Since I am new to the picture-book world, I wanted to learn from other writers. What inspired their stories? How did they go about crafting their first book? What did they do when they finally received that offer? These authors have been kind enough to share their experiences and tips in this Q&A. This week's writer is SUSAN FARRINGTON.


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My First Picture Book Q&A

SALAD PIE

January 30, 2017

Tags: SALAD PIE, Wendy BooydeGraaff, Bryan Langdo, Ripple Grove Press, 2016

A contractor for an educational research foundation and a global relocation company, Wendy BooydeGraaff is also the author of a book which has inspired several children to go outside, pick up shiny gum wrappers at the park, and add them to a pretend pie. Today she talks to us about her #firstpicturebook SALAD PIEóďa fine addition to collections in need of imaginative friendship talesĒ (School Library Journal).

Q. Was SALAD PIE the first picture book manuscript you ever wrote? If not, what was the first picture book you wrote and what happened to it?
A. No, I wrote many things before SALAD PIE, and the first picture book manuscript I wrote and sent out was about the ubiquitous story line of a new sibling, so while I still think the manuscript is cute, itís locked away in my files.

Q. What inspired†SALAD PIE?
A. My creative and imaginative daughter, when she was two years old, going on three.

Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. This is one of those times when the title came first, and then the story. My daughter and I were at the park and she was playing pretend and said, ďSalad Pie,Ē which I thought was so clever and creative that I repeated it in my head over and over all the way home. Then, during her rest time, I scribbled out the first draft of the story.

Q. What is your favorite part of the book? And was that part in the first draft?
A. Well, let me answer that creatively. In the first drafts, the ending was different. I had Herbert sitting down to enjoy Salad Pie with Maggie, and then he forgot to pretend to eat the pretend pie. He took a real bite of leaves and gum wrapper and crab apple, which I thought was quite funny and ironic (especially to adults). I agreed to change the ending for Ripple Grove Press, and I think it is a much better ending for this story, and it now highlights Maggieís acceptance of Herbert and his ideas for their next playdate.

Q. How did you select the names for your characters?
A. The names Maggie and Herbert are right there in my first handwritten draft. They just seemed like the right names that fit the characters; my subconcious chose them.

Q. Why did you decide to tell the story in third person?
A. Third person allows the reader to see the actions of Maggie and Herbert and make their own judgements.

Q. How much of the story did you know when you began writing†SALAD PIE?
A. The entire story came out in the first draft. After that, it took many readings and critique group meetings to make sure the story was saying what I thought it did. Thatís always the trick of writing for me: to make sure Iím saying what I think Iím saying.

Q. Did†SALAD PIE†receive any rejection letters? If so, how many (ballpark)?
A. Yes, I had some rejections but the number is locked in a secret vault. ;)

Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on†SALAD PIE.
A. Well, Ripple Grove Press had my manuscript for eight or nine months. I had politely nudged them twice at three-to-four month intervals to determine the status of SALAD PIE, and both times they asked for a little more time. Then I came back from a short vacation and heard the message on my home phone that they wanted to talk to me. I started getting excited, and sure enough, when I called back, Rob said they wanted to publish SALAD PIE. There were very few edits, mainly the ending, which he told me about before I signed the contract. Then we went over the manuscript a few more times, especially after the initial sketches were in, to make it perfect.

Q. What kind of input did you have in choosing an illustrator for the book?†
A. They asked for input, so I sent some ideas of illustrator styles, but they chose the illustrator, Bryan Langdo.

Q. What jumped out at you when you saw the first sketches and jacket cover?
A. The first illustration I saw was a character sketch of Maggie with her curly hair (which I loved because I have very curly hair) and puddle jumper boots. I thought her fun-loving, inventive personality was captured perfectly. The cover shows Maggie overjoyed with her invention, and Herbert in the background. Iím very happy with it.

Q. How long did†SALAD PIE†take to be publishedófrom the time you received an offer until it was printed?
A. Just under two years.The verbal offer was in June of 2014, the contract was signed eight days later, and SALAD PIE was released on March 1, 2016.

Q. Is there anything you would change in the book today if you could reprint it? (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. Iíve read this book aloud in book stores, on Skype visits, in real classrooms, and I donít have any words or punctuation I want to change. This is surprising, because I am a nitpick, but also a tribute to Ripple Grove Pressís process, which was very careful and not rushed.

Q. When you do readings of†SALAD PIE†which part of the book gets the best reaction?
A. Invariably, when Maggie and Salad Pie tumble down, down, down the slideÖand I turn the page andónope, Iím not going to tell you. You have to read the book! But at readings, I always get a reaction.

Q. What is your #1 tip to those who want to write picture books?
A. Spend lots of time thinking about the words you write, rereading them and making sure they really are the words that are telling the story in the best way possible.

Q. Do you have a favorite writing exercise that you can share?
A. There are many writing exercises that I love, but I think my favourite stems from people-watching. Sit on a bench somewhere and watch the people who pass. Ask questions about them. Where are they going? What job do they do? Once you see someone that sparks your imagination, gather in as many details as possible about that person and then write. Make up everything you donít know, from where they live to what books they read. It doesnít matter if that person leavesómaybe itís even betteróbecause now you are in the realm of fiction, using your imagination to springboard there.

Q. What are you working on now?
A. I am working on more picture books and a middle grade manuscript.

Q. Where can people find you? (Website, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
A:
website: http://www.wendybooydegraaff.com/
Read about many other picture book authors and illustrators at On the Scene in 2016: https://onthescenein2016.wordpress.com/
Connect and share your favorite outdoorsy books on:
@BooyTweets: https://twitter.com/BooyTweets
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/wbooydegraaff/salad-pie/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14531750.Wendy_BooydeGraaff.

THE PEDDLER'S BED

July 11, 2016

Tags: THE PEDDLER'S BED, Lauri Fortino, Bong Redila, Ripple Grove Press, 2015

Library Assistant Lauri Fortino is a strong supporter of library and literacy initiatives and the creator of Frog On A Blog, a forum for writers and fans of childrenís picture books to share their views on all-things picture books. But today she shares the story of how she created her first picture book, THE PEDDLER'S BEDó"a quirky little tale that expresses the core message of kindness and hospitality, sharing what you have with others, no matter how humble or how fine" (Midwest Book Review).

Q. Was THE PEDDLER'S BED 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 have written several picture book manuscripts, both before and after The Peddlerís Bed. My first picture book story was called Freddy Bear Goes Here and There, which I completed while taking a childrenís writerís course back in 2005. The story has gone through several revisions and title changes (and rejections) since then. I just recently dug it out again for even more revisions. Itís barely recognizable now as the story I wrote over ten years ago.

Q. What inspired†THE PEDDLER'S BED?
A. My inspiration for THE PEDDLERíS BED came from a sense of gratitude I felt toward family and friends for their generosity. When my husband and I first got married, much of our furniture was given to us, including our bed. The story is all about kindness and generosity and I really feel the world could use more of both.

Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. The title just came to me when I knew the story was going to be about a peddler who tries to sell a bed. The title for The peddlerís bed never changed.

Q. What is your favorite part of the book? And was that part in the first draft?
A. My favorite part is the little manís dog Happy. He was in the story from the beginning. Iím pretty sure my dog influenced my decision to include a canine companion in the book.

Q. Why did you decide to tell the story in third person?
A. At the time, I was writing all of my stories in third person and hadnít considered anything else. Iíve become more comfortable experimenting with different points of view now. Iím even working on a story that breaks the fourth wall.

Q. How much of the story did you know when you began writing†THE PEDDLER'S BED?
A. I had a rough idea of what the story was about, how it would begin, and how I wanted it to end. But my plot was disjointed. I had to work on connecting the dots from beginning to end in a way that made sense.

Q. Did†THE PEDDLER'S BED†receive any rejection letters? If so, how many (ballpark)?
A. Before sending the manuscript to Ripple Grove Press, I had sent it out only twice, and received back two rejections.

Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on†THE PEDDLER'S BED.
A. There was a message on my answering machine when I arrived home from work (I work at my local public library) from Rob Broder, president and founder of Ripple Grove Press, saying heís interested in THE PEDDLERíS BED and to call him to discuss a possible contract. Well, I must have replayed the message at least four or five times to be sure I was hearing correctly. Needless to say, I was thrilled!

Q. What kind of input did you have in choosing an illustrator for the book?
A. Rob and I discussed illustration style and he asked me to name a few books with styles that I thought were a good fit for the story. We seemed to be in agreement about what direction to take the art. Then Rob contacted Bong Redila to see if heíd be interested in illustrating the book. Iím super pleased with Bongís illustrations. Theyíre so colorful and unique.

Q. What jumped out at you when you saw the first sketches and jacket cover?
A. The first thing that jumped out at me was that the peddlerís cart looked very different from what I had envisioned. But that was perfectly okay. I loved the sketches! Itís fascinating to see how an illustrator takes your words and ideas and brings them to life.

Q. How long did†THE PEDDLER'S BED†take to be publishedófrom the time you received an offer until it was printed?
A. I signed the contract October 31, 2013 and the publication date was September 1, 2015, so nearly two years. But I received my author copies in April of 2015.

Q. Is there anything you would change in the book today if you could reprint it? (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. Iím sure thereíd be a lot of things Iíd change if I picked it apart, but I try not to do that. As writers, our inner editors are always talking, making us believe what weíve written isnít ready, finished, or good enough. Sometimes you just have to put him/her on mute and let it go.

Q. Can you share any funny or memorable parts of letters from kids about†THE PEDDLER'S BED?
A. This isnít from letters, but from talking to the kids about the book after Iíve read it. The book ends with the little man asleep on the bed on his front porch. I like to ask the kids how they think the little man will get the bed inside the house. One child said heíd prop open the roof and lower it down. You canít beat the ingenuity of kids.

Q. When you do readings of†THE PEDDLER'S BED†which part of the book gets the best reaction?
A. What gets the best reaction actually happens before I read the book. Because there is a dog in the story, I like to share a picture of my dog with the kids. I show them a blown up picture of my dog with crazy, static-zapped, fly-away hair and tell the kids he was having a bad hair day. They love it!

Q. What is your #1 tip to those who want to write picture books?
A. Read bunches of picture books, especially new ones! Go to the library and raid their New Picture Book shelves. If you want to get published the traditional way, itís important to really get a feel for the format and a clearer picture of what publishers are publishing and whatís selling in the current market. That said, donít try to copy what others have done. Create something new. Write the stories that only you can write.

Q. What are you working on now?
A. Iím working on several picture book manuscripts as well as a childrenís chapter book. My goal this year is to find a literary agent to represent my work.
To learn more about Lauri, visit her website

MAE AND THE MOON

June 27, 2016

Tags: MAE AND THE MOON, Jami Gigot, Ripple Grove Press

Digital Artist Jami Gigot has worked on films such as Avatar, Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Captain America. But today, she is telling us the story of how she created her first picture book, MAE AND THE MOONó"a sweet, quiet story suitable for a cozy bedtime reading" (School Library Journal).

Q. Was MAE AND THE MOON 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 had been writing several Shel Silverstein-style silly poems and wanted to do something with them, so I took a continuing education class in Picture Book Illustration at Emily Carr University. MAE AND THE MOON was an idea I started to develop while I was taking the course. It was the first picture book manuscript I wrote.

Q. What inspired MAE AND THE MOON?
A. As a toddler, my daughter was completely fascinated with the moon and we would play a game where we would try to spot it. One evening she said, "The moon is following us!" That single phrase started me writing.

Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. At first the project started as a poem called, "The Moon is Following Me." Ripple Grove Press loved the idea but didn't love the rhyme, so I rewrote the manuscript in a more traditional narrative style. In the poem the protagonist spoke in the first person and did not have a name. But, the character was always inspired by my daughter, and I was in fact drawing a stylized version of her. I toyed with the idea of having the character be called "the little girl", but in the end, I decided to go ahead and use my daughter's name, Mae. Hence, MAE AND THE MOON became the title.

Q. What is your favorite part of the book? And was that part in the first draft?
A. My favorite part of the book is the wordless page where she gives the moon a full body hug. This was not in the first draft at all. In the first draft Mae gets angry when the moon doesn't answer her, and when the moon disappears, she thinks she scared it away. This is very different from where the story ended up. The final draft has a much more imaginative tone with her journeying to space to find the moon.

Q. How did you select the names for your characters?
A. As I mentioned, Mae is actually my daughter's name and this character is loosely based on her. The dog character is completely made up and not based on a real dog. My publisher started calling the dog Luna, which is how we referred to her throughout the process, although her name is never mentioned in the book.

Q. Why did you decide to tell the story in third person?
A. I tried different variations and this seemed to have the nicest tone.

Q. How much of the story did you know when you began writing MAE AND THE MOON?
A. Only the very basic premise really. I knew a little girl would have a playful relationship with the moon, and would feel upset when it disappeared. It evolved from there. I often write several drafts of my stories and they tend to evolve into something that I hadn't necessarily thought about from the beginning.

Q. Did you write the story first, then illustrate it? Or did the images appear before the words?
A. For MAE AND THE MOON, I wrote the initial poem that the story evolved from first. Very quickly though, I started doing character sketches, and creating a dummy book. Generally in my process, the images and text are linked from the beginning. Iíll have a draft of a manuscript next to character sketches in my sketchbook, and Iíll start making thumbnail storyboards pretty early on. Slowly things evolve to be more organized as I make revisions and work things out.

Q. Did MAE AND THE MOON receive any rejection letters? If so, how many (ballpark)?
A. I sent it to around ten places, and I received rejections from four of those, and no responses from several. Then I got a call from Ripple Grove Press and the discussions started.

Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on MAE AND THE MOON.
I was over the moon of course!

Q. How long did MAE AND THE MOON take to be publishedófrom the time you received an offer until it was printed?
A. About a year for me to finish the book from the time of offer, and then another eight months or so before it hit shelves. During the process of making this book, I was also working full time as a digital film artist, and I'm a mother of two, so it was a lot of late nights. Despite the lack of sleep, I absolutely loved the entire experience of making this book. It truly is my passion to make picture books, and I learned so much along the way.

Q. Is there anything you would change in the book today if you could reprint it? (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. I am still very much learning and honing my craft as both a writer and illustrator. That being said, I think that this book represents me at this moment in my career, and because the character is based on my daughter it will always be incredibly special to me. Rather than think about what I would change, I prefer to take what I learned and put that into my next project.

Q. Can you share any funny or memorable parts of letters from kids about MAE AND THE MOON?
A. One of my favorites is the question "How does she breathe in outer space?" Or, "Is that a pot on her head?"

Q. When you do readings of MAE AND THE MOON, which part of the book gets the best reaction?
A. The wordless pages are very fun because it gives a great opportunity for the kids to get involved. I like to open it up and let the kids tell me what's happening in the book.

Q. What is your #1 tip to those who want to write picture books?
A. If this is your passion, keep at it! The children's writing community is absolutely amazing and supportive. Find a good critique group and work hard on your revisions and/or art, and be open to constructive criticism.

Q. What are you working on now?
A. I am currently working on a project I am really excited about. It's a companion book for MAE AND THE MOON entitled SEB AND THE SUN. This one is for my son, Sebastien. It will have a similar look and vibe to MAE AND THE MOON, but is quite different, and brings many new challenges.

To learn more about Jami Gigot, visit her website.