My #FirstPictureBook

CHICKEN WANTS A NAP

July 31, 2017

Tags: CHICKEN WANTS A NAP, Tracy Marchini, Monique Felix, Creative Editions, August 2017

Even though Tracy Marchini is a literary agent and YA and middle-grade author, she didn't play it cool when she got an offer on her debut picture book. Today she tells us how she created and celebrated her #firstpicturebook CHICKEN WANTS A NAP—coming August 15! (See Goodreads giveaway link below to win a copy!)

Q. Was CHICKEN WANTS A NAP the first picture book manuscript you ever wrote? If not, what was the first picture book you wrote and what happened to it?
A. CHICKEN WANTS A NAP wasn’t the first (or even the second, third, fourth…) picture book I wrote. The first picture book was about a collection of animals that find a hat and while I did send it out on submission, it’s found a home on my computer hard drive where it will probably stay indefinitely!

Q. What inspired CHICKEN WANTS A NAP?
A. At the time, I was a full time grad student who was working part time, and one of my assignments was to write about a character’s best or worst day. I was so exhausted and a nap sounded like the best thing in the world to me – so I wrote about a Chicken who also would love a nap, but was constantly interrupted.

Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. The title and the first line are the same, and they just kind of popped into my head as I was thinking about the assignment.

Q. Do you write by hand or on the computer?
A. I like to do both. If I’m stuck on something, I’ll write it out by hand. I always feel like I am a little more creative when I’m writing by hand first. There’s something about the feel of pen on paper, and it also gives me the opportunity to do a quick line edit as I enter it into the computer.

Q. What is your favorite part of the book? And was that part in the first draft?
A. My favorite part is the end (though I’m not going to spoil the ending for you!) and it was in the first draft.

Q. How did you select the names for your characters?
A. Chicken is a chicken, and there was something about the naturally sparse text that seemed to fit with the simple name.

Q. Why did you decide to tell the story in first/third person?
A. Because the story deals with naps, it always felt natural in third. I think first person would have been too close, and would have changed the tone considerably.

Q. How much of the story did you know when you began writing CHICKEN WANTS A NAP?
A. I knew that I was tired, but the rest came to me as a wrote! I did know that I loved the structure of Remy Charlip’s Fortunately, so that was definitely something I was going for. Something about the original assignment (best or worst day) must have sparked that memory – and I think a lot of the humor comes from the back and forth of being successful… until the reader turns the page and Chicken is once more thwarted.

Q. Did CHICKEN WANTS A NAP receive any rejection letters? If so, how many (ballpark)?
A. So, this is completely unusual, but I only sent CHICKEN to one publisher that I had worked with in the past and knew would be a good fit. But most authors aren’t going to sell a book without at least one rejection for that manuscript, and I certainly have rejections from previous picture books.

Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on CHICKEN WANTS A NAP.
A. There was a lot of dancing, some annoying singing (“I sold a boooooook!”) and I think even a little bit of the running man. I was not chill about it – at all!

Q. What kind of input did you have in choosing an illustrator for the book?
A. No input, which is common. Luckily, I love Monique’s art in general and also what she did with CHICKEN WANTS A NAP in particular!

Q. What jumped out at you when you saw the first sketches and jacket cover?
A. “That’s one good lookin’ Chicken!”

Q. How long did CHICKEN WANTS A NAP take to be published—from the time you received an offer until it was printed?
A. About three months shy of two years from offer to publication.

Q. Was there a part that you really loved but had to edit out? Or did you think of something later that you wanted to add?
A. The text is only about 165 words, but my editor and I went back and forth on just the right wording for quite a bit. It wasn’t so much editing out something that I loved, but figuring out how to tighten the text so that it was even better!

Q. What is your #1 tip to those who want to write picture books?
A. Write and read as many of them as you can until picture book structure becomes an innate part of your craft. (Tip #2 would be to jot down a couple of picture ideas and then ask yourself with each idea, “How can I take this idea and flip it into something new/clever/funny/etc.?”)

Q. Do you have a favorite writing exercise or marketing tip that you can share?
A. If you’re stuck, change your scenery. Take a walk, go to your library, or make something with your hands (knit, sew, color – something!) Let your subconscious do some work on the problem and come back to the manuscript fresh.

Q. What are you working on now?
A. Right now I have a couple of picture book ideas that I’m revising and one that I’m drafting. There aren’t any chickens in these manuscripts… yet. (There is a duck though!)

Q. Where can people find you? (Website, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
A. Website: www.tracymarchini.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/tracymarchini
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tracymarchinibooks
Enter to win CHICKEN WANTS A NAP at www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/241397?utm_medium=api&utm_source=giveaway_widget

MONSTER TRUCKS

June 12, 2017

Tags: MONSTER TRUCKS, Joy Keller, Miss Saburi, Henry Holt, August 2017

On Joy Keller's website, she writes that her weirdest experience was "getting chased down the street by an angry pig." Sounds like a great picture book! Until that happens, read the story behind her #firstpicturebook MONSTER TRUCKS (available August 29!):

Q. Was MONSTER TRUCKS the first picture book manuscript you ever wrote? If not, what was the first picture book you wrote and what happened to it?
A. I’ve written lots of picture books over the years, and MONSTER TRUCKS wasn’t my first. My very first was about a cooking dragon. It stunk, and my critique group wasn’t afraid to let me know (in much gentler terms, of course). It was the first of many learning opportunities on my writing journey! I think I still have the original manuscript hand-written in a notebook.

Q. What inspired MONSTER TRUCKS?
A. When my kids were little, they had very specific taste in books. My daughter only wanted to read Halloween books, and my son only wanted to read truck books. I thought to myself, “Why hasn’t someone written a book about monsters and trucks? It could be called MONSTER TRUCKS.” Bingo! There was my idea.

Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. In this case, the title came first. It was the easiest part.

Q. What is your favorite part of the book? And was that part in the first draft?
A. I don’t know if I can pick a favorite. It was too much fun writing about each monster! And all the monsters in the book were in the first outline I wrote except for the mummies. They came later because, as my agent at the time said, the story just needed some mummies.

Q. How did you decide between telling the story in first or third person? 
A. The whole book is basically a list poem, so this wasn’t an issue for me to even consider.

Q. How much of the story did you know when you began writing MONSTER TRUCKS? 
A. All of it! I had the idea, but the big challenge was making that idea into a fun, playful rhyme. There were nights where my brain wouldn’t shut off as I lay in bed wondering, “What rhymes with debris?” or “Why couldn’t Minotaur have one more syllable?”

Q. Did MONSTER TRUCKS receive any rejection letters? If so, how many (ballpark)?
A. Of course! I would say at least twenty, maybe more.

Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on MONSTER TRUCKS.
A. I won’t lie. There was a lot of jumping up and down and cheering.

Q. What kind of input did you have in choosing an illustrator for the book? 
A. None at all, which is why I was absolutely thrilled when I saw Misa Saburi’s adorable illustrations. She can make anything (even monsters!) look cute.

Q. What jumped out at you when you saw the first sketches and jacket cover?
A. Everything—I love Misa’s style. Let’s just say that the picture of the witch driving the street sweeper made me the happiest author in the world!

Q. How long did MONSTER TRUCKS take to be published—from the time you received an offer until it was printed?
A. It took almost three years. Publishing is a slow process, but the end result is totally worth it.

Q. What is your #1 tip to those who want to write picture books?
A. Write. A LOT. I think of my picture book manuscripts as baby sea turtles. They aren’t all going to make it—that’s the sad reality of the business—but I can always have more manuscripts that might work the next time around. So stay busy!

Now I know I’m breaking the rules here, but I’d say my #1 ½ tip is to join a critique group. You need writing friends to help solve those pesky manuscript problems that you just can’t solve yourself. (Then you’ll also have a group to help you celebrate when your book gets published!)

Q. What are you working on now?
A. I tend to work on multiple things at one time. I have a nearly wordless book for which I’m creating a dummy, a comic-book style science book, and another fun rhyming story.
Q. Where can people find you? (Website, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
A. My website is joykellerauthor.com, and you can find me on Twitter @jrkeller80.