Tuesday Debut – Presenting Matthew Lasley!

Welcome to another exciting installment of Tuesday Debut!

I realize we’re a little bit interrupting the Valentiny Contest.  That is because the people in charge of scheduling around here are donut heads!  But if you haven’t had a chance to read all the amazing entries, pop over and treat yourself!

Also, this past weekend, when I was supposed to be judging, turned into an extended involved family time (it was a holiday weekend) so I did not accomplish the work I intended to.  Therefore, I will do my best to get the finalists up tomorrow as promised, but it may be another day or two. Meanwhile, since we were looking through boxes and boxes of ancient photos at my parents’ house, I will entertain you with a picture from my misspent youth 🙂

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in case you can’t tell, I’m the one in the middle 🙂

Ok.  I’m done with excuses 🙂

Time to introduce you to today’s Debut Author: Matthew Lasley!!!

Welcome, Matthew! Thank you so much for joining us today! I am particularly interested in this book because my grandparents lived in Placer County, California and we used to go out and “pan for gold” with them when we were kids :). It’s also a nice example of finding the exact right publisher for the story you’ve written.

Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story
By Matthew Lasley
Illustrated by Jacob Souva
Alaska Northwest Books, an imprint of Graphic Arts Books (now West Margin Press)
February 19, 2019
Historical Fiction
Ages 5-8

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Pedro and his trusty gold Pan are on the search for gold. The journey is not always easy, and Pan learns there are some things more valuable than gold.

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

MATTHEW: This story came from my childhood. I grew up gold mining in Alaska and the Klondike with my family. I also heard stories about the early prospectors and wanted to tell one of their stories. I originally wrote this story as a biography, but it was Pan’s voice that convinced me to tell his story with the original biography providing back matter.

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Matthew panning for gold in Pedro Creek

 

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…and some gold he panned!

 

 

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

MATTHEW: To be honest, it was about six months. I wrote this story in July, 2016 and submitted it to our local SCBWI conference in September. It was received well, but I was new. I read and learned more about picture book writing as I had only started in June of that year.

In January of 2017, I signed up for a writer’s spring retreat through my local SCBWI chapter. I took out the story and rewrote it. That is when I heard Pan’s voice. The story flowed out. I had it critiqued and submitted it to be reviewed by a local Alaskan children’s book author. She loved it and gave me the contact information of someone at Graphic Arts Books and sent her an email of recommendation.

I must emphasize that this is not normal. I know of many talented authors who have written a lot longer than I have that are still not published. There are three things to take from this though: Write what you know and are passionate about. Learn, read and critique. Take chances, you never know, you might find someone who will champion your work.

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

MATTHEW: I went through three revisions, two pre-contract, one post. There was a lot of critiquing and help from people far better at writing than I. There were small changes as I learned and got feedback, but two major revisions.

The first major revision came post conference when I was politely, and in not so many words, told that I was a newbie. After giving the story rest (which is great advice), the second major revision happened when I discovered the voice for my story. I will admit I fought it at first as I tried to make it my voice, but realized it was not my voice, but my style and that I needed to listen to Pan.

When I did, his story flowed onto the paper.

 

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

MATTHEW: After submitting my story to the spring retreat, we received a typed manuscript review. I perused mine, but wanted to wait until my wife and I were back in our cabin. I read it and was like, “there isn’t a whole lot here.” I had not fully read the note attached. I did not have very high expectations.

My wife asked to look at it and she got all excited. She read the note to me and I realized that I had received very good news. I was able to meet with the reviewer, Tricia Brown, who recommended that I submit it to Graphic Arts Books.

I wish all manuscripts got the green light so easily. In truth, it takes a lot to know when. And no one really “knows.” It is always a risk.

The best piece of advice I have heard is that you write a story. Then rewrite the story, have it critiqued over and over. Then revise it. Critique again. Let it rest. Rewrite it. Get fresh eyes on it. And repeat this until you think you can’t do any more, then do it one more time.

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

MATTHEW: I had submitted to my local SCBWI conference. I can not stress how important doing this was because it provides opportunities for you to get fresh eyes on your work from professionals in the industry. The nominal fee is well worth the time and feedback you get.

I then submitted again to our writer’s retreat. Again, this opportunity was invaluable. Conferences can be big and daunting and face paced. The writing retreat was small and more intimate.

After getting the positive feedback from the retreat, I rewrote my story and Tricia Brown graciously offered to look over my revisions and help me with my query letter.

I submitted my manuscript in the middle of June to Graphic Arts Books.

 

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

MATTHEW: Graphic Arts Books (which has recently updated its name to West Margin Press) had just reorganized and was opening up their imprint, Alaska Northwest Books, which had gone dormant a couple of years prior. They were bringing in a new editor, so my story actually went to the marketing director who held on to it until an editor could be brought on board.

The marketing editor was very excited for the project, but I had to wait. I did not get a “call” but an email at the end of August, 2017. A more formal email came a couple of weeks later and my contract was sent to me at the beginning of October.

They loved my book. First manuscript. First submission to an editor. First sale. That is unheard of. That is like buying your first lottery ticket and hitting all your numbers.

 

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

MATTHEW: My wife and I took Tricia and her husband to dinner to celebrate the official signing. And I ate cheesecake which is what my wife and I decided would be our consolation prize if we got rejected and our victory prize if we won. It was a win/win situation.

 

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

MATTHEW: This book was not about money. It is about completing a dream, seeing my name on a book on a shelf at my local store or library.

Graphic Arts Books is a small regional publisher, so I did not expect much. I received less than a $1000 in an advance, but my book was immediately put into production. The original release date was April of 2019, but to meet the local tourist market and the fact that my illustrator Jacob Souva did a fantastic job, they moved up production to February.

In my contract, I am receiving 5 author copies. Per my contract, I am not allowed to divulge percentages, but after talking amongst other authors with similar publications, my contract is pretty standard. They hold all rights with a 50/50 split should they sell them.

 

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

MATTHEW: My editing process went quickly. I did three edits with my editor. We finished it in two days. Most of the changes were nominal and I trusted my editor. I had already put in mind things I was willing to fight for, and she only touched one. I explained why I wanted that, and she agreed.

The biggest struggle was with the ending. It wasn’t bad, just not quite the punch. We finally settled on an ending and to be honest, it is the only thing I wish we might have spent more time on. I should have set it aside and let it rest, but to be honest, I have not found a better ending line.

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

MATTHEW: My illustrator, Jacob Souva, is amazing. I was told I would get to see the first set of thumbnails and the color pallet. Jacob did not send thumbnails, but rough sketches for the whole thing!

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illustration copyright Jacob Souva 2019

I did not give many author notes, but I did inform the publisher in my query as well as in the contract portion that I wanted to honor the memory of the guy who this story was about. They agreed with me and passed those on to Jacob.

I was consulted on the authenticity of the pictures. I was thankful they entrusted this to me and I tried to keep in mind what my job was. I did not work directly with Jacob and was careful to not converse directly with him until the process was done. I gave my suggestions, keeping in mind what I was looking for, to my editor who passed on to Jacob what she thought was pertinent.

I have heard stories where authors did not see anything until proofs of their book came out, so I am thankful that I was kept appraised as things changed. It is an advantage of working with a smaller press.

My illustrator notes were nominal within the text. I did give them a picture of Felix Pedro, the man who Pedro was modeled after. I also did italics for actions or sounds and it was decided to add those to the illustrations since they typically happened prior to a note. For example: Crackle sizzle pop.(Illo: Pedro cooks beans and bacon in Pan) – (see below)

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illustration copyright Jacob Souva 2019

 

 

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

MATTHEW: I received my first review from a local publication, North of 60 Mining. I was given a favorable review with a positive focus on the STEM side of things.

I was blown away by my Kirkus review. I was expecting a blurb and was hoping it was positive. It was paragraphs long! And glowing!

I also received a review from Foreward. It too was very positive and was featured in the January/February issue.

 

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

MATTHEW: So here is where it gets crazy. From signing to ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) almost a year. From signing to book in hand, 15 months. From signing to release, 16 months!

Not normal under any circumstances!

I believe my first print run is 2500 books.

 

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

MATTHEW: It debuts today! With any luck, it will earn out today, but I am not holding my breath. Most sales won’t happen until tourist season. (June-August)

 

 

SUSANNA: I love your attitude, Matthew!  I hope you earn out today too!! What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

MATTHEW: They have been promoting it through social media. My wife designed small buttons and they paid for those. Marketing has been promoting it at conferences and conventions. The local tourist trade shows are happening right now and I know that they have a booth at them to promote my book and a couple others coming out.

I was informed they will have a booth at the National Library Association Convention as well as the Alaska Library Association Convention.

 

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

MATTHEW:  Whenever I received the pictures for the books, I created a book trailer. I also created a website (www.matthewlasley.com) and have built up my media following on Facebook and Twitter.

My wife designed pins which I took to conferences and plan to take to schools. I also designed bookmarks to hand out.

I took a road trip to Fairbanks, the place the Felix Pedro discovered gold and made contacts there to promote my book this summer.

I got an article in North of 60 Mining which is a small publication that has readership worldwide within the mining industry.

I have been doing a blog tour (thank you Susanna), though smaller than I had originally hoped for.

I am a teacher, so my school’s PTA is doing a book launch party in association with their literacy night. I also plan to do a fundraiser on February 23rdat Barnes and Noble to help raise money for my school’s library.

I have also done a couple of giveaways. You can still get in on my latest which closes on February 23rd. Go to my website for more information.

 

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

MATTHEW: I have been writing for a long time, but I seriously took up picture book writing in 2016. Between writing my first picture book (which was bad, by the way) to selling my first manuscript, 15 months.

Again, I want to stress that this is not normal. I had the right story, in the right place at the right time.

And most importantly, I had my champions. I had my wife, who taught, supported and encouraged me. I had my critique group who guided me. I had an author who believed in me enough to put her reputation on the line. And I had a marketing agent that was willing to take up the cause.

Remember, writing can be a lonely endeavor, but the journey does not have to be done alone. Find your champions and just as important, be a champion to someone else.

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Author Matthew Lasley

www.matthewlasley.com

blog at: https://matthewlasley.wordpress.com
Twitter: @Lasley_Matt
Instagram: @lasley_matt
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matthew.lasley

Thank you so much, Matthew, for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers!

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

You may purchase Matthew’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

– 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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Laura Roettiger!

Welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

Today’s author has some very interesting information to share in terms of illustration as her publisher only accepts illustrated manuscripts.  So let’s jump right in!

Welcome, Laura!  And congratulations on the publication of your first picture book! 🙂

ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON
written by Laura Roettiger
illustrated by Ariel Boroff
Published by Eifrig Publishing
(Fiction ages 4-8)

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Synopsis: Aliana loves observing everything in nature. When she notices how bright the light of the full moon shines into her room, she spends time learning about the moon and experimenting with light.

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

LAURA: When I wrote the first draft of the book it included so many elements that have been cut through revision. The ideas that remain, the brightness of the full moon and a creative girl experimenting with light were always there. I started writing this after moving to Colorado. I live in an area with little light pollution and at 8200 ft. I’m in awe of the moon in ways I never was living in Chicago and the suburbs. Aliana’s creativity is inspired by my daughters. Her name is a combination of two first graders who made me smile every day in my last year teaching in Chicago. Their names are Valentina and Ariana and the family is based on the Latinx families of Carlos Fuentes Charter School who I also wanted to honor in my writing.

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Full Moon from Laura’s balcony

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

LAURA: I began writing in August, 2016. The main revisions took place at the Southampton’s Writers Conference with Emma Walton Hamilton, July 2017. Her feedback focused on things others had said before but I was finally ready to listen. She explained how I was trying to write three books in one and I needed to choose which story I really wanted to tell.

 

I have described that revision as performing surgery on my child. It was painful and messy. I was worried, but the result is that the patient (my manuscript) not only survived, but was improved in the process.

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

LAURA: Actually, I submitted this book before it was ready and I wouldn’t recommend that. I did things backwards and if I could go back in time, I would have joined SCBWI and 12×12 with Julie Hedlund as soon as I began writing seriously.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

LAURA: I submitted to a few agents who all rejected the book even though they liked the character. A few gave me advice which I took to heart, and have worked on my craft in many ways since then. I also had a list of publishers who take unagented work and sent it out to five of them, including Eifrig Publishing, that I thought were a good fit. The Eifrig Publishing website has a mission statement that aligns with my beliefs of environmentalism and empowering children. My query letter explained why I thought we were a good match and I proposed a series with my characters and six different stories I wanted to write. Penny Eifrig emailed back that she was interested. She saw the promise of my writing, even though we needed to go through major revisions at that point.

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Laura’s writing buddy – Charlie 🙂

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

LAURA: From the original manuscript I sent to Eifrig to the book I now have in my hands, there were more changes than I can count. Eifrig only accepts illustrated work. I don’t mean to brag, but I am famous for drawing stick figures, obese hummingbirds, and the Northside of an elephant facing south. Unfortunately, that didn’t qualify me to illustrate. Fortunately, I had a local artist ask if she could illustrate my book. We talked about vision, she showed me her portfolio, and we agreed on collaborating. After a year that included many writing revisions and the artist creating a dummy and a few full water color illustrations, we were on our way. Sadly, the illustrator ended up backing out due to work constraints from her “real job.”

 

I didn’t want to hire an illustrator and pay them outright because I wanted a partner in the marketing process and that had always been our vision with the first artist. I reached out to my former colleague and art teacher where I taught in Chicago who connected me to Ariel. I emailed her the text, some art notes from my work with the first artist, and photos of my students at Carlos Fuentes Charter School who I wanted Aliana and Gustavo to look like. We had several conversations (she lives in California) and she started with character sketches and painting backgrounds. She shared her work along the way so I could see it and occasionally give feedback. Her work is amazing and seeing my story come to life through her artwork has been incredible.

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In the spring, I was able to meet her in person while visiting a friend who also lives in the Los Angeles area. Like the first illustrator, Ariel has had conflicts with time because she works as a costumer on a TV show (Station 19, a Gray’s Anatomy spinoff set in a firehouse.) The fact that Aliana’s dad is a fireman added to our excitement about collaborating. One of the other books, if this becomes a series, is about forest fires, which is something we both have firsthand experience with. When I was moving to Colorado in July 2016, the day we were packing up the truck in Chicago, I received a reverse 911 call that we were being evacuated from the house I owned but had not yet moved into.

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

LAURA: So far we haven’t had any industry reviews, but we have two STEM/STEAM professionals write endorsements for our book. The day I read the first one, written by Grace Wolf-Chase, PhD; Astronomer at Adler Planetarium in Chicago I thought my heart would explode. It was gratifying to see that someone who didn’t know me and had a career in the field of Astronomy understood everything I was hoping the book would impart.

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Young Laura, in practically the same pose as Aliana on the cover, as happy then as grown-up Laura is now about her book!

“This short children’s book imparts many pearls of wisdom about the qualities of a scientist, while telling an engaging story about a girl’s caring relationship with her younger brother. Using her ingenuity, imagination, and ordinary household materials, Aliana creates a special experience for Gustavo’s 5thbirthday. Aliana Reaches for the Moonencourages all children – and especially girls – to read, explore, experiment, and to take notice of the natural world. There’s even an important message for parents – doing science can be messy!”    ~ Grace Wolf-Chase, PhD; Astronomer, Adler Planetarium

We also received a glowing endorsement from Linda Schwab, Flight Director at the Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana. I wasn’t even aware these amazing educational centers existed until now. They provide hands on learning and exploration for children and resources for teachers dedicated to the memory of those who died in the Challenger shuttle tragedy on January 28, 1986. For more information go to challenger.org 

 

Curiosity and imagination, paired with research and experimental play, help Aliana bring her unique idea to life. Aliana Reaches for the Moon will inspire readers to use science, imagination, and experimental play to create their own innovations.”   ~Linda Schwab, Flight Director,  Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana

 

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

LAURA: The time between when I started writing and when I received the contract was exactly two years. Again, our situation is different from most because the publisher had already shown interest in early 2017 when I sent her the series proposal and the dummy and 2 illustrations from the first artist. From contract to proof/hard copy was about 10 weeks and then another two and a half months to our release date.

 

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

LAURA: Penny is wonderful, but Eifrig is a small house and I knew from the beginning that much of the marketing and promotion would be my responsibility. She has sent the book to professional reviewers and is working to have it carried in museums and planetariums. She’s also supported my goal of participating in author events at CCIRC and The Children’s Festival of Stories to make sure the book will be available.

 

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

LAURA:  Ariel has made coloring pages and designed a bookmark. We have a mini 20 second teaser trailer and a longer one that runs about a minute. I hired a former student who is now finishing a degree in animation. I plan to use the trailers and swag as part of my school visit presentations.

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Laura Roettiger and her book! 🙂

https://lauraroettigerbooks.com/

Laura, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today and share your experience, expertise, and book journey to publication!  We all so appreciate it!

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

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

Indiebound (N/A)
Amazon
Barnes&Noble (N/A)
Eifrig Publishing

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– sharing their books on social media

– 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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Vivian Kirkfield!

Welcome back to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debuts, Everyone!

We had a bit of a hiatus there where no one stepped up for the limelight!

But now we’re back and better than ever, starting strong in 2019 with none other than the fabulous Vivian Kirkfield!

I have known Vivian since she first dipped her toe into the world of writing picture books, and it has been such a pleasure to see her grow as a writer to the point where she has 3 picture books coming out this year!  THREE!!! I feel like a proud mama bird watching her little chick take wing and fly 🙂

So, welcome, Vivian!  THRILLED to have you here, sharing your very first published picture book on its very first day in the world!

VIVIAN: Thank you so much, Susanna, for featuring me on your blog today! And how auspicious – as today is Pippa’s birthday since February 5, 2019 is the official launch date of Pippa’s Passover Plate!

Pippa’s Passover Plate
by Vivian Kirkfield
illustrated by Jill Weber
published by Holiday House
February 5, 2019
Fiction, ages 3-7.

cover on amazon

Quiver! Quaver! Shiver! Shake! Cats and snakes and owls make Pippa Mouse cringe and quake. But, when Pippa Mouse can’t find her special Seder plate, she ventures out, questions each one, discovers that friends come in all shapes and sizes, and uncovers the whereabouts of her dish before the sun sets and the Passover holiday starts. A Joyful Tale of Courage and Friendship.

 

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

VIVIAN: When I jumped into kidlitland in 2012, I began participating in challenges like Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo. (Picture Book Idea Month which is now called Storystorm and held in January and is a FABULOUS way to connect with the community, get inspired, and generate ideas for the coming year) In 2013, one of her guests was Kar Ben editor Joni Sussman who put out a plea for Jewish holiday picture books. I was thrilled that I’d be able to submit directly to an editor and so I sat down to write a story.

 

 

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

VIVIAN: At that time in my writing career (I had been writing for a bit less than 2 years), I loved to write in rhyme (still do) and so this rhyming pb story about Pippa Mouse flowed from my pen. I usually start my stories in longhand in a composition notebook so I grabbed one and started writing. A picture of a little mouse came into my mind and I saw her hurrying and scurrying to get her house ready for the Passover holiday. But there had to be a problem, right? Our main characters need us to put obstacles in their way. For me, that is the hardest thing to do because in real life, I like to make things smooth for everyone. But I knew that wasn’t going to work for a picture book story. “Throw rocks at your hero,” they tell us. I decided to throw a couple of big rocks at Pippa Mouse…not only couldn’t she find her special Seder plate, but she would have to confront 3 of her natural enemies in order to find it. This story, unlike many others I have written, seemed to flow from my pen and I think I had a rough draft by the end of the day. But it was VERY rough!!!!

 

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

VIVIAN: Pippa’s Passover Plate went through many revisions. What I usually do is write the rough draft. Then I read it aloud and start revising, smoothing it out. This is especially difficult with a rhyming story because you need the rhythm (meter/beat) and rhyme to be PERFECT. But it also has to tell the story…and often, when you ‘make’ it rhyme, it is not what you really want to say or need to say to move the story forward – but you are using certain words because they rhyme. When I feel my story is where I want it…or as good as I can make it, I give it to a couple of my critique buddies. NOTE ABOUT CRITIQUE BUDDIES: DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT THEM! Just kidding about leaving home, but I am serious about a writer’s need for trusted feedback AND the support and encouragement that critique partners give you. When I get their feedback, I revise again. And then read it aloud again. And sent it to other critique partners.

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

VIVIAN: As a general rule, if my critique buddies say it is ready and it sounds good to my ear and feels good in my heart, I know a manuscript is ready. It still might not be successful (AKA get a book contract)…but we can never make our manuscripts perfect – we have to send them out when they are ‘ready’ which could mean different things to different people. I often record my voice reading it because we hear our voice differently when we are talking from when we are listening to our voice on tape and I often find places that trip me up or that don’t sound quite right and I want to fix those before I submit.

 

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

VIVIAN: When I submitted Pippa’s Passover Plate to the Kar Ben editor, I did not have an agent. And I got a lovely personal rejection, but no encouragement to revise and resubmit. I put the story away and continued writing other stories. I got hooked on writing nonfiction picture book biographies and so the Pippa story sat in my drawer till three years later when, in 2017, a friend reminded me that PJ Library had a contest for Jewish picture book stories and I should submit it. I pulled the story out of the drawer and gave it to one of my new local author/illustrator critique buddies to look over. She read it and fell in love with it and asked if she could bring it to her long -time editor in NYC who she was going to have lunch with the next week. “Sure” I told her. “Why not?”

So, I gave it to Jill Weber on a Friday and she said she’d bring it with her when she went to the city.

 

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best momen t ever! 🙂 )

VIVIAN: To tell you the truth, I had kind of forgotten about it and late Monday morning I got an email from the editor, telling me she had just read my lovely manuscript and she asked where she should send the contract, to me or to my agent. I WAS SHOCKED! And thrilled, of course. Immediately, I emailed my agent with this subject line:

WE DID IT AND WE WEREN’T EVEN TRYING!

There was only one change the editor asked for…the original title was Pippa’s Pesach Plate – Pesach is the Hebrew word for the holiday and it fit very well with the rhythm/beat of the story. But the editor felt that the English word for the holiday, Passover, would be more widely known/accepted because a story about facing fears and overcoming obstacles and making friends is a story for all children, not just those of the Jewish faith.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

VIVIAN: I did a happen dance! Then I emailed my son and daughter. And then I had an email exchange with Jill who was as thrilled as I was!

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

VIVIAN: The contract was a standard one and there were no surprises. I was happy with the terms. But having an agent is helpful because they look over the contract and make sure there aren’t any funny clauses. But even if you have an agent, I urge authors (and illustrators) to educate themselves by checking out the resources on the SCBWI website and other websites. Every publishing house is different, but the ball park figures for advances are approximately (please don’t hold me to this):

Small house: 0 to $3000

Medium house: $3000 to $5000

Large house: $5000 and up

Of course, these numbers are only approximate and from my own experience…many variables can change them (if you have other books with the house and they sold well, if you are a big-name celebrity, if this is your first book, etc.).

 

And the thing of it is, it really doesn’t matter what your advance is. (other than for your own personal vanity or some bill that needs to be paid) In the end, if your book does okay, you will make the same, whether you get a big advance, small advance, or no advance at all. And, if the publisher gives you a big advance and your book doesn’t do well, and it doesn’t earn out what they paid you, they may not be anxious to buy your next book. Whereas, if they give you a smaller advance, but the book does well, you will make the money in royalties (because you don’t get a PENNY until your book earns out…that means, until your book sells enough copies to pay back the publisher for your advance). And, if your book earns out, the publisher will be more willing to buy another book from you.

Here’s a link to an SCBWI FAQ on this: https://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/frequently-asked-questions/

And here’s a link to a wonderful survey author Hannah Holt conducted: https://hannahholt.com/blog/2017/9/25/writing-picture-books-a-look-at-the-number-part-2

 

 

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

VIVIAN: The editorial process for Pippa’s Passover Plate was, as I mentioned, almost non-existent for me. The editor emailed and asked for a word doc of the manuscript. She asked if I minded changing the title. And that was that.

However, that is not how it usually goes. With four other book contracts under my belt (and one of them is a 9-story compilation book), I can attest to the fact that usually, there is a lot more revision that goes on. With Sweet Dreams, Sarah, that editor had several minor tweaks to suggest, plus she wanted an additional line in the ending. Then, when illustrations needed to be changed for historical accuracy, the editor and I decided there should be some minor text changes as well and I completely rewrote the author’s note.

 

Sweet Dreams Cover Template Revised

With Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book,the editor had almost no changes in the text of the story, but we had quite a few revisions for the back matter.

four otters cover amazon

With Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020), the editor and I had an intense back and forth email communication for a week…every day, she would email the manuscript with a minor suggestion and I would fix it and send it back that evening. And the next morning, she’d send it again, with a new little tweak request. But, by the end of the week, we were done and they were ready to hire the illustrator. As I mentioned, every publishing house is different, every editor is different, every manuscript is different…it’s hard to say what the process will be like for a future story.

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

VIVIAN: As I mentioned previously, because each manuscript, house, editor, illustrator is different, what happens with one story is probably never going to happen with another. With Pippa’s Passover Plate, everything was perfect! Because the illustrator was my friend and critique buddy as well as being a fabulous artist and a truly fine person, I never had one moment of unease. I knew that my story was in good hands and Jill shared with me freely the sketches, book dummy, and finished art. It was truly a joy to work with her and with Holiday House.

This is not how it always is…in fact, I can guarantee that this is not how it usually is. Many editors do not want the authors to be collaborating with the illustrators. They fear the author will try to overpower the illustrator with her own vision for the story. And perhaps badger the illustrator and keep the illustrator from moving forward. I’ve been pretty lucky…my experiences with all but one of my books have been incredible.

I do not use art notes, except in rare instances when the text doesn’t spell out the action. That said, I went back to my old manuscript and found that there was one illustration note in the Pippa story:

 

At the bottom – something round.

Can you guess what Pippa found?

Ball and coin and old tin can,

bottle cap and rusty pan,

globe to circumnavigate.

Best of all – the Pesach plate!

Fish swims up with mouse in tow. (illo: Mouse is brought to the surface on the back of the fish)

To the Seder all will go.

SUSANNA: Unfortunately we don’t have the illustration available to go with that note, but here are a couple others so you can see how wonderful the art is! 🙂

Pippa'sPassoverPlate_9x9_Page_05

Pippa'sPassoverPlate_9x9_Page_10

 

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

VIVIAN: We are just getting reviews now. I think reviews are very important for the book…but I also think as writers, we need to observe them and accept them and not let the ones that aren’t positive get under our skin. One review is, after all, only one person’s opinion. 😊The only one I’ve seen for PIPPA, other than almost a dozen lovely ones on Goodreads, was from Kirkus…and it was both disappointing and hilarious and just about the same number of words as the story itself.

A mouse searches for and finally finds her missing Seder plate. Pippa is an industrious house-cleaning mouse. And no wonder—Passover is starting this very evening. Dusting and sweeping finished, she turns her attention to setting the table as a pot of chicken stew bubbles away on the stovetop. But there is one very important object that is missing: the “special Seder plate.” Frantically, the mouse searches through boxes and cupboards and finally ventures into the yard. First she encounters a very large cat and asks if it has seen the plate. “No,” answers the cat and points her to a snake, who sends her to an owl, who directs her to Golda Fish, prettily swimming in the water. Success! Kirkfield’s little tale is written in rhyming couplets with much repetition of “QUIVER! QUAVER! SHIVER! SHAKE!” for emphasis with each interaction with a predator, so readers will be mightily puzzled when the formerly frightful critters join Pippa at the holiday table. Weber’s gouache, crayon, and collage illustrations are sweetly pretty. The final illustration features a Seder plate with transliterated Hebrew and an English translation of the components. Readers familiar with the holiday may find this mildly enjoyable, but others will likely want and need more information. In the end too much is left unanswered, making this book pleasant but only passable. (Picture book. 3-5)

 

Personally, as a former kindergarten and Head Start teacher, I doubt very much that children ages 3 to 5 will find it ‘mightily puzzling’ that a bunch of animals end up being friends. And if I were Jill, I’d be ‘mightily insulted’ that my beautiful art was considered ‘sweetly pretty’…and honestly, I have never seen a fish ‘prettily swimming.” I’m glad the reviewer felt that readers would find it ‘mildly enjoyable’…and in my opinion, the book is more than ‘passable’. And I don’t think there was ‘much repetition’ of the refrain – there were three instances, which, for a picture book, is just about perfect. But this is how this particular reviewer felt and she is entitled to her opinion. Hopefully, the parents who read this story and the children who listen to it will think otherwise.

 

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

VIVIAN: From offer to first copy in hand? Oh, my goodness. This is a wake-up call to many of us. In fact, I just got an email from someone who wanted to hire me for a critique quickly because she wants to have her book published right away so that she can supplement her retirement income this year. Hmmm. That is not how it this publishing business works.

 

The offer was made at the end of 2017.  Jill did an unbelievable job getting illustrations done so a book dummy could be produced for the editor to take to the 2018 Bologna Book Fair which was only 3 months away. And the book was scheduled to launch February 5, 2019 and I got my first author copy by the end of the summer of 2018. But I have yet to get the additional author copies that were part of the contract, although I am sure they will arrive in due course. With traditional publishing, I’d say the fastest turnaround might be 18 months, although with PIPPA, it will be 16 months. But it could be many YEARS, as with Sweet Dreams, Sarah, which was signed at the end of 2015 and is launching May 1, 2019. As I said before, different editors, different publishing houses, different illustrators, different manuscripts. Everything has a bearing on the time it takes to bring a book to life.

 

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

VIVIAN: Holiday House connected with PJ Library, a big organization that provides books for Jewish families. They approved Pippa’s Passover Platewhich means they order a whole bunch (don’t know how many) and they create back matter and their own jacket flap information for their audience. We have a publicist who says she will help set up book events – but I haven’t heard anything about that yet. They are supposed to have sent the book to hundreds of reviewers, including the ones I recommended, as well as newspapers and other news media outlets. They have a presence at many conferences around the world and across this country, as well as catalogs that are hopefully featuring the book.

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

VIVIAN: Fortunately, I’m pretty active on my blog and on social media like Facebook and Twitter. I’ve contacted many book reviewers and bloggers and have arranged for guest posts and Q&A’s (like this one – thank you so much, Susanna!) – a kind of 5-month book blog tour because it is for all three books and it started in January. I’m also a member of two debut picture book groups for authors and illustrators and we support each other by reviewing on Goodreads and Amazon. I reached out to several conferences and will be on the program for some of them. My round the world trip starting in February is one way I will spread the word about three of my 2019 books. I plan to take a copy of each and will photograph them at various landmarks and post to social media in a ‘Where in the World is Carmen Santiago’ fashion. Jill plans to create a Pippa stuffed animal which will be featured in each photo also. She’s working on bookmarks and I’m going to ask her about coloring pages for my blog for parents to print out for their kids. When I get back from the Bologna Book Fair, Jill and I will do some joint events at a local bookstore and also at a local temple.

 

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

VIVIAN: I jumped into writing picture books in a serious way in 2012 when I joined Julie Hedlund’s first 12×12 Writing Challenge. I’d already been blogging for a year and was reviewing picture books every Friday, linking up to you, Susanna. In fact, your Perfect Picture Book Friday posts were where I meet writers who dreamed of becoming published authors and I realized that was my dream as well. My first picture book, Sweet Dreams, Sarah (first book signed will not be the first book out), was signed at the end of 2015…four years from when I started writing seriously.

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

VIVIAN: As I mentioned, it took four years from when I decided to become a picture book author. This picture book writing journey is a process…it’s like making a pizza…in fact, that’s my presentation for the Sydney SCBWI conference in a few weeks. There are certain ingredients and you have to follow the steps.

And if you don’t give up, it will definitely happen.

 

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Vivian! We are all grateful to you for sharing your experience and wish you great success with your book!

 

VIVIAN: Thank you so much for having me, Susanna. And for providing such a vibrant platform for aspiring and seasoned authors and illustrators.

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Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at national writers’ conferences. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest,Instagram,Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found

 

Readers, if you have questions for Vivian, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond. (Although I think she might be traveling around the world at the moment, so you might have to be a little patient 🙂 )

You may purchase VIvian’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

– 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