Ogren
Readers, if you have questions for Cathy, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Cathy’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!
34 thoughts on “Tuesday Debut – Presenting Cathy Ogren!”
Really enjoyed the back story to writing and publishing your first picture book.What I plan to do now is first: find out which president received the stinky cheese, second, I will purchase your book to add to my children’s lit library, third, I will read it to my almost 4 year old grandson. It sounds like a cute and informative book.
Sounds like a plan, Dianne! Have fun!
Thanks for being so enthusiastic about PEW! I hope you and your grandson enjoy!
What a fun snippet of history to write a picture book about. I love the title too with the play on words. Congratulations, Cathy.
Isn’t it terrific, Norah? There are so many amazing, little-known topics that are just begging to have picture books written about them!
Thank you so much, Norah!
Indeed. I’ll have to try to dig up some of that gold for myself. 😉😊
Cathy, your book would be an interesting part of any grocery cheese department as a combo sale. So think big when you get to promote your book. Maybe there is a Wegmans near you who would instruct you on how to promote the book when they have the cheese wheel cutting or just as an add-on for their Old World Cheese Department. Wegmans is privately owned with 120+ store locations. The main headquarters is here in Rochester NY. They have their own cheese cave in the finger lakes region where they develop their own cave-aged cheeses plus they obtain cheeses from around the world for their stores. Let me know if you have interest, I can find info for you on who to talk to if there is not one in your area (mainly east coast NY, PA, VA, NJ, NYC).
What a great idea, Bru! And I think you’ve just given Cathy an idea for her next book. Cheese cave? Let’s explore! 😊
Wow, Bru! What a great idea! I’d love to hear more about who I can talk to about this. We don’t have a Wegmans in our area, but I’ve been to one and loved it. I also like Susanna’s idea for a new book!
I loved hearing how the story changed over time and that you did not give up on it, Cathy. Like you, I’m a former educator and began my writing career in 2014 after I retired! Love your new title -it lets readers know it will be punny and funny. Congrats.
It’s a great title, isn’t it, Kathy? I think it will really make kids want to find out what’s inside!
Thanks, Kathy! I wish you continued success in your writing career.
I call all my friends named “K/Cathy” “Special Ks”! LOL. I have a WFH book coming out this fall but still awaiting a traditional published title or an agent. Happy for you!
Yes, Susanna! Titles can be a hook. I learned this from Ariel Richardson and Melissa Manlove who teach a class for Storyteller Academy called “Submission Ready.” They gave us an exercise to come up with 50 titles for an ms. Hard, but very insightful!
This is SUPER interesting! What a neat idea for a NF PB. Can’t wait to see it! And the illos are beautiful. ❤️🧀🎩
So glad you enjoyed the glimpse of PEW, CJ! 😊
Thank you, CJ! I agree with you about the illustrations. Lesley Breen did a fabulous job with the illustrations. I hope you enjoy the book!
Love your persistence and unique hooks Cathy – congrats!
So right, Cathy! This whole business is about persistence 😊 and yes, so many great hooks!
Thank you so much, Cathy! And yes, it did take a bit of persistence.
I’m right there with you, Cathy! CHEESE! Your book sounds delicious. Congrats!
Thank you, Susanna, for THE PLANET WE CALL HOME! Yay!
I hope you get to read it soon, Angie! And you’re very welcome, although it’s really Aimee who was so generous! 😊
Cheese, glorious cheese!! Thanks, Angie. PEW! is a great way to take a bite out of history!
And a BIG thank you to Aimee as well! I should have added that to my first comment. I’d like to blame “it’s Monday,” but it’s really Tuesday. 🙂
Susanna, I love your introduction to this post! So clever and perfect. Thank you so much for allowing me to be interviewed by you on your fantastic blog. My best to you!
What a fun story idea! Congratulations Cathy! (Love the title!)
Thanks, Laura! I hope you like the book as much as you like the title!
Congratulations, Cathy! I can’t wait to sit down with some Cheese and crackers and enjoy PEW! I ‘ll send a copy to our two granddaughters as well! Thanks for sharing your journey and the reminder to continue to develop our craft!( I’m learning so much from a class I am currently taking 🙂 🙂
Those cheese and crackers will go well as you take a bit out of PEW! I hope your granddaughters enjoy the book. I know mine do. Best of luck with your writing and classes. 🙂
Congratulations, Cathy! I am looking forward to reading this book with my cheese-loving little ones. Thanks for sharing your author’s journey so far.
Thank you, Sarah! I hope your little ones enjoy this slice of cheesy history!
Congrats Cathy! Being from Wisconsin I am a cheese lover through and through. I can hardly wait to read your book! Thank you for sharing your journey.
Thank you, Deb! There’s nothing like a good slice of cheese and a picture book about cheese! I hope you enjoy the book. 🙂