It’s time for another thrilling installment of Tuesday Debuts!
Are you ready to meet today’s talented debut-ess?
Please join me in welcoming the wonderful Wendy Greenley as we celebrate her inauguration into the Published Picture Book Author’s Club and get a glimpse of her beautiful book!
Title: Lola Shapes the Sky
Author: Wendy Greenley (!)
Illustrator: Paolo Domeniconi
Publisher: Creative Editions
Date of Publication: March 12, 2019
Fiction with Nonfiction backmatter
Age range: For ages 3-8 (Amazon says 4-8)
Synopsis:There’s a new playful, artistic cloud in the sky. Unfortunately, one loud bossy cloud wants Lola to focus on making weather. LOLA SHAPES THE SKY embraces every child’s magical experience of imagining whimsical shapes in the clouds with humor and a timeless theme of supporting what makes us each unique.
SUSANNA: Where did the idea for this book come from?
WENDY: I came up with the initial idea for this book during Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (now known as Storystorm). I was brainstorming with my husband and son when Lola’s character was born. Talking out loud and bouncing ideas off other people helps me see ideas more clearly. However, while the character stayed with me, the initial plot bears no resemblance to the final product!
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
WENDY: This manuscript was a labor of love—with heavy emphasis on the labor. Initially, I wanted to turn cloud-watching on its head, with clouds people-watching and it took a workshop with multiple Caldecott-winning artists to convince me otherwise. Your picture book manuscript has to be illustratable after all! After working on it for two years, I put the manuscript in a drawer and didn’t work on it for another full year. During that time, I was able to see how to keep what was important in the manuscript, AND make it illustratable.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
WENDY: Oh, so many revisions! My final revision was a complete re-envisioning. I completely changed the plot and tone and let go of a slew of sky/cloud jokes that made me laugh (Lola precipitating from embarrassment was a favorite!). Maybe someday some of the material will belong to another story.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
WENDY: The best way I know if my manuscript is submission ready is to get fresh eyes on it. Honest critique partners who will tell you when something is good, and when something is awful, are essential!! I work on a manuscript as long as I can, letting it sit for a week or two after I think it’s done if I can control my impatience. Because it usually isn’t done, and time gives me the necessary distance to evaluate it more dispassionately. As a new writer I didn’t know anything about SCBWI, critique partners, or online classes and webinars. I was about a year into the process when I discovered these valuable resources. The kidlit community is generous!
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit? When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever! 🙂 )
WENDY: I submitted my initial manuscript to Karen Grencik at Red Fox Literary, LLC. And it was rejected. Two years later, I resubmitted the manuscript, acknowledging the earlier submission and the virtually complete rewrite, and this time it was a yes. That’s correct—I resubmitted the same manuscript to an agent that had rejected it. It was essentially a new manuscript, and I thought Karen might be a good fit so I took the leap of faith and it worked out. Karen submitted my manuscript to five publishers, one of which was Creative Editions. It was several months before we received the reply expressing interest, and then another six months before we received a contract, then another four months before I received the final countersigned contract. Publishing is a lesson in patience.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
WENDY: Telling my critique partners the good news was the best moment. They’ve supported me and my work and it felt like the sale was theirs too! I seriously can’t think of anything that has helped me along my journey more than the great writing friends I’ve made.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
WENDY: Creative Editions is a small independent publisher located in Mankato, MN. The house originally focused on books for the school market, and had just begun their trade imprint a year or two before we submitted to them. I received a traditional royalty paying contract and advance in line with the numbers reported in Hannah Holt’s extensive survey. (if you’re writing for kiddos and haven’t seen Hannah’s research—go here! https://hannahholt.com/blog/2017/9/25/writing-picture-books-a-look-at-the-number-part-2) I also received fifteen author copies. Two things I didn’t expect was that this publisher doesn’t allow book dedications, and how long it would be from the time the contract was signed (June 2016) until publication—almost three years!
SUSANNA: What can you tell us about the editorial process?
WENDY: My editor is the talented Amy Novesky, who is also the author of the gorgeous picture book, Cloth Lullaby. Amy and I went back and forth on several changes, but none of them significantly changed the story. Amy’s vision was in line with mine! The sales and marketing team asked for a list of possible titles—and ended up choosing my original.
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
WENDY: I didn’t see any of the illustrations until the proof stage. I had seen Paolo’s dreamy style on his website (www.domeniconi.it), but still wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to see how Paolo’s art interpreted my words. I didn’t include an art note, so the biggest surprise was the spread where Lola shapes “a pillowy billowy masterpiece.” Because Paolo lives in Bologna, Italy, he illustrated my words with a cloud Mona Lisa! So fun!
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
WENDY: Kirkus reviewed Lola Shapes the Sky at the end of January. It was thrilling! Until then, it hadn’t felt real in the sense that other people I didn’t know and might never meet could read my book. And I was relieved that the Kirkus reviewer liked it!
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion have you and/or your publisher done for this book?
WENDY: My publisher told me that they’re sending our book to book reviewers and bloggers, but I didn’t get a specific list so it’s a wee bit confusing. I know I’m late to the party—it’s already February as I’m writing this and I haven’t set up an extensive blog tour (thank you, Susanna for being my kickoff!!). Look for me on my Red Fox agency mate Lynne Marie’s blog The Word Playground sometime soon. The balance between family, writing and marketing time is a tricky one. I shared LOLA in my first school SKYPE read alouds in February for WRAD.
My official book launch will be March 23 from 11-2 at the Barnes and Noble in Montgomeryville, PA (stop by and say hi if you’re in the area!). The launch starts with a reading for the children’s story hour and finishes with time for book signings/meet & greet. I’m also scheduled for the NJ nErD Camp in May and the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival in June. Let me know if there’s somewhere you’d like me to visit! I’ve guest lectured to the creative writing classes at my local community college too, so I enjoy all ages.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
WENDY: I started writing stories for Chicken Soup for the Soul in the early 2000’s. After I sold six stories, I realized that I didn’t want to just write nonfiction (which is what Chicken Soup stories are). The computer that I was using 2004-2012 crashed, and nothing was recovered. So I know I started writing picture books sometime in that period, but no idea of an actual date! My online picture book critique buddies and I found each other five years ago.
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
WENDY: Keep writing!! This business is a combination of craft, marketing savvy, perseverance and luck. You can work on your craft, marketing savvy and persevere, but you can’t control the luck. Sometimes you work on a manuscript for two years and then just as you’re ready to submit a “big” name announces a project that could be the twin of yours. Remember that the heart of your story is yours alone. Get warm fuzzies from your writing friends then rewrite. Repeat.
You don’t need loads of space or fancy equipment. I’m including a shot of my sad little 34 inches of office space. There is a two drawer file cabinet tucked into another corner across the room. This is probably why there are papers strewn willy-nilly around our house . . .
SUSANNA: Wendy, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! I know I speak for all of us when I say how grateful we are for the wisdom and experience you shared today, and we wish you the very best success with your lovely book!
Readers, if you have questions for Wendy, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Wendy’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
– 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!