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!