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
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.
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!
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!
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 😊
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!
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)
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
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!
Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)
Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)
Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)
Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)
Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)