Tuesday Debut – Presenting Candice Marley Conner!

Nothing is better than a good Tuesday Debut except. . .when you get to announce the winner of a PB MS critique offered by the last Tuesday Debut!

The randomly chosen lucky winner of a PB MS critique from Christine Van Zandt is MDK45!

MDK45, come on down! (You’ll have to contact me, I think because I don’t have contact info for you! 😊)

Now! Onto today’s Tuesday Debut where we get to meet the lovely and talented Candice Marley Conner, hear about her journey, even get to see some of the original notes she wrote in her journal which were the first seeds of her debut picture book, SASSAFRAS AND HER TEENY TINY TAIL! (How can you not love a squirrel named Sassafras?!)

Ready?

Let’s go!

SASSAFRAS AND HER TEENY TINY TAIL
written by Candice Marley Conner
Illustrated by Heath Gray
MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing
June 8, 2021
fiction, 4-8

With her scraggly, bristly tail, Sassafras is teased right off her tree branch. But when danger strikes, what makes her different might just help her save the day.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Candice! Thank you so much for joining us today! We are excited to hear all about how SASSAFRAS came to be! Where did the idea for this book come from?

CANDICE: The idea for this book came from a stroller-ride and a neighborhood squirrel. My one-year-old (now ten) was teething, I was writing my first young adult novel, and we both desperately needed to get out of the house. I’ve learned that anytime I hit a writing block, or my kiddos start whining, that fresh air is best at fixing what ails us. On our walk, we saw a squirrel in a neighbor’s yard that had the scrawniest, stubbiest tail I had ever seen. Immediately, the brainstorms began: squirrels use their long tails for balance, so could this one leap from limb to limb? Squirrel tails signal danger, etc, so did this one have a hard time communicating? And on the other side of the coin, what advantages could this squirrel have by being different? By the time we returned home, Sassafras’s story was ready to be put down on paper.

Candice’s work buddies – her son playing with the squirrels
in the square across from their local independent bookstore,
The Haunted Bookshop

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

CANDICE: The initial draft wrote itself in my head, then all I had to do was get it written down in my journal before the idea-spark disappeared. The problem I ran into was that I’d never written a picture book manuscript before. I was writing YA and had written poetry, short stories, and what I thought was middle grade (spoiler: it was not, lol) in college. I had a LOT to learn about concise writing and page turns and everything that makes picture books re-readable. Even character names! Initial drafts had cutesy alliterative names like Sam and Sally for the side character squirrels, though those quickly changed when I realized my kiddo audience would expect better 😊 (disclaimer: alliteration is my fave).

Candice’s writing journal showing original notes for SASSAFRAS! Wow! How cool is that?

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

CANDICE: The main idea stayed the same but it went through a lot of tightening. I love alliteration and word play so every picture book I read to my daughter showed me how to do this by example. Then I learned about making book dummies through SCBWI and that helped me with tension and page turns.

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

CANDICE: I did make the mistake of submitting too early before I learned everything I needed to. Such as show versus tell. Children’s author, Ariel Bernstein, offered a picture book manuscript review to pre-published authors on twitter, and while I didn’t win, she graciously gave me great tips on how to show and cut the tell. So I kinda did win in that regard since my next query resulted in a yes 😊

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

CANDICE: I submitted directly to publishing houses and received form rejections. Probably because I hadn’t learned everything I needed to yet. I didn’t have the writing community I do now and that makes such a difference. In the meantime, I had finished the YA mentioned earlier and signed that with an agent. She mainly represents YA and adult so when I stumbled across MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing on Facebook and connected with one of their authors who had a great experience with them, I asked her if I could submit and she gave me the go-ahead to query.

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”?

CANDICE: MCP is a small publishing house so it didn’t go to acquisitions. I submitted my manuscript and cover letter August 3rd, 2017 and by that afternoon the editor responded to make sure I knew it was royalty-based.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?

CANDICE: Yes, it was an email about three weeks later which I was grateful for as phone calls make me nervous, haha! (< that was nervous laughter just thinking about a phone call)

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

CANDICE: She sent the offer a couple days before the contract. I have awesome critique partners who were already published so they helped me look over the contract and I signed it on September 1st, 2017.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract? 

CANDICE: Lots of spontaneous dancing with the kiddos, wine cheers-ing with the hubs, exclamation points in that day’s journal entry, and a blog post I had been eagerly waiting to write for five years. My parents sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers to celebrate.

SUSANNA: So nice! 😊 Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

CANDICE: Yes, MCP was very upfront that since they’re a small house, the contract would be royalty only. A couple of my critique partners had told me stories about authors not able to pay out their advances so I was okay with it. Especially since my royalty percentages were higher—25% on both hard cover and paperback. I also receive two hard cover and two soft cover author copies. I did have to re-sign a contract last year as originally the contract was for one book printed traditionally, and another in dyslexie font which makes the books more accessible to dyslexic readers (both kiddo and their adult readers), and due to COVID making things so hard on everyone, MCP decided to focus solely on dyslexie font. That was fine with me because printing in dyslexie was a main draw to this company. The only thing that wasn’t expected was the publishing timeline. SASSAFRAS was originally set to come out in 2019. Such is life and publishing!

SUSANNA: That is so interesting! Completely by chance, the week before last our debut – Michelle Vattula – was also published by MacLaren-Cochrane, and also had her book printed in dyslexie. You two are the first to have mentioned that in your debuts! Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?

CANDICE: The editor was happy with my vision so nothing changed there and then small changes (i.e. grammar, word choices, etc) once I received my pass pages.

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

CANDICE: I was able to see character sketches and my opinion was valued as I was able to choose which sketch went with which character. Early sketches showed the squirrels with what I thought was a crazed look in their eyes (lol) and the art director was very good at relaying my concerns to the illustrator. 

I didn’t include any art notes in my manuscript though I did include page breaks, which some publishers don’t like but MCP prefers, thank goodness 😊

interior spread pp. 12-13 of SASSAFRAS – text copyright Candice Marley Conner 2021,
illustration copyright Heath Gray 2021, MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?

CANDICE: No, though I didn’t expect to with a small publisher.

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

CANDICE: I signed on September 1st, 2017 and held (hugged) my first copy May 29th, 2021! MCP is print-on-demand, so I ordered copies and my local indie bookstore ordered too, based on how many preorders have come through so far.

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

CANDICE: MCP listed my book on Bookshop, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. They maintain a website and social media where they post about their authors, illustrators, and books. They’re also good at sharing their author and illustrator’s posts on Facebook.

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

CANDICE: I was a member of the debut group #NewIn19 and while I obviously didn’t debut with them, I learned SO MUCH about marketing/promotion. And many have offered to review SASSAFRAS which is incredibly kind since it’s two years later.

I set up a preorder campaign through my local indie for signed copies, and plan on doing a book signing, then story time in a nearby park so we can all social distance and be in the open air. Also, there are tons of squirrels which is perfect for my book and my squirrel-loving seven year-old. I also had stickers made (I used StickerMule—great quality) to give out then and a coloring sheet downloadable on my website. I’d love to do stuff with Girl Scouts too since my daughter is in Girl Scouts so figuring out how to get fun patches made is next on my list of things to do 😊

I adore fun facts so I also did a social media-wide #SevenTilSassafras marketing plan where I shared a squirrely fun fact a day the week before SASSAFRAS debuted. The teachers commenting on the posts about sharing the facts with their students TOTALLY made my day.

KidLit411 has a great resource on their Facebook page where bloggers who are open to interviews can post their contact information (including this one! 😊 You rock, Susanna) so I was able to jump on some calendars to share SASSAFRAS and my YA (which actually debuts TODAY!)

SUSANNA: Oh wow! How exciting! Better get a quick plug in for that too, as long as you’re here 😊 (THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL (Owl Hollow Press, June 15, 2021)) ) How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

CANDICE: I’ve been writing my entire life but I really got serious in 2011 when I became a stay-at-home mom. So, six years to sell, ten years to have book-in-hand!

SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication?

CANDICE: I learned that the time in the trenches (whether it’s query or submission) is so incredibly valuable. I used that time to build my writing community, to accept help and advice from other authors, then pay it forward anyway I can by mentoring young writers, volunteering with SCBWI and twitter contests, and supporting the author-friends I’m meeting along the way. It’s important mentally to have people in the same writing-boat you’re in. So embrace that trench-time, up and coming writers!

SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?

CANDICE: SASSAFRAS has been out for one week today! Woohoo!

SUSANNA: Woohoo indeed! 😊 Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

CANDICE: A former boss of mine is big into motivational plaques and he gave me one many years ago that I keep on the bookshelf in my office. It’s a quote from Moliere that reads: “Perseverance: the greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” And right next to it is a post-it note with a quote from Jess Keating: “The obstacles ARE the path.” Those two quotes help get me in the right frame of mind on the tough days 😊

Candice’s work space with motivational quotes

CANDICE: Thank you so much for having me and Sassafras, Susanna!

SUSANNA: Thank YOU so much for taking the time to share your experience and expertise with us, Candice! We all really appreciate it and wish you the very best with this and future titles!!!

Author Candice Marley Conner

candicemarleyconner.com
http://www.instagram.com/Candice_marleyconner
http://www.twitter.com/Candice_marleyc
http://www.facebook.com/cmarleyconnerauthor

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

You may purchase Candice’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
The Haunted Bookshop (signed copies available!)
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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)

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Christine Van Zandt!

Tuesday Debut is always fun, but today it’s even more fun than usual!

First, we have a humorous nonfiction book to enjoy!

Second, our Tuesday Debut-ess, in addition to being an author, is a freelance editor, and she’s offering a PB manuscript critique (one book, 1,000 words or fewer, text only) to one lucky person! All you need to do to qualify is leave a comment on this post between now and Sunday June 13 at 5PM Eastern and your name will be tossed in the hat for a chance. One random winner will be drawn and announced next week! If you’d also like to share this post link on social media, that would be lovely 😊

But now, without further ado, allow me to introduce the lovely and talented Christine Van Zandt and her debut picture book, A BRIEF HISTORY OF UNDERPANTS!

A Brief History of Underpants
written by Christine Van Zandt
illustrated by Harry Briggs
becker&mayer! kids
June 1, 2021
Funny nonfiction picture book with STEM
For ages 4-8

From bloomers to boxers, everyone wears underwear! One part humor, one part history, A Brief History of Underpants explores the evolution of fashion’s most unmentionable garment.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Christine! Thank you so much for joining us today. We can’t wait to hear about where the idea for this book came from!

CHRISTINE: My (then) third-grade daughter came up with the topic after I volunteered at her elementary school’s week-long Book Fair in 2018. Nonfiction books were prominently featured, yet kids resisted the awesome titles, complaining that nonfiction was boring. I set out to prove them wrong!

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

CHRISTINE: I loved my daughter’s suggestion and looked into whether similar books had been published. Finding that my ideas were different enough, I began researching the history of underwear, taking lots of notes, trying to figure out how to pull that info into something enjoyable for kids.

Next, I typed up first draft in a 32-page layout. The structure with pagination helped me analyze whether my text could work with art (for example, if I’d left enough room for the illustrator, or if maybe there was not enough to draw). Writing in two-page spreads placed focus on each scene and the subsequent page turn. This process works well for me whether writing nonfiction or fiction. I’ll gladly share my template, just email me.

I’m in several critique groups and kept workshopping then revising, trying to find funny ways to bring a bunch of facts together in an interesting manner. I knew I was ready to start querying once my groups gave it a thumbs-up and when my manuscript represented what I’d set out to accomplish.

It took 235 days from the first draft until I connected with a publisher via #PitMad (a Twitter pitch event). This is very fast and I was lucky that someone who was looking for a book like this found me. Since I worked directly with the publisher, this book was published unagented.

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

CHRISTINE: Quarto decided to expand the book to 48 pages during the early months of the pandemic when libraries and bookstores were closed so I bought reference books—a lot of reference books. And hunted down underwear facts from every continent, back to the beginning of fossilized undies. I thought I’d have a hard time finding a fact from Antarctica, but that ended up being one of the funniest ones. I think the reason underwear is called “unmentionables” is because it’s not mentioned in reference books!

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

CHRISTINE: I was thrilled Harry Briggs was chosen to illustrate the book; his style suited the book well. The publisher worked with me throughout the process, showing me the early sketches through to the final drafts.

text copyright Christine Van Zandt 2021, illustration copyright Harry Briggs 2021, becker&mayer! kids

Today’s tech world makes it easy to share things. Since the many styles of underwear had specific ways they looked in real life, I linked the publisher and illustrator to artifacts, reconstructions, and such.

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

CHRISTINE: The publisher sent the reviews to me. I was curious to know how the book would be received so I read them immediately and, thankfully, reviewers are finding it funny and educational.

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

CHRISTINE: It took about seven months—which I know is lightning-speed in the publishing industry!

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

CHRISTINE: The publisher secured some fabulous opportunities for me including being featured in their April educator newsletter and in a podcast. I also have a column coming up in Shelf Awareness which has a readership of ~500k!

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

CHRISTINE: I’ve been boosting the book myself too. It’s amazing how much time and money you can put into this aspect. Joining up with other authors has been beneficial. I belong to 21 for the Books (we’re all debut picture book authors) and to STEAM Team Books (a mix of experienced authors and some newbies like me) [LINKS https://oneforthebooks.wixsite.com/2021/authors and http://www.steamteambooks.com/].

These groups provide a place to ask questions, swap information, and vent when needed. The pandemic changed things a lot. How do we sign books remotely? What’s the best way to film virtual author events? There’s a lot to learn beyond “just” writing and selling a book!

I’ve had bookmarks and stickers designed and printed, as well as material for the classrooms such as a word search and “Beyond the Book” questions. Promotional materials are a way to engage elementary students or get the word out about your book.

I purchased copies of my book and am donating them to elementary schools so if you’re a teacher for kids age 4-8, please reach out to me!

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?)

CHRISTINE: Regularly participate in one or more critique groups. Attend workshops or conferences to learn and work on your craft. Read, read, read, then write, write, write.

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Christine! We so appreciate the opportunity to learn from your experience, and your very generous offer of a critique!, and wish you the very best of luck with this and future titles!

Author Christine Van Zandt

Christine Van Zandt hasn’t found fossilized underwear, but loves digging up ideas that make great books for kids.

She’s a literary editor and lives in Los Angeles, California, with her family and a monarch butterfly sanctuary. Visit her online at christinevanzandt.com.

CONTACT INFO

Website
Twitter
LinkedIn
Facebook
Instagram

Readers, if you have questions for Christine, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond! Remember, one lucky commenter will win a PB manuscript critique!

You may purchase Christine’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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 (dyslexia-friendly font)

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Michelle Vattula!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut, Everyone!

Today our debut-ess is sharing her road to publication with a book that is perfect for summer!

If you’ve ever spent time at the beach, you’ve undoubtedly had a face-off with a seagull over some item in your picnic! We once had a seagull carry off a whole bag of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Nantucket 😊

Please join me in welcoming Michelle Vattula as we find out all about how she got published!

The Stalking Seagulls
written by Michelle Vattula
Illustrated by T.L. Derby
MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing
Release date April 20, 2021
Fiction, ages 3-10

A battle between boy and bird with an outcome neither one anticipates.

SUSANNA: Where did the idea for this book come from?

MICHELLE: When writing, I pull my inspiration primarily from what I know and feel. The Stalking Seagulls was inspired while we were visiting my parents in Florida. We arrived at the beach and when lunch time approached, so did the seagulls. They were quite relentless, but they never got our sandwich. After that experience, the initial idea of a battle between boy and bird came to me. I will tell anyone who wants to be an author, write what you know.

SUSANNA: What makes your book different from other published picture books?

MICHELLE: One very special aspect of my book is that my publisher, MacLaren-Cochrane, publishes them in dyslexie (dyslexic font) which is a typeface that helps enhance the ease of reading for individuals with dyslexia, but can be read by anyone. There is certainly a gap in literacy for children with dyslexia and printing picture books in dyslexie is a step in the right direction.

SUSANNA: That is fascinating! As someone who used to work with dyslexic students, I know how important it is to make reading as accessible as possible, so it’s wonderful to see publishers making this effort. How long did it take you to write this book?

MICHELLE: One of the best things I did for my writing career was to join the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). This organization gave me the want and desire to write. I went to my first SCBWI conference in Pittsburgh and was hooked from that moment on. I began writing The Stalking Seagulls soon after that conference in late 2015, early 2016. The manuscript itself flowed easily. I think my biggest hurdle was that I wanted to “tell” everything. As an inexperienced writer, at the time, I was very wordy and was not allowing for the illustrations to help the story along. That is where my fabulous critique groups, who I met at the SCBWI conference, really helped me. It was completed and out on submission in a year and a half. I have to give a lot of credit to my husband, Sami, who allowed me to sit in front of my computer undisturbed or watched the boys when I would go out for my critique groups. By the time I arrived home the kids would already be in bed. I would then continue writing from the critiques I received that night. Having someone so supportive was truly a game changer for me.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

MICHELLE: Wow, this is a great question. As I stated earlier, I utilize my critique groups, even for the simplest of questions. I had and still have 3 active critique groups, and have had individual CP’s in the past. This particular story went through no less than 50 revisions. Some revisions were small and easy, while others changed the tone and direction of the manuscript.  I would often read it to my kids friends to see where they laughed and what they didn’t understand. If I ever got stuck, I put the manuscript away for a while so I can look at it with fresh eyes down the road.

Michelle’s writing buddies 😊

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

MICHELLE: When I realized that the ending was “perfect” (in my opinion, lol), the rest of the story truly fell into place. Ultimately, I find, when I can find a satisfying ending, the writing becomes easier since I already know where the story is going.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

MICHELLE: At the point of initial submissions, I was querying agents. This process can be so daunting because I researched each agent effectively. I needed to know what they wanted, what they didn’t and the best way to query them. Each agent is different, which certainly makes querying harder. I received a lot of rejections, but I was also receiving some genuine interest as well. Knowing that the interest was there, I decided to submit to publishing companies that would accept unsolicited and/or unagented manuscripts. This too was a long process, mostly due to the research needed to be done on each publishing company. I found MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing, queried my manuscript and received a response after 6 weeks. We set up a phone “interview” and the editor offered me a contract.

During this past year I was lucky enough to connect and sign with a great agent T.J. Kirsch @ JCHLiterary. 

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”? 

MICHELLE: Because I went directly through the publisher, I did not have to wait for yes, they told me right away.

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

MICHELLE: I queried the manuscript in late July and received a contact in early September, so it was about 6 weeks. When I received the email that MCP was interested in the story, I read the email, shut my computer screen, smiled a big goofy smile and ran to tell my husband. It was like I won the lottery.

Michelle’s support and inspiration!

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

MICHELLE: I signed the contract within a week or so of receiving the contract.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?  (If you care to share ☺)

MICHELLE: I believe, after lots of hugs and phone calls/texts to loved ones, we went out to dinner.

SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

MICHELLE: MCP is a small independent publisher which changes some of the process that is usually discussed regarding larger publishing houses. I did not receive an advance on this book, but my royalties are higher than the standard 5%. I get a significant discount when I purchase my book, but do not receive free copies. Overall, the contract was pretty standard and not many changes needed to be made before signing it.

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

MICHELLE: The Stalking Seagulls had gone through so many rounds of revisions prior to receiving a contract, that there was not too much that needed to be changed. I did go back and add more alliteration and some wording changes, but they did not expect much to be changed. 

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

MICHELLE: I was very fortunate to be involved in the illustration process.  My editor provided me with various styles of sketches from different illustrators and I was able to choose the style I felt fit the story the best.  My editor definitely valued my thoughts and opinions regarding the style and continued to send me examples until I found the perfect one. After the initial sketches were done, I did get to see the proofs, via attachments, and I was allowed to give my thoughts regarding the page layouts and details when the book was in its final stages. I am so thankful that I was allowed to be part  of this process since most writers do not see or know the vision the illustrator has taken until the very end.

text copyright Michelle Vattula 2021, illustration copyright T.L. Derby 2021, MacLaran-Cochrane

As for art notes, I did include them in my initial manuscript. I believe that they helped the illustrator see my vision throughout the story. Certain pages/spreads needed a hint as to what I wanted to see. I am an advocate for art notes. Here is an example of one I used.

 “Incoming!” [Art note-Alec feigns throwing this sandwich, then hides his sandwich behind his back.]
(Spread below is the resulting illustration)

text copyright Michelle Vattula 2021, illustration copyright T.L. Derby 2021, MacLaran-Cochrane

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

MICHELLE: The Stalking Seagulls was released on April 20th 2021. I received my first in hand copy April 25th.  MCP is a POD(print on demand), thus when the orders come in, the book is printed. 

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

MICHELLE: My publisher has made sure that my book is accessible on Amazon, Barnes and Noble,
Waterstone and every book retailer online.

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

MICHELLE: I have done all the marketing and promotion for The Stalking Seagulls. I started with making my own website (www.michellevattula.com). Once I was given the ISBN number and release date, I made a sell sheet. I physically went to our local  bookstores and shops in other states to promote my book. I have done a podcast, interviews, blogs and media postings on instagram, twitter and facebook. Promoting your book is a constant, non-stop job. Since the book focuses on seagulls at the beach, I have researched bookstores along the most popular beach destinations and sent them a personal email with my sell sheet in hopes it would spark interest to carry my book in their store. I have contacted my hometown newspaper, The Erie Times, and they wrote a beautiful article on my book (https://amp.goerie.com/amp/5096158001). I have also contacted local schools regarding school visits, whenever those will be allowed again. My next step is to contact aviaries, local and national, to see if I can get my book in their gift shops. I am not the best in marketing plans, so I contacted my local SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). This organization is a free services that help match a retired executive with your small business needs, and for me that was marketing.  I am continuously seeking out interviews, bloggers and reviewers for my book as well. It can be a daunting and never ending job.

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

MICHELLE: I have been writing for over 20 years. I am a licenced Speech-Language Pathologist and practiced for over 15 years in the gereatric population. In 2015 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and my life was put on hold for a year. When I was cleared and ready to go back to work, my heart was telling me something different. I told my husband that I wanted to follow my dream and become a children’s book writer and he told me that’s what I should do. So, I became serious about my writing and immersed myself into the publishing world in 2015. I signed my contract for The Stalking Seagulls 2 years later in 2017. 

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?)

MICHELLE: First, One thing I would tell any new writer, make sure you find a critique group that you feel comfortable with and trust their opinions. Having a critique group or critique partner  is crucial  to help your book in the right direction. Second, write what you know or feel. Lastly, expect a hard road with rejections and critiques you might not like, but cherish the little triumphs, the wonderful people you meet along the way and never give up on your dreams, they will come true with hard work, perseverance and patience.

SUSANNA: What great advice! Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication? 

MICHELLE: The publishing world can be an unexpected one. My book was to be released, initially, in 2019, but was pushed back for a long time (COVID didn’t help) It took almost 3 years to get it released. There were some issues from the illustration aspect. It was frustrating, but certainly worth the wait. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to your agent or editor. This is your book and the last thing you want is to lose sleep because you didn’t ask a question that is important to you. Even though you get a book deal, a release date and you have prepared everything you possibly could have, things still go wrong. My friends went to the local Barnes & Noble to buy my book and when they found it, all the pages were blank. I couldn’t believe it, there was my book on the shelves of B&N and they didn’t have any pictures!!! Thankfully the problem was remedied, but what a way to bring my head out of the clouds.

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to join us and share your experience with us, Michelle! We so appreciate the opportunity to learn from you and wish you all the best with this and future titles!

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

Author Michelle Vattula

www.michellevattula.com
Twitter @Mmvattula
Instagram michelleciampavattula

You may purchase Michelle’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Jennifer Buchet!

Hey there, everyone!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut!

Each week, I really love getting to showcase a brand new author and her/his first-ever picture book. It’s such a huge accomplishment to get published, and it’s a real treat to get to share in the celebration! But I especially love getting to introduce a debut author who has been a devoted follower of this blog, taken the time to help other writers on Would You Read It Wednesdays, participated in multiple writing contests here, and taken my class – in short, someone I have seen working hard on her craft and whom I now have the pleasure of introducing as a newly published picture book author when all that hard work has paid off! So without further ado, please welcome Jenny Buchet as she shares her journey to publication with LITTLE MEDUDA’S HAIR DO-LEMMA!

Title: Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma
Author: Jennifer Buchet
Illustrator: Cassie Chancy
Published By: Clear Fork Publishing, 2021
Fiction, Age Range: 4-8

Synopsis: Little Medusa is the first Gorgon who doesn’t enjoy having her best serpentine friend wriggle through her hair. She finds herself torn between following family customs and keeping herself and her best serpentine friend happy. In fact, Little Medusa begins doubting if she even wants to scare anyone to stone with a stare!

SUSANNA: Welcome, Jenny! Thank you so much for joining us today! Where did the idea for this book come from?

JENNY: Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma origins are woven betwixt 3Ls.  The library, the laundry room, and my daughter’s long (tangled) locks!

After seeing a reptile show at my library, I was intrigued with snakes. Smitten, but not enough to purchase one, I began writing a funny snake story. A month later in the laundry room, I was sorting clothes and revising sentences. Deep in thought about girls and snakes, my own little girl skipped in with very tangled hair. I found myself facing a real-life Little Medusa!  

Oh.

Oh!!

Little Medusa….snakes….hair…scaring things to stone with a stare… I put aside my original tale (and the socks!) and dove into the mythology of Medusa.

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

JENNY: The first draft came quickly yet the revisions took months! The story went through several iterations, from swapping Little Medusa’s biggest challenge to revealing how she solves the issue by herself.  Not to mention that making one of the world’s best known super-villains into something kid-friendly takes hard work!

Thanks to my critique partners continued feedback, I pinpointed the strongest version that not only had heart, but also humor and a unique twist. Two years and ~60 drafts later, I felt submission-ready.

Jenny’s writing buddy, Luna, being a goof-dog



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

JENNY: I knew Little Medusa was ready for submission because I couldn’t write it any better. I’d done my writing homework and then some. Pacing and page turns? Check. Rising incidents? Check. Humor? Yup. Feeling for the characters? Check. Strong ending? Checkity-check.

But before I submitted, I knew I had to write that golden query letter and pitch. Thanks to your Would You Read It Wednesdays, I received invaluable feedback on my pitch!

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

JENNY: I subbed Little Medusa to agents for almost a year. After several wonderful “champagne rejections” from agents, where I was close but not close enough, I researched several independent publishers.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

JENNY: Within a month after submitting to those independent publishers, I received my first “yes.”The long dry spell was finally over!

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

JENNY: I’m pretty sure I screamed with delight at the offer and enjoyed a lovely bottle of bubbly with family and friends! I’m not sure I ever came down from Cloud 9, but I did make sure to check and verify all contract minutia. Once all signatures were in, we had another bottle of bubbly—or maybe two!

Then it was back to work. (Yup, you think your story is perfect when you start submitting, but trust me, your stories will be tweaked and tweaked again before final printing!)

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

JENNY: An editor’s role is to make your story stronger; more kid-friendly and /or marketable. Although I thought my work was pretty perfect, my editor felt it needed a bit more “heart.” Rather enigmatic, no?! So we talked and shared ideas, and I revised a bit more, crafting an even better tale.

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

JENNY: The overall experience was rather collaborative. It took almost a year between signing and acquiring an illustrator, which was a lot longer than I ever imagined. Plus, I was super nervous that I might not like the illustrator’s ideas and I had no idea if I could, or should, say anything.

Fortunately, Cassie Chancy’s work is simply beautiful! From the first round of pencil sketches, I knew I was blessed with an extraordinary illustrator! I stepped back and gave Cassie room to work, answering questions whenever she had them.

During the proofing rounds, I shared my thoughts and any edits with both Cassie and our art director. I’m not a design expert, but I have worked in print before, so if I had an idea, I respectively shared with the team. I’m so happy that everyone worked so well together and we were all open to give and take.

Sneak peek at the interior illustration
text copyright Jennifer Buchet 2021,
illustration copyright Cassie Chancy 2021
Clear Fork Publishing


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

JENNY: As with many independent publishing companies, the brunt of the marketing falls to the author. Plus, I’m launching in the (hopefully) tale end of a pandemic, which is challenging. So I have to be creative. Although I’m not able to do in-store events or book fairs during the initial launch, I have other marketing ideas extending through the fall. For instance, I’m visiting with several bloggers such as yourself, planning a summer contest & giveaway, and relying on a wonderful network of fellow authors to help provide reviews to Goodreads & Amazon.

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

JENNY: I thought I’d have my first book published two years ago; I had no idea it could take so long! It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that I’ve been a part of three different debut groups but on the plus side, I’ve made lots of wonderful new friends and I’m blessed with their support to this day.

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?)

JENNY: These tips truly resonated for me when I started out:

Tip 1: Invest your time and money into kidlit writing classes. You are worth it! I learned so much in one magical month with Making Picture Book Magic!

Tip 2: Join a group of other kidlit writers. You’ll need their support, whether it’s an editorial eye or a boost after yet another rejection. Kidlit peeps understand other writers!

Tip 3: Read a ton of picture books and…. take it to the next level by typing out that story. Study the page turns. Note the path of the arc. Read it aloud.

SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

JENNY: Wishing on stars and casting dandelion dreams is fine, as long as you have the work to back you up. Because it’s all about getting the “write” story in front of the right person at the right time.

And if anyone has any questions, please comment below, or shoot me an email. I’m always happy to chat kidlit!


SUSANNA: Jenny, thank you so much for joining us today and taking the time to share your experience. We so appreciate it! And I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the very best of luck with this and future titles!

Author Jennifer Buchet (who loves visiting local farms 😊)

Jennifer Buchet is an award-winning author, pre-kindergarten educator and self-proclaimed foodie. Her kid lit career officially started in 2011, writing for Cricket Media. Today, she is a feature contributor for Faces magazine while also creating new picture books and chapter books, many which feature mouth-watering meals and even a few cute, twisty serpents.

LITTLE MEDUSA’S HAIR DO-LEMMA (Clear Fork Publishing) launches May 2021.

You can swap tales & recipes with Jennifer here:

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

You may purchase Jenny’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Amanda Davis!

It’s Tuesday, my friends, and you know what that means!

Time to meet another amazing Tuesday Debut-ess!

It’s funny how things work out! Last week we met Ann Magee and learned about her journey to publication with BRANCHES OF HOPE: THE 9/11 SURVIVOR TREE (which actually releases today!) and today, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Amanda Davis who also has a 9/11-related book: 30,000 STITCHES: THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE NATIONAL 9/11 FLAG. How wonderful that two writers have made their debuts with books that honor the upcoming 20th Remembrance of 9/11.

Please join me in welcoming Amanda!

Title: 30,000 STITCHES
Author: Amanda Davis
Illustrator: Sally Wern Comport
Publisher: WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group
Date of Publication: May 4, 2021
Nonfiction
Ages 5-8+

Synopsis: 30,000 Stitches tells the true story of the American flag that flew over Ground Zero in the days after 9/11, becoming torn and tattered and later traveled across all 50 states to be fully restored before returning to New York as a symbol of unity and hope.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Amanda, and thank you so much for joining us today! We are so looking forward to hearing about your journey to publication with this inspiring story! Where did the idea for this book come from?

AMANDA: I first learned about the story back in 2011 when I facilitated an art lesson around the story of the flag with my art students for the tenth remembrance of 9/11. While browsing through some magazines, I came across a blurb about a torn and tattered American flag that flew over Ground Zero in the days after 9/11 and later traveled across all fifty states to be fully restored touching many hearts and many hands along the way. I knew I found my lesson. That year, students learned about the flag, and we created our own patchwork flag in remembrance. From the first moment I read and taught about the true story of the flag in 2011, I was intrigued and knew it was a special story. It stuck with me and lingered in my head, but needed time to flourish and grow. After visiting the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in 2014, and being overcome with emotion at the artifacts and the stories, it was another reminder of the importance of telling this story. Once I decided to write a children’s book on the topic of the National 9/11 Flag, I enacted my three ‘r’’s: a lot of research, countless revisions, and creating a refrain that helped me tie the narrative together.

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

AMANDA: It took about three years from writing the story to having it released into the world. Before even putting pen to paper, I spent a lot of time researching. I knew if I was going to write about this topic, I had (and wanted to) get it right.  I have a background in journalism, so it was a delight getting to research and interview primary sources for the story. From the Ground Zero Superintendent to Flag Tour Staff, the people who I spoke to about the flag were incredible. I am honored to have spoken with such selfless, kind, and generous people whose dedication to helping America heal after 9/11 was inspiring. To this day, they continue to give back and be of service to others, which is truly exceptional. I feel so honored and humbled that I’m able to tell the story of the flag and make it accessible to children so they can be inspired by the themes of strength, unity, hope, and healing, that are woven throughout the story.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

AMANDA: Yes! Countless revisions. I remember at one point I even had a version of the story that was told in the first person point of view of the flag. It took many rounds of critiques with my critique groups and several critiques from editors and published authors to polish it up and get it into shape for querying agents and editors.

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

AMANDA: I don’t think you ever know when a manuscript is ready or if it ever truly is ready but at some point, if you want it published, you need to step back, take a breath, and let it go. It’s easy to get stuck in eternal revisions but your story is never going to be perfect and then once an agent or editor signs with you, they are going to have feedback of their own. For me, I felt 30,000 STITCHES was where I needed it to be because I was getting a lot of positive feedback from those same critique groups and even the paid critiques that I received. I felt confident in the story as well so that validated those feelings for me, and I decided it was time to send it out into the world.

Amanda’s art/writing studio



SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

AMANDA: I submitted the story to WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group on my own, unagented, through a snail mail slush pile submission. I continued to query the story to agents and other publishers that I had open submissions to from conferences, etc. I finally signed with agent Melissa Richeson (who is now at Storm Literary Agency) for 30,000 STITCHES. Melissa and I signed on solely for 30,000 STITCHES. At the time, she was not representing illustrators so she didn’t feel comfortable representing my whole body of work, which included some illustrated manuscripts. We went back and forth a few times with edits and then we sent the story out on submission to editors. Seven months later, I heard back from WorthyKids via email that they were interested in the story and asked me if it was still available. I replied with an enthusiastic YES, and connected them to Melissa. They wanted a version that was somewhere in the middle (word count wise) of what I sent through snail mail (700-word version) and what Melissa had followed up with (a 200-word version). Thankfully I had a version that was somewhere in the middle (around 500 words) and sent this along to them. This met their criteria, and the rest is history! Lesson is….keep all your versions and organize them so they’re easy to find in case you need them!    

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

AMANDA: Celebrations are something I can be better at. After (digitally) signing the contract, I cheers’ed with my partner, and printed it out as a keepsake. It really is important to celebrate each moment along the way, and I can take my own advice in this area. The other thing to note was that the actual signing of the contract came a few months after we had all verbally agreed to the deal. I had already begun working with my editor. It all still felt a little surreal, and it wasn’t until I got the physical book in my hands a couple of weeks ago that I realized this was real! I did a much better job celebrating the launch of the book on release day with cake, macaroons, and reflecting on my journey to publication. It’s been a long road but 30,000 STITCHES is finally out in the world!  

Book Launch Celebrations



SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

AMANDA: I didn’t really know what to expect since it was my first time going through the process but had done my research and talked to published friends about what was standard. I’m also a member of the Author’s Guild and tapped into their resources for insights. They have a model contract you can reference and legal teams that review contracts. I of course, also leaned heavily on the expertise of my agent, Melissa. It was a pretty standard contract for a debut author with an advance between 3K-5K and royalties between 3-6%. I think we ended up negotiating for a few more author copies, too. It was extremely helpful to have Melissa on my team to navigate the whole process! Her knowledge and calm demeanor were much appreciated!

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

AMANDA: There wasn’t too much editing that happened to the main text after it was acquired. My editor recently shared with me that she felt the story was about 90% there when it landed on her desk. We did go back and forth numerous times to edit the back matter but the whole process was extremely collaborative.

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

AMANDA: My editor was extremely knowledgeable and detail-oriented. As mentioned above, the process was both collaborative and informative. It truly felt like teamwork. Since the beginning, I’ve been nervous about the weight of this topic and about getting the facts and details of the story correct in both the text and the art. My editor was great with easing these concerns and answering all of my questions along the way.  Although I never directly spoke to the illustrator, Sally Wern Comport, I was consulted throughout the process. I saw sketches and numerous revisions in between. I gave input on the art, which was routed through the art director and onto Sally. Sally’s art expands upon the text and adds additional layers of depth to the story. Overall it was a very enjoyable process that I learned and grew from. I couldn’t be happier with the result!

text copyright Amanda Davis 2021, illustration copyright Sally Wern Comport 2021, WorthyKids



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

AMANDA: Not yet…

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

AMANDA: From officially signing the contract to publication, about a year.

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

AMANDA: My marketing and promotion team has helped with outreach, organizing giveaways, reserving advertisements in educator and librarian publications, developing supplemental teacher’s guides and activities for a variety of ages, and I think there should be a trailer for the book releasing soon, too. They’ve done an awesome job helping me understand the timeline of tasks, target markets, and are always open to me sharing my own ideas along the way.    

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

AMANDA: I have done a virtual blog tour with other creators in the kidlit community, virtual event tour with bookstores throughout the launch week/month, I’ve created swag, activity sheets, and book plates, and I’ve done a lot of social media boosting and posting with graphics I’ve created for the book. I’ve also spread the news of the book through my newsletter/mailing list and reached out to schools, libraries museums, and friends and family to share. Currently, I’m looking for opportunities to speak at conferences and present with my debut picture book group 21 For the Books. With the 20th remembrance of 9/11 approaching, I’m hoping to connect with more people who have had personal experiences with the flag to see if they would be open to sharing their stories to help honor and remember. 

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

AMANDA: NINE years!! Patience pays off 😊

Amanda and her buddy Cora on a hike



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?)

AMANDA: There is no right or wrong way to get published. Each person’s story is different. Sometimes it’s a short, smooth journey and sometimes it’s long and bumpy. Try not to compare. Instead, keep going. With every pass (which has been many), I got into the habit of sending another query out. This industry has taught me not to take anything personally. I want to work with an editor or an agent who is going to love my work wholeheartedly. The truth is, not everyone is going to. And that’s okay. Art is subjective. With that in mind, there is strength in solidarity. This can be a very isolating business if we let it, so remember to reach out for help and to connect. The children’s book industry is one of the most welcoming communities I’ve been a part of. There is so much talent and wisdom. Connect with people. Ask questions. Never stop learning from one another. We are all on this creative journey together.

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

Author Amanda Davis (photo credit Angela Wood Photography)

Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness. After losing her father at the age of twelve, Amanda turned to art and writing as an outlet. It became her voice. A way to cope. A way to escape. And a way to tell her story. She was thus inspired to teach art and pursue her passion for writing and illustrating children’s books. Through her work, Amanda empowers younger generations to tell their own stories and offers children and adults an entryway into a world of discovery. A world that can help them make sense of themselves, others, and the community around them. A world where they can navigate, imagine, and feel inspired—over and over again. Amanda is the recipient of the 2020 Ann Whitford Paul—Writer’s Digest Most Promising Picture Book Manuscript Grant and teaches art at a public high school in Massachusetts where she was selected as 2020 Secondary Art Educator of the Year. Amanda is the author of 30,000 STITCHES: THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE NATIONAL 9/11 FLAG and has poetry and illustrations featured in The Writers’ Loft Anthology, FRIENDS AND ANEMONES: OCEAN POEMS FOR CHILDREN. When she’s not busy creating, you can find her sipping tea, petting dogs, and exploring the natural wonders of The Bay State with her partner and her rescue pup, Cora. You can learn more about Amanda at www.amandadavisart.com and on Twitter @amandadavisart and Instagram @amandadavis_art.

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

You may purchase Amanda’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Ann Magee!

Hurray!

After a little hiatus in which we didn’t have any Tuesday Debut-ers, we’re back today with a beautiful, inspiring book by the lovely and talented Ann Magee! Her book actually comes out next week, so you’re getting a sneak preview and you can pre-order your copy from one of the links below 😊

BRANCHES OF HOPE: THE 9/11 SURVIVOR TREE
by Ann Magee
illustrated by Nicole Wong
Charlesbridge Publishing
May 18, 2021
Text is nonfiction, illustrations are of fictional family, ages 4-8.

Intertwined stories—one in words and one in pictures—show how the Survivor Tree’s strength echoed the hope of a nation after harrowing events in New York City in 2001.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Ann! We are so thrilled to have you here with us today to tell us about your journey to publication with this very special book! Where did the idea for this book come from?

ANN: My children and I visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum in 2016 where I read a booklet about the story of the Survivor Tree in the gift shop. I immediately thought it would make a lovely picture book—a hopeful story born from a tragic event in history. It’s a story I wish I had known when my children were young and learning about the events of 9/11.

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

ANN: It took about six months to write the book after several months of research. (I was working part-time then). A lot of my “writing” happens in my head first. I’m very visual, which is definitely helpful in writing picture books.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

ANN: When I draft a picture book manuscript, I write the beginning and the end first, like bookends, so I know the shape of the story. I outlined the story and wrote about 15 drafts. I was writing the true story of the tree’s journey, and in my mind, I visualized the story of a little girl growing up alongside the tree’s recovery, much like my own little girl was doing at the time.

Ann’s writing buddies, Gretchen and Ripley 😊

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

ANN: I shared this manuscript with several critique partners along the way as well as getting a paid critique from an editor at a SCBWI event. I was confident in my vision for this story, so I took the advice that matched that vision and discarded others’ (like the editor who advised I should add a fictional character to the text).

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

ANN: I am unagented. I submitted this manuscript to Yolanda Scott at Charlesbridge on the last possible day for submissions (end of December 2017) after an online-type of conference over the summer 2017.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

ANN: In June 2018, I got an email from Karen Boss at Charlesbridge asking if the manuscript was still available. I screamed, then responded, “Yes, yes it is.” She offered for it in July. At this time, Carole Boston Weatherford was exploring a role as literary agent and had offered to represent another of my manuscripts earlier that year. I asked if she would represent this one for me as well as I had no experience negotiating contracts, etc. and she said she would.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

ANN: My husband and I went out to a nice dinner to celebrate my signing my first book contract!

SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

ANN: This is my first book deal and Charlesbridge is a smaller house, so I expected the advance would be on the lower end of 2K-3K. Royalty—5% on hardcover, 3% on paperback, 20 author copies, and Newbery/Caldecott stipulations were also included in the contract.

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

ANN: I felt very comfortable from the beginning of our book-making journey that this important story was in caring, loving hands at Charlesbridge.

We went through three rounds of revisions with a specific focus each time. The first round focused on ‘big picture’ ideas—clarifying the text storyline and the wordless storyline (in the illustrations), looking at the pagination or pacing of the story, and creating a strong ending that tied with the 20th anniversary.

The second round of revisions included more work on the ending and changing the title since another book had just been announced with the title Survivor Tree, which had been my title, too. (I was a bit upset about this at first, but I’m glad now because the new title Branches of Hope encompasses the book’s message so much better.)
There were a few minor tweaks for the last round. We also discussed choices for illustrators and what style goes with our vision for the ‘feel’ of the story.

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

ANN: The illustration process went very smoothly. Luckily, the team at Charlesbridge, the illustrator Nicole Wong, and I had similar visions for this project. I was informed at each step along the way—I saw the sketches, received digital files throughout the process. When I had questions or concerns about the art, they were valued and discussed. I received color proof pages in the mail for me to check for errors before it went to print.

text copyright Ann Magee 2021, illustration copyright Nicole Wong 2021, Charlesbridge

In terms of art notes, I included just a few with my manuscript upon submission to inform the illustrator of a specific setting for some scenes since the story is a true story. For example, at the end Tears rained down, down, down, the Illos. Note reads: reflection pools.

text copyright Ann Magee 2021, illustration copyright Nicole Wong 2021, Charlesbridge
(this one is Ann’s favorite – isn’t it wonderful?!)

As we developed the wordless parallel story for the illustrations, more Illustration notes were needed so Nicole could know what the storyline was, but she had the space to make each scene her own. For example, Nicole knew that the family should be shown having a picnic near the Twin Towers in the front pages of the book before the story begins but illustrating the pears on the picnic blanket was all her—and I love it!

text copyright Ann Magee 2021, illustration copyright Nicole Wong 2021, Charlesbridge

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

ANN: I did not see the advance review from PW, but my editor and marketing director did give me the good news of our Kirkus Star a week or two before it went public. I was able to read the review when they emailed me the good news. Karen emailed me the SJL review at the end of April. We are very happy with the book’s reviews so far!

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

ANN: It took 2 ½ years to finally hold the first copy in my hands, but not much was done for the first year as Charlesbridge wasn’t ready to work on the project yet.  The initial print run is 6,000 copies.

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

ANN: At my request, my two-person marketing team at Charlesbridge (and the design department) created a postcard and bookmark for me to print. They have also arranged several bookstore readings and other possible events that will take place nearer to September. They plan to include the book in Charlesbridge’s virtual exhibits, book buzzes and chats. They will reach out to newspapers who are bound to do stories nearer to the anniversary date.

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

ANN: I’ve reached out to several local bookstores and will be doing a book launch at Words Matter Bookstore in Pitman NJ on the weekend after my release date. I’ll do a reading and a craft related to the book.

Also, Tamara Girardi has included BRANCHES OF HOPE in her 12 Months of Books Challenge.

In the upcoming months, I’ll be featured on Kathy Teaman’s blog and Kidlit 411’s blog.

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

ANN: I started writing seriously in January 2013 when I joined Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Writing Challenge. I spent that first year just immersing myself in learning, taking classes, going to conferences, etc. I sold my first book 5 ½ years later.

SUSANNA: I remember having you in my class in early 2014 😊 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?)

ANN: I can’t stress enough how important it is to surround yourself with likeminded people, people who are also traveling the same path. Sharing advice or traversing bumps in the road together is so important in an endeavor that feels very solitary most of the time. I’m so grateful for my critique partners!

Also, I think as a writer, you need to care about the story you’re telling—it has to REALLY matter to you in order for that passion to shine through in the manuscript.

Author Ann Magee

Website: annmagee.net
Twitter: @ann_ammwrite
Instagram: ammwrite

SUSANNA: Thank you so much, Ann, for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! We all so appreciate you sharing your experience and wish you the best of luck with this and future titles!

ANN: Thank you so much, Susanna, for having me on your blog and for sharing my journey with my debut book. It means so much!

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

You may purchase Ann’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Sita Singh!

Do you know what time it is?

Of course you do! 😊

It’s time for another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!!!

Today we have a lovely book with an important and heartwarming message from debut author Sita Singh. I hope you’ll love it and enjoy hearing about her journey to publication!

Birds of a Feather
Written by Sita Singh
Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman
Published by Philomel Books
March 2, 2021
Fiction Picture Book (ages 4-8)

A story of the colorless peacock who learns to love himself in a jungle full of color, Birds of a Feather is about finding strength in the things that make us different, and beauty in all its forms.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Sita! So thrilled that you could join us today! Where did the idea for this book come from?

SITA: This book came about from a fusion of ideas. I was working on a story with peacocks at the front and center of it, and at the same time, I was working on another story about a little girl feeling different because of her ethnicity. Neither of the two were coming together until one day, it just clicked. What if I combined the two ideas? And that’s how BIRDS OF A FEATHER came to be.

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

SITA: It took me less than six months from the idea to the first draft that I was somewhat happy with. But then, there was revising, and more revising for almost two years before I signed the contract.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

SITA: I did go through a lot of revisions. Since I make a new draft with even slightest of a change, there are hundreds of drafts sitting in my folder. I also start out with writing long sentences and paragraphs, without any inhibitions of word count. It’s more like a story I’m telling myself and/or figuring out for myself. So, my revision process ends up being quite long. Although recently, I’ve become faster and the last manuscript I wrote, which is out on submission right now, was in less than a year.

Sita’s writing buddy, Solo 😊

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


SITA: First, when my critique partners felt just as strongly about the story, and second, after it won the Rising Kite Award at Florida SCBWI.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

SITA: After the award, I started to look for representation. I already had a long list of agents, whom I was following on twitter, and also from the vast search I had been doing over many months. I sent the manuscript to most of them along with a query letter, properly drafted according to the industry standards.

SUSANNA: How long after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”? When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”? 

SITA: As soon as the agent came on board, we submitted the story to various publishing houses. Over the period of twelve months, we got so many rejections that at one point my agent and I decided it’ll be best for me to not get regular updates from her. Thankfully, none of those rejections mentioned any loopholes in the story and my agent too felt strongly about it, so I didn’t revise the manuscript at all. Every now and then, she would also give me a pep-talk which I think helped keep up the hope.

Since I had no idea it was submitted to Philomel Books, “the call” actually was a shock! I remember being in the Indian grocery store and screaming so loudly that the owners had to run to check on me! 😊

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

SITA: We signed the contract after three months of accepting the offer. Within that time, I made a few changes to the story as suggested by my amazing editor, Liza Kaplan.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?


SITA: We celebrated by having wine and going out to eat! It seems so weird to think about eating out in these times as we haven’t been to a restaurant in over a year. I also celebrated with my critique partners, and called my parents, brother, and close friends.

SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

SITA: This being my debut, I had no idea about the numbers/royalties/fees and what to expect. I followed my agent’s advice, and she did negotiate the advance and author copies. Rest, everything was standard as in most picture book contracts.

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

SITA: After the very first call with my editor, I knew she had a wonderful vision for my story which was extremely important to me. We went through some minor revisions and one major revision, but at no point was I worried that the story was going off track. Our visions were very much in sync and the editorial process was very smooth.

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

SITA: Again, as a debut author, I had no idea what to expect once Stephanie came on board. I was surprised when I got to see the first set of illustrations—the rough pencil sketches. Thereafter, every stage of the illustration process was shared with me and it was such a thrill to see the artwork evolve. From the rough sketches to the final artwork, there were about four stages that I got to see and also give inputs. Although, I didn’t have many suggestions to make, since Stephanie just nailed the illustrations. Her vision not only matched mine, but she took the story to a visual level that was beyond my imagination.

text copyright Sita Singh 2021, illustration copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman 2021, Philomel Books


I did have a few art notes where the text was to go either on a banner or on a sign post. As you can see in the spread below, art notes were necessary to convey my vision for this particular scene.

text copyright Sita Singh 2021, illustration copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman 2021, Philomel Books


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

SITA: It took two years from the offer to having the copy in my hands. When I signed the contract, two years seemed a lot, but having gone through the process, I now understand why it can take that long to publish a picture book.

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

SITA: The first best step I took was to join the promotion group The Picture Book Scribblers! We’re like a family of debut and experienced authors, and everyone’s suggestions and experiences really helped me navigate through the marketing stage. I got a book trailer made by Cynthia Nugent, and teacher’s guide made by Marcie Colleen. I also created bookmarks, stickers, and a handful of coloring activities. Last but not the least, I did a blog tour with some wonderful KidLit bloggers!



SUSANNA: (A side note – Marcie Colleen has done a number of teachers guides for me as well – not all of them up on my website yet – and she does terrific work!) How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

SITA: I started to write seriously in 2014, and five years later, I sold my first book.

SUSANNA: What is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?

SITA: I’d say, write what comes from your heart, and revise, revise, revise! There’s always room for revision. Although my debut picture book just published, there’re places I feel could’ve used more revision. Also, believe in your stories! It helps with being patient and persistent, the two important things needed to stay on course of this turbulent journey to publication.

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Sita! We so appreciate the opportunity to learn from your experience! And I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the best with this and future titles!

SITA: Thank you, Susanna, for having me on your wonderful blog! Making Picture Book Magic was one of first courses I took (thanks to author Darshana Khiani, who suggested it way back in 2015 when I had just begun to write 😊) I still go back to those lessons and I’m so grateful to you, Susanna, for this opportunity to give back to the writing community.

Author Sita Singh

www.singhsita.com
Twitter: @sitawrites
Instagram: @sitawrites
Facebook: Sita Singh

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

You may purchase Sita’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Moni Ritchie Hadley!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut, Everyone!

Today I am thrilled to introduce debut author Moni Ritchie Hadley and show off her gorgeous book about the Japanese Star Festival which releases Thursday (April 1st) (no fooling 😊). Just look at that cover!

Title, THE STAR FESTIVAL
Author Moni Ritchie Hadley
Illustrator Mizuho Fujisawa
Publishing House – Albert Whitman & Co.
Date of Publication 4-1-21
Fiction, age range 4-7

When Keiko, Mama, and Oba attend the Japanese Festival of Tanabata Matsuri, Keiko saves the day by reliving the events of the folktale it celebrates.


SUSANNA: Welcome, Moni! Thank you so much for joining us today. We are looking forward to hearing all about how The Star Festival was born. Where did the idea for this book come from?

MONI: THE STAR FESTIVAL began as a multigenerational concept book about the similarities between caring for toddlers and caring for my mom. It remained in that state for a few months. Letting go of that first idea took some time. Eventually, I changed the perspective and the setting to the Japanese Tanabata Festival (The Star Festival). I celebrated many festivals in Japan as a child, but it wasn’t until I wrote this story that I discovered the origins and distinctions between each celebration. The research opened up a whole new world of ideas, and that is when the story blossomed.

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

MONI: The initial draft to submission took about five months, but I continued to revise until the signing of the contract, which put it at nine months. I edited for another month after the signing.

Moni’s (extremely tidy!) writing area (Although she also has workstations in the dining room, bedroom, and outside! A girl needs choices, right? 😊)


SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions? 

MONI: Yes! It amazes me that other writers can count them. I’m continually fiddling and reworking manuscripts, and I forget to create new documents. So, I’ll give a ballpark figure, 20-30, including rewrites with the editor.  

For a long while, I couldn’t let go of what I wanted the story to be. When I allowed it the freedom to go where it needed to go, the story turned a corner. The bond between the main character and her grandmother, remained, but the details changed completely. 

One technique that I used was to put the story on a plot hill diagram on my wall. I assigned three stickies to each scene, one color for the setting, another color for the plot, and another for the emotion. I then went through and asked myself questions about the stakes and reactions of my character. This visual strategy was very effective. Sometimes when I’m stuck in the mucky middle, I cut apart my story and tape it sideways to my wall, and like magic, I see the areas that aren’t working. Changing the perspective and moving the pieces around helped me see the story’s flow more clearly. I’ve recently started to create dummies for some of my stories. Putting my ideas into a visual format, no matter how rough the drawings are, helps me address issues. Another strategy that works for me is to deformat the text. I find that I play more with structure when I do this. I hesitate to change blocks of text if I leave it in its original structure.

Moni’s writing buddies: Dogs in order – Patti, Rusy, Smiley; Cat – Numnums

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

MONI: There was an energy I felt when I finally grasped the story, I was meant to tell. I banged it out in the last couple of weeks of the class I was taking. The deadline really motivated me to get it submission-ready. And all my critique partners rallied and helped me get it into shape.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

MONI: In the fall of 2019, I took an online class with Mira Reisberg at the Children’s Book Academy, The Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books. In the end, I was able to submit a pitch for the participating editors and agents. Editor, Christina Pulles, liked my pitch and invited me to submit the manuscript.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! ☺)

MONI: I didn’t get a call!😆 My email submission was answered with a request for changes, which I agreed to. The editor liked the changes, and it quickly escalated from there, all through email! It was a month from the time I submitted to the time I heard back from the editor, late November to late December, around the holidays. We passed the manuscript back and forth for about another month. From there, I continued to make changes with the editor. It was intense, but it was a pleasure working with Christina. She had a gentle communication style and always considered my opinion and what was best for the book.

SUSANNA: Can you tell us about your experience of the illustration process?

MONI: I had read that authors rarely get to see the sketches in progress. So it came as a surprise that Christina involved me at every major step. She sent me initial sketches and near-finished art for review. Since she asked, I gave honest opinions. 

She considered everything I said and then let me know which changes she agreed with and which she didn’t. It was nice to know that she valued my opinion. And if she felt strongly about something, I trusted her.

I was fortunate to be paired with illustrator Mizuho Fujisawa. She is Japanese as well and gave such nuanced details to every spread. I was blown away when I saw the cover for the first time. The colors on the cover were bold and vibrant. She brought the setting and character to life. Mizuho exceeded my expectations, and the illustration process proceeded very quickly. 

Up until writing this story, I rarely used art notes. Some editors do not like them. But for this manuscript, I decided to include them. Japanese words and customs needed notes, and I wanted my story to be understood in the way that I intended. Here some examples of notes that I thought were necessary and would make the reading clearer.

Keiko slips on her summer kimono. [incorrectly]  [image below]

text copyright Moni Ritchie Hadley 2021, illustration copyright Mizuho Fujisawa 2021, Albert Whitman

The skies explode. [fireworks]  [image below]

text copyright Moni Ritchie Hadley 2021, illustration copyright Mizuho Fujisawa 2021, Albert Whitman

“And look who helped me, the Emperor of the Heavens.” [security guard]  [no image supplied]

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

MONI: Christina shared a positive review from Kirkus privately about a week before it was available online. I was thrilled. I floated through that day! And the very next day, she shared a starred review from the School Library Journal! In all the time that lead up to that moment, I hadn’t thought about professional reviews, so it was a pleasant surprise to get those!

SUSANNA: Congratulations! How wonderful to get such great reviews! How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

MONI: 14 months.

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

MONI: I sent letters to schools, held giveaways, and made stickers and bookmarks. I have done many blog interviews and activities for the story. I also made a short gif and had a book trailer made for the book.


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

MONI: That’s a difficult question to answer. Define seriously? I feel like every story, revision, critique, submission is an effort to be a serious writer. 

When I was working full time, I struggled to balance writing with work and my home life. I think that the time I spent working on stories, critiquing, and learning in those thirteen years attributed to getting published. 

When I retired from teaching, it took me less than a year to get a contract. I feel strongly that it would not have been offered if I waited to start writing when I “had the time.” 

All the minutes here-and-there add up. All the failures, stories that went nowhere, and writing practice add up. It gets you ready for the right moment. It prepares you to get “lucky.”

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?)

MONI: Don’t get stuck on your early manuscripts. They will always hold a special place in your writer’s heart, but continue to evolve, discover other stories, and challenge yourself.

SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

MONI: I tried not to make getting published my everyday goal. I changed my mindset and was grateful to be writing every day. Whether I was published or not, I figured I’d be doing the same thing anyway, working on my craft.

Author Moni Ritchie Hadley

Website: moniritchie.com
Twitter & Instagram: @bookthreader
Illustrator Instagram: @mizuhofujisawa

SUSANNA: So much wonderful advice, and so much helpful information! Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Moni! We all really appreciate it. And I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the very best with this and future titles!

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

You may purchase Moni’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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! (There are nearly 70, so lots to learn from !)

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)

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Nancy Derey Riley!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut, everyone!

Today’s guest we has written and illustrated a fun story in rhyme that also includes interesting, educational, nonfiction back matter. And she self-published. Talk about doing it all!

I know we’re all going to learn a lot, so let’s get right to it and meet today’s debut-ess, Nancy Derey Riley, and have a look at Curiosity’s Discovery!

CURIOSITY’S DISCOVERY
written and illustrated by Nancy Derey Riley
Self-published/print-on-demand through IngramSpark – Rolling Prairie Publishing LLC
November 10, 2020
Rhyming fiction with NF back matter
For ages 4-8

CURIOSITY’S DISCOVERY takes the reader on a mystery adventure on Mars as the trusty rover hears an unknown radio signal. She discovers an older rover, Spirit, just as his batteries crash and his transmission ends. Now, she must revive him if she has any chance of having a friend.


SUSANNA: Welcome, Nancy! We are so thrilled to have you here today to share your journey to publication! As you know, I am especially fond of this story for a reason I know you’re about to explain 😊, and because I share your interest in the Mars missions and have a Mars book of my own! Where did the idea for this book come from?

NANCY: The idea for this story came from you, Susanna, and Valentiny! Last year’s 2020 Valentiny Contest rules were: write a child-friendly Valentine’s story, no more than 214 words, and show someone or something being curious. I immediately thought of Curiosity, the Mars rover—nothing more curious than Curiosity, right? Well, I wrote a rhyming story entitled, Finding a Friend, and miracle of miracles, I came in 4th! I was so excited.

I find writing contests for kid-lit writers help me generate ideas for stories beyond just a particular contest. Plus, there are prizes, often critiques from published authors and, even, agents. These critiques have helped me polish my stories for submission to agents and publishers.

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

NANCY: After basking in my 4th place finish for a few days, I decided to transform it into a complete picture book manuscript. Since it is a rhyming story, this took me a couple of weeks. In March 2020, as the pandemic was beginning, it was critiqued by all my critique partners (I’m in three different groups, one is dedicated to rhyming picture books).

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

NANCY: I didn’t go through many revisions, certainly not major rewrites or anything. The back matter took much longer to decide what to put in and what to leave out. The moment I discovered your website and your books, Susanna, I loved the idea of back matter at the end of a fictional tale. Since I’m a biologist, I wanted to include facts on Mars, the rovers, and, for this story, Morse code.

SUSANNA: It’s really an added value for young readers and for their parents and teachers! And something I haven’t seen as much in self-published titles. So kudos to you! When did you know your manuscript was ready for publication?

NANCY: In the middle of April 2020, after a final review by my rhyming partners, I submitted query letters to nine publishing houses that accept unagented manuscripts. In June, I subbed to 13 agents who were open to submissions. Also, I participate in Twitter pitch contests as they come along, but I have yet to have any success with them.

SUSANNA: At what point did you decide to self-publish rather than submit to traditional publishers?  Did you try traditional first? Or did you have specific reasons for wanting to self-publish?

NANCY: In May 2020, came a long road trip to visit my stepdaughter in Oklahoma and a LONG discussion with my husband about my writing journey. I’d been writing picture books for nearly four years and submitting to agents/publishers for three. I’ve only gotten a couple “champagne” rejections, the rest either form letters or no response at all. I told my husband that even if I got an agent in one day and that agent sold my manuscript to a publisher the next day (impossible, but I simplified it for the sake of our discussion), it could be two years before I held a book in my hands. I was 63 and not getting any younger. I’d researched independent publishing a little at that point. That is when I decided to self-publish this story. I did submit the story to agents in June figuring I would work both ends and see what happened first—an agent or a book in hand.

SUSANNA: How did you find an illustrator?

NANCY: The smart aleck answer is, I looked in the mirror. I’m very left-handed and right-brained. I love to draw when I make the time. I did a lot of illustrations for handouts and handbooks in my federal career. I’m even a sometime silversmith. My husband says I’m a serial hobbyist! I have rough book dummies for several stories and I when I subbed to agents, I asked them to consider me as an author-illustrator. I did receive one response from an agent who liked my story and the rhyme (often hard to get a positive response), but my art style did not resonate with her AND she was ONLY taking on author-illustrators. Sigh.

So, I decided to try my own illustrations. I find humans hard to draw, so luckily, there are no humans in Curiosity’s Discovery! LOL!

text and illustration copyright Nancy Derey Riley 2020 (p.11)


SUSANNA:  Since you illustrated your own book, I’m guessing you were able to talk your illustrator into working for a very reasonable price 😊 But were there any costs associated with illustrating?

NANCY: The biggest cost for me was buying the whole Adobe Creative Cloud package for a year. I started out trying to use watercolor pens, but decided that Photoshop was my best medium for these illustrations. That cost me around $360. I’m a member of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association and there are several service providers. One illustrator said his price is around $5000-$10000!  One of my critique partners, who self-published, found an illustrator in eastern Europe, maybe Romania, and that was around $150 for the whole picture book. She was very pleased with the product. I believe she found her illustrator on Fiverr.com. I have heard mixed reviews about this service.

SUSANNA: How did you format your book for publication?

NANCY: It was written in Microsoft Word and then the sentences were added to the artwork Photoshop. Then the pages were converted into pdfs. I’ve been told that the NEXT time to create the pages in Adobe InDesign because it is even more compatible with the print service I use.

SUSANNA:  How did you select a printing service?

NANCY: I read up and researched print-on-demand services, such as, Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), IngramSpark, BookBaby, Draft2Digital, etc. I knew that I would not want to afford a printing company. IngramSpark prints both hardcover and paperback whereas KDP only does paperback. I also met another wonderful self-published author, Barbara Renner, online. I contacted her and asked if we could video chat about her publication process. She is beyond helpful.

SUSANNA: Did you do a print run so you’d have inventory, or is your book print-on-demand?

NANCY: My book is both. It is print-on-demand, but I can order my books at cost plus shipping so I do have a small inventory. My book is available online at: Amazon (around the world), Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Target, eBay, Waterstones (in the UK), and more. IngramSpark distributes their list to many outlets. Currently, the only physical place that has my book on consignment is the Fort Collins, Colorado Discovery Museum.

SUSANNA:  How long was the process from writing through publication of your book?

NANCY: The story was started in mid-February 2020 for Valentiny. The full story was complete and critiqued by mid-April 2020. I spent last summer working on the illustrations and the publication date was November 10, 2020. So, around 11 months. There was a steep learning curve relearning Photoshop and getting the whole book formatted properly for IngramSpark.

SUSANNA:  Were you able to get your book reviewed by Kirkus, SLJ, Hornbook, Booklist etc.?

NANCY: No, Kirkus is pricey, over $300. I’m not sure about the others. I did have it reviewed by Readers’ Favorite (for free!) and earned a 5-star review. Book review of Curiosity’s Discovery – Readers’ Favorite: Book Reviews and Award Contest I know this is a very small thing, but it still helps put the word out about my book.

Also, I entered the Colorado Book Awards and the SCBWI Spark Award. Fingers crossed!

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

NANCY: I’m still figuring this out! I did have my website revamped and we had a countdown to release, trailer which we also put it on YouTube, word search, maze, and coloring pages available on my website. I tried to have a book launch or signing locally, but late November saw an upswing in Covid cases and stores stopped all in-person events. I didn’t know how or where to do a virtual event. I still have much to learn in the marketing arena.

The other place I want to reach are schools. I would love to do author visits and talk about the rover programs, Mars, space, whatever the kids dream up!

SUSANNA:Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

NANCY: I’m still smiling that I can hold this book in my hands! A pandemic is a funny time, but maybe the best time to try this! I haven’t given up on traditional publishing as well. Now I have a much better appreciation for what an agent and publishing company do for you! With that said however, I must toot my horn a little more.

This year I placed 3rd in the 2021 Valentiny with a story about the Perseverance rover landing on Mars. I’m working on a longer non-Valentine story for Percy and Ingenuity, the little helicopter that went with him. I will self-publish this one too because I want the art to match with Curiosity. Who knows, it might lead to a whole Mars series.

Nancy reading Curiosity’s Discovery to Perseverance (Percy) – apparently you can do this on NASA’s website which is so cool I may have to try it with MARS’ FIRST FRIENDS!


SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today, Nancy! We’ve learned so much! I know I speak for everyone when I say we wish you the best of luck with this and future titles, and I think we’re all looking forward to the continuation of your Mars series!

NANCY: Thank you, Susanna for being such an inspiration to me and many others in the children’s literature field. Without your writing contests, I doubt this book would exist.

Author/Illustrator Nancy Derey Riley

Website: nancyrileynovelist.com
Twitter: @NancyDereyRiley
Facebook: Nancy Riley Novelist or Nancy Derey Riley (personal page)
Instagram . . . soon for an author site
ISBN-hardcover – 9781735737102 
ISBN-paperback – 9781735737119 

About Nancy: I’m a retired wildlife biologist living with my husband, dog, Scout, and our 2 horses on 35 acres north of Fort Collins, Colorado. I have a grown daughter, stepdaughter, and stepson, and two fantastic teenaged granddaughters. I split my time between writing, enjoying our land and life, and being a competitive adult figure skater.

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

You may purchase Nancy’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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)

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Julie Rowan-Zoch (author/illustrator debut)!!!

Welcome, Everyone!

So what if it’s snowing again! It’s time for Tuesday Debut, and it always makes the day wonderful to celebrate one of our own achieving publication – that pinnacle of success we all strive for whether it’s our first book or (I presume) our 50th – I’ll let you know if I get there! 😊

I am so thrilled to introduce today’s debutess, Julie Rowan-Zoch! You had the opportunity to meet her last fall when she made her illustration debut, but this time she is debuting her writing and art together!

And today is her book’s actual birthday, so feel free to have some cake 😊

Nice and Spring-y to help us ignore the snow! 😊

I’M A HARE, SO THERE!
story and pictures: Julie Rowan-Zoch
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers (HMHKids)
rel. date: March 16, 2021
(Informational) Fiction
Pre-K – 3 (4-7yrs)

Exasperated hare puts a plucky squirrel in his place as they stroll through the desert comparing similar-not-same animals – while oblivious to predators! This hare may call the squirrel Chippie, or a tortoise a turtle, but Jack is NOT a rabbit!

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for coming to visit with us today, Julie! We are all so thrilled to have you here (again!)! I may be wrong, but I think you’re the first author/illustrator debutess we’ve had, and I know you’re the first person we’ve had who had an illustrator debut and then also an author/illustrator debut! We can’t wait to hear your unique perspective! Where did the idea for this book come from?

JULIE: I have your illustration contest to thank for the character, Susanna! That was the first drawing I made, but a few more followed and my agent soon asked, “What is his story?” Having a character with a bit of attitude helped “walk” the story, at least especially after researching where one would even find jackrabbits! It has gone through a number of revisions, including rhyme, but I recall the process as being easy (or Corona really has done a number on my brain!)


SUSANNA: Haha 😊 I think Corona has done a number on all our brains! But I have to say, I have loved that jackrabbit from the first moment I saw him, and I’m glad you were encouraged to tell his story! How long did it take you to write this book?

JULIE: According to the files I could find, about 3-4 weeks – NOT my norm!

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

JULIE: I (used to) re-number every draft, no matter how small the revision, and I believe it was about 15. I don’t have a real process for revision. I’m a pantser through and through!

Julie’s work space -contents: book ARCs, tiny bits of paper to help with beats while writing in rhyme, junkmail, dish of spicy -lime cashews, bills, critique notes, more beat charts for rhyme, prune juice, filthy old mouse, colored pencil leftover from my kids in elementary school! 

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

JULIE: It felt good after running it by my critique groups numerous times. Then I showed it to my agent and we made one major change to the ending (let the main character live!). But we didn’t submit it for some time. I had some personal issues which brought life to a long halt! We finally offered it as an exclusive to the editor I worked with illustrating Tom Lichtenheld’s book, LOUIS.


SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

JULIE: We submitted exclusively shortly after work on LOUIS had begun in 2018. After a week the editor asked for another week (!) then asked if I would be willing to add back matter. I agreed, though I was completely unsure about it – I had not expected that request!

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! ☺)

JULIE: My agent informed me  via phone call after a deal was made, and yes, it felt great to sell my own writing!

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract? 

JULIE: I was lucky to celebrate with my dear friend and fellow writer, Julie Hedlund at our favorite hangout, about halfway between our homes in Colorado. There was champagne!

SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

JULIE: I was very pleased with the offer, which my agent managed to bump up from the original a bit! It’s embarrassing, but I have no head for contract details – but I did get 20 author copies!

SUSANNA: What can you tell us about the editorial process?

JULIE: The editor and art director asked if I would be open to including a few more similar-but-not-the-same animals in the illustrations, which really made the book better! There was one revision request in the text but it was minor. There were a lot more requests after the initial sketches, lots of revision work on continuity and composition, even after the final artwork was submitted and color proofs came through! My experience was completely positive. I have to say, coming from graphic design, I find the collaboration in publishing with people who want to support you and produce really good books out of passion, well, you can guess – it’s much more satisfying!

Text & Illustration copyright Julie Rowan-Zoch 2021, HMH

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?

JULIE: Actually, I found the (very nice!) reviews myself and shared them with my agent and the team. Maybe because we were knee deep in Corona-time? I was also the one to notice when HARE was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for best books in March for the 3-5yr age bracket. I feel very lucky to receive that kind of exposure for the book!

SUSANNA: I think it is very well deserved! 😊 How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

JULIE: About 2yrs. Print run is 30K.

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

JULIE: My publicist helped me with adding images to the book’s Amazon page, and facilitated an interview with Mr. Schu, but the rest has been up to me.

created by Julie and her publicist

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

JULIE: I am very fortunate to belong to the Soaring20’s promotional group, as well as Picture Book Playground. Even if I were not debuting (twice!) in a pandemic, I would highly recommend finding such a group for the camaraderie and emotional support. And for the help with marketing, but honestly, that feels like less of a priority considering COVID. As you well know, it is the community which makes our little world go ‘round!

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

JULIE: For writing: 8.5yrs. I mentioned personal struggles along the way earlier, which slowed me down, but somehow I still feel lucky to be debuting right now. More likely I am just so happy to have this particular joy during these trying times!

SUSANNA: It certainly is a welcome bright spot – for you as creator and for us who get to enjoy your book! What is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?

JULIE: Everyone knows how important it is to engage with newer books on the market. But the current market shows you the current market, not necessarily great books. Yes, it’s very important to know what is selling, but I have found so many gems beyond the familiar classics over the last few years which feel as fresh today as when they were written in the 70’s, 80’s 90’s. For a book to have that kind of longevity they HAVE to have the rock-hard quality to stand the test of time. It may not be everyone’s goal, but I want to be reading my own books to kids for many, many years – and still enjoy it! Read the gems, write them out, read them again! Oh, and once you feel like you’ve got the basics down, don’t be afraid to break some rules! (For anyone interested in some of those old gems I heartily invite you to scroll around on my blog!)

SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

JULIE: Maybe it’s the pandemic, and maybe it’s the kind of books released over the last few years (and I read A LOT as a bookseller), but I am starving for more humor in picture books and value a good find now more than ever before!

*Also, I have become extremely choosy in books for adults and I attribute it all to the concise writing and reading of picture books! 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Julie! We are so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to learn from you today, and wish you all the best with LOUIS, I’M A HARE, and all future titles!!!

JULIE: Thank YOU, Susanna!

Author/Illustrator Julie Rowan-Zoch

jrzoch@gmail.com
http://julierowanzoch.wordpress.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/ArtistJulieRowanZochbooks

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

You may purchase Julie’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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