Hello readers! It's time to dig into another path to publication story in the latest edition of Birth Stories for Books. Today's guest is Terry Ann Marsh, author of THE THREE LITTLE SPRIGS (illustrated by Lintang Pandu Pratiwi, published by Brandylane Publishers/Belle Isle Books, July 2022.)
|by Terry Ann Marsh and Lintang Pandu Pratiwi|
Dawn Prochovnic: Welcome to the blog, Terry. I’ve enjoyed reading about your publishing journey for your debut picture book, THE THREE LITTLE SPRIGS, on your blog, and I’m delighted to be able to ask some specific questions about your experience here.
Your online bio indicates that you’ve spent decades singing and performing for adults and kids, and that you’ve “put down the mic and picked up the pen,” transforming stories and songs from your children’s shows into submittable manuscripts. Can you share with us how the idea for this particular story originally came to be?
Terry Ann Marsh: I’d love to -- and thanks so much for inviting me to be a part of your blog!
I was contemplating the concept of fractured fairy tales, wondering if there was a fairy tale that would work for me. As an entertainer, I was always on the lookout for ideas that would not only be entertaining, but could also be used by a parent or teacher as a jumping off point for a conversation on a kid-friendly theme. I probably thought about it for a few months, and then one day I asked the big question: What if instead of using straw, wood and brick to build their houses, the three little pigs had to use a character trait to build their house. And so, The Three Little Sprigs who live in the Woodland Kingdom was born.
DP: What a fun backstory and concept for a children's book.
I’d also like to hear more about the process and timeframe between your initial idea for this book and the manuscript that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor.
TAM: What a good question! I had to go back and find my original manuscript to see how long it’s been. This story took about 3 years to develop completely. I tend to really think about stories for a while before I actually start writing them, but I would have to count that as part of the process. It also went through a couple of critique groups. I think the idea of the story appealed to everyone, but it is longer than your average picture book today, so that posed a bit of a problem. I was getting a little discouraged until I talked to an author at a SCBWI conference, who said I should submit it as picture storybook, which would allow for more words (it clocks in at 1800 words!) Happily, her advice worked.
DP: Sometimes all we need is that one new idea to help a story along!
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?
TAM: My earlier manuscript had more descriptive scenes in it because I was in love with the idea of this Woodland Kingdom where everything came alive. Toadstool caps used as sleds, dandelion heads that hung in windows as curtains, daisy blankets that hugged you back -- so much fun! But the word count needed to come down. Some scenes didn’t survive and some became illustrations.
|Illustrations by Lintang Pandu Pratiwi|
Since it’s longer than most books in the market today, I was grateful that Brandylane Publishers allowed the story to develop completely. The Three Little Sprigs follows the timeline of the Three Little Pigs fairly closely. Instead of the Big Bad Wolf, there are Stinging Rain and Lonely Wind, who visit each house and try to blow them down, but all that takes time and words to develop. I was glad I didn’t feel the need to shorten or rush the story.
|Illustration by Lintang Pandu Pratiwi|
DP: How great that you found a publisher that shared your vision for this story.
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?
TAM: The writer at the SCBWI conference who told me about the picture storybook form was very helpful. She loved the book and that encouraged me to keep going with a story that I loved.
DP: That's terrific. One of my favorite parts of this business is the wonderful people I've met throughout my journey and the encouragement I've received (and continue to receive) from others along the way.
Another favorite part is connecting with young readers at school, library, and bookstore visits, and I’m always looking for new pro tips. Based on your years of experience performing for adults and kids, what professional advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/presenters in terms of planning successful events?
TAM: My number one rule for entertaining — don’t be boring! Have more than enough material, so there are no long pauses, or gaps in your presentation. When people get nervous they tend to speak fast, so your 10 minutes of material might end up being 5! Have plenty to say, sing, act out or do.
Kids love to interact, so give them plenty to do, if possible. It’s better to say that you didn’t use all the stuff you brought, than to say you didn’t bring enough (learned that the hard way!).
DP: Great tips! I'll bet your events are loads of fun!
Speaking of events, it’s clear that you and I share a preference for in-person events over virtual, but given that your book will launch in the midst of (a still ongoing!) pandemic, I’d be especially interested in hearing what you have found to be the most effective and meaningful way(s) to connect with young readers and book buyers during this challenging time.
TAM: This is the most challenging thing for me. Social media is definitely outside my comfort zone. Fortunately, my youngest daughter is a branding expert, and she will help me, although she assures me I am not ready for Instagram! I give myself props for developing a webpage, and getting on Facebook, although I need to be more consistent. If need be, I can jump into the world of video blogs and Zoom meetings, but I am truly hoping that by the time my book comes out (maybe April?), in-person events will be back on.
DP: Gosh, I sure do hope so, Terry!
One of my favorite creative experiences has been collaborating with music professionals to create original songs and videos for my picture books (you can view a recent collaboration here.) Given your decades of singing experience, do you have any plans for bringing together these two forms of creative expression?
TAM: I loved the video for your book — such a great idea!
DP: Thank you! It was such a fun project to work on.
TAM: I will definitely use some of my music to enhance my library/school visits. I have a lot of songs that encourage activity, and they are always fun. I don’t have a specific song for Sprigs, but I do have several that I can use that will speak to some of the themes in the book. I also have one song, Kingdom of the Jewels, that I would love to see as a book.
DP: I'll look forward to that project coming to fruition one day, too.
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?
TAM: I think I would tell myself not to be discouraged because things don’t, and won’t, happen as quickly as I want them to. Being published is more of a ‘in-it-for-the-long-haul’ process. There’s a lot to learn, so enjoy the process of learning as you go. Also, writing is a very subjective craft. What one person can love, another can hate. So, stay true to what you believe in and what you want to say, and find the best way to say it.
DP: Thanks for that, Terry. That's excellent advice.
Is there something you wish someone would ask you about your path to publication for THE THREE LITTLE SPRIGS that you haven’t had the opportunity to share yet?
TAM: Who is the best audience for The Three Little Sprigs? The reason I like this question is because I think the book has much to offer to elementary grades. I have a 4th grade teacher friend who will be using it for her biology science this spring. I make mention of 10 different types of plants found in a forest, and ask 2 good science questions on the teacher page. Also, a book about character traits allows for very teachable moments. The last question on the teacher page is, “If you were to build a house with a character trait, which one would you use?” It can open up great discussions.
DP: What a great response to this question, Terry. I hope your book finds its way into the hands of many young readers.
Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on?
TAM: I am in an advanced writer’s submit/critique cohort with SCBWI, and I submitted a book about the numbers 10—100. After the first critique last month I realized I had to deconstruct the whole thing and come at it from another angle, which I did! The result has been wonderful. I will continue with this manuscript and see where it will take me.
DP: Best of luck with this new project, Terry, and thanks so much for sharing your Birth Story for THE THREE LITTLE SPRIGS with us!
TAM: Thank you, Dawn. It was fun!
Friends, the best way to thank an author whose insights have been helpful and/or inspiring to you is to support their work. Buy their books. Request them from your library. Read and share them with others. It sounds like THE THREE LITTLE SPRIGS would make an excellent addition to school and classroom libraries (and it would be a great complement to LUCY'S BLOOMS if you already have that one on your shelf.)
Encouraged by the success and positive feedback from her children’s show, Terry began converting the songs and stories from her live performances into book form. Now, instead of acting or singing her characters into existence, she brings them to life in the pages of her books.
Terry has a great love for theater and has performed in many shows in theaters around Baltimore, including Annie, Fiddler on the Roof and Bye, Bye, Birdie. Eventually, her love of musical theater led her to become a music teacher at Greater Grace Christian Academy, where she directed many theater productions.
Whether it be through music or her books, Terry is a storyteller at heart. She feels every song or story has a purpose – to encourage, educate and enlighten.
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.