July 24, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, THAT'S FOR BABIES (and other books), by Jackie Azúa Kramer

I'm so pleased to bring you another Birth Stories for Books interview. This week's guest is Jackie Azúa Kramer, author of many wonderful books for children. Today we'll be focusing on the story behind her path to publication for her latest book, THAT'S FOR BABIES (illustrated by Lisa Brandenburg, Clavis Books, June 2019).

Jackie just returned from her daughter's wedding and a road trip through Oaxaca and the Yucatán in Mexico, so I feel especially grateful that she was able to find some time to chat about her publishing experiences.

Dawn Prochovnic: I can’t imagine watching one of your babies get married and launching a book into the world all in the same month, but that’s what you’ve done! Your most recent book, THAT’S FOR BABIES, arrived in bookstores June 25. Can you tell us a little bit about your path to publication for this particular story? I know from reading Tara Lazar’s blog that the idea for the book likely arose from something your daughter, Daisy, said back when she was in kindergarten, but I’d love to hear a little bit more about the process and timeframe between your initial idea for this story and the story that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor.

Jackie Azúa Kramer: Thank you! The wedding was a joyous and celebratory event!

(Click here and here to see some photos from Daisy's wedding.)

Hard to believe so many years ago, she was the inspiration for That’s for Babies. The process for that book and timeframe between initial idea and submission was lengthy. I submitted the story to a guest agent via 12x12. I was fortunate enough to receive a reply in which the agent liked it, however, suggested some ideas towards a revision. I enthusiastically agreed and got to work. Long story, short—they unfortunately, still passed.

Here’s what—this business is subjective. One editor’s rejection may be another’s acquisition. I felt confident with the new revision to submit elsewhere. And, the rest as they say, is history. What I learned from this experience is that everything happens for a reason. Hard work with great intention is not wasted energy. It’s not always clear at the time where your path will lead you. As a result, Clavis Books not only acquired one story, but two more. If You Want to Fall Asleep (2018) and Miles Won’t Smile (TBD).

DP: Thanks for sharing those lovely photos from Daisy's wedding, Jackie. I especially love the picture of you and Daisy together. Thanks also for the important reminder that "hard work with great intention is not wasted energy." 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?

JK: Meeting Philippe Werck, Publisher at Clavis Books at Book Expo America. Out of Belgium, Philippe publishes beautiful picture books in many languages. After a lovely conversation where I shared some of my stories and piqued his interest, Philippe asked to see them. It goes without saying, I was over the moon! If You Want to Fall Asleep is now in five languages including Simple Chinese and Russian. It’s exciting to think of little readers around the world reading my books. I look forward to where That’s for Babies and soon Miles Won’t Smile, will travel to.

If You Want to Fall Asleep, by Jackie Azúa Kramer and Lisa Brandenburg

DP: That IS exciting! I also think it's exciting that you went to Book Expo! 

When you look back to your earlier published books, THE GREEN UMBRELLA, and IF YOU WANT TO FALL ASLEEP as compared to this book, what were some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for each?

JK: I often pinch myself and think about the serendipity of the publication of my books. I read an article in Publishers Weekly in 2015 about the Swiss publisher, NorthSouth, expanding their footprint in the United States. This was before I had an agent and I contacted NorthSouth for their submission requirements. I almost fell off my chair when they replied suggesting I should send whatever I felt were my best stories and subsequently, published The Green Umbrella (2017). Similar to my experience with Clavis, both happened as a result of discovering opportunities, however and whenever, they present themselves.

Interior Image from The Green Umbrella by Jackie Azúa Kramer and Maral Sassouni

DP: It sounds like your hard work and pursuit of opportunities (coupled with a pinch of serendipity) has been the recipe for success for you! 

Is there a genre within picture books that you prefer to write in? For example, quiet books, nonfiction, fractured fairytales, bedtime, poetry, humor, folk tales, lyrical, rhyming, concept, biographies, character driven?

JK: Simply put, no. I feel I continue to grow, change and evolve in my writer’s journey. I’ve written lyrical stories like The Green Umbrella. If You Want to Fall Asleep is a bedtime story and That’s for Babies which is a humorous, character-driven story.

I believe this is why I chose my agent, Stephen Fraser. We have a good working relationship because I don’t fit into any box and he gets it.

For example, The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla, is about loss and love (Candlewick, 2020); I Wish You Knew taps into my Latina culture. The story is about deportation, empathy and diversity in a school setting (Roaring Brook Press, 2021); We Are One is a 260-word poem that shares the synchronicity and connections between each of us and the natural world (Two Lions/Amazon, TBD). I’m very excited about my first non-fiction biography tentatively called Herbert and Dorothy-- The Story of a Postal Clerk and Librarian and the Largest Priceless Art Collection in One Small Apartment (Cameron Kids, TBD).

Image Source

DP: That image says it all! Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on?

JK: I keep a long list of ideas, titles, themes, characters any little seed that inspires me. Two of these seeds have begun to bloom. Without giving away too much—one’s about space and the other a child’s magical thinking. It’s sometimes a surprise to me what the harvest brings.

DP: One more question: I see in your bio that you enjoy globe trekking. I have the travel bug, too. Where are some of your favorite places you’ve traveled, and what’s next on your wish list?

JK: WOW! Tough question to answer for myself who loves to travel. Everywhere I’ve been has had something memorable and beautiful—whether it’s the people, culture, food, history, geography, art, music, language, to name a few things.

I’ve travelled to five continents; however, I tend to fall in love with the last place I visited. I just returned from a road trip through a tiny part of Mexico, and I say tiny because Mexico is HUGE! We travelled in Oaxaca and the Yucatán. In Oaxaca, I wielded a machete cutting agave plants for Mezcal.

Most impressive were the women entrepreneurs who sold their artisanal wares or food at the markets.

In the Yucatán, we drove to the breath-taking, Chichen Itza, the Mayan city built around 550 AD, and one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

And, if that wasn’t enough, I swam with Whale Sharks in the Yucatán Peninsula! What an honor and pleasure to explore some of Mexico and I hope to return one day.

DP: Thanks for stirring some wonderful travel memories for me, husband and I visited that same part of Mexico over 30 years ago. Thanks also for sharing your publishing experiences. You've provided a lot of inspiration for those in the trenches waiting for their first, "Yes" to open the door of publishing adventures. 

Jackie Azúa Kramer studied acting and voice at NYU and earned her MA, Queens College, Counseling in Education. Jackie has worked as an actor, singer, and school counselor. Her work with children presented her an opportunity to address their concerns, secrets and hopes through storytelling. Now she spends her time writing children’s picture books. Her picture books include, the award-winning The Green Umbrella (2017 Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year), If You Want to Fall Asleep and That’s for Babies. Upcoming books- The Boy and the Gorilla (Candlewick, 2020); I Wish You Knew (Roaring Brook, 2021); We Are One (Two Lions, 2021); Miles Won’t Smile (Clavis, TBD). Jackie lives with her family in Long Island, NY. When not writing, you’ll find Jackie reading, watching old movies and globe trekking.

Twitter: @jackiekramer422
Facebook: Jackie Azúa Kramer
Instagram: Jackie Azúa Kramer

Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to 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

No comments:

Post a Comment