February 24, 2021

Birth Stories for Books: EVERYONE'S SLEEPY BUT THE BABY, by Tracy C. Gold

Hello readers! Get yourself a cuppa, and settle in for a bit, because it's time for another Birth Stories for Books post, and today's interview with fellow author, Tracy C. Gold, is loaded with helpful info.

Let's get right to it:

Dawn Prochovnic: I’m so glad to have you on the blog, Tracy, and I’m really looking forward to your forthcoming book, EVERYONE’S SLEEPY BUT THE BABY (illustrated by Adèle Dafflon Familius, April, 2021). The cover art is absolutely adorable. 


I’d love to hear how the idea for this story came to be. Reading the title, and knowing that you have a daughter, I’m guessing this story draws on personal experience. True?

Tracy C. Gold: Absolutely! I first had the idea for this book when my daughter was a few months old. Everyone in my household—including the dog—was completely exhausted, but my baby would just not fall asleep. My daughter is almost three now and we still have the same problem! One day I know she’ll be an adult who loves a good afternoon nap but has to work and she’ll regret not napping all those times she had a chance as a child!

DP: My kids (both now in college) were not sleepers when they were little, either. They DEFINITELY know how to nap, now! 

I’d 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.

TG: Looking back, I actually wrote the complete draft of this book on my phone! (The book is very short.) I’m not actually sure on the timeframe because my memory is telling me it took a few months, but all the dates on my computer/phone notes are from one day, June 25th, 2019. In my first note, I wrote this one stanza: 

“Sleepy mommy 

Sleepy daddy

Sleepy little dog 

Everyone’s sleepy 

Except for baby

Yawn yawn yawn.”

For my next version, I wrote five more stanzas and used “but the baby” instead of “except,” because it sounds better. From there, I created a word doc and did something I would never advise other writers to do…sent it out to a few publishers! I then immediately panicked and thought I’d completely embarrassed myself, so I reached out to a few freelance editors. This was one of the first picture books I’d ever written and I hadn’t gotten many (any?) critiques on my picture books. One of the freelance editors told me not to pay her to work on the book because it would never sell. She didn’t think a book marketed for parents rather than babies would work. My heart sank. I had made a fool of myself after all! Then…another editor wrote back and said not to pay her to work on the book because it was perfect as is! What?! I am so glad that my publisher, Familius, agreed with the second editor! Literally days after I heard from her, they wrote me and said they were interested in publishing the book. It was only 7 days from my submission to my initial offer from them. I was floored! Familius has a line of board books just right for something short and sweet like this. Of course it wasn’t “perfect” as is—I did make changes before publication—but that whole story just goes to show how subjective the publishing world is. I wrote more about the journey to publication here.

DP: That's a great (enviable!) path to publication story! And yes, this business is very subjective. I'm so glad you submitted to just the right publisher for this book!

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: Considering that the draft I sent to Familius was only 89 words, not including the title, a lot about the book changed as I worked with my editor from Familius, Laurie Duersch. I just counted and was shocked to find I only changed 7 words, but those seven words added more rhyme to the book, so it’s almost fully rhyming. With just those few words, I also added a whole “zoo theme” to the nursery setting, which looks so cute in the illustrations! I also reordered many of the different stanzas. Laurie and I went back and forth a bit on whether rhymes were close enough, but it was an extremely smooth process!

DP: In my experience, even seemingly small changes that a skilled editor brings to a book makes such a significant difference--even when a manuscript has been critiqued a multitude of times! I think the editorial process is somewhat cosmic in that way. 

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? 

TG: I have to go back to before I even had this idea and thank Kathy MacMillan, the co-Regional Advisor of my region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Back in probably 2017 or 2018, when in-person conferences were still a thing, Kathy chatted with me about how much she loved her picture book publisher, Familius. She’s published 3 books with them and has more on the way. I didn’t mention Kathy’s name when I wrote to Familius, because I sent the book on such a whim. However, I never would have even known about Familius if it weren’t for Kathy.

DP: And now we enter the "It's a small (kidlit) world" part of our interview: Kathy is one of my favorite people that I've not yet met! She and I both teach sign language workshops, we both have books that incorporate American Sign Language, we both love libraries, and we've each contributed guest posts/interviews for each other's blogs. How great that Kathy's casual, positive mention of her publisher planted a seed that came to fruition for you!

You have another book that also launches in 2021: TRICK OR TREAT BUGS TO EAT (illustrated by Nancy LeschnikoffSourcebooks). What a FUN title! When you compare the path to publication for these two books,  what are some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for each?

TG: It's so different! Jennifer Rees, the same freelance editor who loved SLEEPY, suggested that I look into getting an agent for my picture books. I had been querying agents with my YA novels for years with no success so Jennifer’s comment gave me some much needed confidence to try again with picture books. In the past, I had interned for Carrie Pestritto, so I wrote to her to let her know about my book deal and sent her a few of my other book ideas. I knew she didn’t represent a lot of picture books, so I was mostly writing to ask if she had any agents to recommend or refer me to. But she offered to represent me herself! I was thrilled to accept. We sent a few books on submission without success. Then, she suggested that I write a Halloween book, because editors were asking for them. I adore bats, so I came up with the idea for Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat, and revised the book, along with some others, while at an “unworkshop” at Highlights Foundation in October. Carrie sent the book on submission after that, but it didn’t sell until March 2020, right as the world was shutting down due to Covid. It was definitely a whirlwind! I would say “Trick or Treat” was a more collaborative process, as I worked on revising it with Carrie and critique partners before we sent it to editors. Sourcebooks is a much larger publisher than Familius and publishes more books with non-fiction angles, so it was great for a fun book with bat facts. I expect I’ll see more similarities and differences along the way. One similarity is that it has been amazing to see illustrations for both of these books! 

DP: Yes! Seeing an illustrator's interpretation of my words is one of my favorite aspects of writing picture books! (And how wonderful that a past internship opened the door for your agent to represent you.)

In addition to authoring books, raising your daughter, walking your rescue dog, and riding your former race horse, (!) you taught an online course this past fall, and you also have a freelance editing service. How do you balance the time between your different book projects and the different aspects of the publishing business alongside an active personal life?

TG: Well, my house is an absolute disaster on the best of days . . . I’m really not kidding. For me the only way to keep all of those balls in the air is to forget about anything that’s not important and/or urgent. Laundry, picking up toys, and vacuuming often fall into the “not important and/or urgent” category and I’m not afraid to admit that! I am lucky to have a lot of help—my husband is very engaged, we had a wonderful au pair for almost two years, my daughter is now at an outdoor preschool, and my mother helps out a lot too. With Covid that has all been up in the air a bit. My daughter’s preschool recently had to close to wait for one of her classmates to get Covid test results, so I am writing this Q and A thanks to Daniel Tiger. 

DP: Hooray for Daniel Tiger...but Ugh! Yes, Covid has impacted so many things. I will say I've definitely vacuumed less since March, given that we've not done any indoor entertaining. Maybe I'll need to maintain my dust bunny indifference post Covid!

Your bio indicates that in addition to your forthcoming board book and picture book, you have also published in magazines and anthologies. I have always wondered how it is that someone’s work gets selected for an anthology, and I’d love if you could shed some light on that experience.

TG: Three out of the four anthologies I’m in were simply “word of mouth”—writer friends posted or emailed about the opportunities, I submitted, and I was lucky enough to be accepted! Covid or not, we’re really lucky to live in a world where it’s so easy to connect to other writers via Twitter and Facebook. I made great friends via the #pitchwars and https://writingchallenge.org hashtags! For the fourth, and most of the magazines, I found out about that opportunity via a website called Duotrope which keeps a database of publication opportunities. If you write and submit a lot of short stories, poems, or essays, I’d definitely recommend subscribing to Duotrope.

DP: Great tips and resources, Tracy! Thank you so much! 

I know from your social media accounts that you have a robust pre-order campaign for your book, and you publish an occasional newsletter for your readers, both of which I’m sure also takes a fair amount of time to keep up with. For those of us who might be pondering if it’s worthwhile to engage in this type of outreach, what are the pluses and minuses of these types of reader outreach, from your perspective? 

TG: Ask me again after both books are published! My goal is to get to about 300 preorders, and I’m only at 40 so far, but I have a lot more planned to spread the word. My newsletter is about 100 subscribers so far and I generally use it for updates and news only. I round up whatever I’ve already put out in the world and send it in my newsletter, so I’m not creating much original content for the newsletter, which makes it take less time. I’m planning on offering coloring pages and other newsletter exclusives to build my audience there soon.

DP: That's super helpful info, Tracy. Thanks! 

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?

TG: I would have told my pre-published self to start writing picture books earlier! Of course, I don’t think I would have been able to write them as well if I hadn’t read ten million with my daughter first. I think in general writers shouldn’t say “I don’t write XYZ genre” because you never know until you try! I also would have told myself to hang in there—after all the rejections, good news was on the way! It is really hard to keep going after getting literally hundreds of rejections, spread out over many different writing projects, and I’m so glad I did.

DP: I'm so glad you hung in there, too, Tracy! And, it's my hope that fellow creatives in the midst of rejection will be inspired to hang in there, too, after reading this! 

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

TG: My long-term career goal is to write books for every age of kid, from picture books to middle grade to young adult. Right now I’m working on a few more “fun twist on non-fiction” picture books. Mainly, though, I’m working on a young adult historical novel about a ship of Jewish refugees turned away from the US, Cuba, and Canada in 1939. This book feels very relevant amidst ongoing refugee crises and ties into my own Jewish heritage. I’ve been working on this book for years, so if it eventually gets published, it will have a very different birth story than my “accepted in a week” first picture book!

DP: Wow! That's an ambitious goal! I look forward to hearing more about your YA historical novel. It sounds very timely, indeed. (My late father-in-law was a Holocaust survivor and a Jewish immigrant. I recently had the amazing opportunity to share his life story with a local musical duo, who turned his story into a song.)

Thank you so much for sharing your Birth Story for EVERYONE’S SLEEPY BUT THE BABY  with us, Tracy. I've learned so much from you--and I've really enjoyed getting to know you!

Friends: Let's help Tracy reach her preorder goal. Her books are available everywhere books are sold (and you can get the details about her preorder promotion, here.)

And, if you'd like to WIN a copy of EVERYONE'S SLEEPY BUT THE BABY (or a picture book critique), follow both Dawn and Tracy on Twitter (@TracyCGold and @dawnprochovnic) and reply to one of our tweets with the blog post tagging a friend before 11:59pm EST on March 1st (U.S. addresses only.) 

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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 April 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 or by following her on Twitter or Instagram @tracycgold.

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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

February 10, 2021

Birth Stories for Books: SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED, by Rebecca Kraft Rector

It's time for another behind-the-scenes look at a path to publication story. Today's guest is Rebecca Kraft Rector, and we'll be talking about her forthcoming picture book, SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED (illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte, Nancy Paulson Books, February 2021). 


Dawn Prochovnic: Thank you for stopping by the blog, Rebecca. I’ve been excited to talk with you ever since I read the title and saw the cover art for SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED. I’m guessing there is a personal experience behind this book, and I can’t wait to hear all about it! 

Rebecca Kraft Rector: Nope, no personal experience at all. The four of us kids were always perfectly behaved during our car trips. None of that “I want the window” or “I don’t have enough room!” Nope, none at all.

Rebecca (2nd from left) and her perfectly-behaved siblings 

DP: Well that is a shocker ... on many levels! (Though me thinks I detect a tad bit of sarcasm here!)

I’d love to hear about the process and timeframe between your initial idea and the story that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor. 

RR: I first wrote SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED 20 years ago. My critique group helped me polish it and refine the structure over several months. I submitted the story and many rejections followed. The story that was finally accepted is the same version I submitted many years ago.

DP: Well that definitely provides some solid evidence that some manuscripts are just waiting for the right editor at the right time. Good for you for sticking with it! 

When you compare some 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?

RR: SQUISHED actually grew out of another story I was working on. The characters and the overall concept were different and the earliest drafts had no word play. The idea of being squashed, repetition, and a circular structure survive in the final story.  

DP. I love hearing the backstory! 

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? 

RR: I put the story away until 2017, when I took it to a Highlights Foundation workshop. Cecilia Yung, Art Director at Penguin Random House, saw the story (text only since I can’t draw), loved it, and took it to editor/publisher Nancy Paulsen. And Nancy offered to publish it!

DP: Wow! That's a great endorsement for the program offerings at the Highlights Foundation (and for your manuscript!)

You have another picture book that comes out next year (LITTLE RED, Aladdin/Simon & Schuster) and also several fiction and nonfiction titles from a variety of other publishers. When you compare the path to publication for SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED to one or more of your other books,  what are some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for each?

RR: SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED and my middle grade novel TRIA AND THE GREAT STAR RESCUE were in the right place at the right time. SQUISHED was discovered at a workshop and TRIA was plucked from the slush pile. 


Many of my other books were written to exact specifications for educational publishers. They were written and published relatively quickly. I revised LITTLE RED for about a year before my agent submitted it. Aladdin made an offer a few weeks later.

DP: Sounds like those revisions for LITTLE RED were well worth the effort! 

One 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. Your bio indicates you have worked as a librarian (and maybe you still do!) Based on this experience, what professional advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/presenters in terms of planning successful (in-person and/or remote) events? 

RR: My library system hosted authors for special events and summer reading programs. We couldn’t book someone we knew nothing about. Contact the libraries and schools and let them know what you offer. Put all the info on your website, too. Make sure your programs are interactive and appropriate for many age levels or offer different programs for different ages.

DP: That's great advice. Thanks! Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on? 

RR: I’m currently working on companion stories to SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED and LITTLE RED. I’m also revising a middle grade fantasy.

DP: I wish you much success with these other projects ... AND with the launch of SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED, Rebecca! Thanks so much for sharing your Path to Publication with us!

Friends, you know the drill: Rebecca's books are available everywhere books are sold!

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I’m a twin and the oldest of four children. Our many car trips did not inspire me to write SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED because we were always absolute angels. Absolute. Angels. 

For as long as I can remember, I loved reading and writing stories and poems. So, it’s no surprise that I became a librarian and writer. But I’ve also worked as a cleaner, babysitter, shampoo girl, filer, typist, reading and study skills teacher, and elementary school network manager.

My cats Ollie and Opal keep me company while I write. I don’t care for coffee, so my writing is fueled by dark chocolate chips, often eaten on graham crackers.

Although I’ve had more than 30 books published, SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED is my first picture book. My second picture book LITTLE RED is coming from Aladdin in Spring 2022. You can find me online at RebeccaKraftRector.wordpress.com.

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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

January 25, 2021

The Book Trailer Reveal Part of the Writing Life

Hello friends! Just a brief post today to share my excitement of the BIG REVEAL for the book trailer of my next book, Lucy's Blooms (illustrated by Alice Brereton, published by West Margin Press.)


The book is beautiful. I can't wait until it launches in April, but in the meantime, you can watch this lovely video (that I designed and produced!) using illustrations from the book by Alice Brereton, and backed up by gorgeous, original music by Maiah Wynne (more on our collaboration later!) 

(Update: Here is the direct link if the embedded video won't show: https://youtu.be/csoF_xhUTuI )

And, since today marks the start of The Great Kindness Challenge, we're doing a giveaway of an advanced reader copy of Lucy's Blooms. Enter to win by commenting below (or on Instagram) about an act of kindness you’ve received or witnessed (enter before noon, PST 1/29.) Bonus kindness points if you share this post, and/or tag a friend! 

Love the song? Go out and give some love to Maiah Wynne. Love the illustrations? Go out and give some love to Pickled Alice Art

Love the book? It's available for pre-order everywhere books are sold (though I’m highly partial to supporting your local indie bookstore directly, or by shopping online at Bookshop.org