March 14, 2024

Birth Stories for Books: THE PIE THAT MOLLY GREW, by Sue Heavenrich

Hello readers! I'm delighted to welcome author, Sue Heavenrich, to the blog. Sue and I first met when we were in a book launch group together a few years back. It's been exciting to see her continue to welcome new books into the world. Today we'll learn about Sue's path to publication for her latest picture book, THE PIE THAT MOLLY GREW (illustrated by Chamisa Kellog, Sleeping Bear Press, August 2023). 

by Sue Heavenrich and Chamisa Kellog

Dawn Prochovnic: Welcome to the blog, Sue. I'm looking forward to learning more about your latest book, THE PIE THAT MOLLY GREW

You've shared in other interviews that the line, "This is the seed that Molly sowed" got planted in your head and wouldn't leave until you wrote it down, and that was the seed from which this story eventually grew. You've also shared in another interview that an earlier version of this story sat in a drawer for about three years before your agent encouraged you to revise it. I'd like to hear more about how this story tucked away in a drawer caught your agent's attention, and also about the process and timeframe between your agent's nudge to revise and the story that was formulated fully enough to submit to your eventual publisher.

Sue Heavenrich: We were having a conversation one day, and my agent asked: hey, do you have any stories hanging out in the back of your file drawer? THE PIE THAT MOLLY GREW was one of those, so I dusted off the folder and read it over. I emailed it to her, and she asked whether I might want to start with the seed (originally I started with the pumpkin). It seems like a no-brainer now, but just changing that one thing made a big difference. I had to rethink word order and find new rhyming words … a challenge, but also the sort of fun a writer relishes.  

DP: That's a wonderful behind-the-scenes detail, Sue. It's so true that the right question, or observation, or suggestion can make all the difference in the world. 

Reflecting on the journey from idea to published book, in addition to what you've already shared, 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? 

SH: Finding the right editor for a story is a skill, and I was grateful to have an agent who knew editors who might resonate with my story. She sent it out in February, and by mid-March we had interest.

DP: Wow, that's fantastic, Sue. I'm not surprised. It's a great story.

When you compare your path to publication for THE PIE THAT MOLLY GREW to your experience with one of your earlier books, such as 13 WAYS TO EAT A FLY, what are some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for each and/or the similarities and differences between the editors/publishers that you've worked with on these books?

SH: I didn’t have an agent when I submitted 13 WAYS TO EAT A FLY. I had met the editor (Alyssa Mito Pusey at Charlesbridge) at a retreat where she expressed interest in the story. When I submitted it to her, she liked it but something just didn’t click. She invited me to revise and resubmit. That revision process took me three years as I looked for a way to make the original manuscript less “listy” and more fun. I am so thankful that Alyssa was willing to take another look, because we had a good time making that book. I learned so much about the teamwork of publishing with that book.

My experience with each publishing house has been different – but one thing has remained the same: creating a book is a team effort. The editors, art director, illustrator, publicist … everyone works together to make the vision become a printed reality. 

DP: Well said, Sue! That's been my experience as well.

You have excellent activity guides for your books that incorporate a variety of different learning extensions and curriculum tie in's, including math tie-in's (perfect for Pi Day, arguably one of the math-iest day of the year!) I'd be interested hearing how your creative process for writing children’s books compares to your creative process for writing supporting materials such as activity guides. What are some of the key similarities and differences? 

SH: Thank you. I’m glad you like them. The teaching guides grew out of my experiences as a classroom teacher and homeschooling parent. I was always looking for hands-on ways to explore the material in a book. That might have grown out of my own school experiences as a visual-tactile learner with a dash of neurodiversity.

I started sharing hands-on STEM activities on my blog. My goal was to create a resource for homeschoolers and teachers who might be seeking a fun way to integrate science into their day. Activity guides seem like an extension of that. Developing an activity guide for a book turns out to be every bit as creative as writing the book. Plus it gives me a great excuse to do experiments. My goals are to include activities that connect across the curriculum. I look for ways kids – and teachers – can reuse stuff they might find around the house (or in a recycling bin) and try to include nature activities that can be done in your neighborhood. 

Photo of pumpkin getting ready to cook, supplied by Sue Heavenrich

Photo of seeds germinating, supplied by Sue Heavenrich

SH: Since we’re celebrating Pi Day, I need to make a confession: I am not a math person. I had lots of problems with math as a kid – memorizing math facts was not my strength. Thankfully, I finally made it to geometry and algebra, and they made sense. My kids inherited their “smarty math” genes from their dad (who was a math teacher, one in a family of math teachers…) and I had another chance to learn math when I homeschooled. I love celebrating Pi Day because: Pie! I mean, how can you not like math with a delicious connection? 

DP: Agreed! I hope our readers will check out the activity guides on your website as soon as they finish reading this interview, Sue. It's packed with Pi Day and other STEM/STEAM activities.

On a related note, in addition to writing books for kids, you are an active blogger, hosting your own STEM/STEAM focused blog, and a contributor to GROG blog. How do you balance and manage your time between these competing calls to write?

SH: Balance – that’s the thing, isn’t it? I love writing book reviews for my blog and my Wednesday “explore outdoors” features (I think of them as 5-minute nature field trips). And I love contributing to the GROG blog. Over the years I’ve tried different things – adding a Monday author interview feature to my blog, for example – but discovered that I need to keep it simple. Also, when things feel like they’re piling up, I take a break. Some years I take July off from my blog. This winter I took mid-December to mid-January off, so I could work on a project. 

DP: I love the idea of 5-minute nature field trips! (And it sounds like you've developed some good techniques to find balance amongst your various creative endeavors.)

Before we leave the topic of resources, I also see that THE PIE THAT MOLLY BUILT was featured for a Fall Storytime with the National Head Start Association. How did that come to be?

SH: I have no idea! It was a complete surprise, and I am so happy they found my book perfect for their program.

DP: What a happy surprise! It's a great feature! 

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?

SH: Write what you are passionate about. Do it because you love it. PLAY! And when you no longer take joy in your writing, take a break. Do something else that feeds your creative soul. Also, go outside every day and look for beauty in the world: a sunset, a birdsong, the smell of leaves in the fall...

Author Sue Heavenrich with a Stack of THE PIE THAT MOLLY GREW books

DP: That is wonderful advice, Sue--and it's very apparent in your books and supplementary resources that you do indeed focus on things you are passionate about. Brava!

Thanks so much for sharing your Birth Story for THE PIE THAT MOLLY GREW with us, Sue! 

Readers, 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. Sue's books, such as THE PIE THAT MOLLY GREW, are available everywhere books are borrowed and sold, including bookshop and your own local, indie bookstore. 

SH: Thank you for inviting me to join you today. Shall we share a piece of Pi? 

DP: Ha-ha! I'd love to! Happy Pi Day, friends!


Author, Sue Heavenrich 
Sue Heavenrich is a curious naturalist and is continually amazed by the diversity of insects and other wild things that visit her garden and hang out in her yard. She followed ants in the desert, tagged bumble bees in the Rockies, and taught science to high-schoolers. After covering environmental and community issues for local papers for a couple decades, Sue traded her reporter’s notebooks for composition books and began writing for children. When not writing, she counts pollinators as a community science volunteer. Every day she looks for beauty in the world around her. 





Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is a nature enthusiast and award-winning 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  

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