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!) 

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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 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


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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, 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.