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by Annie Bailey

This is me on June 24, 2019, in the Tetons, mountain biking with my husband. Afterwards, we had lunch at a charming café situated next to the runway of the town’s small airport where we could watch the propeller planes land and take off.

It was a perfect day, and our ride on the mountain trails had given me a lot of time to think. On the drive home, I turned to my husband and said something I never thought I’d say.

“It’s okay if I never get published.”

I’d been pouring my heart into my writing for years—starting just after my first son was born in 2003. In 2016, I signed with my agent. Since then, we’d worked together for THREE YEARS and hadn’t sold a thing. Two weeks before that day in the mountains, my agent and I had a very honest conversation about how things were going. We were both frustrated. But at the end of the discussion, I told her, “If you’re still all in, I am too.” And we both were.

But as I told my husband on the car ride home, it was time to let go of things I couldn’t control. Getting published was one of those things. I could write a story to the best of my ability, but I couldn’t control if an editor would want to publish it. I couldn’t control the state of the economy and how it influenced acquisitions, or the political climate, or if an editor had too much of this or that on her list. I would still write, of course. But I was no longer going to put pressure on myself to achieve results that I had no say in. I felt a lot of relief and peace when I came to that conclusion.

We had only been home a short while when my phone rang.

“You have an offer,” my agent said. For not just one book, but two. A series.

I’m so pleased to share the cover of my very first book in that series, an idea from my 2013 PiBoIdMo (now Storystorm) list.

10 LITTLE TRACTORS releases November 2nd, 2021 from Doubleday Books for Young Readers and is now available for pre-order.

The second title, 10 LITTLE EXCAVATORS, releases February 2nd, 2022.

Boy has it been a crazy year. But I’m still all in, doing my best to focus on what I can control in my writing journey. I hope you are still all in, too.

Thanks for sharing your success story, Annie! What incredible timing!

Blog readers, you can win a copy of 10 LITTLE TRACTORS, which you’ll receive after publication in November.

Comment once to enter. A random winner will be selected soon!

Good luck!


Annie Bailey is a children’s author, songwriter, and mom to four boys. She loves laughing, reading, playing the piano, soccer, biking and baking. Doubleday Books for Young Readers will release Annie’s first board books, 10 LITTLE TRACTORS and 10 LITTLE EXCAVATORS, in Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. Abrams Appleseed will release her first picture book, MUD!, in Spring 2022. She has also released a children’s album titled THERE IS JOY. Annie served on the 2015 and 2016 Best in Rhyme Award committee and currently enjoys serving as the Regional Advisor for the SCBWI Utah/Southern Idaho region. Annie lives in rural Idaho in a renovated farmhouse complete with her very own train car. (Which, of course, has time traveling capabilities.) Visit Annie at anniebailey.com or on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram @byanniebailey.

by Stephanie Wildman

Thank you, Tara, for having me on your blog. You asked me how I found my amazing debut group NewBooksForKids.com. Unlike the conventional “author-only” assemblage, we are a group of children’s book creators, including authors, illustrators, and even a Spanish-language translator.

I first heard the term “debut group” from my friend and Writers Grotto colleague A.H. Kim, whose debut novel A GOOD FAMILY came out in July during the pandemic. “What’s a debut group?” I wondered. My friend Ann patiently explained that she and a group of other writers with debut books had banded together “to navigate the uncharted seas of debuting during a pandemic. We were able to share triumphs and disappointments, tips and tricks, questions and answers, all in a safe and confidential forum.” That forum was on a Facebook page (you would think I would get that hint, but I’m not a big FB user).

“But how did you find them?” I wanted to know. It turns out Ann had attended a book festival (pre-pandemic) and met another Korean-American debut author who introduced the concept to her.

Well, I would be attending no live events in a pandemic, so I turned to the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge which has a great resources page for published authors on their website (thanks to Julie Hedland and Kelli Panique). I posted a question there, but it was December and it went nowhere.

Time was running out; my picture book BRAVE IN THE WATER would debut in April. I wrote to some existing debut groups, which told me they were already full. (Good I had had all that practice in accepting rejection through the querying process.)

I was emailing with Sylvia Liu about something else, and I asked her how these groups that were already full had gotten formed. She was kind enough to explain to me that people met through the Kidlit411 Facebook group (lightbulb & FB again).

I saw a posting in the Kidlit411 Facebook group from Rochelle Melander (MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing) who was looking for a debut group. The post had a few responses so I started an email thread with Rochelle and some others. But it went nowhere, too, and I decided I just needed to move on without a group.

Then weeks later, Rochelle wrote me and said she was starting a group with Adria Karlsson (MY SISTER DAISY). They had met—you guessed it—on Facebook, on the 12×12 Facebook page, which I rarely visited, not on the 12×12 Forum where I had started. “Do you want to attend a Zoom meeting?” Rochelle asked. I did!

I met Sonny Giroux, father of Benjamin Giroux, the teen author of I AM ODD, I AM NEW (who shared an agent with Adria); Morissa Rubin author/illustrator of DOT, DOT, POLKA DOT; Katie Munday Williams, who wrote POET, PILGRIM, REBEL: The Story of Anne Bradstreet, America’s First Published Poet, (who shared a publisher with Rochelle), and Adria.

We discussed size of the group and decided to invite our illustrators (and my translator) to join, and so we added Cecilia Populus-Eudave (VALIENTE EN EL AQUA); Melina Ontiveros (MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD); Tania Rex (POET, PILGRIM, REBEL); and Linus Curci (MY SISTER DAISY).

Even though we were large enough to be a “group,” Adria wasn’t done. She reached out to Alexandra Katona (DINNER ON DOMINGOS) and Leah Rose Kessler (RAT FAIR). And now the group was complete—twelve creators and eight books to launch. We even have a pending “maybe” who would cap our group at “lucky thirteen.”

So, yes, our group has a Facebook page, which I do visit, and I’m learning to like Mark Zuckerberg after all. Mostly, I’m excited to read the books by these fantastic creators.

Here’s what some of them have to say about debut groups:

Leah Rose Kessler (RAT FAIR):
“I never would have gotten where I am without the advice, encouragement, and support of countless people in the book community. It was important to me to find a debut group not only to help me through the mystifying process of releasing my first book but also as a way for me to help lift up and celebrate my fellow book creators in the same way I’ve been lifted so many times before.”

Rochelle Melander (MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing):
“Being part of a group like New Books for Kids has so many benefits. Of course, getting support during a book launch is invaluable. It’s so much work—and having a few more people touting your book, requesting it from their libraries and reviewing it helps so much! But most of all, it’s great to have new creative friends, people I can ask about the writing, publishing and marketing process.”

Katie Munday Williams (POET, PILGRIM, REBEL The Story of Anne Bradstreet, America’s First Published Poet):
“Knowing what a wonderful community of writers we have, I jumped at the chance to expand my network. Groups like this not only provide support and feedback, but they allow exponential promotional opportunities for an upcoming book.”

Adria Karlsson (MY SISTER DAISY):
“I didn’t know until recently that such things as debut author groups existed… probably because I’m a debut author. But once I heard about them, I wanted in. A group that could share the year, cross-promote books, and exchange information and tips with sounded amazing. I couldn’t be happier about the group we formed — it has already been such a resource.”

Benjamin Giroux (I AM ODD, I AM NEW):
“I found this group of debut authors through my agent. She thought since I am so young and have no clue what I’m doing in regards to launching a book, I could benefit from being in such a group. It has been really good support, and I am really thankful for all the advice I’ve gotten.”

Morissa Rubin (DOT, DOT, POLKA DOT):
“To be a part of a debut group is not only a practical way to share needed information, but because it is new for all of us, it adds to the thrill of seeing our books published.”

Alexandra Katona (DINNER ON DOMINGOS) (cover not yet revealed!):
“Having a group like this is helping me navigate the difficult task of book promotion, but with other like-minded authors; collaboration is key. We’re able to lift each other up and provide much-needed support and guidance.”

Thanks for telling us about your debut group, Stephanie! 

Blog readers, visit them at NewBooksforKids.com, follow them on Twitter @NewBooksForKid1 and Instagram @newbooksforkids

by Jackie Azúa Kramer

I WISH YOU KNEW…

…is a story about a little girl Estrella and her classmates that explores divided families, homelessness and food insecurity, plus the importance of meaningful connections at school.

In the story, illustrated by Magdalena Mora, a little girl’s father is deported. She wishes people knew how much she misses him and how it affects her at home and school.

I wish you knew…

…I’m a big fan of Ted Talks, like the one with an educator who felt she was making little progress with her students, so she decided to ask them a question. They were to complete this statement on a piece of paper: “I wish my teacher knew…”

She was astonished by their answers. She realized she couldn’t teach kids who felt sad, hungry, scared and angry. It reminded me of my time working as a school counselor in Queens. Creating a community of meaningful classroom relationships based on compassion, respect and kindness needs to be established before students are open to learn.

The heart of Estrella’s story in I WISH YOU KNEW was inspired by my father’s immigrant journey from Ecuador—the emotional cost he paid, and the courage it took, to leave his family and country to come to a new world with the hope of making a better life for himself, just like Estrella’s father.

I wish you knew…

…that young readers can be activists for good. Like Estrella, and her classmates in IWYK, one can be agents of change. Together with kindness, respect and hope one can help to be the change you want to see.

I wish you knew…

…as a writer, I’m interested in stories and characters that reflect our common humanity. Stories which allow readers to interact with it, feel something and ask questions. To write picture books with a more inclusive representation of families in this country. I’m thrilled that there’s a Spanish edition of I WISH YOU KNEW, Ojalá Supieras.

I wish you knew…

…if there’s one concrete craft tip I can share is to apply your five senses when writing. Sight, smell, sound, touch and taste can add much dimension to your writing and leaves room for illustrative narration. We are writing picture books!

In addition, I tend to write in stanzas between 4-6 lines of text. When it comes to editing, nothing beats cutting and pasting your text into stanzas to trim the fat and get to the meat of the story. In addition, like a haiku, one can begin to play with unique and perfect word choices.

I wish you knew…

…This fall I’m looking forward to readers discovering DOROTHY AND HERBERT: ORDINARY PEOPLE AND THEIR EXTRAORDINARY COLLECTION OF ART. It’s my first non-fiction picture book about a librarian and postal clerk who collected modern art in a one-bedroom NY apartment, and then gave it all away to the National Gallery.

And MILES WON’T SMILE—a funny picture book about a little girl who can’t get her new baby brother to smile for her.


I WISH YOU KNEW will be released by Roaring Brook Press on May 25, 2021.

The first 50 people to preorder IWYK from Word Up Community Bookshop will win this giveaway of 11×19 color print and signed bookplate! Visit Word Up Books here.


Jackie is an award-winning and internationally translated children’s author. She earned her MA in Counseling in Education, Queens College. She is a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab. Her picture books include, THE GREEN UMBRELLA, “2017 Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year,” IF YOU WANT TO FALL ASLEEP and her newest THE BOY AND THE GORILLA which received three starred reviews described by Kirkus as “Luminous.”

Her upcoming picture books releasing between 2021-2022 are: I WISH YOU KNEW/OJALÁ SUPIERAS; DOROTHY AND HERBERT: An Ordinary Couple and their Extraordinary Collection of Art; WE ARE ONE; MANOLO AND THE UNICORN and MILES WON’T SMILE.

She lives with her family in Long Island, NY. When not writing, you’ll find her reading, watching old movies and traveling to her family’s roots in Ecuador, Puerto Rico and Spain. Visit her online at Jackieazuakramer.com, on Twitter @jackiekramer422 and Instagram @jackie_azua_kramer.

by Corey Finkle

Last month, I became a published author, a little over 20 years after I wrote my first manuscript. Now while I’d be lying if I said that I had been writing children’s books consistently throughout that time (my first manuscript was a college project; my second was for my then one-year-old son), it has still been undeniably long journey to this point, and amongst the congratulations and well-wishes I’ve received, there has also been a small but steady chorus of people thanking me for giving them hope as they “trudge” or “slog” away themselves.

These specific sentiments—equating writing and querying with drudgery—are very familiar to me, since I spent years feeling the exact same way, and brought to mind the best advice I ever got about my (and so many others’) publishing dream.

Like so many other writers, I spent years on the querying carousel, trying to convince myself that even negative responses deserved “champagne,” and being both happy and jealous of my friends as they found success. Even more maddening was that I kept seeming to get closer and closer to good news, before the other shoe dropped (one summer, I had six agents and a publisher interested in my work, only to have them all pass by Thanksgiving). Once I finally signed with an agent, the first book we subbed got no bites, the second one was taken to the “next round” by an editor before it fizzled, and the third one got a fabulous response from a publisher who wanted only a few tweaks before it would be taken to acquisitions. Six months and two rewrites later, they passed.

For my next book, my agent had me start completely over from scratch, with a brand new concept.  I found this extremely difficult, and my frustration boiled over in a notes session we had after I’d submitted a draft. He asked me why I was so upset, and I answered that, after getting so close to having my dream come true, I was just having trouble going all the way back to square one.

My agent set me straight. With every book we’d submitted, even though we hadn’t gotten a sale, we’d compiled a growing list of editors who’d expressed enthusiasm for seeing my next manuscript. And with every book I’d written, my skills had improved, so that he was seeing me more and more as a finished product, rather than a work in progress (my words, not his). I wasn’t starting over; instead, I was continuing along a path I’d started down the first time I set my sights on this goal.

He was proven right almost immediately. The book we’d been discussing eventually got finished and submitted, and while it didn’t sell, one editor liked my writing enough to ask if I’d be willing to take a stab at a concept he DID want to publish, and THAT was the book that was published last month.

Before that pep talk, I too saw the writing journey as a trudge. Countless rejections (when you get any response at all), a glimmer of positivity getting your hopes up, only to have them come crashing down again. And so on. But here’s the thing: while each of these events feels like separate episodes, they are in fact all parts of the same journey. Every book you write helps you grow your skills when you put pen to paper for the next one. Every person you meet or write to is another person you might make an impression on, or will remember you the next time. As long as you’re progressing, and open to feedback (both on your writing and otherwise), then nothing you do during this process will be a failure. I’m living proof.

So please, when you consider your own path, instead of focusing on the downturns, think instead about how far you’ve come, how much your skills have improved, and the great people you’ve met along the way. I think you’ll find a great deal of success there.

Blog readers, Corey has agreed to give a short coaching session to an aspiring author! Yes, your future is bright!

Leave one comment below.

A random winner will be selected soon!


Corey Finkle is a children’s book author and a copywriter. A member of SCBWI, his goal is to create books that kids will love to read and that adults won’t mind re-reading again and again. Born and raised in Gloversville, New York, he now lives in Providence, Rhode Island, with his wife and kids. YOUR FUTURE IS BRIGHT is his first picture book. Find out more at coreyfinkle.com and follow him on Twitter @cefinkle.

 

by Susan Macartney

Tara, thank you! I’m so happy to share my success story. Spoiler alert: It’s never too late to embark on this journey!

“Winding” doesn’t quite do justice to my meandering, zigg-zagging road to publication as an author-illustrator. I’ve always been drawn to both the arts and the sciences. So maybe I could have saved some time if I’d made a beeline for narrative nonfiction! Didn’t happen… First I studied zoology and anthropology and then ended up working in graphic design for 20 years. No question—a convoluted, interesting path, and along the way I continued to tinker with writing and illustrating children’s stories.

I joined SCBWI in 2012, was full of enthusiam about joining a writing “community”… and then my partner and I moved overseas. Temporary hold on my writing while all of “life’s dust” settled… Fast-forward to 2015, my desire to write and illustrate was still strong and I reached out again to the wide world of kidlit.

To give you an idea of how far I had to reach: I’m Canadian. I was living in Sweden. And Tara’s picture book webinar was being hosted by SCBWI… out of France! The host gave us the link to Tara’s blog and told us we should really try the November PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) challenge—and the rest is Storystorm history.

Well, not quite… I moved again! But now the Storystorm challenge with all its amazing writing and illustrating advice was waiting for me wherever I landed. On January 5, 2018, I looked at my blank Storystorm entry page, armed only with the goal of gently exploring the theme of self-awareness. And oh yes, I knew I wanted an animal main character and for envirornmental issues to figure in the subplot. I first learned about the Galapagos Islands when I was seven. And it wasn’t long before the engaging Blue-footed booby waddled into my mind as a potential candidate—what’s not to love?

Two years later after many drafts, CP reviews and edits my debut picture book, BENJAMIN’S BLUE FEET: Pajama Press, was published.

Yay Storystorm! The discipline of a defined daily challenge enhanced by professional advice for ONE creative month, worked for me on so many levels.  I’m goal-oriented and an early riser and embraced the habit of piggybacking my Storystorm entry with my morning coffee. Take note! Having that pen and dedicated notebook within easy reach also helped to minimize all the usual self-inflicted roadblocks to being creative.

Now my story ideas weren’t loose bits of inspiration scrawled on scraps of paper anymore, or worse, those “best” ideas that never even got recorded.  They’re all there in black and white – no excuses, no delusions (about how great that idea actually was) – just lots of ideas to return to, mull over and mine!

It is never too late to set forth on this journey. Remember that there is a WIDE world of like-minded people out there – learn to reach out, relish the small joys along the way and PERSEVERE!

Blog readers, Sue is giving away a signed copy of BENJAMIN’S BLUE FEET!

Leave one comment below to enter.

A random winner will be selected soon!

Good luck!


Sue has taught art to children around the world and currently works as a nature sketch artist at The Bateman Foundation in Victoria, BC. You can find Sue online at suemacartney.com and on Twitter @suesumac and Instagram @suemacartney.

by Maria Gianferrari

Happy Spring! I am delighted to be here on Tara’s blog today to celebrate my newest picture book, BE A TREE!, illustrated by the phenomenal Felicita Sala, and published by Abrams Kids!

BE A TREE! invites readers to imagine themselves as trees—stretching our branches to the sun, feeling rooted and connected to life underground, letting our crowns swing in the wind.

So, here we go! If you could be a tree, which kind of tree would you be?

A baobob?

A palm?

Or perhaps one of the trees featured in these beautiful endpapers?

To be a redwood—imagine all the things she has seen?

Here I am a Redwood National Park back in 2011—what a magical place it is!

Thanks, Maria! If I could be a tree, I’d be a Paperbark, so I’d always have something to write on! I actually have some River Birch trees outside my bedroom window. Sometimes I want to lean out and grab a piece of their natural paper.

Thanks to the generosity of Abrams Kids, one lucky blog reader will receive a copy of BE A TREE! (US residents only—sorry!)

So, while I think almost everyone reading this blog would also choose a paper birch, I have to ask you to think again. If you could BE A TREE!, what tree would YOU be?

Leave one comment below and a random winner will be selected next month.

Good luck!


Maria Gianferrari has climbed fig trees in Italy, stood under stately coastal redwoods and twisted Torrey pines, marveled at mitten-shaped sassafras leaves, colorful coral trees and sawtooth oak acorn nests. She lives with her family, including dog, Maple, in a house encircled by trees. Visit her online at mariagianferrari.com.

Author Terry Pierce remains tied up, busy writing, so I asked a representative spokesbear to answer a few questions about her latest board book, EAT UP, BEAR, published last week by the Yosemite Conservancy. This spokesbear seemed to know a lot about scrumptious snacks.

Good morning, Spokesbear. I understand you’re the representative for the wild bear population of Yosemite.

That’s [chomp, gromp, mmmm] me! I’ve taken over for Yogi and Boo-Boo.

Since Terry Pierce and Nadja Sarell can’t be here today, I’d like you to answer a few questions. I realize human food is pretty tasty, Bear. Can you tell us your favorite people-only food?

Mmm-mm-yum! Bears will eat almost anything that people eat from cheese doodles to hot dogs to peanut butter. We really will eat anything humans leave out for us. But I’ll admit, one of the problems with human food is how they package it. Since us bears can’t unwrap food, we eat the packaging, too, and that’s just not good for us (oh, the tummy aches!).  And once, my cub got her head stuck in a giant cheese doodle plastic jar, trying to get to the last one. Luckily, some kind humans helped her get the jar off her head. I can’t imagine what would have happened to her if they hadn’t rescued her. It would have been un-bearable. If only those humans had stored their cheese doodle jar properly!

But you know that’s not healthy for you, Bear. What’s a good bear-food that tickles your taste buds?

You’re right, human food is tasty. And sometimes, they make it so easy for us bears! Like when they leave it out on a picnic table, or leave their ice chest out. They even leave food in their cars! A locked door won’t keep me from getting to a tasty bag of chips or nuts. Have you seen my claws and powerful arms? And speaking of nuts, that’s a good-bear-food us bears love. Nuts, seeds, grubs, ants, fresh spring grass, berries—yum! Sometimes, I’ll even catch fresh trout for a meal.

That sounds more like it! Hey, maybe you can even tell me about how Terry cooked up this book?

Yes! There’s a story here, so bear with me. In 2018, I was so “scratch-your-back-on-a-tree happy” to hear about Yosemite Conservancy’s call out for a children’s board book (you know, those chunky books meant for your littlest cubs). Well, a writer named Terry Pierce saw the call out and sent them a manuscript about how to store human food so us bears can’t get into it (and then have to eat good bear food). Terry lives not far from Yosemite National Park in the mountain town of Mammoth Lakes, California, so she knows about how to “coexist” with black bears. “Coexist” is a fancy human word that means getting along with someone, and Terry knows the best way to coexist with bears is through proper food storage.

Why is food storage important? Well, us bears are what you’d call “opportunistic eaters.” We’ll break into cars, tents, backpacks, coolers, even homes if we think food is inside. We can really make a mess of things and do a lot of damage when that happens. (My cousin once ripped the door off a car just to get to some peanuts left in sight!) But the bigger problem lands on the bears. When a bear relies on human food so much that he’ll do anything to get some (and cause the kind of damage I mentioned), humans label him as a “problem bear” and that could mean big trouble. Sadly, a “problem bear” will be put down. It’s never happened to anyone in my family, but I hear the stories. So, you can see why I was so happy to see Terry’s new book. It helps little cubs and their families see that their own actions could ultimately save the life of a bear! Proper food storage helps keep all bears eating healthy, good food that nature intended for us to eat. But I do wish that once in a while nature would make it rain hot dogs or jellybeans!

Wow, so this is really an important book, Bear! Thanks so much for letting us savor it!

Hey, I’ve got an even better way for you to get a taste! Yosemite Conservancy will give a book away!

Sweet!

Blog readers, leave one comment below to enter.

A random winner will be selected later this month!

Good luck!


With twenty-five published books, Terry Pierce has experienced the joys of being a writer in many ways. She has a B.A. degree in Early Childhood Development and an international A.M.I. teaching diploma. Terry was a pre-primary Montessori teacher for twenty-two years before deciding to follow my dream of writing for children (what she calls, “the best mid-life crisis ever!”). She’s been writing since 1999, with her work appearing in magazines and the children’s book market. She has an MFA in Writing for Children &Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, including the Picture Book Concentration certification. She also teaches online children’s writing courses for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Visit her at terrypiercebooks.com.

by Tracy C. Gold

Several years ago, I visited Austin, Texas while traveling for a friend’s wedding. I love animals, so number one on my list for my time in Austin was watching the bats fly out from under Congress Bridge (don’t worry, I also had tacos and barbecue and heard live music). A million bats fly out from their home in this bridge in quick succession right around sunset!

Here’s a video! It is so cool!

That was way before I was writing picture books, and way before I had a kid of my own, but somehow it snuggled its way into my brain.

Flash forward to Fall 2019. I signed with literary agent Carrie Pestritto, who fell in love with one of my picture book manuscripts about a real-life mass flamingo rescue that hasn’t found a home with a publisher (yet!). Carrie let me know that editors were looking for Halloween books, and I started brainstorming. I thought a riff on the “Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet” song would be really fun. I also thought it would be fun to write about a somewhat “undersung” spooky animal. Black cats and spiders seemed kind of obvious (and while I love black cats, I do not think I will ever be brave enough to write a book about spiders). Then, out from a dark corner—cave?—in my mind, flew the bats from Congress Bridge! I remembered that bats eat BUGS and “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat” was born. From there it was lots of drafting, singing the book aloud, and revising, and many months later, a book deal with editor Kelly Barrales-Saylor from Sourcebooks eXplore!

Here’s the cover reveal!

I absolutely adore this cover and all of Nancy Leschnikoff’s illustrations. This bat is just SO CUTE but also just a little scary. Plus, this dark purple is my favorite color! It was a wonderful surprise to see it after just seeing black and white sketches of the illustrations for a while.

I will be mailing out free book-themed stickers, design to-be-determined, to anyone who lets me know they have preordered or requested the book at their library! More details on that and how to get signed copies from my local bookstores can be found here.

Thanks for letting me share the cover reveal, Tara!

Well, thank you for being so patient! It’s true, I’ve been slow with the blog lately. Since I postponed this post, I’m going to make it up to you, blog readers, by offering a virtual video call with me. I’ll pick a winner next week. So leave one comment below about the cover to enter. Good luck!


Tracy C. Gold loves bringing characters to life. She is a writer, freelance editor, and mom living in Baltimore, Maryland. She has two picture books forthcoming in 2021, “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” from Familius in March and “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat” from Sourcebooks in August. She also writes short stories, essays, novels, and poems. Her work has been published in several magazines and anthologies. Tracy earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts at the University of Baltimore and earned her B.A. in English from Duke University. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s playing with her toddler, or hanging out with her horse and dog, both rescues. You can find out more about Tracy at tracycgold.com, by following her on Twitter and Instagram at @tracycgold, or by liking her Facebook page.

Jean Reidy and Joey Chou have created a new beauty of a book, a new classic, not only in the colorful art, but in the imaginative question. What would YOU do? It’s an existential explosion (whoa, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard that phrase) with all the options Jean and Joey present, from space exploration to simply being brave and doing the right thing. A child is presented with how wide and wonderful the world can be, and most importantly, told that they are in charge of their own destiny.

Jean! What a gorgeous book! Can you tell us how it came to be?

This book was truly the collision of two sources of inspiration.

As you know, I do school, library and bookstore visits. And one of my favorite parts of any visit is the “question and answer” part. But I’ve always felt it should be renamed the “question and answer and stories” part. Because kids love telling me their stories. And even though you probably think of me as a story writer, I’m also a really great story listener.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Teachers and librarians are awesome at helping kids understand what questions are and how to ask them. And I love answering. But no matter how much they’ve prepared, kids still have stories to tell.

Some of the stories I hear can be very funny. I once heard a seemingly endless saga about … wait for it … bowling shoes! But whether funny or serious, their stories are honest and earnest and heartfelt.

In some school sessions kids have an opportunity to read me their stories or show me their art. And again, these are some of my favorite sessions. They’re a great way foor kids to give me a peek into their worlds and for me to communicate to kids how much I value them and their perspective.

I feel that as a children’s author, one of the most important parts of my job is not to talk “at” kids, but to talk “with” them and hear them. To listen to their hearts and hopes and dreams. And to honor their perspectives. What a privilege.

Okay, so where am I going with all this?

Well, one day into my inbox comes this amazing piece of art by Joey Chou—complete with a title. As a matter of fact, that original art is very similar to our final book cover.

This happens every so often, where I’m sent a single piece of art—not an entire picture book of art, just a single piece—and asked if I’d like to try to write a story to go along with it.

And usually when that happens, I don’t answer right away. I take a few days or weeks to kind of daydream about the art and listen to the story that it’s telling me. And I don’t always say “yes.” Because for me to say “yes,” that art has to take up residence in both my head and my heart. I mean it has to move right in and stay there.

Well, guess what happened when I saw that particular piece of Joey Chou art?

I just imagined all those awesome kids telling their stories and I said “yes” immediately.

So, there you have it. That’s where it all began.

Jean, you have to tell us: what would you do in a book about YOU?

My little kid self would have given you an answer that would have turned this blog post into a lengthy novel with a separate chapter for each and every dream and aspiration. My grown-up kid self says, “I would just try to be the best ‘me’ I can be.”

Thanks for having me, Tara!

Thank YOU, Jean, for sharing your delightful new book. It’s out TODAY from HarperCollins!

And blog readers, you can win a copy.

Just leave one comment answering the title’s question.

A random winner will be selected later this month.

Good luck!

by Laura K. Zimmermann

First I want to thank Tara for inviting me to share my story, which begins with a new writer staring at her computer trying to decide whether or not to sign up for Storystorm (PiBoldMo at the time). I very nearly didn’t. I remember thinking that there was no way I could come up with 30 ideas in thirty days—that was more picture books ideas than I’d had all year. But there was nothing to lose, so I decided to try.

I began my hunt for ideas. I’m a nonfiction writer so I created a private list on Twitter where I collected organizations and people who tweeted about topics that interest me. Each day I poured over my list. I would also look through science report emails, conduct google searches, and started to look, really look, at the things around me. One day I came across a tweet about a graveyard. On the list of people buried there was someone called “The Blind Traveler” who was in no way associated with mushrooms, but did pull me into the world of picture book biographies.

Jump forward to the next Storystorm. With my new focus on picture book biographies I was searching for female scientists. I had uncovered several for my idea list, when I stumbled across a story about Beatrix Potter’s research with mushrooms. I had to learn more so I researched everything I could find. I read her journal and looked at pictures of her paintings, some of which I had seen in a museum many years earlier. The idea could work. So, I wrote the biography, and revised and revised and revised. But no one at the time seemed to be interested.

image by Beatrix Potter

I should probably mention at this point, that prior to the Beatrix Potter biography I had never seen mushrooms as anything other than things you buy in a grocery store to put in soups, spaghetti sauce, and on pizza. But to Beatrix they were beautiful and challenging—from their curving caps and bladelike gills, to their varied textures and colors that ranged from the reddest reds to the softest creams and everything in between. She spent years scrutinizing and painting them again and again, training her brush strokes to capture every detail. Over time she developed questions for which she could find no answers and so began her own research. And as I worked to understand her mycological studies and read about masses of crisp yellow cups nestled in moss and troops with foxy-brown caps surrounded by black firs, I began to see mushrooms in a new way.

Then one day, I came across an article about mushrooms creating rain—a mushroom rain. There was a book there I just knew it. So I did more research, wrote and revised, and revised, and revised. But again, no one seemed interested. Enter my agent, Kaitlyn Sanchez. I sent her Mushroom Rain hoping she might see what my critique partners and I saw. I didn’t have to wait long. Later that day I had a list of suggested revision in my inbox. She loved it too and with a bit more revision she started to shop it. There were still a lot of no’s, of course, but you only need one yes, which we got from Barb McNally at Sleeping Bear, who loved it exactly as it was. It is now in the hands of an amazing, mushroom-loving artist, Jamie Green, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Beatrix Potter once said, “There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.” For me they led to a weird and wonderful world that, like an idea, springs up without warning and must be gathered before it disappears.


Although Laura has seen and eaten many mushrooms, she knew very little about them until she discovered them in Beatrix Potter’s paintings and journal. A mushroom hunter, artist, and researcher, it was Beatrix’s passion that led Laura to learn more about their weird and wonderful world. Laura K. Zimmermann is a college professor by day and children’s writer by night. She has published numerous academic articles as well as nonfiction stories in children’s magazines. Mushroom Rain is her first picture book. When she’s not writing, Laura can be found teaching and conducting research at Shenandoah University or wandering through nature with her Goldendoodle, Tivy. You can find Laura online at laurakzimmermann.com and on Twitter @LauraK_PBwriter and Instagram @LauraK_PBwriter.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


BLOOP
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
July 2021

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2022

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