October 6, 2021

Birth Stories for Books: TRICK OR TREAT BUGS TO EAT, by Tracy C. Gold

Today I have the pleasure of bringing Tracy C. Gold back to the blog for another interview. Her latest book TRICK OR TREAT, BUGS TO EAT (illustrated by Nancy Leschnikoff, Sourcebooks Explore, August 2021) is super fun--and informative! So let's get right to it. 

Dawn Prochovnic: Welcome back to the blog, Tracy. TRICK OR TREAT, BUGS TO EAT is such an awesome title! 

In our earlier interview, you shared a bit about how the idea for this story came to be. Can you recap that a bit here? I’d especially like to hear about the process and timeframe between your initial idea and the story that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor. 

Tracy C. Gold: My agent Carrie Pestritto suggested that I write a Halloween book, because editors were asking for them. While I was brainstorming, I remembered seeing millions of bats fly out from under Congress Bridge when I was in Austin, Texas for a friend's wedding years ago. 

Images Courtesy Tracy C. Gold

TG: The book took shape as I played with the rhyme and researched bats. I sent the book to Carrie without much revision because I wanted to see if the idea was viable. I just found that early draft, and some of the stanzas were...questionable, haha, so I am glad Carrie didn't say no on principle. Some really bad rhymes were in there, but she liked the idea. I cut probably half of those early stanzas and wrote others, including one I was a little sad about, because Carrie (rightfully) didn't think kids would quite get it...here it is: "Flying ants! Do a dance! I'll have to wear my stretchy pants!" 

DP: Ha!

TG: I sent the book to critique partners, and then worked on it while at an “unworkshop” at Highlights Foundation in October. I find with rhyming picture books I really have to turn off my internal editor and let myself write stanzas that might be "bad" because sometimes if you see them through they turn out to be brilliant, or can be combined with other stanzas, or lead you to even more ideas. In the second draft I sent to Carrie, I actually included two different versions of most of the stanzas, and for one stanza, I included four different versions. Then it's easy not to get emotional about saving one stanza because you have lots of good options. Carrie and I had a lot of back and forth with the book in Google Docs, because sending Word Documents back and forth when you're lasering in on punctuation and a word here and there can be annoying! After oodles of changes, we finally decided it was ready to send out. 

DP: It's so interesting how each manuscript takes shape and evolves over time. That really sounds like a collaborative process. 

When you compare one of your earliest drafts of this story to the version in the published book, what stands out for you in terms of what is most different? Likewise, is there anything in particular that stands out that was included in your earliest drafts and survived the revision process?

TG: Well, for one thing, I added the back matter, which is a few paragraphs about bats, after Carrie and I felt pretty secure that this book would be worth sending out. I think sometimes people spend a lot of time writing back matter when it might be better to completely drop a book and move on to the next one. I also wrote probably 30-40 stanzas before narrowing down the final 11 stanzas that are in the book. Interesting enough, the first and last stanza have stayed the same the whole way through. That is pretty typical for my writing process; I have a good vision for the beginning and the end and figure out the rest later. 

DP: That's interesting to hear. I tackle rhyming stories in much the same way--I would agree that it's the beginnings and endings that anchor my vision for a story and the middle that goes through quite a few renditions.

This book is described as "An adorable rhyming Halloween book with educational nonfiction elements woven in, perfect for classrooms and libraries!” Can you tell us about your research process, and how you decided what nonfiction elements to put into this book and what you decided to leave out?

TG: Sure! I did a lot of research as I wrote and revised, looking at a lot of information widely available online as well as write ups of bat fecal studies (which were paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic at some point during my research). I also reached out to Liz Mering, a friend of mine who had studied bats in her career as an environmentalist. She helped me with fact checking the text and illustrations. The book does take creative license; the bat in the main part of the book is not exactly realistic, while the bats in the back matter are more scientifically accurate (but still altered for cuteness). I spent hours poring over which types of bugs bats ate, and found out that scientists have observed bats eating many types of bugs for sure (like moths), but otherwise gave their best guesses for what bugs bats might eat. Because bats fly at night, it is hard for scientists to observe their diets, thus the fecal studies that are hopefully back underway. I also watched a lot of YouTube videos of bats to give me a sense of how they moved and hunted. 

DP: I love all of the new things we authors learn when we undertake book projects! 

Another of my favorite parts of being an author is connecting with young readers at school, library, and bookstore visits, and I’m always looking for new pro tips.  This is the second book you’ve launched during COVID-related restrictions, and I know from our chats that we share a preference for connecting with readers via more interactive formats. Now that you have plenty of pandemic-era book-launch experience under your belt, what professional advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/presenters in terms of planning successful (in-person and/or remote) events? 

TG: Personally, I have found that in-person events involving gatherings of children have not been popular. I actually had a reading set up for my neighborhood pool and thought some kids were coming to hear me read, but when I asked them if they wanted to hear a book about bugs, they ran away! After dying of embarrassment, I did end up selling quite a few books that day; the kids were just too preoccupied with the pool to want to sit and hear a book. I am waiting until kids are vaccinated to proactively schedule more in-person events. I've had great luck with more of a "signing" format where I camp out at a bookstore and sign books for kids, parents, and grandparents that happen by. Shout out to The Ivy Bookshop and Bethany Beach Books for hosting me! When I am doing something virtual that is available to the public, I like to try to keep it short and "on demand." I've had a lot of fun teaming up with book reviewers, fellow authors, and even a baby sleep expert to record short videos for Instagram. Those videos can then be reshared and watched indefinitely! 

DP: Love those ideas. Thanks!

Switching gears a bit, I suspect that you have also developed some good insights into the book promotion aspect of children’s book publishing. As you compare and contrast your marketing plans for this new book, what aspects are you intentionally replicating from your first launch, and what aspects are distinctly (and maybe intentionally?) different for this new book? 

TG: "Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat" is so different from "Everyone's Sleepy but the Baby" in so many ways! It is for 4-8 year-olds rather than babies and toddlers, and it is a holiday book, but came out months before the holiday itself. That is actually kind of nice, as I am still setting up promotions and events for October. I am sure there will be a big rush starting soon but for right now it still feels like I have a little time. And because it's a holiday book, I'll be able to circle back and do events for it every year with perhaps a little more timeliness and relevance than for a book without a holiday connection, where the "launch" feels a bit more important. I always try to keep in mind that the royalties I receive per book are very very small, so all of the marketing work I do should be fun, because I may never get that money back or get compensated for my time. 

I know we've chatted a lot about multimedia; I've actually hired Instagrammer @baristart to make and post a video of coffee art based on the cover, and I've hired Instagram celebrity baker @sugarcoatesbakery to make a beautiful cake based on the book. Luckily @sugarcoatesbakery is local to me so I will be able to enjoy eating the cake with my family on Halloween! 

DP: Oh my goodness. What fun, fun, fun! 

TG: I also get a real thrill whenever promotions come through from my publisher that I've had nothing to do with. It's always a fun surprise and they often know about resources that go directly to teachers and libraries, so it is fun to see reviews come through from outlets like "Youth Services Book Review." 

DP: Congrats on the great review!

Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on? 

TG: I'm really excited about my 2023 book with Familius, "Call Your Mother." I just worked with editor Stephen Wunderli who is also an author himself on the book and he had some great ideas...we will see how it turns out once an illustrator gets their hands on the book! This book is about all the times a child might need their mother, from the time they are a baby to when they are a parent themselves. In this case I'd had a draft of something about how your relationship with your mom changes once you become a parent yourself sitting on my computer, not shared with anyone, for a long time. Then, Christopher Robbins, the founder and CEO of Familius (yes, that is really his name and he does not live in Pooh's Corner), mentioned they were looking for Mother's Day books. I actually sat down and wrote "Call Your Mother" from scratch and only realized later that I had a very similar book sitting on my computer. I think I had to write that old draft, which wasn't as good, to be ready to write this one. 

DP: What an awesome concept for a book. I can't wait! (And it will be a great companion to my 2024 book with Familius, MAMA'S HOME, about a child's joy welcoming mama and a new sibling home.)

Thanks so much for sharing your Birth Story for TRICK OR TREAT, BUGS TO EAT  with us, Tracy! 

And now, dear readers, you know the drill. The best way to thank Tracy for sharing her time and expertise with us is to support her work. TRICK OR TREAT, BUGS TO EAT is available everywhere books are sold (but you know by now, I'm partial to the indies!) 


Tracy C. Gold loves bringing characters to life. She is a writer, freelance editor, and mom living in Baltimore, Maryland. She has published two picture books, “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” from Familius and “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat” from Sourcebooks, with more to come. 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


Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including, Lucy's Blooms, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud, and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.  

August 10, 2021

The Caregiving Part of the Writing Life

This space has been very quiet for the last several weeks, as most of my attention has been fixed on caring for my mother as she recovers from two recent hospitalizations; one due to heat exhaustion and the other due to a major surgery. 

As I reflect on the jumble of experiences at hospitals and medical offices; the myriad of interactions with nurses, doctors, physical/occupational therapists, social workers, pharmacists, etc; the growing collection of medical supplies in my home; and the thick files filled with lists of medications being managed, forms to be completed and/or already submitted, hastily scribbled notes related to questions asked and answered, instructions for wound care, and the dates and locations of upcoming follow-up appointments, I am happy to report that my mom is gradually getting healthier and stronger. 

I am exhausted! 

My sister, who lives in San Diego, actively participates in caregiving activities alongside me, focusing on elements of care that can be researched and/or coordinated remotely.  We connect by phone fairly regularly to keep each other updated and provide each other with support. 

Quite often there are events that occur related to some aspect of this journey that are humorous, frustrating, or remarkable enough that they beg to be shared; the writer in me knows that some of these moments are golden from a story perspective (such as when the home health nurse cleaned off the bottom of her DIRTY SHOE on my DINNER TABLE--hard to believe, but true.) 

I wish I could say that I had the bandwidth to get these memorable moments down on paper as they happen, but alas, talking seems to be more helpful and energizing to me during times of over-stimulation and stress than writing. 

I do text my sister with occasional pithy updates (some of which include photographs); I hope that these little snippets of our shared experience will be enough to work with if I ever decide to mine these memories for future stories. 

Visiting nurse cleaning her DIRTY SHOE on my DINNER TABLE! 

Quoting a line from a song (and play) by Jonatha Brooke that I often repeat to my sister (who is also a writer), "Are you getting this down? Boolie, it's good."

June 23, 2021

June is Potty Training Awareness Month

Fun Fact Alert: June is Potty Training Awareness Month!! (You get to learn cool things like this when you write potty humor books!) 

Given that I have college-aged kids now, it's been quite some time since my family has ventured down the potty training path, but here's another fun fact: The idea for my book WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? came to me when my son spoke those very words when he was a toddler. 

There was one day when he was being particularly silly, running through the house with a diaper on his bottom, a bandana on his head, and a pirate’s patch over one eye. He looked at me with an ornery twinkle in his uncovered eye, and asked in his best, pirate-y gruff toddler voice, “Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?”  I knew immediately that this was the title for a book, and I started drafting a manuscript soon after. As you may know from my "path to publication story" for my potty books, it took many years and many revisions to get this story just right, but what I continue to love about it is that each time I read it, I am instantly transported back to that memorable moment shared with my son, when he first posed that silly question to me. 

If you are in the throes of potty training right now, (or if you know of someone who is) might I suggest that a sense of humor goes a long way to making the process bearable! Reading books like WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? and the companion book WHERE DOES A COWGIRL GO POTTY? is one way to keep things light. I also recommend novelty items such as the toy toilet pictured in the image above that audibly flushes. I bring it to author visits and other book events, and it makes me laugh EVERY time someone flushes it. (You can find loads of other potty-themed novelty items that I’ve curated, including a downloadable flushing sound loop and a dancing poo emoji, by visiting me on Pinterest.) 

If you really want to get down to business and you’re looking for some potty training experts, and/or some support products to make the process easier, here are some of the "potty people" I follow on Instagram: @pottytrainingconsultant, @thepottyfairy, @pottyology, @pottyriderinfo, @peekaboopottysticker, and @peapodmats. (Feel free to tag other resources I/others should be aware of in the comments below.)

Happy Potty Training Awareness Month, matey's!

May 15, 2021

The "Engaging Young Readers" Part of the Writing Life

One of my favorite parts of being an author is engaging with young readers. Some of the ways I do this include participating in author visits and book readings (virtual, in-person, and through events such as World Read Aloud Day), joining special occasions such the Book Song Challenge, and collaborating with other makers to create materials and resources that support and enrich learning. 

The 2021 Book Song Challenge hosted by the team at Way Past Books has just begun. There is still time for young readers to create and share a song for their favorite book. You can read all the details on Way Past Books' Instagram Account

The song for Lucy's Blooms was featured today. 

You can listen to the full song on musician Maiah Wynne's YouTube channel (and if you visit today, you'll have a chance to enter to win a signed copy of Lucy's Blooms (U.S. Addresses only, please.)


May 5, 2021

Birth Stories for Books: JET THE CAT (Is Not a Cat), by Phaea Crede

Hello readers. Today I have the pleasure of bringing another Birth Stories for Books interview your way. 

My guest is Phaea Crede, author of the picture book, JET THE CAT (Is Not a Cat) (illustrated by Terry Runyan, Barefoot Books, May 2021.) 

Phaea shares many inspiring details about her path to publication in this interview, so let's get right to it:

Dawn Prochovnic: I’m so glad to have you on the blog, Phaea, and congratulations on the release of your first picture book, JET THE CAT (Is Not a Cat.)

Phaea Crede: Thank you so much for having me! 

DP: I read your recent interview on Tara Lazar’s blog, and it sounds like this story was inspired by the experience of your 3rd grade teacher leading you to believe that you couldn’t be a good writer because of your dyslexia.  

PC: Sadly true! I’d always loved making up stories, but because of my dyslexia I struggled in some key academic areas: spelling, grammar, and handwriting. I was often frustrated.

Then, in the 3rd grade, I got a report card that said something like “Phaea is very creative, but needs to try harder on her spelling and grammar.” But—twist—I was already trying really, really hard! The built-up frustration and this unfortunate report card led me conclude I wasn’t smart enough be a writer. So, I gave up.

DP: I’d love to hear how that (unfortunate!) event transformed into the idea for a book about a cat that "learns to embrace her unique brand of catness,” and I’d also like to hear about the process and timeframe between your initial idea and the story that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor.

PC: The idea for Jet came from my mom’s cat, Eddie, who loved water, something I thought all cats hated! I liked the idea of another cat being a jerk about it to Eddie, maybe even claiming that “REAL cat’s hate water.” Once I had that idea, I flashed back to 3rd grade when I’d internalized that “REAL writers don’t have dyslexia,” something I now knew, thanks to years of learning to love myself, was false.

I had the idea Summer of 2018 and rewrote the story about 15 times with the help of my amazing critique group, Words with Friends. They guided me to embrace a repeated structure and play up the heart along with the humor. By the time I submitted it to Barefoot Books that fall, Jet had come a long way!

DP: That's quite a back story, Phaea. Thank you so much for sharing that with us.

When you compare one of your earliest drafts of this story to the version in the published book, what stands out for you in terms of what is most different? Likewise, is there anything in particular that stands out that was included in your earliest drafts and survived the revision process?

PC: In the early version of Jet the Cat, Jet was called Nat. Nat the Cat. A bad choice based on nothing by a rhyme. Happily, I moved away from that to a name that actually related to water!

DP: Jet is a great name! 

PC: Also, the story originally had more creatures Jet tries to be: a fish, an alien, and a mythical creature called a Tatzelwurm. The Tatzelwurm bit the dust early, but the fish and the alien made it all the way to submission! 

My editor, Lisa, who is a genius, gently guided me away from the alien and even the fish because it was so similar to a frog.

When I needed a new animal for the book I actually ran a poll on Twitter to decide between a goat, a horse, a squirrel, and a raccoon. Goat was the winner by far, so I added one to the book! 

DP: What a clever solution for deciding what new character to add--and what a super-cute goat!

Interior Image from JET THE CAT (Is Not a Cat) by Phaea Crede and Terry Runyan

Reflecting on the journey from idea to published book, is there any one moment along the way that you credit with opening the door for this particular story to find its way to publication? 

PC: Two moments for me. One, when my friend and fellow author Jessica Southwick laid out a structure that she thought would suit the story better than the one I was using. Beta readers save books. And two, the 2018 New England SCBWI Agent/Editor day. I heard Lisa Rosinski of Barefoot Books speak about her wish list and realized Jet might have a home there. I was right!

DP: Hooray for beta readers (and I love hearing and sharing SCBWI success stories!)

JET THE CAT (Is Not a Cat) is illustrated by Terry Runyan, whose “how to draw cats” videos on YouTube and Instagram are wildly popular. What was it like to hear news of that match up? (Purrr-ty exciting, I’ll bet!)  

PC: One of my favorite things about being “just” the author is that you get to hand your story over to an artist who creates their own interpretation of the world. When I found out that artist was going to be Terry, who does the greatest cat-related art on the planet and probably the galaxy, I’m pretty sure I wept. Terry took Jet into a plane of existence I couldn’t have imagined. So, yeah, I was excited! 

DP: You’ve mentioned that “as a writer with dyslexia,” you’re “proud to demonstrate that disabilities don’t have to stand in the way of dreams,” and your bio indicates you’ve had a variety of writing-related jobs, including scriptwriting for the TV shows Nature Cat and Word Girl and playing and writing about video games for a living. Is there anything (i.e. resources, techniques, individuals) that you credit with being particularly helpful to you along the way as you’ve achieved some of your writing-related dreams? 

PC: The number one thing that made the difference for me was to stop beating myself up for having the brain that I had. I just accepted that I am prone to spelling and grammar mistakes, and started asking my friends to look over important things before I sent them out. Simple as that.

And now if I make a mistake, I don’t hate myself. I just say “Oh, a mistake. That tracks. Let’s fix it!” My cognitive disability is mine; I love it, I accept it, and life is much easier.

DP: That's such a healthy response, Phaea. Thank you for sharing this. 

PC: Plus, I added a free dyslexia font plugin to my Chrome browser recently called OpenDyslexic. Now my brain doesn’t haven’t to work so hard to read websites! I wish every book came in a dyslexic font.

DP: I had no idea something like that existed. Hooray for technological advances! 

You’ve said that "nothing in the world compares to writing picture books.” How is writing picture books different and/or better than the other writing-related jobs you’ve held? 

PC: Picture books were the gateway to not only reading for me, but learning about the world and the people in it. As a kid, other people were very overwhelming and hard to understand. Picture books gave me the chance to sit back and identify with others, while going on mini-adventures. 

Plus, my parents read them to me, so picture books were this warm and cuddly family experience of ultimate safety. Now I get to relive that with my kids in the same way—as do my parents. Picture books bring generations together! Picture books are for everyone.

DP: Well said. I love picture books, too! 

That said, in my experience, writing picture books is challenging enough without the added element of a disability. For those of us who might not be as familiar with the particulars of dyslexia, can you share a little bit about what unique challenges it poses to you as a writer? 

PC: Hahah I could talk about this for a while. But there are two things that really make writing hard. 

1) My handwriting! My dyslexia presents like a disconnect between my brain and my hand. If I want to jot down ideas in a notebook or write something out instead of typing, it’s very challenging. The words and letters jump out of place and I have to cross every other word off. That’s exhausting! 

2) How quickly I become overwhelmed! I can’t process many things at once, so if I have multiple drafts or multiple sets of critique notes, or multiple ideas, I get frustrated and want to quit. That can be very discouraging, too. 

DP: Those sound like very frustrating challenges, indeed. 

In addition to inspiring your book, are there specific ways in which your personal experience with dyslexia has informed your work as a writer?  

PC: The gift of dyslexia is that I’ve been forced let go of perfection. Accepting that I’m a human being that makes mistakes allows me to take bigger risks, try weirder ideas, or be willing to scrap it all and start over. And after essentially rejecting myself for so many years, getting story rejections isn’t a big deal! 

Also, not to brag, but the disabled writing community is AWESOME. Being a part of that is a joy. 

DP: Your joy is infectious, Phaea. I have no doubt you will inspire many young readers and writers as you share your work and your story. 

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your pre-published self? Or, said another way, what do you know now, that you wished you would have known a bit earlier?

PC: Is it a cop out to say NO REGRETS? When I started out, I was so na├»ve about what made a good book, but other authors took time out of their lives to give me advice and set me up for success! I wouldn't want it any other way. 

DP: That's a great answer. Not a cop out at all.

PC: Oh, wait maybe one thing: don’t call your cat Nat. That’s super bad.

DP: Ha! 

Is there something you wish someone would ask you about your path to publication for JET THE CAT (Is Not a Cat) that you haven’t had the opportunity to share yet? 

PC: Just that Jet was rejected by so many agents before she found a home at Barefoot Books. If you believe in your story, don’t give up!

DP: That is excellent advice. Very encouraging, inspiring, and true! I always say the goal is to find the right someone who loves your story nearly as much as you do. 

Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on? 

PC: I have one super, secret project that should be announced soon, but right now I’m obsessed with giant squids and I’m trying to write a story featuring one. I’ll let you know if I pull it off!

DP: I can't wait to hear about the super, secret project, and yay for giant squid obsessions!

Thanks so much for sharing your Birth Story for JET THE CAT (Is Not a Cat) with us, Phaea!

PC: Thank you so much! 

DP: Friends, by now you know that I'm quite partial to supporting the authors that share their experiences here with us and also your favorite indie bookstore.  JET THE CAT (Is Not a Cat) is available everywhere books are sold.  I hope you'll jet right out and get a copy for yourself or a young reader you know. 


Phaea Crede loves writing silly picture books for silly kids. Serious kids, too! Her debut picture book Jet the Cat (is Not a Cat) will be published Spring 2021 by Barefoot Books. Phaea lives outside of Boston with her husband, two kiddos, two kittens, and a slightly stinky dog named Gus.


Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including, Lucy's Blooms (Spring '21), Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud, and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.  

April 28, 2021

The "Setting Intentions" Part of the Writing Life

I recently shared an abbreviated version of this essay in the SCBWI-Oregon newsletter. I wanted to share it here, for those outside of the kidlit community. 


The summer of 2016, I spent a girls' weekend at the coast with my daughter, her circle of friends, and their moms, dear friends of mine. One evening, as we gathered around the fire pit, one of the moms, a psychologist, asked us to set our intentions for what we wanted more of in our lives in the coming year. She distributed notecards and markers, and we each wrote our intentions on the cards. 

I wrote "music" and "laughter" on mine. 

It was a brief exercise, and one that seemed minor in the moment. 

When I returned home, I tossed my card on one of the "to-do, later" piles on my desk (confession: there are several such piles on my desk.) I came across it a year or so later while tidying up my desk. Eventually, I tucked the card in the pages of my old-style planner, where I happen upon it every so often, "accidentally, on purpose." Each time I rediscover that notecard, I reflect on the gathering around the fire, and I reflect on how music and laughter have indeed become more a part of my life since setting those intentions. 

It's just a little scrap of paper with a couples of words scribbled on it, but I credit the act of setting those intentions with several important milestones that have occurred in my personal and creative life. Case in point, since committing those two words to paper, I have:

*Published two humorous picture books (Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? and Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?), and I’ve participated in several laughter-infused book events for those titles. To note: my favorite humorous props are a flushable toy toilet and a poo-emoji speaker. 

*Written the lyrics to a love song for my husband in celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary, then hired one of our favorite local bands, The Junebugs, to set the song to music and record the song. 

*Written the lyrics for songs to accompany the book trailers for my Pirate and Cowgirl books, collaborating with two different musicians (Annie Lynn/AnnieBirdd Music, LLC, and Marshall Mitchell, respectively) who wrote the music and recorded the songs.

*Written the lyrics for a companion song for my picture book, Lucy’s Blooms, collaborating with musician, Maiah Wynne, who wrote the music and produced the song. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of art I’ve participated in making. You can view the animated book trailer and listen to the song here:

*I also had the remarkable bonus experience of sharing stories about my late father-in-law with the modern folk duo Fox and Bones, and they created a beautiful song about his life story as part of the launch for their new Custom Song offering. 

Some might argue that a little notecard with a couple of words scribbled upon it didn’t influence the art I’ve created over the past several years, but I know otherwise. I’ve always enjoyed laughter, but never before written or published humorous books; now I have two humorous picture books published and several more written. I’ve long wanted to be more involved in music-making, but never before acted on that interest; now I have four lyric-writing credits, with more planned for the future. These creative happenings didn’t occur by chance; they occurred largely because I set my intentions for them to do so.  

So, get yourself notecard or two. Start a fire if you must. Write down what you want more of in your life. Then get to work bringing forth those intentions.

April 13, 2021

The "Virtual Book Launch" Part of the Writing Life

Today marks the book birthday for my 20th picture book! 

I'm so grateful to everyone who has had a hand in the making of this book, from my family members who inspire, encourage and support my writing life, to my critique group and fellow SCBWI members who helped me shape and polish the manuscript, to the wonderful team at West Margin Press that acquired the manuscript, paired me with a fantastic illustrator, and provided TLC and immense talent throughout the editorial, art direction, and book design process. I'm also grateful to my friends and colleagues who have helped shine a light on this book, and now to the parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, and booksellers who will help get this book into the hands of young readers. Thank you all. 

Lucy's Blooms was written and revised over a period of several years. West Margin Press acquired the manuscript long before the pandemic hit, and the editorial process wrapped up pre-pandemic as well. Alice Brereton's beautiful illustrations were created and shared with me during (what I now realize were) the early months of the pandemic. Seeing the thumbnails, sketches, and final art emerge during months and months of quarantine (and amidst pandemic-related disappointments) helped me focus on the future and focus on the positive. 

During this time, another positive experience was working with the incredibly talented musician, Maiah Wynne, to create Lucy's Song. I wrote the lyrics in collaboration with Maiah, then she composed the music and performed and recorded the song. After the book illustrations and song were completed, I created the animated video for Lucy's Blooms:

Lucy's Blooms created happy places and spaces for me to retreat into, and these creative tasks kept me grounded and focused during an otherwise uncertain time. 

I've launched many books into the world, and I've long created and curated enrichment materials for young readers, teachers, and librarians who utilize my website as a resource, but this is my first virtual book launch experience. The situation we find ourselves in caused me to push myself outside of my comfort zone and learn and do new things, such as: 

Conducting a Goodreads giveaway (with 1810 entrants and 1651 readers adding Lucy's Blooms to their "Want to Read" shelf.) I've not done a giveaway on this platform before, so I don't know how it compares with others' experiences, but I feel pretty good about it!

Collaborating with author friends and colleagues to create enrichment materials for my books. For example, my friend and colleague, Lora Heller, and her team at Baby Fingers LLC created video clips of sign language interpretation of Lucy's Song. You can find those on the Lucy's Blooms playlist on my YouTube channel.  (Lora and her team offer a wide range of classes for Deaf and hearing students of all ages--and their classes are now available on virtual platforms from anywhere in the world. I encourage you to check them out!) Likewise, my friend and colleague, Kathy MacMillan recorded a wonderful flannelboard rhyme activity that teaches several ASL signs and is a great pairing for a story time featuring Lucy's Blooms. (Kathy has heaps of other story time resources on her StoriesByHand website!)

Writing press releases (that resulted in at least a couple of local newspaper articles.) 

Sending postcards to friends, family, and "book people" in my network.

Recording a virtual story time hosted by Green Bean Books--you can view it at 11 AM, Tuesday, April 20 (Pacific Time), or afterwards via Green Bean Books' YouTube channel.

Preparing Grab-n-Go activity bags for Portland-area readers who participate in the virtual book launch event at Green Bean Books.

Creating GIFs, videos, and images for social media posts, such as:

Much of what I learned in this process required patience, perserverence and love, similar to what Lucy and her Gram cultivated in Lucy's Blooms, and much of what I've learned will be incorporated into future book launches. Thank you for walking with me through this journey. May your seeds of love take root and grow, Lucy's Blooms! Happy Birthday to you!