Ho, ho, ho! Are you ready for the BIG guy? He’s looking a little green this year, and I think he must have eaten a batch of Christmas cookies every day! Oh, wait a minute, that’s not the same ‘ole Santa! It’s Santasaurus, and look at the gift he’s brought us: Children's Author Stacy McAnulty! What is that heavenly scent? It's making me hungry! Sorry, Stacy... I always seem to get sidetracked by food!
Congratulations on your debut picture book, Dear Santasaurus, illustrated by Jef Kaminksy! Did you ever dream that your first picture book would have a Christmas theme?
It’s funny because when I started writing this book I didn’t consider it a Christmas book. Sure, it ends at Christmas time, but the series of letters runs all year long, and they hit on New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, April Fool’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Halloween.
Was there ever a time that you were worried that it might be harder to sell a holiday book?I found this to be a conflicting opinion. I met an editor at a conference in New York and she said she was always on the look out for new holiday books. Then I submitted to another editor who said holiday books are too hard to sell.
By having your main character, Ernest B. Spinosaurus write letters to Santasaurus, you managed to keep a picture book audience’s attention for the span of an entire year! How did you come up with such a creative and fun idea?I feel like Ernest came up with the idea. He’s a clever little guy who knows what he wants. Why wait until December to write Santasaurus? Ernest felt his odds were better if he started a correspondence with the big guy earlier rather than later.
I always like to know if an author is able to communicate with the illustrator during the publication process. While the answer is usually no, I wonder if yours is any different, or if you used illustration notes in your manuscript? I have never exchanged an e-mail, a text, or a “hello” with Jef. Everything was handled through the publisher. When I got to see his sketches, I pretty much fell in love. I did suggest one change that was implemented. Once it was accepted for publication, how long did this project take? What was the most surprising part of this process? The book was acquired in 2010 and didn’t hit bookstore shelves until October 2013. I had no idea it could take 3 years. I believe the average is more like 2 years from acquisition to publication, but I’ve heard of authors waiting 5 and 6 years. So I guess 3 isn’t bad. Was Dear Santasaurus the first manuscript you circulated into submission as a picture book writer? If not, how long have you actively been submitting work as a children’s writer?The first picture book manuscript I completed placed in a Writer’s Digest national contest. (There’s a difference between completed and drafted.) After, I tried to sell that manuscript for about a year. It made it to an acquisition meeting but never found a home. There was another completed manuscript between that one and Santasaurus that also fizzled. Of course, there have been plenty of manuscripts that just sit on my hard drive. I try to only share my best work—the stuff that has the most potential. I understand that 2013 brought great things to your door, including agent, Lori Kilkelly of Rodeen Literary Management! How did you know that she was the right agent for you, and how has your writing life changed since accepting representation? Also, how long did your correspondence with Lori take before she signed you as a client?I’ve always heard that agents who represent picture books will want to see at least three strong manuscripts before offering representation. Lori didn’t do that. She offered to represent me after reading just one manuscript. Being the nervous this-is-too-good-to-be-true person that I am, I asked her to read my chapter book and then to let me know if she really, truly wanted to represent me. She read the chapter book, said it needed some work, but still wanted me. Yeah! I knew Lori and I were a good fit after our first marathon phone call session. She called me at 10 PM (per my request) while she was on vacation and we talked for about 90 minutes. She understands my sense of humor and is completely honest with me, which I appreciate.
What do you feel was the most important thing(s) you did that lead to publication? I’ve really started treating writing like a job and not a hobby. In the beginning, I would put everything before writing. I’d volunteer, clean, shop, go to long lunches with friends, pay bills, do laundry, etc. Now, soon as the kids are out of the house, I’m on the computer working. And usually after the kids are in bed I’m doing more work. We’ve all heard it, we can’t wait for the muse to show up. We can’t wait for our schedules to get lighter. We need to make time to write. Tell us about your other published projects or things we can we look forward to in the future.My picture book, 101 Reasons I’m Not Taking a Bath, will be published by Random House in 2015 or 2016, but not with that title. It’s still TBD.
And another picture book, Excellent Egor, will be published by Knopf in 2015. Julia Sarcone-Roach will be the illustrator. (Yeah!)
I’m currently polishing my first chapter book and rewriting a YA. Both of which I’m really excited about.Thank you so much for joining us, Stacy! Best wishes to you! What? You brought us a gift? So, this is what smelled so heavenly! Chocolatey, minty bites of yumminess! Please visit Stacy's Blog for the recipe! Happy Holidays!
Andes Crème de Menthe (visit http://stacymcanulty.blogspot.com/ for the recipe)
Stacy lives in North Carolina with her three children, two dogs, and one husband. She loves writing (but still treats it like a job), Christmas, dinosaurs, and cookies. DEAR SANTASAURUS (Boyd Mills Press, 2013) is her first picture book. For more information on Stacy, please visit www.stacymcanulty.com
This is way too exciting, but I have to let you know now! Those who follow my writing life know that I am totally motivated by writing challenges! And those who know me really well, know that I am totally time management challenged this year since going back to teaching full time. Therefore, I must be held accountable! Writing challenges do that for me and I have GOT to start my year off 'write'. I hope you will join me for these two challenges. Thank you to Shannon Abercrombie and Meg Miller for the amazing opportunity to grow! Just click the links above to find out more!
Well, writers, another year of PiBoIdMo
is complete! I have spring-loaded 40 new ideas into my idea bank! THAT is something to celebrate! If you missed out on this experience, you do not need to wait until next November to sign up again! I challenge you to do this on your own this month...or any month! How about every day? The goal is to keep thinking of ideas for your new picture book manuscripts. Some of my ideas are as small as a character or title name, a topic for a new story, and part of a plot. Any idea will do! I wish you luck as you continue to chase new ideas!
My plan is to parlay my ideas into the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge in 2014. The two challenges naturally go hand in hand, and it worked beautifully for me this year, as well. Registration opens Monday, January 5th! It is like attending a writing conference, but more...submission privileges, educational posts for authors in the market, networking, resources, critiques, and a way to hold yourself accountable to continue writing new manuscripts each month. Be sure to check it out!
December is known as a month of giving, and although every day should officially qualify as a day to give, it tends to be on our minds even more as we approach Christmas. Therefore, you will have the privilege of hearing from TWO Mystery Authors this month! Be sure to stop back on Tuesday, December 10th and Saturday, December 14th! I love learning from other authors, don't you?
As a member of 12 x 12, I have connected with some amazing writers. Being a music lover, one author in particular really grabbed my attention with some snappy jingles and videos that made me laugh out loud! This guy had my kids walking around the house singing his tunes! Tim McCanna is one creative cat who is currently into trucks. Teeny Tiny Trucks, that is. Welcome, Tim! Congratulations on your debut picture book, Teeny Tiny Trucks, illustrated by Keith Frawley! I am not surprised that this awesome story was accepted for publication as an app and is already being coupled as a print/app release. What inspired you to get involved with picture book apps?
Thank you, Carrie! I just love technology and this relatively new wave of storytelling on tablets is very exciting. I would never want to replace traditional picture books. But, the numerous enhancements available to ignite young reader’s imaginations with apps are too cool to resist. Just a few years ago, my only option to incorporate music into a book was to have a CD. Now, my songs are integrated right into the app and can be downloaded directly into a smartphone playlist. Love that. What prompted you to write about trucks? When I first started writing picture books four years ago, I knew I needed to build up a portfolio of work. I gave myself assignments, like, “Now I’ll try writing my twist on an ABC book” and “Now I’ll write my twist on a Halloween story.” It was a good way to test my hand at tried and true topics and develop my voice. At a local SCBWI event in 2010, Christy Ottaviano discussed the various “truck books” she’d published. Ah ha! I had a new assignment for myself: “Now I’ll write a truck book.”
What was it like to start out by publishing an app before the print version?
Well, from a writer’s standpoint, it wasn’t that different. After the thrill of landing the contract, I basically got on with writing other stories while the publisher found an illustrator and started adapting the manuscript to work in app form. It’s been mostly out of my hands--though in my case, I’ve been involved in the music and narrations and marketing.
Keith Frawley’s illustrations are bright and playful. Were you able to communicate with him during the editing stages? I know you had to handle both print/app edits rather close together. Tell us about the process of editing an app vs. editing a book.
Other than sending a quick little “hi” email once he signed on, I never spoke with Keith until after he’d finished the illustrations. I gave no art directions during his creative process. And that was fine! I was excited to see what an illustrator would do with my manuscript, and I couldn’t be happier. His style works great for print, but is perfect for motion and interactivity, too. And, though I was prepared to handle any edits or changes the publisher might have had for the manuscript, they didn’t change a word. That’s rare, I think. But I wrote Trucks in very tight, simple stanzas (it’s only 239 words) and these days, short and sweet works well for a book/app hybrid.
You have composed some super fun music for Julie Hedlund’s apps and now, your own! You need your own episode of “Behind the Music!” How long have you been involved in music composition?
Oooh. I like that. The year was 1988. I wrote my first song for my high school punk band, Simple Simon. In college, I took up the accordion (I’m not making this up, by the way) and continued writing quirky music. After college, I got into writing musicals. My first was “Henry Noodle and the Radar Blip”, a one-man, sci-fi musical comedy. (Still not making this up.) From there, I moved to New York City and hit rock bottom. Booze, gambling, heroin. (Okay, that’s not true.) Actually, I went to NYU and got an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing. After that, I started writing songs for a kid-friendly folk band called the Hobo Nickels. Writing those songs and having kids of my own finally drew me into writing picture books.
You have some great experiences to share! (I wasn't expecting the booze, gambling, heroin bit...I had this sort of shocked look on my face and the next second I was laughing!) You have such a unique voice in ALL of your writing!
Once it was accepted for publication, how long did this project take? What was the most surprising part of this process? And… were there many differences between the publishing experience of the book vs. the app?
I submitted my app proposal in early December 2012 and got “the call” about a week later. That was fun. In February 2013 I had a signed contract with Little Bahalia Publishing. By July I had proofed final spreads of the book, and in September, I had a hard copy of the book in my hand! The app version wasn’t finalized until mid-October. So in 10 months I went from my submission to having a published book and app. That’s really fast! I was surprised by how the distribution process works. For the app, one day it’s on the App Store and boom--there ya go. Anyone with an iPad can get it. But with books, you deal with printing deadlines, shipping deadlines, official release date deadlines, arranging bookstore and library readings, making sure you have enough copies of the book on hand for sales and signings, etc. It’s all good stuff, but tough to juggle sometimes.
Was Teeny Tiny Trucks the first manuscript you circulated into submission as a picture book writer? If not, how long have you actively been submitting work as a children’s writer?
No, no. I started submitting manuscripts in 2009 right out of the gate. Probably too early, but I wanted in the game! And I’ve got a binder full of “thanks but no thanks” letters to show for it. And though I originally wrote Trucks as a picture book without apps in mind, it became the first app proposal I ever submitted.
What do you feel was the most important thing(s) you did that lead to publication?
For the longest time I felt like I needed to keep my music world and children’s book world separate. But I had to let go of what I thought was the “proper way” to get published. Once I started mixing things up and targeted a corner of the kidlit universe that played to my strengths, things took a turn.
Please tell us about your other published projects or things we can we look forward to in the future.
Well, I’m always submitting and working on new picture books. Right now, I’m also writing my first middle grade novel--a wacky, boyish, sci-fi adventure with a music angle (go figure). And, I’ve got a new album of songs for kids that’s in the works. Stay tuned!
Oooo...I can't wait! I will need that CD for my classroom of first graders!
It's been a pleasure having you with us today, Tim! Thanks for stopping by! Readers, if your child is in the market for a new vehicle, be sure to check out Teeny Tiny Trucks!
As many of you know, I returned to teaching this year after a one-year break to work on my writing. I love my job as a teacher, and I must admit that I am trying to figure out how to fit everything in. A teacher's work never seems to be done. A mommy's work never seems to be done, either. And this writer is just trying to figure out where to squeeze in moments with a pen!
Therefore, things are a-changin' here at Carrie On! You can still look forward to Mystery Author interviews once each month. There will also be momentary moments of motivation that just need to be shared. The Saturday Storm posts will resume in the summertime, along with the monthly book clubs. Stay tuned for the November Mystery Author post on November 12th! I look forward to seeing you soon!
Oh, and until then, be sure to get energized with new ideas during PiBoIdMo! Today was the first day, and I already have two new picture book ideas! I hope you will join me there, as well!
I love everything about fall. I was raised in Iowa where the cool days came early and the leaves turned gorgeous shades of red, yellow, orange, and brown. There is just one problem: I live in Texas now. We don't get much of a fall season here. So, yes, I am homesick for my favorite season!
I have a few tasks for you today. Take a look at the season(s) represented in your work in progress. Are you reflecting all that the season has to offer? Is the season appealing to all of your senses? How does it affect the mood of your characters? For example, the winters up north bring bitter cold and snow on the ground about six months out of the year. During that period, Mr. Sun doesn't come out to play much. When I lived there, it had a huge impact on my mood and put me into a mini depression. Allow the season in your WIP to affect your character's mood and make sure that you are consistent with the climate as your scenes change. If you do not yet have a WIP, consider the seasons as you begin to write.
Messes. It seems they are everywhere. In my office, my bedroom, my classroom...I can't escape them! It is the result of being too busy. For a Type-A person, this is extremely frustrating to the point of breaking. Seriously, I try not to look at the piles to spare my sanity while running from one thing to the next!
For today's storm short, I would like you to start looking at the personality types of your characters. Have you studied the different types? There are a plethora of different personality sites and tests on the Internet that you can use for free. For today's task, get inside your main character's head by taking a free personality test. Answer all of the questions as he/she would think, do, and react. Allow this to guide your character research and revisions. My hope is that this little character cleanup will provide consistency and believability for your story.
Tension. Without it, our stories stall out and make readers loose interest. There is nothing worse than a real snoozer! So, let's build some tension! I will give you three problem scenarios. Your job is to find 3 attempts that will fail for your character. As in real life, things don't always work on the first try. Therefore, attempts should not measure up to a solution right away. Here are your scenarios (courtesy of my oldest son, Collin):
-A guy gets turned into a monster against his will
-The fate of the world is to be destroyed
-MC's house swallows him whole
Can you tell my son likes sci-fi and fantasy?
After super-charging my idea bank with PiBoIdMo last November, I received a recommendation for an online picture book community called 12x12. The ring-leader of it all, Julie Hedlund, welcomed me and 500 others! Since joining 12x12 in January, I have written 24 manuscripts, with 12 x 12 and other competitions fueling my fire. Therefore, I am forever grateful for the community Julie has started. I am so pumped to be welcoming Julie as our Mystery Author this month! Not only has she published two picture book apps, but she is now welcoming one of them into print format this month! She does so much for others and now I am honored to be showcasing her work!
Welcome, Julie! Congratulations on your debut picture book, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, illustrated by Pamela Baron! I love the educational quality of your book and app. Kids love animals! The app is also super fun with the playful music composed by Tim McCanna. What inspired you to write about this topic? First of all, thank you for that amazing introduction Carrie! I'm blushing. I'm so happy to be here. Thanks for inviting me!
I came across a list of collective nouns for animals on the Internet one day and I was surprised by how few I knew. But even better than that was how clever they were! They all described the animal in some way (a "tower" of giraffes, a "caravan" of camels). Since all kids love animals, I immediately saw this as an opportunity to teach them a few facts and sophisticated vocabulary words, all while making it fun. Plus, I have yet to meet an adult who doesn't love learning the group names, too. What was it like to start out by publishing an app before the print version? It was exhilarating because I knew this story would work well as an app, and that interactivity would really make the animals come to "life." So in this case, it made sense to publish the app first. Plus, it's much more difficult to publish an app, so the print version seemed easy afterward! (Although Stacey, my publisher at Little Bahalia might feel differently.) Pamela Baron’s illustrations are playful and realistic. Were you able to communicate with her during the editing stages? Tell us about the process of editing an app vs. editing a book? I love how you picked up on the fact that Pamela's illustrations are both kid-friendly and yet are not overly anthropomorphized. It is a nonfiction book after all. Pamela's gorgeous watercolors walk that line so well.
I didn't communicate with Pamela at all during the illustration and production of the app. That was the publisher's job - much the same as traditional print publishing. However, I did collaborate a great deal with Stacey on the marketing and promotion of TROOP, and she shared many illustrations and her ideas for interactivity as we went along, which was SO fun! Once it was accepted for publication, how long did this project take? What was the most surprising part of this process? And… were there many differences between the publishing experience of the book vs. the app?
One of the best things about publishing digitally is how fast it is compared to traditional print publishing (assuming you have a talented creative/art director like Little Bahalia does!). The manuscript was acquired in June, 2012 and the app was published in February, 2013. And the second app, A Shiver of Sharks, was published in June. So I became a twice-published author in the span of a year!
With the print book, I'd say the biggest difference is the lack of control and the WAITING! So much of the process is outside of our direct control. The printer has to finish the books and get them on the boat, Ingram needs to add the ISBN to its database so bookstores can order them, Amazon has to put it up for preorder, etc. That was difficult for me after the relative freedom and speed of publishing the apps.
Was A Troop is a Group of Monkeys the first manuscript you circulated into submission as a picture book writer? If not, how long have you actively been submitting work as a children’s writer? Actually, TROOP was the first manuscript I submitted when I was first starting out. After it got rejected a few times, I put it aside and worked on other manuscripts. Then when apps came around, the proverbial lightbulb went off and I knew the interactivity inherent in apps could set it apart. So it's been about four years since I first started submitting, and I got published in my third year. What do you feel was the most important thing you did that lead to publication? Writing and not giving up. Seriously, anyone who is willing to keep writing, keep learning, keep improving and refuses to give up will get there eventually.
Tell us about your other published projects. What else can we look forward to in the future? Well, if you come to my blog in two weeks, I'll be announcing a new picture book that will be published in 2014 using a "hybrid" publishing model. But I can't reveal the details yet. Sorry! Also, my agent has submitted one of my manuscripts to an interested editor, so we'll see. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me! You are so helpful to others through 12x 12. Please tell us more about why you started this community and when writers can register again. I started 12 x 12 initially to motivate MYSELF to write more, but as is often the case when you include others, the joy of creating a community for fellow picture book writers has been even more rewarding than the personal incentive to get more writing done.
The members of 12 x 12 are the BEST people in the writing universe. Period!! :-) It never ceases to amaze me how much 12xers share and support each other. We are all better writers as a result! So I hope even more picture book writers will join us next year. Registration is open in January and February, and folks can sign up here to make sure they're notified when registration opens.
Thank you for being with us today, Julie! You are an amazing inspiration to others, and I know you will continue your plight to motivate others and publish amazing picture books of our own.
Thank YOU Carrie! It's my honor to be here and to have you in the 12 x 12 group!
To find out more about my personal testimony for 12x12, you will find my guest post on Julie’s blog and more on my blog site. Happy travels on your writing journey!!!
Doesn't winning feel great? In the case of last week's contest, it only took one comment to be a winner! Thank you to Kirsti Call for commenting on last week's Storm! Kirsti is the winner of Debbie Dadey's newest volume of Mermaid Tales: The Secret Sea Horse.
To celebrate with Kirsti, let's make this week's writing prompt a real winner:
Think back to a time when you...
A. Won something
B. Almost won something
C. Lost something, but gained something in return
As writers, we tend to "lose" a lot. This profession wears a heavy rejection necklace. After a while, that chain can make us stronger and help us reach our publication goals. When you receive your next rejection, you may also gain some helpful comments from agents or editors. Don't give up! Keep on writing! You will never know what could have been if you stop after the first few rejections. Challenge yourself to at least visit your Saturday Storm prompt each week and release your creativity.
I have a special treat for you. Your October Mystery Author will be featured one day early this month! Be sure to stop back on Monday to receive some inspiration!