Tuesday Debut – Presenting Kate Allen Fox!

HI everyone! Welcome to today’s episode of Tuesday Debut!

I love books that introduce me to something I previously knew nothing about, and that’s what PANDO: A LIVING WONDER OF TREES has done. If you’re new to Pando as well, you’re going to love this! So I’m thrilled to welcome our debut-ess, Kate Allen Fox, who wrote this wonderful book!

Pando: A Living Wonder of Trees
written by Kate Allen Fox
illustrated by Turine Tran
Capstone Editions
August 15, 2021
Nonfiction, ages 8—11

Pando is an inspiring tribute to a Utah grove of quaking Aspen trees connected by their roots to form one of the world’s oldest and largest living things.

SUSANNA: Hi Kate! Thank you so much for joining us for a little chat today. We’re so glad you’re here, and grateful to have the opportunity to hear about your journey to publication. Where did the idea for this book come from?

KATE: I was driving home after a hike when I remembered something I had read or heard about trees connected by their roots. When I got home, I Googled it and became absolutely fascinated. Walks in nature often allow my brain to find creativity (as does driving). Both activities are supposed to activate the “default network” of your brain, allowing you to work out problems, and they definitely work for me!

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

KATE: It took about two or three months to write and revise (with a lot of feedback from critique partners and the 12×12 forum). During that time, I changed it from informational fiction to nonfiction and consulted with an expert on the topic. This is unusually fast for me, but I was very inspired and single-minded about it. I had a feeling that was the manuscript that would breakthrough for me.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

KATE: So many! I started with an anthropomorphized tree in a fictionalized version. That version just didn’t work, but somehow I couldn’t put the story down. I asked myself, what about this concept is intriguing to me? I realized it really was the nonfiction aspects of the tree.

Asking that question led me to the right structure for my story, and I still ask myself that when I’m wrestling with how to approach a manuscript.

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

KATE: People on the 12×12 forum and critique partners started saying things like “this will be a book!” I hadn’t heard that from other writers before, so I assumed it was ready to go. And, it was close!

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

KATE: I was unagented, so I focused on submitting to agents. I entered contests and didn’t win, but contests helped me hone my manuscript and research agents. I saw agents looking for lyrical nonfiction, submitted, and started getting positive responses within a few weeks.

SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?

KATE: The acquisitions meetings at the publisher were cancelled or rescheduled a couple of times so it took about two months.

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

KATE: I got the email about 5 months after we went on sub. It went to several houses and sold without revision. I got the email while playing with my sons. It all felt pretty surreal.

Kate and her boys 😊

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

KATE: About 3 months.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

KATE: I didn’t. This is something I need to work on! I did donate a portion of my advance to the Western Aspen Alliance to support Aspen conservation, which felt like a meaningful marking of the book becoming “real.”

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

KATE: My advance was under $5,000 with royalties of 7% of net sales for hardcover and paperback, and 18 author copies. Publication was required within 24 months (though it ended up being a fair bit less than that). I didn’t have many expectations going in (I knew several people who had received no advance), and I was (and am) happy with my contract.

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

KATE: We did two rounds of edits. The text stayed mostly the same, but some things changed, particularly after illustrations started. For example, I had a spread where I compared the weight of Pando to polar bears and other creatures, but the art director noticed that it looked strange to have polar bears on the same spread as a forest. We also converted the backmatter into text boxes, added a timeline, and added some new backmatter. I absolutely love all the changes and am so grateful that a wonderful team brought this book to life. It’s so much more than I ever imagined.

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

KATE: I saw the beginning sketches and then color spreads later in the process. From the very start, I was absolutely blown away by Turine Tran’s art.

My editor shared those two rounds of illustrations with me along with her comments and comments from the art director, asking if I had anything to add. I saw my job as ensuring the illustrations were as accurate as the text, but it was already so wonderful (and accurate) that I didn’t have much to add.

I don’t think I included any art notes, and I’m so glad I didn’t. Turine and the art director came up with things I couldn’t have even imagined.

text copyright Kate Allen Fox 2021, illustration copyright Turine Tran 2021, Capstone Editions

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

KATE: I haven’t seen any yet, but hope to soon!

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

KATE: About 18 months.

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

KATE: Capstone has created marketing videos, submitted me to present at conferences, and obviously marketed it to bookstores, libraries, and schools.

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

KATE: I’m doing a blog tour, working with organizations focused on Aspen conservation, and scheduling events with bookstores. I’m also part of the wonderful promotion group, the Picture Book Scribblers, which has been a wonderful experience for me to learn with other debut authors and from more experienced authors.

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

KATE: Less than a year. I realize that’s quick. I think when I found picture books (and then lyrical nonfiction), I found a genre and form that fit my voice, and things fell together quickly.

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?)

KATE: I think it’s important to keep experimenting and finding joy in the process. If you aren’t feeling inspired, try other genres or forms until you find a “spark” that makes you want to keep going.

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

KATE: It’s not out yet, but I’m hoping this happens!

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

KATE: Writing is a team sport. I wouldn’t be here without the support of other writers, and I have found so much community in the process. If you don’t have a critique group, find one, even if it’s just to have someone to commiserate with when publishing is hard.

Author Kate Allen Fox

Katefoxwrites.com
Twitter/Instagram: @kateallenfox

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

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Sequeira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Ana Siqueira!

Welcome! Welcome!

Come on in, find a comfy place to sit, get a nice cup of coffee (or whatever you’d like to drink,) and let’s get ready to learn all we can from today’s Tuesday Debut, Ana Siqueira, who has come to share her journey to publication with us! Maybe learning about BELLA’S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS can help us with our quest for success! 😊

BELLA’S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
written by Ana Siqueira
illustrated by Geraldine Rodriguez
Beaming Books, 07/13/2001
Fiction PB, 4-7 years old

Bella wants to find out what she’s good at. But she quits everything she (barely) tries because she’s a desastre. She must learn it’s okay to try again or she won’t be good at anything. #growthmindset

SUSANNA: Welcome, Ana! Thank you so much for coming to chat with us today! Where did the idea for this book come from?

ANA: I got inspired by my daughter who is a gifted and perfectionist girl. She would quit if she was not the best. I also studied growth mindset and I wanted to write a book to show kids making mistakes is not only okay but important for the process.      

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

ANA: It took me about 10 months. My first version had a girl in a writing competition. Maybe this story is also a little bit about me and all writers out there – Don’t Quit is the message, right? I got help from my amazing critique partners and two professional editors.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

ANA: As I mentioned before, this book went through many revisions. I am a true believer in revisions and trying new suggestions and feedback. But this was the second book I wrote (after my 20-year hiatus when I moved here).  So I got a professional critique and that helped me a lot. I decided to change the writing aspect to baking. Then, it was a competition. I removed the competition and add the Abuela. So, this new version went through a complete transformation, but I learned a lot from this manuscript.

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

ANA: After 10 months of working hard on it, I got a like at a pitmad event. I revised it a few more times and even though I was not 100% it was ready, I decided to submit it to Beaming Books. And I got an offer.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

ANA: I submitted it directly to the publisher – Beaming Books- on October 22nd, 2019. And a few hours later my mom died. I truly believe my mom has helped me to make this decision to submit it.

SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?

ANA: After two weeks, I got an email from Naomi Krueger letting me know the book was going to acquisitions. Wow. I was so excited. Two weeks later I got an offer.

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

ANA: After the offer, I queried some agents with an offer of publication e-mail. And my agent Andrea Walker replied in hours. Then, we had the call. We clicked and I wanted to accept it right away. I asked for a few days, but I couldn’t wait too long and I told her YES! I got another offer after that. Oops. But I am very happy with Andrea Walker and her efficiency. After getting the agent, it took about a month to sign the contract.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

ANA: I went to dinner with my family. We went to my favorite Thai restaurant.

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

ANA: To be honest, I didn’t have a clue, so I didn’t know what to expect. Since my first contract was with a small publisher, the advance was smaller than the ones I got with my new deals with Simon and Schuster, and HarperCollins. But I was very happy to get a nice deal. The royalty percentage was negotiated by my agent and they’re standard.

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

ANA: I loved working with Naomi Krueger. We did work on a few, small changes, nothing big.

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

ANA: I loved the illustrator chosen from the beginning. Geraldine Rodriguez is fabulosa. Naomi Krueger consulted me about the main character and other details I would like to have included. I saw some sketches and the cover right away. I’m still in love with Bella and I know I’ll have to get a Bella doll.

text copyright Ana Siqueira 2021, illustration copyright Geraldine Rodriguez 2021, Beaming Books

I did include some art notes. For example, when she says her frosting was like cocodrilo skin, I included a note to let them know it was burnt. But for this story, I did not need that many art notes. For my second book about the Bruja, I needed a lot of art notes, since the girl is an unreliable narrator. She says, for example, she is in a cauldron with starving cocodrilos, and she’s really in a bathtub with toys.  So I’m in favor of using art notes when needed.

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

ANA: Not yet. I hope I will get some good reviews. Crossing my fingers.

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

ANA: I got an ARC copy by the end of May 2021. The offer was November 2019. So one year and a half. So exciting!

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

ANA: Social Media Campaign, National trade and library advertising, publicity campaign, special promotions to schools and public libraries, and more.

en la escuela en India

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

ANA: I have been trying to participate in events such as Panels, Conferences, NerdCamps, etc. I also did a giveaway campaign with Las Musas. I am in two debut groups – Story Jammers and 21fortheBooks. I will have a blog tour during July. My virtual book launch with Tombolo Books and The Writing Barn will be on July 17th at 11:00 Central Time.

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

ANA: After my long 20-year hiatus (I had books published in Brazil), it took me one year. I restarted writing in January of 2019 and I sold my book in January of 2020.

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?)

ANA: Learn as much as you can before trying to submit and query. You wouldn’t expect to learn how to be a talented pianist in a few months, the same happens with writing. If you can pay for professional critiques, they can help not only with the story being critiqued but by teaching you a lot. Some affordable editors are fabulous such as Lynne Marie and Angela Burke Kunkel.

Author Ana Siqueira

website: https://anafiction.com/


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

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Darshana Khiani!

Welcome to another chock-full-of-information, super-informative, wildly-inspirational episode of Tuesday Debut!

I’m so glad you’re taking a few minutes out of your beach time to join us today (or maybe you’re joining us from the beach – even better! 😊) This is definitely a must-read because today our debut-ess, Darshana Khiani, mom, dog-lover, engineer, Making Picture Book Magic graduate, writer, and fashion consultant, is going to teach us all, HOW TO WEAR A SARI!

How to Wear a Sari
Written by Darshana Khiani
Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Versify, June 22, 2021
Fiction Ages 4-7

A spirited young girl is tired of being seen as “little” by her family. She decides the best way to do this is to teach herself how to wear a sari: then she’ll make her grand entrance … and everyone will have to notice how grown-up she’s become.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Darshana! Thank you so much for coming to chat with us today. We are all very excited to hear about your journey to publication! Where did the idea for this book come from?

DARSHANA: In the Fall of 2016, I was planning my outfits for the upcoming Indian holiday season. I love the elegance and sophistication of saris but unfortunately have never fully got the hang of draping one. I began wondering what it would be like if a young girl tried to wear one. If I had so much difficulty surely it would be even harder, possibly comical for a kid to wear one. The bulk of the story, the middle and the climax, came fairly quickly. I drafted it in a 2nd POV. This is interesting since that summer I had been studying 2nd POV picture books for another story. And while I didn’t get anywhere with the other story, the 2nd POV seeped into the sari story.

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

DARSHANA: From first draft to going on submission about ten months. This is quite fast for me. Most of my stories usually take 18 months or longer. My usual process is to hand write the first crappy draft and put it away for at least six months before coming back to it. When I pull the story back out, I’ll do another 1-2 drafts before sending it to my critique group. And then it’s the revision cycle until I feel it’s ready for my agent.



Darshana’s work space

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

DARSHANA: This story went through 11 revisions before going on submission. While it was on submission for about 9 months, I also drafted two other versions that were in 3rd POV for an R&R from an editor. An R&R is a revise and resubmit, which can happen if an editor likes the story but is asking for major changes. In this case, my agent felt the original version in 2nd POV was stronger, so we didn’t submit the alternative versions to the R&R editor.

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

DARSHANA: I don’t ever feel like I know for sure when my manuscript is ready, at least not until I hear my agent say it’s ready to go. 😊 However, before I send my story to my agent, I make sure there are no big picture issues, pacing is good, language it tight, and there is enough to illustrate on each spread. I also rely on feedback from my critique group. We’ve been together for years.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

DARSHANA: I have an agent, so I sent it to her.

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

DARSHANA: The story went on submission in July of 2017 and 9 months later in March 2018 it sold. It went to a total of ten houses over that time. Again, this is fast for me. My two other books that sold took two years each. One which sat with an editor for an entire year (in fairness it was during COVID). When the story sold, I got a call from my agent, but at the time I was at work talking to a colleague, so it went to voicemail. (I still have that voicemail on my cell). I called her back and was floored to hear the story had sold. I couldn’t believe it! I had been with her 18 months and had received plenty of rejections on three other stories before this one sold.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

DARSHANA: I honestly don’t remember as it was kind of delayed. In the beginning I kept worrying that the publisher would change their mind or something, so I didn’t tell many people. Also, I didn’t realize it could take months before you actually get your contract. The publishing world is so different from the business world I know, where a person doesn’t even start working until they’ve signed a contract. Eventually, I think I celebrated with some champagne, cheese, and crackers with my hubby. I remember my critique group gave me a potted plant and some chocolate.

Reading to Nala – everyone enjoys a good story!

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


DARSHANA: My contract was in line with what’s expected for a debut author at a larger house. If you are interested in the money aspect of picture book writing I would recommend Hannah Holt’s survey from 2017.  My agent was happy with the offer, so I was too. I did ask for author consultation on the art in case the illustrator didn’t have a South Asian background. The publication timeline did change a few times. Initially, the editor said they were targeting a release for Fall 2019, which would’ve been super-fast. However, it took several months before getting an illustrator on board, hence the book was pushed to Fall 2020. Then there were some internal company deadlines that were pulled in, so the book was pushed to Summer 2021.

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

DARSHANA: We did a few rounds of revision, but it was mainly on clarifying “why” the main character was choosing to wear a sari. I was happy the editor and I had the same vision so not much else changed.

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

DARSHANA: I did see a full dummy sketch, which was wonderful. The art was gorgeous with so much energy and expression. I had a few culturally related comments. I explained my concerns to the editor, and later the art was adjusted. In my manuscript, I had some illustration notes such as indicating the “friend” in two of the lines meant a pet, but I didn’t specify what type of pet. The climax is a wordless spread, so I did have an art note there and for the end spread.

Climax Art Note: (illo: wordless spread – MC falls in a colossal way. Family members taking notice. Older sibling taking photos.)

End Spread:

You now have a spot in the hall of fame album, along with the rest of them. (illo: MC is snuggling with a grandparent while looking at the family album. Album contains pictures of mishaps by family members from their youth.)

text copyright Darshana Khiani 2021, illustration copyright Joanne Lew-Vriethoff 2021, Versify

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

DARSHANA: Nope, I didn’t know you could get that. I saw the reviews once they were posted.

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

DARSHANA: Offer to book in hand, 3 years and 3 months.

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


DARSHANA: I believe most of it has been the usual of what they do for their front list books, in terms of promoting the list to their educator list and media outlets. I will say I did get an author spot at a recent ILA conference and a guest blog spot on an educational website through the publisher, so that was nice.

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

DARSHANA: My illustrator recently created some printable activity sheets and I am currently working with an outside marketing person to develop a library kit. I did setup a blog tour that spans two months, of which this interview is a part of. Another thing that I did was build my network of booksellers, librarians, and influencers. Since 2016 I had been publishing South Asian Kidlit lists containing the upcoming season’s books on my blog. In Summer 2019, I realized this information would be useful to book buyers for stores and libraries. I started a South Asian Kidlit Newsletter and began reaching out to booksellers and librarians. This way when it was time for my book to launch, I already had a small install base that would know about my book. Along those lines, I would encourage everyone whether you are published or not to think about what your strengths are and how you can help others. What kind of service can you provide? 

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

DARSHANA: Seven 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?)

DARSHANA: Try to find something about writing or the community that you can hold on to, such that it can keep you going through the hard times. My journey started 11 years ago and there were many ups and downs. What kept me going was the kidlit community. It was so different from the “work” environments I had been in and brought me such joy. I couldn’t imagine not having the kidlit community it in my life; it helped keep me going. Several years ago, I realized how much I had grown as a person through the conversations happening in the ether on diversity and inclusion, through learning about human behavior via Story Genius class and countless other topics just by following my curiosity. I don’t see how I could be the person I am today had it not been for my entering the writing world. I’m excited to think about how much I’ll grow as a person or what I’ll learn over the next ten years.

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

DARSHANA: Too early to tell, but fingers crossed that it does. 😊

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

Author Darshana Khiani

Darshana Khiani is a second-generation Indian American who grew up in rural Pennsylvania and now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family and a furry pooch. She is an author, engineer, and a South Asian Kidlit Blogger. Her picture book debut HOW TO WEAR A SARI released in June 2021. When she isn’t working or writing she can be found hiking, solving jigsaw puzzles, or traveling. You can find her online at the following places:

Website: www.darshanakhiani.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/darshanakhiani
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/darshanakhiani/
TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@darshanakhiani

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Becky Scharnhorst!

Ladies and Gentleman!

Welcome to the greatest show on earth: TUESDAY DEBUT!

*cheers!*
*applause!*
*confetti!*

Today it is my pleasure to introduce the lovely and talented Becky Scharnhorst – mom, hiker, dog lover, ice cream enthusiast, Making Picture Book Magic graduate, friend of bears, and writer – and her fabulous debut picture book, MY SCHOOL STINKS! whose book birthday is TODAY!

My School Stinks!
Written by Becky Scharnhorst
Illustrated by Julia Patton
Published by Philomel Books
Date of Release July 6, 2021
Fiction
Ages 4-8

Not even deep breaths and happy thoughts can calm Stuart’s nerves after he finds himself in a new school with classmates who are REAL animals. Told through journal entries, this hilarious back-to-school story proves friends can come in all shapes, sizes, and species.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Becky! We are so thrilled to have your here with us today! Where did the idea for this book come from?

BECKY: As someone who has struggled with anxiety, I tend to catastrophize everything. Even though things rarely turn out to be as scary as I imagine, there are still times when it’s hard to calm my anxious thoughts. I wanted to address that in a humorous way. When I wrote this manuscript, I lived at a camp in the middle of a forest in Northeast Pennsylvania where wild animal sightings were a regular occurrence. Watching my children’s fear over backyard bear sightings turn into excitement was what inspired me to plop Stuart into a classroom full of wild animals.

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

BECKY: The short answer is it took me 6 weeks to write this version, but the idea started in 2016 when I wrote a rough draft of a manuscript for an upcoming workshop at the Highlights Foundation. It also was a story about a young boy who ended up at a school for wild animals, but nothing else was the same. The first night of the workshop, the leaders challenged us to rewrite the beginning of our story with a different format, setting, or POV. I changed the setting from a school to a camp and I wrote it in letters home rather than 3rd POV. I loved the change so much that when I went back to my room later, I rewrote the entire thing! For the next two years, this manuscript was a camp story. After I met my editor Cheryl Eissing through the Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference, it went through a couple rounds of revisions before she took it to her team at Philomel in July of 2018. They loved it but thought the camp setting was too niche, so they asked me to change it to a school setting! My School Stinks is nothing like the original school story, and in fact, more closely resembles the camp manuscript.

Becky’s writing space (her favorite for summer time)

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

BECKY: Again, it’s complicated! I think I have over 70 versions of the camp story on my computer, which is the story that got the attention of my editor and helped land me my agent. But My School Stinks only went through a handful of revisions. So, it depends on how you look at it. I believe the only reason I was able to write My School Stinks so quickly is because I spent two years with these characters in a camp setting.

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

BECKY: To be honest, I had a hard time knowing when this manuscript was ready to send back to my editor. After two years of working on it, I was attached to the camp version which made it difficult to be objective. I relied solely on my critique partners to tell me when it was ready. In fact, I didn’t even show my agent after I signed with him. It had been a few months, so I assumed Cheryl was no longer interested. It wasn’t until Cheryl reached out with a few edits that I finally showed James. He called immediately to tell me he loved it, so I read it again for the first time in months. It was only then I realized I liked it just as much as the camp version.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

BECKY: I did not submit this manuscript to anyone except Cheryl, and I did not have an agent when I sent it to her. She had specifically requested the rewrite, so this manuscript was an exclusive submission to her. By the time she made the offer, I did have an agent which was great because he was able to handle the contract negotiations.  

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

BECKY: I had just run into the grocery store to buy some cheese, but the kids wanted to wait in the car. When I returned, they said I had gotten a couple calls from New York, but they accidentally hung up on whoever had called! I suspected it might have been my agent, so I checked my email. Sure enough, there was a message from James saying he had tried to call. I apologized for the chaos, and he called back right away to share the good news.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

BECKY: By the time James called back, we had pulled into the parking lot of a local custard place. After all the screaming, jumping, and hugging, we celebrated with giant bowls of custard.

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

BECKY: I was happy to have an agent by the time Cheryl made her offer because I didn’t know what to expect in terms of an advance, royalties, or author copies. I do think Cheryl’s offer was in line with typical offers for debut authors from bigger publishing houses, and I was happy with what my agent negotiated for me. I was especially excited to get 30 author copies!

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

BECKY: By the time Cheryl made the offer, we had already gone through one round of revisions on the school version so there were barely any changes after that. Cheryl had a great vision for this story and almost every one of her ideas resonated with me. I’m extremely grateful to have her as my editor because I feel like she understands what I’m trying to do, and her suggestions always make my writing better.

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

BECKY: I was lucky enough to be involved from the very beginning. Cheryl recommended a few illustrators, and I was thrilled when Julia Patton signed on. I absolutely adore her work! Cheryl shared the cover, sketches, and final art at different points in the process and always asked for feedback. However, my reply emails were usually just filled with joyous interjections and far too many exclamation points.

text copyright Becky Scharnhorst 2021, illustration copyright Julia Patton 2021, Philomel

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

BECKY: My editor shared reviews from Kirkus and Booklist with me, and I was happy to see both were positive.

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

BECKY: It took about 27 months. I think 2 years is typical, but because My School Stinks is a school story, they wanted it to come out in the summer which made the wait a little longer.

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

BECKY: My publisher sent pitches for My School Stinks to national and regional media, as well as major trade publications including Kirkus and Booklist.

Becky’s backyard bear sighting. . . inspiration for the next picture book? 😊

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

BECKY: One of the most fun and helpful things I’ve done is to join a promo group called Picture Book Playground. We help promote each other’s books on social media, write reviews, and do library requests. In addition to sharing news about My School Stinks on Twitter and Instagram, I set up a few guest blog posts, and I ordered bookmarks and notebooks to be used for giveaways and pre-orders. I also planned an in-person book launch event at Lion’s Mouth Bookstore in Green Bay, and I’m doing a couple library events for our Summer Reading Program. Finally, I plan on adding some teacher and parent resources to my website by the end of summer.

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

BECKY: I think I wrote my first manuscript in 2014, but I didn’t get serious about writing until after I attended the Highlight’s Workshop in 2016. I got my first offer in February of 2019, so about 5 years total.

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?)

BECKY: I think one of the most important things this story taught me is to not be afraid to try something new. I did not find the voice for this manuscript until I rewrote it as a camp story. Even though it didn’t end up as a camp story, the process of rewriting it taught me a lot about my characters. Also, find an awesome critique group!  It’s nearly impossible to be objective about your own writing, especially when you’ve been working on something for a long time. Fresh eyes are critical to the writing process.

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

BECKY: My book comes out today, so it hasn’t earned out quite yet. But wouldn’t it be great if it did?

SUSANNA: That would be awesome! We’ll all do what we can to keep those copies flying off the shelves! 😊 Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series, Becky, and for paying it forward to other writers! We so appreciate your time and expertise and wish you all the best of luck with this and future titles!

Author Becky Scharnhorst

Website: https://beckyscharnhorst.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/beckyscharn

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/beckyscharn/

Becky grew up in Northeast Wisconsin and spent most of her childhood playing in lakes and reading books. Shortly after receiving a BA from Luther College, Becky spent a year working as a children’s bookseller at Barnes & Noble. She soon discovered she enjoyed reading picture books more than anything else. Much, much more.

Now Becky spends her days writing children’s books and working at her local library. Her debut picture book My School Stinks will be published by Philomel Books in 2021, followed by This Field Trip Stinks (2022) and How to Get Your Octopus to School (2023). When she’s not reading or writing, Becky can be found hiking through the woods with her dogs, losing a game of monopoly to her kids, or biking to the local ice cream shop. She currently lives in Central Wisconsin with her husband, two kids, and a few too many pets.

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Ashley Belote!

Good morning, everyone!

Why is it I feel as though we just talked?

Oh! I know! It’s because it took me so long to get the Mix ‘n’ Match Mini Writing Challenge finished up that I posted it at 11 PM last night and now here we are on Tuesday Debut scant hours later! 🙃

(If you missed the prize giving, check HERE because I know this post will bump the last Mix ‘n’ Match post for top of the blog!)

But now, get comfy because you are in for SUCH a treat! Today’s Tuesday Debut-ess, Ashley Belote, is an illustrator, and she’s going to show us her process so that those of us who always look at picture books from the writing side of the desk can better understand how our work gets illustrated, and those of us who are also illustrators can learn a whole lot!

FRANKENLSIME
Written by Joy Keller
Illustrated by Ashley Belote
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan)
Release date: 7/13/21
Fiction
Ages 4-8

A young slime scientist is surprised when her latest creation comes to life in Frankenslime, a funny and clever picture book twist on Frankenstein.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Ashley! We are so thrilled to have you here today to share your journey to publication as an illustrator! We don’t get to hear the artist’s perspective very often, so this is really special! What was it about Joy’s book that made you want to illustrate it?

ASHLEY: When I first read FRANKENSLIME, I was instantly inspired! Joy does a great job setting up scenes and creating exciting page turns. I find those aspects appealing in terms of illustration because there is room for me to bring in some surprises and explore the world beyond the text. In order to generate ideas, I got to know the characters. Victoria Franken is the main character, and she is accompanied by her sidekick, Igor the dog. Victoria loves to experiment in her slime lab and isn’t afraid of failing. She has big ideas and explores her imagination. I put myself in her shoes and thought about what my ideal slime lab would look like. When I was a kid, I taped drawings and notes all over the walls because I wanted it to look like an office space. I felt like Victoria would do the same thing! Igor is the comic relief, so I made sure to make him the butt of several visual jokes. Thankfully, he’s a good sport 😄.

SUSANNA: As an illustrator, how do you go about taking someone else’s words and turning them into art for the book?

ASHLEY: It is so much fun to take the words from someone else and bring them to life visually. When developing characters and the world around them, I like to sketch out all kinds of ideas and decide what I like and dislike about all my options. I’ll take the aspects I like and keep working from those ideas until I have something that I am completely satisfied with.  I have a background in 2D animation under the direction of Don Bluth through his animation university and one aspect I learned from him is that the character development process is based on appeal. We were taught that every frame of a character needed to be an appealing drawing. If a single drawing is not cute, on model, or appealing, the entire sequence can be thrown off. Illustration is the same way. Appeal is even more important in books because those images are stationary. With Igor, I went through several trial-and-error designs as shown below.

IMAGE A (sketches of Igor)
IMAGE B (color spot illustrations of final Igor)

In terms of Victoria’s world, it needed to be somewhat realistic and then somewhat imagined. Joy writes in a way that lends itself well to illustration. She left room for me to bring ideas into the artwork by providing just enough information about the space in the text. Victoria’s attic lab was one of my favorite places to design. I wanted her to have a space that was recognizable as an attic, but I wanted it to contain imaged elements as seen in the scene below that depicts her experiments with rainbow cloud slime, intergalactic space slime, and glow in the dark zombie slime.

IMAGE C (pgs10-11, spread from book)

I love blurring the line between real and imaginary. I mean, this is a picture book, it needs to be fun!

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write/illustrate this book? Did you go through many revisions?

ASHLEY: From start to finish, the illustration process took several months. I went through three rounds of sketch revisions and then a few rounds with color samples. I learned SO much during the revision process. My art director, Mallory Grigg, was fantastic to work with. She shared notes with me in a way that let me know what I needed to change with the freedom to experiment. Her exact words when speaking about the color palette were, “think candy store colors.” I loved that!

When I start sketches, they are extremely rough. Below is the sequence of sketches I used when working on one of my favorite spreads from the book.

The initial idea began like this:

IMAGE D (rough sketch of 12-13 A)

I work in Procreate and using layers is a key element in my process. I took the opacity of the above image down, created a new layer on top of it, and began fine tuning the concept. Here is the revision:

IMAGE E (refined sketch of 12-13 B)

Then, during my rounds of sketch revisions, I made a few more adjustments to leave room for the text (that’s very important!) and ended up with the final version here:

IMAGE F (final sketch of 12-13 C)


Once that was approved, I added color to bring it to life! Ta-da!

IMAGE G (color spread of 12-13)

This entire process served as an amazing learning experience. I cannot stress enough the importance of listening to your art director. They are there to guide you, and their direction will make your art better. The editor, Holly West, had a great overall vision for the project and I am extremely grateful for the experience as a whole.

SUSANNA: How did you go about getting chosen to illustrate? When and how did you submit? When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

ASHLEY: I got this project though SCBWI! I have been a member of SCBWI since 2016. I love this organization for so many reasons. I enjoy the conferences and webinars and have served as the Illustrator Coordinator for the Carolinas region since March 2020. In 2019, I attended our Carolinas regional conference and had a portfolio review with Mallory Grigg, an art director at Macmillan. I also signed up for an intensive she was teaching. During that seminar, she mentioned that she hires illustrators via Twitter and often tweets calls for illustrators. She then told us that she had recently tweeted about needing an illustrator who could draw anthropomorphic slime. I thought that sounded like so much fun! Once the conference ended, I decided to go for it and created a sample. I replied to her tweet with the image and ended up receiving an email about the project afterwards. I have never been so excited in my entire life. I was working at a book festival when I got the email so everyone in the Charleston, WV Civic Center probably heard me scream, haha.

Here was my sample!

IMAGE H: (FS sample)

I was also signed by my amazing agent, Moe Ferrara from BookEnds Literary agency, as a result of this deal.


I celebrated the signing of my contract with ice cream!!! I LOVE ice cream, especially cookies and cream, so this warranted a tub of my favorite, haha.

SUSANNA: How do you, as an illustrator, feel about art notes?

ASHLEY: Personally, I don’t mind art notes. There were only a couple in the manuscript for FRANKENSLIME, and they were important for me to know. I think art notes are fine when they contain information that affects the progression of the story or include important details that can’t be inferred from the text.

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

ASHLEY: I just saw a review from Booklist! My first review ever! It’s a little surreal seeing reviews out in the world, it’s so exciting!

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

ASHLEY: I am a member of an amazing picture book debut group called Picture Book Playground. We have been working together for over a year and have become fast friends in this fun industry. We do cover reveals, book videos, and celebrate the good news from the group.

I’m very active on Twitter and Instagram, sharing process pictures, news, and sketches. I currently have a few virtual events set up as well as some in person signings. I just started an event page on my website: https://www.ashleybelote.com/. I am so excited to share this book with kids! I taught art classes at an art center for a while so I’m really looking forward to getting in front of some classrooms and showing them how to draw the characters from the story. I love doing illustration demos and interacting with budding writers and illustrators! If anyone would like me to come and speak with their class, let me know!

I am also doing a virtual book launch hosted by SCBWI Carolinas on July 22nd at 7 p.m. via Zoom! If you would like to join, here is the link to sign-up!

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C0D4DAFA728A4F8C43-july

The more the merrier!

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

ASHLEY: I have been drawing since I was 2 years old, so I’ve been working towards this goal since then, haha. I have spent years in school and studying the industry to learn my craft. One of the best experiences I had was attending the Simmons College class, The Whole Book Approach, instructed by Megan Dowd Lambert at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art back in 2013. That class was really the first time I realized this could be a career and I have been working towards this point ever since.

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 artists?)

ASHLEY: I can’t even begin to share all that I’ve learned. One of the most important lessons I can share is the importance of community. This community can be comprised of critique groups, promotional/debut groups, or even personal friends/family. I have never felt more supported than I have these past few months and I’m so grateful for all those who have been sharing this journey with me.

As for advice for up-and-coming artists, keep drawing! This dream is possible and the best way to achieve it is by practicing your craft. You must be passionate about this because its long hours of trial and error. It’s important to stop second guessing yourself, let those feelings go and find comfort in your style because there is not one single person out there who can draw what you draw or imagine what you can imagine. You have something special that only you can present, and the world needs to see it!

illustrator Ashley Belote

Website: https://www.ashleybelote.com/
Instagram: @AshleyBeloteIllustration
Twitter: @AshleyBelote1

Thank you so much for having me on the blog! This whole process has been a dream come true and I’m so grateful for the community that supports kidlit creators.

Cheers, friends!

Ashley

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Ashley! We so appreciate your time and expertise and everything you gave us the opportunity to learn! And we all wish you the best with this and future titles!

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Candice Marley Conner!

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

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

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

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

Ready?

Let’s go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

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

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

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

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

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

SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?

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

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

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

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

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

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Candice’s work space with motivational quotes

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

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

Author Candice Marley Conner

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

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

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

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

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Christine Van Zandt!

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

First, we have a humorous nonfiction book to enjoy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?)

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

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

Author Christine Van Zandt

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

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

CONTACT INFO

Website
Twitter
LinkedIn
Facebook
Instagram

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls (dyslexia-friendly font)

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Michelle Vattula!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut, Everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

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

Michelle’s writing buddies 😊

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

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

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

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

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

SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”? 

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

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

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

Michelle’s support and inspiration!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?)

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

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

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

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

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

Author Michelle Vattula

www.michellevattula.com
Twitter @Mmvattula
Instagram michelleciampavattula

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Jennifer Buchet!

Hey there, everyone!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh.

Oh!!

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

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

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

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

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Author Jennifer Buchet (who loves visiting local farms 😊)

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

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

You can swap tales & recipes with Jennifer here:

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Amanda Davis!

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

Time to meet another amazing Tuesday Debut-ess!

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

Please join me in welcoming Amanda!

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

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

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

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

Amanda’s art/writing studio



SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

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

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

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

Book Launch Celebrations



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

AMANDA: Not yet…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMANDA: NINE years!! Patience pays off 😊

Amanda and her buddy Cora on a hike



SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?)

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

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

Author Amanda Davis (photo credit Angela Wood Photography)

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

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

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

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

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

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

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

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree