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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Sue Heavenrich!

Welcome to this week’s scintillating edition of Tuesday Debut!

Sue Heavenrich has been a long-time follower of this blog, and a devoted participant in Perfect Picture Book Fridays for years, and today I’m thrilled to be welcoming her as the author of her own perfect picture book! What could be more perfect than 13 Ways To Eat A Fly? 😊

13 Ways to Eat a Fly
By Sue Heavenrich
Illustrated by David Clark
Charlesbridge, February 2021
Nonfiction picture book, ages 4-8

Math meets science as a swarm of flies meet their demise. Whether they are zapped, wrapped, liquefied, or zombified, the science is real – and hilariously gross. Includes a (non-human) guide to fine dining, complete with nutritional information for a single serving of flies.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Sue! Thank you so much for joining us today! I don’t think any of us can wait to hear about where the idea for this book came from! Please tell us!

SUE: I was reading something and jotted down “how to eat a fly.” I figured a book about animals and their fly food might be fun… and a good way to highlight the diversity of the order Diptera. Most people think flies are just pests, but they are amazing. Some pollinate the flowers in my garden, and some even eat crop pests!

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

SUE: Counting the research and revisions – five or more years. I started with the basic idea: pair up predators with specific flies they eat. That took more time than I expected, and I even emailed a few experts. I created a spreadsheet of predators and flies, then looked for 13 different fly families to highlight.        

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

SUE: Oh yes! In its first version it was pretty “listy”. I imagined each spread presenting a fly and its consumer. I think it went through about a dozen revisions. It needed more context, so I added an introduction, and some back matter. I sent it out, got a bit of interest, though the comments were usually along the lines of “this is interesting but…” it needed a hook. I put it aside for a few months and then one day while smacking cluster flies with a swatter I found myself saying “one down, twelve to go”. I’m pretty sure a lightbulb went off over my head and I restructured the entire manuscript. It became a reverse counting book. At the same time, I was working on a middle grade book about eating insects with Chris Mihaly, and I began thinking – from a predator’s point of view – what would make flies a good food source? I goofed around, creating a nutrition label (flies are full of protein) and a dining guide for insect-eaters concerned about whether the flies they order in a restaurant are “locally sourced”. After another handful of revisions, and feedback from critique partners, I felt this new, improved manuscript was ready for submission.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

SUE: I took my original story to the 2012 Falling Leaves nonfiction retreat where I met my editor, Alyssa Pusey (Charlesbridge). I got great feedback and submitted it to her. But, in fly terms, my book was still a larva and needed to mature – and Alyssa suggested that I revise and resubmit. After a couple years of agent rejections and feedback, I realized that I needed to let go of what I had and find a completely different structure. So appropriate – this is exactly what happens when a fly larva undergoes metamorphosis: it totally dissolves and rebuilds something completely different. So four years later I finally resubmitted the (17th? 29th?) revision.

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

SUE: I didn’t so much get “the call” as an email from Alyssa saying – hey, this has potential, and are you willing to revise? After a couple of months of back and forth with revisions, she emailed that she was taking it to acquisitions, and could I answer two quick questions. Then a couple weeks later it was “good news, we’d like to make an offer”.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

SUE: I thought I would be jumping up and down and popping the cork from a champagne bottle, but the truth is… I just jumped up and down a few times. I’m pretty sure chocolate was involved.

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

SUE: I knew, when I submitted to Charlesbridge, that the advance would be smaller than other houses, but the quality of their books is so high that I wanted them to publish my book. I did negotiate for more author copies.

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

SUE: Given the revisions I’d made prior to signing the contract, I thought everything was pretty much finished. But over the next two years we continued with occasional revisions. Overall, though, Alyssa enthusiastically supported my initial vision for the story and I felt like we were working as a team.

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

SUE: I was included to some extent in the whole process. It started with an email from Alyssa: what style of illustration did I see for my book? Did I have any suggestions for illustrators? I sent her a short list. Some weeks later, she asked what I thought about David Clark. I am a big fan of his work and was so thrilled that he would be part of the team – even though it meant waiting longer for publication.

Because 13 Ways to Eat a Fly is, at its core, nonfiction, I created a file of reference photos of fly-eaters and their flies. I had also included art notes in the manuscript (listing the specific flies). Through the process I got to see sketches, and was asked for comments. And I got a package of proofs in the mail. It was so cool to see how David had interpreted the story! He’s a genius.

text copyright Sue Heavenrich 2021, illustration copyright David Clark 2021, Charlesbridge

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

SUE: The publicists sent me a preview of BookList review – it got a starred review! And I found the Kirkus review online.

SUSANNA: Starred review first time out – that is amazing! Congratulations! How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

SUE: At least ten years.

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

SUE: It is easy to be discouraged. I had faith in this book, and I kept telling myself that it was worthy of a book jacket. But I also set projects aside when I need a break. And truthfully, this business is so subjective that you can’t let rejection mean anything more than “it’s not right for me at this time in the universe.”

Author Sue Heavenrich

Agency Website: https://www.stormliteraryagency.com/sueheavenrich
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SueHeavenrichWriter
Website: www.sueheavenrich.com
Blog: https://archimedesnotebook.blogspot.com/

SUSANNA: Sue, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your journey to publication! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the best with this and future titles!

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

You may purchase Sue’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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Rebecca Kraft Rector!

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

Today’s debut-ess and I are clearly kindred spirits! Her book is being published by Nancy Paulsen, who has one of my books due out next year, her publication date is one of my daughters’ birthday, and her name is Rebecca, which is my sister’s name! There’s a pretty good chance we are twin princesses separated at birth 😊

So I am delighted to introduce you to Rebecca Kraft Rector and her fun-looking book, Squish Squash Squished! (I don’t have my copy as of the writing of this post but I hope it will be here soon!)

Squish Squash Squished
Written by Rebecca Kraft Rector
Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House
February 16, 2021
Fiction, ages 2-6

When Max and Molly complain about being squished in the back seat of their gracious-spacious automobile, Mom invites their animal neighbors to ride along. They’d better figure out what to do before they’re truly SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED!


SUSANNA: Welcome, Rebecca! Thank you so much for joining us today! We’re excited to hear all about how Squish Squash Squished came to be! Where did the idea for this book come from?

REBECCA: Family car rides were a big part of my childhood. But the story was not inspired by us kids being crowded in the back seat, because we were very well behaved. 😊 In fact, SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED grew out of another story I was working on. That story was about the car itself. Gradually I started focusing on the children and adding humor and word play. My most successful stories happen when I’m making myself laugh.

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

REBECCA: I wrote and revised the story with the help of my critique group in about three months. It didn’t sell and I put it away. That was twenty years ago!

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

REBECCA: SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED was revised at least 15 times before it was submitted.

I revise before sharing with critique partners and then I revise again. (and again) When I think a story is finished, I do a few more passes. I use Word to turn the text into a 4 x 8 table. It’s an easy process under Insert/Table/Convert Text to Table. Each cell of the table represents a page of a 32-page book. The table lets me see where page turns will fall, if one page will have more words than another, if I’m repeating things unnecessarily, etc. A new revision tool I use is Read Mode in Word. I can see the text spread across two pages, just like a book. And if I enlarge the font to 18 (or so) it has fewer words on the page, so it reads like a picture book. I also like to change the font size and color of the text. It gives me a totally new perspective on the story.

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

REBECCA: After many revisions and feedback from my critique group, I felt I had a solid story. It made me laugh and the words flowed smoothly when it was read aloud.

Rebecca’s work buddies, Ollie and Opal 😊


SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

REBECCA: My agent submitted the story three times before we parted ways. Then I submitted to publishers that took unsolicited manuscripts. I put the story away when it was rejected and only pulled it out again, almost 20 years later, when I needed a story to work on for a workshop. Cecilia Yung, Art Director at Penguin Random House, saw the story at the workshop (text only since I can’t draw), loved it, and took it to editor/publisher Nancy Paulsen. A week later, I received an email from Nancy offering to publish the story!

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

REBECCA: This was my first picture book contract so I only had a vague idea of what to expect. The advance was divided into two payments—half on signing the contract and half on “delivery and acceptance of the manuscript.” I believe “delivery and acceptance” referred to a revised manuscript after editorial feedback. The number of author copies was negotiated from 10 to 24. The contract’s timeline for publication was 18 months after acceptance of text and illustrations. 18 months seemed a long, but reasonable time to wait. However, the timeline was actually about three and a half years. Publishing is sloooow.

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

REBECCA: The editorial process was wonderful. Nancy was awesome to work with—responsive and open to discussing any questions I had. Yes, I had to make some changes. But she really did listen to my concerns. One example is that she had revised the story so that the animals exited the car in one paragraph—the dogs got out at the puppy school, the ducks got out at the duck pond, and the pigs got out at the market. I really wanted to show the car gradually emptying—the dogs got out but Molly still had two ducks on her head quack-quacking and Max still had a pig on his lap oink-oinking. (Those lines are all paraphrased.) Nancy’s changes were made so that the story would fit into a 32-page picture book. After some discussion, she decided to go with a 40-page picture book so that we could include my original text!

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

REBECCA: I was included in the illustration process from the start. I had input on illustrators and I was able to give feedback on sketches. I hadn’t included any art notes but I had pictures in my head, of course. It took a little time to adjust my vision when I saw the sketches. But they quickly grew on me. I was so lucky that illustrator Dana Wulfekotte came on board to create the world for SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED. She even made some changes based on my suggestions.

text copyright Rebecca Kraft Rector 2021, illustration copyright Dana Wulfekotte 2021, Nancy Paulsen Books

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

REBECCA: Nothing yet.

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

REBECCA: July 2017 to January 2021. Three and a half years.


SUSANNA: What was the initial print run for your book?

REBECCA: 10,000 copies.

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

REBECCA: The associate publicist is pitching widely to national and regional media, targeting trade and book-interest sites, illustrator and educator media, and parenting media.

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

REBECCA: I’m doing blog interviews and I’ve joined a debut picture book group—21 for the Books. It’s been a great, supportive group. We have a blog https://oneforthebooks.wixsite.com/2021 and we create graphics and interviews to publicize each other’s books.

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

REBECCA: It was a long time—at least thirty years.

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?)

REBECCA: The most important thing I learned was Don’t Give Up! Keep writing and keep trying. This might not be the right time for this story, but who knows? Maybe it’ll sell next year (or twenty years from now).

Author Rebecca Kraft Rector

RebeccaKraftRector.wordpress.com
RebeccaKraftRector on Facebook
RebeccaKRector on Instagram and Twitter


SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today and give us a glimpse of your publication process, Rebecca! It is such a privilege to get to learn from you! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the very best of luck with this and future titles!

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

You may purchase Rebecca’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!

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Melanie Ellsworth!

It’s that time again. . .

Time to meet another amazing Tuesday Debut-ess!

I’m thrilled to introduce you to Melanie Ellsworth and share a glimpse of her journey to publication with this delightfully lively and fun-looking picture book due out on February 23 (so pre-order your copy now! 😊)

Are you ready?

Hip, hip, Beret! 😊

HIP, HIP…BERET!
written by Melanie Ellsworth
illustrated by Morena Forza
Fiction Picture Book for ages 4-7
HMH Books for Young Readers
February 23, 2021

Bella’s beret blows away on a windy day, taking a ride through the seasons and landing on a variety of heads along the way. Full of rhyme, repetition, and humorous word play, with a few touchable berets to engage young readers.


SUSANNA: Welcome, Melanie! Thank you so much for joining us! We are so looking forward to hearing Hip, Hip…Beret!’s birthday story 😊 Where did the idea for this book come from?

       
MELANIE: Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Susanna. I’m thrilled to be here!

I often play around with common sayings, idioms, or nursery rhyme phrases and see what happens if I change a word or two. I remember playing around with the phrase, “Hip, hip hooray!” to see what would happen if I changed the last word. One of my early ideas was “Hip, hip moray!” a non-fiction picture book about moray eels. (It’s probably best I didn’t follow that idea too far…) Fortunately, it didn’t take long from there to get to “Hip, hip…beret!” and imagine where a beret might travel on a windy day.

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

MELANIE: I wrote the first draft in one sitting once I hit upon the structure of the book, and I revised over the next month and a half while also working on other projects. Unlike a number of my ideas, which sit around in a Word doc on my computer for months or years before I write them, I was eager to write a first draft for HIP, HIP…BERET! as soon as I got the idea. It seemed like tons of fun to write, and it was. Rhymezone.com was my best friend on this journey as I needed many words that rhymed with “hooray” for the repeating phrase!

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

       
MELANIE: I wrote eight drafts of this story, sharing with my critique groups along the way, before sending this off to an editor. For many of my books, I write twenty or thirty drafts, so writing HIP, HIP…BERET! went much more quickly than usual for me. (Thank goodness! We could all use one like this from time to time!)

Because I established the simple structure of the story quickly, the various drafts don’t reflect major differences from the first to the eighth – just minor word tweaking. It was one of those rare stories that came to mind almost fully formed, although early on in the brainstorming process, I tried a few rhyming stanzas like this:

A beret sails away       

One very windy day    

Frog tries it on

And flings it to a fawn

I did like the idea of the beret passing from one head to another, but I threw out that stanza pattern and went with a structure that involved the repetition of “Hip, Hip…” followed by various words like “soufflé” and “ballet.” (Turns out a lot of French words rhyme with “hooray!”) That simplified structure fit better with the story I was telling and also allowed readers/listeners to predict the next rhyming word. I wanted the tone to be lightweight and breezy like the wind carrying the beret.

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

MELANIE: By the eighth draft, I had done all the wordsmithing I could do, and my critique group members thought it was ready. One of them suggested I submit HIP, HIP…BERET! to an editor who was already considering another one of my manuscripts because it seemed like a good companion to that book. That turned out to be a great idea because the editor ended up acquiring both books! Thank goodness for critique groups who often give you the push you need at the right time!

Melanie’s writing buddy, Baxter, working hard in her office 😊



SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

       
MELANIE: For HIP, HIP…BERET! I had a connection with an editor I had met at the Agents/Editors/Writers conference in Belgrade Lakes, Maine. She was considering a different manuscript of mine from that conference, and I asked if she would be interested in this one as well. She said yes, so I sent HIP, HIP…BERET! along to her in May of 2018.

SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted did you get your offer?

MELANIE: I emailed HIP, HIP…BERET to the editor in May and received an offer on August 13th, so it was about three months from submission to offer for that one. (My other book being considered by the same editor around that time, CLARINET AND TRUMPET, took a lot longer – with an initial submission of November 7th, a revise/resubmit request, and an offer seven months later in June. )

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

MELANIE: In June, I heard back from the editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt by email with an offer on my other manuscript (CLARINET AND TRUMPET). At that point, I reached out to a few of the agents on my list and ended up signing with Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis. She negotiated the contract for CLARINET AND TRUMPET with my editor. Then in August, I had an offer on HIP, HIP…BERET! from the same editor, and Christa negotiated that contract as well. It was definitely a joyful summer for me! The two books were originally scheduled to come out about 6 months apart, but due to the pandemic, CLARINET AND TRUMPET was pushed from 2020 to 2021, so now the two books are practically twins, due out in February and March of 2021. (I imagine HIP, HIP…BERET! elbowing CLARINET AND TRUMPET out of the way so it could come out first!)

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

MELANIE: I got the offer for HIP, HIP…BERET on August 13, 2018 and had the contract (which my agent negotiated) two months later on October 4th.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

MELANIE: I remember letting my critique groups know first thing – they did some happy dances with me over email/phone. My husband suggested I frame the first advance check that I got, so I did, and it’s hanging on my office wall. I was especially excited to share the news with my daughter; she had been watching my picture book writing journey since she was a little picture book reader herself, and even though she was moving into chapter books and early middle grade by then, she was still thrilled for her mom. (Plus, no one is ever too old for picture books!)

SUSANNA: That is so true! Picture books are for everyone! Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

MELANIE: My contract was fairly typical, with an advance in the 3-6K range, and the standard royalties, and 20 author copies. I thought the initial advance offer was generous for a debut author, and my agent was able to increase it even more. 

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

MELANIE: It was fun to work on revisions with my editor; I’m one of those writers who (most of the time) loves the editing process. I think we went back and forth with a few changes here and there about five times before we had a final version. Most of it was small word changes, but there were some larger stanza changes as well. I had a stanza featuring an old oak tree that we ended up replacing with a ballet scene which was more dynamic. I originally had a hawk swooping down to grab the beret – “hip, hip…my prey!” and I really didn’t want to cut that scene at first, but the editor convinced me that it darkened the tone of an otherwise lighthearted book. We replaced it with a balloon carrying the beret skywards until the balloon pops. Morena Forza, the illustrator, also played a role in some text changes; she felt like the donkey stanza would result in illustrations too similar to the horse stanza, so the donkey hit the cutting room floor (Hip, hip…br-aaay!!). We made the ending a bit brighter as well, with the beret almost sprouting from the ground as the spring flowers emerge. In retrospect, it’s surprising how many revisions you can make on a story that is less than 300 words long! But every word is gold and needs to shine.

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

MELANIE: I didn’t have much to do with the illustrations, as publishers wisely like to give illustrators freedom to explore their own vision. I had very few art notes in my initial submission, except one for a plot point at the end that wasn’t clear in the text and one at the beginning suggesting that the illustrations show Bella looking for her missing beret throughout the story. As it turned out, the illustrator and design team disregarded that note because they felt that having Bella searching in each spread, even as an inset, would make the spreads too busy. I had also suggested that Bella not be white, feeling like more of our young readers need to see themselves reflected in text and/or illustration, but they made a different decision on that. But there is diversity reflected in other characters in the book.

My editor thought that it would be fun to have a few touchable, felt berets throughout the book, and I think children will enjoy the search for those. I got to see the art early on in the process in case I wanted to make comments, and I was happy to let Morena (and the art department) pursue their vision. As I sit here holding an author copy in my hand, I’m thinking that the vivid color and whimsy that Morena brings to the illustrations perfectly matches the tone of the text, and I love her work.

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

MELANIE: I haven’t seen reviews yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

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

MELANIE: Let’s see – offer on August 2018 and first copy in hand January 22, 2021! So about two and ½ years.

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

MELANIE: My editor shared HMH’s 50-page marketing guidelines PDF which helps authors with social media promotion. Other publishers might have something similar – for writers debuting, it’s worth reaching out to your editor or publicist to ask. My editor suggested I pass marketing questions by her, but some editors prefer that an author work directly with their assigned publicist. I asked about doing book giveaways, and they offered to do an Instagram giveaway. When I inquired, my editor also said they are willing to send books to winners (living in the U.S.) of my blog tour giveaways, so it’s helpful that I don’t have to use all of my author copies for that. The publisher has also reached out to their usual sources for reviews of my books. As a debut author, I have been reluctant to ask tons of marketing questions – not wanting to be a major pest! – but I do think it helps to be as proactive as possible in promoting your work. Ultimately, that will benefit the publisher as well. And being part of a debut book group is very helpful – I’m part of the Soaring ‘20s Picture Book Debut Group (https://www.soaring20spb.com/) – because you can get a lot of marketing questions answered by folks who have debuted before you, and they can help you figure out what you need to ask your publisher.

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

MELANIE: I’ve arranged for a number of blog tours, particularly on blogs that I’ve been following regularly – like this one! – for years. I’ve also participated on Matthew Winner’s The Children’s Book Podcast (and soon on KidLit TV) with my Soaring ‘20s debut group. It has been helpful for our group to promote and review each other’s books and provide useful content to other writers. I’ve also set up a library event with my local library, offering signed/personalized books through my local bookstore. For both of my books, the illustrators have agreed to be part of Zoom book events, which is wonderful (especially since Morena Forza lives in Italy – quite the time difference!). A website seems like a must for authors/illustrators, and you can certainly create one for yourself if you are willing to put in a lot of time. I started down that route for a while before realizing I was better off putting my website into more capable hands. 😊

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


MELANIE: About 6 years. I started writing and joined a critique group in 2012 and sold my first picture book in 2018.

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

MELANIE: It can get a little stressful as you approach your debut date and think about all the marketing you still need to do, but I’d advise anyone debuting to be sure to also have fun and enjoy the crazy journey! And for writers who aren’t sure if they’ll ever get that first book out there, keep the faith. You have your own stories to tell, and the world needs them.

Author Melanie Ellsworth

Find Melanie at:
Twitter:  @melanieells
Instagram:  @melaniebellsworth
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/MelanieEllsworthAuthor
Website:  www.MelanieEllsworth.com

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

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

You may purchase Melanie’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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Hope Lim!

Roll out the red carpet! It’s time for another Tuesday Debut!

Today I’m delighted to introduce a graduate of Making Picture Book Magic! I am always so proud when one of my students gets published! Not that I have that much to do with it – it is all their own talent, creativity, commitment to their craft, and hard work! But still. . . 😊

So without further ado, let’s welcome Hope Lim and have a look at her beautiful picture book, I Am A Bird!

I AM A BIRD
written by Hope Lim
illustrated by Hyewon Yum
Candlewick, February 2, 2021
Fiction. Age for 3-7.

On her daily bike ride with her dad, a bird-loving little girl passes a woman who frightens her—until she discovers what they have in common.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Hope! Thank you so much for joining us today! We are eager to hear all about your journey to publication! Where did the idea for this book come from?

HOPE: The idea for I AM A BIRD started after an encounter with a stranger in Golden Gate Park. I thought she was strange at first, but I immediately recognized my perception was unfair and started to reflect on our innate fears and biases toward each other. When I came home, my husband told me about how my daughter made joyful birdcalls on their way to school on the back of his bike. I was struck by the contrast between my daughter and my simultaneous experiences. At that moment, I knew I had to write a story about exploring the fear of the unknown and combined it with my daughter’s soaring spirit. That’s how I AM A BIRD was born – a story of celebrating kindred spirits discovered unexpectedly, all told from a child’s perspective.

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

HOPE: To answer this question, I looked back at the folder of I AM A BIRD on my computer. The first draft was written in October 2015. I distinctly remember the moment when I felt the urge to work on this story. It was after finishing two poetry books, BOOK OF NATURE POETRY and WINTER BEES. I had already started a draft, but after reading these books, the lines started to pour out of my heart and I simply transferred them onto paper. I realized again the importance of reading poetry for picture books, especially when your mind is still fresh with a story idea. After that first draft, I wrote 14 revisions in the next three months. Over the following year, I revised it several more times while working on other projects.

Hope’s work space

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

HOPE: A resounding yes. I went through many revisions. First on my own, then with my CPs, then with my agent, and finally with my editor. The most dramatic revision was with my editor who encouraged me to look for another way to strengthen the connection between the girl and the woman. Up until then the main focus of the revision was mostly polishing language. It was the first time for me to work with an editor whose vision clearly guided me to look at the story from a new perspective. The moment I discovered another critical connection (the bird calls) felt so exuberant.

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

HOPE: This question has always vexed me. First, do what it takes to get the story ready, such as sharing it with CPs, revising, putting it away and revising and sharing again. Second, when it feels as polished as possible, I put it away for at least two weeks. When you read it with fresh eyes and feel something, either joy, sadness, humor, or the emotion you hope your story will evoke, then the story is ready for submission. Once, Mem Fox said, “…the thing that I look for most in a book is something that will change the emotional temperature of the children who are listening.” I use that as a final gauge for each of my stories to see if they are ready or not.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

HOPE: I submitted to agents, mostly, until I found my current agent. I entered a contest once and submitted manuscripts for critiques at a local conference and the LA summer conference. Early on, when I was blissfully ignorant about the publishing industry, I submitted to a few publishing houses directly, which I wouldn’t have done if I knew then what I know now. At that time, my story wasn’t ready, and I had no idea what it takes to get an agent or get a story published. What worked for me was to submit the strongest story widely. Chose the one that represents who you are as a person and a writer. For me, it was MY TREE and when I started to attract positive responses, I knew it was my strongest one and submitted it widely. MY TREE landed me an agent and my first book deal. I think you should have three or four complete and polished manuscripts, in addition to the one you are submitting.

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

HOPE: My experiences with submissions have been very different and each story has had a unique journey to find the perfect home. For I AM A BIRD, fortunately, the initial interest came quickly and it ended up having two houses with serious interest. My agent and I decided to go with the first house, for her thoughtful comments helped me see my story in a new way. It was like discovering something buried in the story that I hadn’t thought of before. She didn’t ask for a revision, but I had already revised the story based on her comments and after we sent the revision, we got the call immediately.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

HOPE: I shared the news with family and seeing them happy and excited was a celebration itself. That same week, good friends visited from the east coast and we had champagne before dinner at a great place in San Francisco. Little did I know how precious that moment would be given the new norm brought by COVID-19.

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

HOPE: I remember I was taken aback when I received comments from my editor on I AM A BIRD. The text was already very spare, but she removed a few lines, which I thought were essential for raising tension. After trying to see the story from her perspective, I accepted her most of suggestions, but kept some lines in the text. My editor allowed me to keep those lines until I came to realization that they could go after seeing the text with the illustrations. It was an eye-opening experience for me to learn about how illustrations can sometimes effortlessly replace what the text tries to deliver in PBs.

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

HOPE: My experiences with the illustration process have been very rewarding. Trust and respect for the vision of my editor and illustrator is critical, as the author may not be able to influence the final outcome. Still, I believe that my editors get an understanding of my vision through our conversations. I have been involved in that my editor has sent draft sketches and proofs as they became available. I have known from early on that an illustrator will bring depth and layer to a story beyond what is written in the text. I have other books scheduled for publication and the draft illustrations fully evoke the emotions as described in the story. I am thrilled to provide the foundation on which beautiful art can be created.  

text copyright Hope Lim 2021, illustration copyright Hyewon Yum 2021, Candlewick
text copyright Hope Lim 2021, illustration copyright Hyewon Yum 2021, Candlewick

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

HOPE: My editor emails me advance reviews whenever they are available, and Kirkus gave a starred review to I AM A BIRD.

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

HOPE: I received the offer for I AM A BIRD in July 2018 and the first copy on the first week of November 2020!

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

HOPE: Joining a debut picture book group was very helpful in terms of sharing information and supporting each other. I have done several blog interviews, including yours. and I have found them helpful by keeping the momentum going.

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

HOPE: I wrote solo for a year before I realized I had no idea how to improve my stories. That’s how I found your class in 2014 and afterward joined 12×12. I signed with my agent in November 2016, who sold my first book, MY TREE, to Neal Porter in July 2017.

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


HOPE: Keep dreaming and reading and writing. And enjoy the process before you land an agent. I call that period your time in the cocoon, as you are making something beautiful on your terms, with no time demands.  For that reason, it can be cozy and comfortable without worrying about the realities of the publishing industry. Try to focus and be productive in that time and you will be rewarded later with your hard work.

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

Author Hope Lim

Website: http://www.hopelim.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hope_lim  
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hopelim_sf/

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

You may purchase Hope’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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Amy Mucha!

Hi Everyone!

Welcome back to Tuesday Debut!

We had a kind of a long stretch without any new debuts, but today’s marks the first of at least 9, so get ready to meet some great new authors!

Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to Amy Mucha, whose interview I’m sure you’ll enjoy. It’s entertaining and she has lots of interesting and helpful information to share.

Let’s start with a look at her beautiful book!

A Girl’s Bill of Rights
written by Amy B. Mucha
illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda
Beaming Books
February 2, 2021
Fiction, ages 4-8

In a world where little girls must learn to stand tall, A Girl’s Bill of Rights boldly declares the rights of every woman and girl: power, confidence, freedom, and consent. Author Amy B. Mucha and illustrator Addy Rivera Sonda present a diverse cast of characters standing up for themselves and proudly celebrating the joy and power of being a girl.

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

AMY: I had written the original text years ago, purely for myself, as a pledge to help me be more assertive and confident. I had always heard that agents and editors wanted picture books with characters and plots, and that “concept books” were tough sells, so I never gave much thought to pitching it as a picture book. But when it came time for #PitMad I thought, heck, why not at least try? And go figure, the one that broke all the rules was the one that sold!

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

AMY: The first version took only ten or twenty minutes, burbling out in a single churning flow of resolution. This was one of those books that seemed to know what it wanted to be and didn’t require much kneading or pushing. It’s always nice when that happens!

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

AMY: Very few. I had the original which I wrote for myself, and it only took one or two rounds to get it into picture book form (with the right number of pages, etc.). Then, after it was signed, the editor at Beaming Books asked me to rewrite the ending to make it more positive. The last line of my original draft was, “If you don’t like it you can go eat socks!” It made me laugh, but Beaming Books was absolutely correct; the new ending works SO much better. Once I rewrote it, I took it to my wonderful critique group who helped make sure it was polished and ready. And that was it!

Amy’s workspace and one of her many work buddies 😊

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

AMY: Honestly, I didn’t give it too much thought. I had other manuscripts I was actively querying, and those I had spent plenty of time on to make sure they were submission-ready. But A Girl’s Bill of Rights was one I pitched more as a lark.

I should say that one thing I *did* do, and this was key, was hire Katie Frawley (https://katiefrawley.wordpress.com) to write the pitch. I’m dreadful at pitches, and she’s got a gift for them. Without her help I’m sure this never would have happened. I recommend her to everyone who struggles with pitching!

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

AMY: Because I’d been actively querying agents and purposefully NOT submitting directly to publishers, I always assumed my first offer would come through an agent. But because of that pitch event, it ended up happening the other way around. Thankfully I had been querying a middle grade novel at the same time that I received the offer from Beaming Books, and I was able to contact the agents who had shown interest in my work and let them know about the offer. That’s how, in what was one of the magical months of my whole life, I ended up signing with the fabulous Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown AND signing my first book contract, all within a few weeks. What a summer!

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


AMY: I was fortunate to have it all happen in a few months. The pitch event was in early-June and I sent the manuscript within days of it being “liked”. A few weeks later I was sitting in the waiting room of my daughter’s dentist when I received the email from Beaming Books that there was a “strong possibility of acquiring” my book. I did a happy dance right there in the waiting room! It took another month to get the formal offer, then maybe two weeks later I was sitting on the runway in an airplane, having just landed, when I received an offer of representation from Ginger. They had just turned off the seat-belt light and I was so excited I was having joy conniptions in the aisle. Soon three rows ahead and behind me were clapping and congratulating me — I felt like I was in a movie!

SUSANNA: What a great story!!! 😊 How did you celebrate signing your contract?

AMY: I celebrated with strangers on an airplane, lol! It was wonderful.

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

AMY: As I mentioned above, my editor at Beaming Books, Naomi Krueger, asked me to rewrite the ending to make it more positive, since the original manuscript ended with “If you don’t like it you can go eat socks!” I’ll admit I did have an initial brief pang. The sassiness of the line always made me laugh, and I had envisioned making “Go eat socks!” socks and tossing them out as prizes at school events. But as soon as I had the new ending come to me, I liked it so much better. And the socks? I decided to go ahead and make those anyway! Because who doesn’t want a pair of “Go eat socks” socks? (You can find them on my website: http://www.amybmucha.com.)

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

AMY: It’s always such a nervous moment for any picture book writer, finding out which illustrator has been assigned to their work. I had the enormous luck of being matched with Addy Rivera Sonda. She is a dream! And because my book has no plot or characters, she had a harder job than most. I hadn’t included any art notes, since I’d been taught that the writer ought to leave all of that to the artist, so the task in front of her must have felt daunting. Take this page, for example:

The text says, “I have the right to say ‘STOP!’ and even the right to SCREAM it!”

Addy could have chosen any situation at all to illustrate this line, using any sort of characters. Choosing to draw a paper airplane being thrown on a school bus was perfect! It’s so relatable, and exactly the kind of situation where we’d want girls to stand up for themselves. It would have been easy to end up with a scenario that was too heavy and serious for the book, or too frivolous. In making perfect choices like this page after page, she turned what had started as a mere pledge or a creed into a complete story. And not only that, but she created an amazing array of diverse, stereotype-busting characters to boot. I will be forever grateful to her for making this book what it is!

text copyright Amy Mucha 2021, illustration copyright Addy Rivera Sonda 2021, Beaming Books

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

AMY: I saw the advance review from Kirkus less than a week ago, and — this is funny — you made me curious so I just now looked it up on Publishers Weekly, and it appears that they’ve posted a review as well! It’s never a guarantee that you’ll get a review from either, so I’m just glad for the notice. And the fact that both were quite positive makes it all the better! Phew!

Here are links if you’d like to read the reviews:

Publishers Weekly review: https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-5064-6452-7

Kirkus Review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/amy-b-mucha/a-girls-bill-of-rights/

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

AMY: Let’s see… the offer came in July 2019 and I got my author copies on the last day of 2020. That’s not really fair, though, since my original pub date was delayed five months thanks to Covid. Without that it would have been only a year, which is quite fast in the publishing world.

Amy upon receiving her author copies 2nd week of January 2021

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

AMY: First, I created my website, adding activity guides for parents and teachers created by Debbie Gonzales (http://www.debbiegonzales.com). Then I created a line of merchandise (t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, etc.) with the goal of donating my portion of the sales to girl power organizations. I’m also donating a portion of my book earnings, though I haven’t figured out how to publicize any of this yet, so most people don’t know unless they happen to stumble across it on my website.

Probably where I’ve put most of my marketing energy so far is in reaching out to reviewers and interviewers. I made a huge spreadsheet of bloggers, reviewers, Twitter ARC-sharing groups, Instagrammers, YouTubers, local media, etc., then spent days sending emails, thankfully with great response so far. I’m also planning several book giveaways soon, including a “StoryGram” Instagram tour set for the first week of February.

Next on my list is to figure out how to contact independent bookstores and libraries to see if they’d be willing to stock my book. One advantage for those with a big-name publisher (one of the “big five”) is that bookstores and libraries are more likely to automatically stock their book, whereas with a smaller publisher you have to do more of the outreach yourself. I made postcards to mail and will be looking more into that next week.

Among the very wisest choices I made was joining a fabulous debut group (https://oneforthebooks.wixsite.com/2021). A good debut group isn’t just about boosting your book; it’s about sharing wisdom and creating community. I suggest to all writers that they start looking for one immediately after signing their first contract, since good groups fill up fast. They can be tricky to find, too. The best way is to be active on social media and start asking around.

There are a couple common marketing strategies I have NOT done yet. One is plan a book launch party, another is schedule school visits. Thanks, Covid! <eyeroll> Some authors are moving their school visits online, and I do have a couple of those lined up. If those go well and the kids seem to like them, I may add a “Author Visits” section to my website and give it a go.

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

AMY: Twelve years, but that was by choice. I spent the first ten in an amazing critique group, learning the craft, learning the industry, and making connections. I didn’t begin querying in earnest until a couple of years ago. From then to signing the offer was only around a year, I think.

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?)

AMY: Instead of the most important piece of advice, here are several smaller bits:

  • Join a critique group! Lots of critique groups have moved online. I recommend one of Susie Wilde’s groups if they’re not all filled. (http://ignitingwriting.com)
  • Join SCBWI and once Covid lets up, go to some of the conferences in person.
  • Don’t query a picture book until you have at least three polished and ready to submit.
  • If you’re serious about getting published, get active on Twitter and Instagram, following your favorite writers, agents, and editors. Also join the KIDLIT411 and Sub It Club groups on Facebook.

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! It’s such a valuable opportunity for all of us to get a chance to learn from you, and I know I speak for everyone when I say THANK YOU and wish you the best of luck with this and future titles!

AMY: Thank you Susanna! I really enjoyed this interview!

Author Amy Mucha

Website: http://www.amybmucha.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmyMucha
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amybmucha
Facebook: facebook.com/AmyBMuchaAuthor

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

You may purchase Amy’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

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Janie Emaus!

Welcome to another exciting installment of Tuesday Debut!

I realize, of course, that it is not yet Halloween 😊 But that is no reason not to delight in today’s debut picture book about Christmas and Hanukkah! Enjoy! (and preorder so you’re ready for those holidays when they come along 😊) and join me in welcoming today’s debut-ess, Janie Emaus!

Latkes For Santa Claus
Written by Janie Emaus
Illustrated by Bryan Langdo
Published by Sky Pony
October 13, 2020
Fiction, ages 3-7

Anna is excited that Santa will be visiting her house for the first time, and she wants to leave Santa a treat that blends the holidays her new family celebrates: Christmas and Hanukkah.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Janie! Thank you so much for joining us today! We’re excited to hear about your journey to publication! Where did the idea for this book come from?

JANIE: The idea grew out of my own experience. Having grown up in a Jewish home, I didn’t celebrate Christmas until I married my husband. When our daughter was small, I started looking for books to read to her about families that celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas. Not finding anything fun and playful, I decided to write one myself.

Every year the women in our family gather to make latkes. The title came to me while I was flipping over a latke. That is the only thing about the book which has remained the same.

One of my agents along the way suggested adding the recipes at the end.

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

JANIE: I came up with the idea about fifteen years ago.

As this is my first picture book, I had to remember to leave room for the illustrator to expand the story. I had difficulty in the beginning as I was used to writing middle grade and young adult stories. I was getting too wordy and descriptive.    

Early on, I had an agent who helped me shorten the word length. I worked with her until she thought it was ready for submission. Most of the editors passed on the book because they didn’t need another holiday story. Ultimately my agent left the business and I continued on my own.

Throughout the years, I would put it away and work on something else. But the story wouldn’t leave me alone. Every year as the holidays approached, I searched for books with a similar theme.

Last year I pulled it out again and was determined to work on it until it sold.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

JANIE: Yes, dozens, if not hundreds!

It started off in verse. I dumped that rather quickly and started approaching the story from a hundred different angles. Where to begin was the most difficult decision.  

In the original version, the main character was alone. Then I gave her a brother. Upon the suggestion of a critique partner, he became a stepbrother. And I amped up the cooking challenge. 

Every time I had a new version, I would read it aloud to myself, listening to the flow of the story. And I kept cutting words with the illustrator in mind. If I thought I was describing too much, I hit delete. Believe me, I wore the letters off that key.

Janie’s work space

SUSANNA: When did you know it was ready for submission?

JANIE: This is a hard question to answer. I knew it was getting better with each revision. Yet, I  wasn’t sure it was the best it could be. Every time I reread it I changed a word here, a word there.  I took long walks, talking to myself, reciting the story. But at some point, I knew I had to get it back out in the world. I hoped an editor or agent would like it enough to want to work with me.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

JANIE: I began querying agents in Oct 2019. Several passed with a polite “Thank you. Not for me at this time.”  One agent did express interest but wanted some changes. She suggested I send it back to her in three months.

Meanwhile, I entered #PitMad on Thursday, December 5th, 2019. #PitMad is a Twitter event which occurs four times a year. Writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed manuscript, along with the corresponding hashtags to identify the genre of their work. The participating editors and agents make requests by “liking” the tweeted pitch.

Nicole Frail of Sky Pony Press liked my tweet. On Saturday, I sent her the manuscript. On Monday I received an email saying she loved my book and was taking it to her publisher. On Tuesday she offered me a contract.

I like to say it took a mere decade for me to achieve overnight success!

Janie’s work buddy, Ziva, watching her write 😊

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?

JANIE: On that Tuesday, I was driving when my phone dinged. I glanced down quickly and saw an email from Nicole. I immediately pulled over and read her offer to publish the book.

I let out a scream and pumped my fists in the air. To the passing cars, I’m sure I looked like a middle aged women in the midst of a seizure!

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate?

JANIE: The day I signed the contract I had a martini with my family. And then another one!

SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected?

JANIE: I actually had no idea what to expect as this was my first contract with a traditional publisher. My advance was under $1,000. But I was assured the book would appear in bookstores as well as outlets, such as Target and Walmart. That aspect was more important to me than the advance.

I had no idea it would distributed by Simon and Schuster until the announcement came out in Publisher’s Marketplace in February 2020. I googled the book and then I really became excited.

SUSANNA: Can you tell us anything about the editorial process?

JANIE: I didn’t have to make any major changes.

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

JANIE: From the start I was very involved with the illustration. I was asked for my vision and for a possible list of illustrators. I was given the chance to see Bryan’s work before he was offered the contract. And throughout the process I was sent digital files. All the suggestions I made were passed on to Bryan and incorporated into his illustrations. I’d have to say, I was extremely pleased.

text copyright Janie Emaus 2020, illustration copyright Bryan Langdo 2020, Sky Pony

SUSANNA: Did you get to see any advance reviews? What was that like?

JANIE: So far I have not seen any reviews.  They did get blurbs for the book before it went to print. And I was very happy with those.

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

JANIE: At the time I’m answering these questions, I still haven’t seen a hard copy! I did see the finished PDF and I loved it!

I was told the initial print was going to be around 2500

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

JANIE: I received an email in August that B&N had picked up the book for their holiday promotion and had committed to 2300 copies. That was another middle-aged seizure moment! I was on vacation with my grandkids and I was jumping up and down with my youngest grandson.

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

JANIE: I have set up interviews and contacted book bloggers. And I have an appearance in November at The Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada, California. But COVID has certainly put a damper on book signings and appearances.

I made postcards announcing the book and I put the photo on my business card as I was planning on attending several conferences between the signing of my contract and the release date. So, now I carry them with me everywhere I go and pass them out. And I mean everywhere! Starbucks, restaurants, novelty stores. I even gave one to the Geek Squad guy who came to set up our new TV.

Yum! Latkes 😊

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

JANIE: I’ve been writing seriously for over thirty years. But wasn’t always concentrating on picture books. My very first sale was a rhymed story, The Jogging Frog, to Cricket Magazine. This is it, I thought. I’m on my way. Well, I was on my way, alright, to hundreds of rejections. Years passed before I sold another story.

The first rejections hurt the most. I’d poured my heart and soul onto the page and was devastated when agents and editors didn’t accept what I had written.

But as the years passed, I realized how subjective this business is and that I wanted and deserved someone who shared my vision.

SUSANNA: What is the most important thing you learned?

JANIE: The most important thing I have learned is perseverance. Don’t give up. And believe in your vision for your story. I’ve had horrible experiences along the way. Times when I rewrote based on an agent’s recommendations and then it all fell apart So, trust your instincts.

It’s hard not to take rejections personally, but remember agents and editors are just people. I used to be in awe when pitching face to face. I would break into a sweat and stumble through my pitch and walk away thinking. Oh, why did I say that? And then I would obsess over the meeting well into the next workshop.

Oh, and one last thing. Join writing organizations. SCBWI has been invaluable to my success.

Thanks for reading.  And good luck with your writing.

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your writing and publication experience, Janie! We are grateful for the opportunity to learn. And I know I speak for everyone when I wish you all the best with this and future books!

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

Author Janie Emaus

Website – http://www.janieemaus.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/janie.emaus/
Facebook author page – https://www.facebook.com/Janie-Emaus-Books-Blogs-473633136036884
Twitter – https://twitter.com/Janie_Emaus
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/janieemaus/
Medium – https://medium.com/@janieemaus

You may purchase Janie’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!

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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

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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

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June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

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Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

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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

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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

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Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

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