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True Story Blog

5 Favorites from . . . Susan Montanari!

Author Susan Montanari with one of her biggest fans.

Susan McElroy Montanari was a finalist in two categories for the 2010 Tassy Walden Award for New Voices in Children's Literature in Connecticut: one for her middle grade novel, The Day Sasquatch Ate My Journal and the other for her picture book My Dog's A Chicken, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf and published by Schwartz & Wade. Her other books include Goldilocks for Dinner (new this month!), Who's The Grossest of Them AllHip-Hop Lollipop, and The Halloween Tree (to be published August 6, 2019). Susan lives in Savannah, Georgia, where she resides with her husband, Dan, and a cat named Tybee.  


So what are Susan’s 5 Favorites?:


My favorite place to write:

The second floor of my local library, back between the stacks. It is so quiet there I can disappear into the world I'm trying to create. When I try to write at home there are too many distractions.


My favorite mentor text:

I know it is cliché, but it's Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. This book really speaks to children and their need to have some control over their world.


My favorite writing tip:

Don't discuss an idea with anyone until you have, at least, the first draft completed. If you tell the story too soon you give up some of your energy to complete it. And if their reaction is negative it could completely deflate the notion before it gets a chance to take shape.


My biggest marketing tip: 

Become active on social media. I know I have bought books after seeing them on Twitter!


My favorite book event of the year:

BEA New York City (Book Expo America) - I only got to go to it once, but it was exciting to see all those new books, authors, publishers, and agents in one place.


To learn more about Susan and her work, visit her website. And, if you would like to review Susan’s books, click the book links above.

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#firstpicturebook flashback

“I had a dream about a chicken and an old woman. When I woke up I wrote it down, but I changed the old woman to a little girl.”—From Susan Montanari’s #firstpicturebook Q&A on MY DOG’S A CHICKEN.

In March 2016, I interviewed Susan Montanari about creating her #firstpicturebook MY DOG’S A CHICKEN—“a fun twist on the wacky new-pet story, with an enthusiastic heroine and a sassy chicken to boot” (Booklist). So what has Susan been up to since her debut? HIP HOP LOLLIPOP, THE GROSSEST OF THEM ALL, and GOLDILOCKS FOR DINNER. To read Susan’s #firstpicturebook Q&A, click here.

To learn more about Susan’s other books, follow these links:

HIP HOP LOLLIPOP (illustrated by Brian Pinkney)—“a read-aloud treat that is sure to enhance the nighttime ritual.”—Kirkus Reviews

THE GROSSEST OF THEM ALL (illustrated by Jake Parker)—“This lesson in decorum is cleverly oblique, and its unapologetic protagonist compares favorably with those of boy-centric picks like Carolyn Beck’s cautionary Richard Was A Picker (2010) or William Joyce’s autobiographical Billy’s Booger (2015).”—Booklist 

GOLDILOCKS FOR DINNER: A FUNNY BOOK ABOUT MANNERS (illustrated by Jake Parker)—coming July 2019!

If you have read Susan’s books, please consider writing a review:
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10 Writers Talk Titles

How did you pick the title for your #firstpicturebook? Ten writers answer this question below. Click on the quote to flash back to the original Q&A.

Maryann Cocca-Leffler: There was an old ad for Prince Pasta on TV …Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day…which was catchy. I wrote to the Prince Pasta Company to make sure there was no problem using my title. It was Okayed and the title stuck.

Susan Montanari: In the dream the woman said, “That’s not a dog it’s a chicken.”

Maria Gianferrari: The original title of the book was PENELOPE, UNTALENTED. However, because I received a two-book deal, we needed a title that could carry to the second book, so Penny & Jelly was born!

Emma Bland Smith: JOURNEY is the name that a child (actually two children in different states) submitted in a naming contest sponsored by a conservation organization, Oregon Wild. (The full name of the book is JOURNEY: Based on the True Story of OR7, the Most Famous Wolf in the West.) I love the name because it evokes the wolf’s adventurous spirit.

Karlin Gray: In reading Nadia Comaneci's autobiography, I learned that she was a rambunctious toddler who had tons of energy.... While I was writing my book, I also had a three-year old who loved to fling himself from couch to couch. Constant movement was a theme on the page and in my own living room. The two collided and created NADIA: THE GIRL WHO COULDN'T SIT STILL.

Heather Lang: “Queen of the Track,” was one of Alice’s nicknames. Although she wasn’t treated like a queen by society, she behaved like one and really did dominate the track for a number of years in sprinting events and the high jump. The title also worked nicely with the ending—the King presents Alice (“the Queen”) with her gold medal.

Ammi-Joan Paquette: Originally the book was called simply TRACKING FAIRIES. However, my editor felt this could invoke a harsher feel: ‘tracking’ in the sense of ‘hunting’ (poor fairies!). My writer friend Natalie Lorenzi suggested the “Tiptoe Guide” portion, which I think did a brilliant job of softening and tying the whole title together. I love the result!

Jodi McKay: I honestly didn’t think that this would remain the title. It’s just what I kept asking myself for so long and still do for that matter. Even now, as I write the answers to these questions, I’m going back and forth looking for the right words. It’s crazy, but it’s part of my process.

Wendy BooydeGraaff: 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, “Salad Pie,” 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.

Cheryl Keely: The original title was Here to There and Me to You. I liked the thought of bridges making connections and bringing people together. I really liked the line in the book containing those words. It seemed to me to sum up the best connection of all – me to you and you to me. A Book of Bridges was added later to make it clear that the book was about bridges. It helps to let readers to know what a book is about!
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10 Tips for Writing Picture Books

1. Victoria Sherrow: "I had set a goal of writing and submitting at least one new story each month, including stories with holiday themes."

2. Miriam Glassman: "Write the story that is yours to tell. Don’t try to redo something already out there.".

3. Maryann Cocca-Lefler: "Stay focused, have thick skin and be willing to revise. Rejection letters are part of the process, learn from them and move forward."

4. Tara Lazar: "My stories always include a hidden chunk of my childhood."

5. Shennen Bersani: "Have a young child read it out loud."

6. Cheryl Lawton Malone: "Write while your kids are at the dentist. Write when your spouse goes to sleep. And when you’re not writing, read and think about picture books."

7. Deborah Sosin: "Go for it! Make the time. But ask for help. It’s too hard to do in isolation."

8. Audrey Vernick: "We were so stuck on one point and I had been reading some craft books and one suggestion was instead of trying to come up with one solution, shoot for five. . . . That proved to be a technique I’d return to."

9. Susan Montanari: "I had a dream [and] when I woke up I wrote it down."

10: Jean Taft: "I make a book dummy out of index cards for all my stories and work on the pagination from that. Sometimes I don’t fully understand how a story is (or isn’t) flowing until I make a book dummy."
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Susan Montanari is the author of upcoming books WHO'S THE GROSSEST OF THEM ALL? and HIP HOP LOLLIPOP but today she is talking about her first picture book MY DOG'S A CHICKEN—"an ideal read-aloud that will have kids and adults chuckling" (School Library Journal).  Read More 
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