the SCBWI (Society of Book Writers and Illustrators) Conference! And congrats
on winning the Cheerios New Author Contest! 1 Zany Zoo reminds me of Seuss’ If
I Ran the Zoo, with its wild imaginings of what could happen in that
enchanting place. What inspired 1 Zany Zoo?
it was an influence, I’m not sure. Actually, one day about 20 years ago,
the sentence, “You’ll never believe what I saw at the zoo” popped
into my head. I thought it had a good rhythm and could be a great premise
for a picture book. That sentence was the first line and title of the
story for a long time. It was a lot of fun coming up with funny things
for the animals to do.
This is your first picture book, and Colin Jack is a first-time
illustrator. What was it like, having someone interpret your words onto the
page? Did you work collaboratively with Colin, or did he work independently to
come up with those wonderful illustrations?
the story and included so many images that were not in the text. I think
his style matches the style of the text perfectly. Colin and I did not
work together but I was able to suggest a few small things, which he included,
and I changed some of the verses to match the illustrations he drew. Colin and
I have emailed and spoken on the phone but have not yet met in person.
We’re hoping to meet in New York sometime soon.
marketing of 1 Zany Zoo! The first “J” is Joyce
Johannson, the PR person for Cheerios who did marketing for the book. The
second is Jamie Weiss Chilton, with Andrea Brown Literary Agency, who became my
agent after I won the Cheerios contest. The third is Julia Maguire, my
editor at Simon and Schuster. I always had to double check names
and addresses before sending out emails because I was always mixing up their
Now that you and your three-J team have 1 Zany Zoo launched, do you have more picture books on the way? Any other works-in-progress?
picture book. I imagine that winning a contest worked in your favor! Can you tell me the story of how you connected with your agent?
the Contest. I had sent her some of my work several months before winning
and she had suggested I write something in prose as well as rhyme. I took
her advice and started working on a new story in prose. Then, when I won
the contest, I contacted her again and sent my new story, along with improved
versions of stories she’d previously seen. I was so excited that she
offered to represent me – she’s a fantastic agent. As a matter of fact,
she was just named one
of the top 20 Picture Book Agents in Publishers Marketplace!
I think my teaching job helps me keep in touch with what kids like and how they
think. I think the biggest influence to my writing has been reading good,
rhyming picture books and poems. I have five pieces of advice for
1 -Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) – I’ve learned so much from their
programs and other members and they’ve given me so much support.
2 – Sign up for
Verla Kay’s message board –
the blueboards. You can find the answer to almost any writing-related
questions you have.
3 – Find a critique group in your genre – you can meet in person or
online. There is information about how to find a group on both of these
4 – Make sure your manuscript is the best it can be before sending it out.
5 – Have faith in yourself and your writing.
More interviews to come! Remember to leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a copy of Amazing Faces.