Tag! I was zapped by my friend and former critique group buddy, the witty and talented Cathy Stefanec Ogren, to do the Next Big Thing blog hop. Thanks for thinking of me, Cathy!
What is the Next Big Thing? Participating writers answer a standard set of questions about what they’re currently writing or have written. They then tag other writers to do the same. Check out Cathy’s Next Big Thing blog post here, and see below for the author I’ve tagged.
What is the title of your book?
Believe it or not, there are two of them. I have companion books coming out next month--Dig In! and Dive In!
Where did the idea come from for the book(s)?
When I visit schools, the kids and I talk discuss the fact that ideas can come from anywhere. I got the idea for my first book from watching TV (the Opening Ceremonies of the Salt Lake City Olympics). And I got the idea for Dig In! while having lunch with my family at a Pizza Hut! We never go to Pizza Hut! But we were on vacation in Maine, and it was handy. Turns out there was a great piece of art on the wall that had some sort of characters making a gigantic pizza. The idea haunted me for a while. That’s usually when I know I have to write about something, when the idea won’t go away…
What genre do your books fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh my. Well, since these stories would have to be animated, given that they feature mice as characters, I guess I would be thinking about voices for a narrator… Maybe Billy Crystal? Someone fun and comic and appealing to kids.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Here’s the fun promotional copy on the back of Dig In!:
It’s a busy day on the construction site and these industrious mice are up to something big! But what are they making?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The books are published by Abrams Appleseed and represented by Studio Goodwin Sturges, agency for both myself and talented illustrator Michelle Berg.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A couple of weeks of writing for each book, and then lots of revising, revising, revising. And more revising.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
There’s a series of cute board books called Busy Builders, Busy Beach, Busy Farm, etc., by Rebecca Finn that remind me a bit of these. There are also some John Deere board books published by Running Press that have similar moving parts and mechanisms.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I have two school-aged boys who were once fascinated by big machines. I think any parent of boys is familiar with the, “Look, there’s a backhoe!”/“Look, there’s a dump truck!” stage. Each book is dedicated to one of my sons. They got a pretty big kick out of that, as you can see:
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think the twist at the end of these books is really fun and begs repeated readings. And I love the way the illustrations tell their own part of the story. You have to pay close attention to the art when reading these books! My hat is off to illustrator Michelle Berg, who brilliantly straddled the line between giving enough visual information but not too much.
Writers you’ve tagged for the NEXT BIG THING Blog Hop.
Nandini Bajpai, you’re up! Nandini is another critique group buddy and craftswoman of beautiful prose who has not one but TWO novels forthcoming. Look for Nandini’s post, all the way from Australia, next week.
If you're in Massachusetts and free on Tuesday, August 7, head over to the Children's Museum in Easton. I'll be participating in their Olympic Challenge event, presenting my book Meet Our Flag, Old Glory and doing a fun flag- and Olympic-related craft that attendees can use to cheer on Team USA for the rest of the Games.
Believe it or not, I got the idea for Meet Our Flag while watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics. (Yes, I got a book idea while watching TV!) The athletes parade around the stadium with all those glorious flags, each of which says so much in such a small space. I was fascinated by this idea. When I visit schools, I tell students that if they want to be writers, it's smart to carry small notebooks, or stash them in various places around their houses (next to their beds, in the car, in the bathroom...) so that they're always ready when inspiration strikes. That said, I had no paper handy while watching the Olympics, so I grabbed what was handy - a napkin. I wrote down all the words and phrases our flag made me think of. I sure was glad I did, as some of those phrases made it into my book. I still have that napkin! If I visit your school, you'll get to see it.
At any rate, I'd love to share these bookmaking secrets and others with you at the Children's Museum in Easton in two weeks. Hope to see you there to celebrate the spirit of the red, white, and blue!
Now that my web site is (finally) up and running, I am excited to be part of two online author-visit networks. If you're a teacher or librarian looking for an author to visit your school or library, check out:
- Author Visits by State at http://authorbystate.blogspot.com/. This resource is maintained by energetic author and frequent school visit presenter Kim Norman. (You can visit her author site at http://www.kimnormanbooks.com/.) It's a terrific way to locate authors in your vicinity - which means you won't pay extra for travel and lodging!
- For virtual visits absolutely anywhere, check out the Skype An Author Network at http://skypeanauthor.wetpaint.com/. Virtual author visits are becoming more and more common, bringing authors and readers together more than ever before. The really exciting thing, in this day of budget cuts, is that all the authors on the network will do a FREE Meet-the-Author session. This gives students time for a few questions and lets them see that authors are real people just like them. Some authors even do free in-depth visits as well.
Last Friday night, I had the pleasure of presenting to students and families at a local elementary school's Literacy Night about what authors do and how books are made. The sessions were energetic and upbeat, and, as always, there were terrific questions from students. One that stays with me came after I mentioned that it can take two years or more from the time you sign up a new project to the time a bound book arrives at your door. One girl asked, "What if the book arrives and you don't like the way it looks?"
Well, good question.
I told her that authors see many steps along the way, so it wasn't likely I'd be blindsided by the final stage. That said, bound books always look different - more official, trimmed and spiffy - than mechanicals, proofs, or dummies. I told the student that if things didn't look the way I hoped they would, I would take a deep breath and try to find some things that I did like about the book. The process of making books involves many people, many ideas, many backgrounds, and many personalities. Some books travel a smoother path to publication than others. But it's all about working together, and it's always a thrilling ride.
Illustrator Giles Laroche and I received some exciting news from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this week - What Do Wheels Do All Day? is going to become a bilingual (Spanish/English) board book! It will be ready to roll into the hearts of the smallest readers next spring. I can't wait to see it reformatted. Will post a sneak preview once I see layouts!
I am a children's book author and history lover who feels lucky to have such an amazing job!