How to Write Like a Professional

How to Write Like a Professional
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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

HIGH FIVE Interview #26: The Writer Who Didn't Lose Her Mean

Today's guest is Tiffany Strelitz Haber. She's a lean, mean rhyming machine. Tiffany writes picture books and her first one, The Monster Who Lost His Mean, came out just last year. Her second one is ALREADY due out this spring, Ollie and Claire. She also offers professional critiques. Want to know how she does it all? Keep reading.
The Monster Who Lost His Mean
First book by Tiffany Strelitz Haber

Title: The Monster Who Lost His Mean
Author: Tiffany Strelitz Haber
Illustrator: Kirstie Edmunds
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Release date: July 2012
Word count: Around 550 words or so

Summary: Everyone knows the “M” in MONSTER stands for Mean.  But what happens when a Monster can’t be mean anymore?  Is he still a Monster at all?
One day a Monster’s “M” went missing.
Gone without a trace!
And every “M” is custom made.
The kind you can’t replace.

So now he’s just The Onster
and the teasing never ends.
Not only has he lost his mean,
he’s lost his Monster friends!
Question ONE:
What are three of your favorite picture books? Just three mind you.

Oh dear lord, I don’t know how to answer that!  I’m terrible at “favorites”.  OK, in no particular order, and part of a constantly evolving list:

1. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
2. The Obstinate Pen by Frank W. Dormer
3. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

I haven't read #2. I'll have to check it out. My kids and I love Room on the Broom. It's so FUN!

Question TWO:
Tell us about your children and how books play a part in your bedtime routine.

I have two boys, ages 4 and 5. And I am terrible at routine. One night I might read them a bedtime story in their rooms while they are snuggled in…another night they might pass out on the couch while watching Coraline (a big fave in our house these days). At that point I carry what works out to be about 90 pounds worth of children up a tremendous staircase. Not an easy feat! Generally speaking though, books are just around.  We might read during dinner. We might read before school. We might read in the middle of the day just because.  It’s always changing, but they’re always present.

Ollie and Claire - Matthew CordellQuestion THREE:

How might teachers use your book in the classroom? 

The book has easy tie-ins, not only with adjectives, acrostics and spelling, but also peer pressure, bullying and discussions on individuality. I have a fabulous free teacher’s guide available for download via my website. It was created by the uber-talented Marcie Colleen!

Question FOUR:
THE ROAD TO PUBLICATION...

Can you talk a bit about how you approach revisions and if you keep count of how many you do? That’s too organized for me, but do I kinda love revisions. I relish the phase of writing that I’m at when revisions come into play.  You’re no longer staring at a blank page. The beginning, middle and end of the story have been created and laid down, and revisions really just up the ante on all of it…pushing the story to the next level. What’s more fulfilling than that?

How did you finally get an agent? Lots and lots of subbing to publishers and agents. Agent Query was a huge help. So was attending SCBWI conferences.

How did your title evolve? I always wanted the book to be called, THE ONSTER.  I just thought it sounded cool and intriguing.  Maybe even a little edgy.  But the publishing house was like, ummm….it’s called The Monster Who Lost His Mean, and that’s that.  So I rolled with it.  I can’t tell you how many times people come up to me and tell me how much they love the title of the book!  I guess it worked out!

How many rejections?  Dunno! I really don’t know numbers. Maybe 6 or 7 for this book? It did happen fairly quickly, but I just don’t have exact figures. I dream to have the organizational skills for that!

I know you have another book coming out soon. Any forthcoming sales?  I’ve got a couple things out on submission.  They are in the “let’s do some revisions before it goes to editorial” phase, but I never count my chickens before they hatch. I have had way too many close calls for that! My next book, OLLIE AND CLAIRE, illustrated by MATTHEW CORDELL will be released on April 18, 2013.

What is the hardest thing about making the switch from being unpublished to being published? I really don’t think there was anything “hard” about the transition from “persuing publication” to “published author”. Maybe just, trying to figure out whether you’re doing enough to market your book while still focusing on new material? Also, and I feel a little bad about saying this, but also accepting the reality that getting a picture book deal really doesn’t change much of anything at all. It just chips away at the 10 or so additional deals you’ll need to get so you can start making a little money. Ha!

Question FIVE:
Tiffany Strelitz HaberWhat are your top three writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication?
  1. Write in your own style.  Don’t try to copy anyone.
  2. If you get the same criticism regarding a story 3 times or more…consider making the change.  Otherwise, don’t bend to everyone’s (often) random commentary. Stick to your own gut and sensibilities.
  3. Remember, if you are looking for a career as an author, one picture book isn’t going to cut it. So keep writing and writing and writing and build up a huge arsenal of work!
Thank you so much, Tiffany, for being here today! It was a pleasure. I especially loved your three writing tips. Tiffany also offers critiques. She's amazing at rhyme. Thanks, again! 

25 comments:

  1. Very nice interview. I've ordered up all the books mentioned and look forward to seeing what Tiffany likes about them. Thanks for a great post.

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    1. Hi, Rosi! Just wondering when you "order up" all the books, do you BUY them or borrow from library? My library is not up-to-date yet with interlibrary loans. Boo.

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  2. Note to self: build arsenal

    Snowballs? Check.
    Dodge balls? Check.
    Multiple polished, critiqued, revised picture books manuscripts? Working on it!

    Thanks for the great interview Tiffany!

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    1. Cathy, Did you know you won the market guide from my February giveaway? You can thank Rosi because she already had it and donated it back to the rotation. You were the next random number I drew. Congrats! Just e-mail me your mailing address (if you haven't already).

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  3. VEry encouraging interview. It's nice to see rhyming stories published. It takes a strong style but is possible.

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    1. Yes, there is always a place in the market for GOOD rhyme.

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    2. Hi Joy. If you can execute solid meter and surprising rhymes....you can definitely sell a rhyming picture book to a major publishing house!

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  4. I agree with Joy. GO RHYME! Congratulations on your current successes Tiffany, and best wishes on pubbing the other 10+++ soon! :0)

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  5. Thanks for the wonderful interview. My kids (3 and 7) both loved The Monster Who Lost His Mean. Ollie and Claire looks so cute! We'll look forward to that one, too. Loved your tips, especially #3.
    Carrie F.

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    1. Carrie, Ollie and Claire is only about 5 weeks away. Wow!

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    2. Aw...thanks Carrie. Glad they liked! Ollie and Claire is really fun, and the illustrator- Matthew Cordell is totally amazing.

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  6. Great interview!I like Tiffany's attitude on revisions! Thanks, Tiffany and Christie!

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    1. Thank you. I'm so glad you enjoyed it and found it helpful. I also enjoy the revision process.

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  7. I love this book. It's really fun. My favorite part of the interview was the part about not knowing numbers. I had a feeling I wasn't the only writer with number-phobia! Whew! That's a relief.

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  8. Fun interview! I own The Monster Who Lost His Mean! I reviewed The Monster Who Lost His Mean on my website! I LOVE The Monster Who Lost His Mean!

    I can't wait for Ollie and Claire. I am really looking forward to reading it!

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    1. You know, you can usually pre-order. It's actually a very good thing to do to help the book's success, as it helps bookstores gauge how many to buy.

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  9. Good post and interview. Monster books are very popular, I even posted about a new monster book today on my blog. I love to rhyme, though they keep saying, 'don't do it.' Congratulations, the new book Ollie and Claire looks great. Love the names. Janet

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    1. You are so right about monster books being popular. I have a monster list of monster books on my blog: Monsterly Books for October. And 5 of the 26 authors I've interviewed on my blog have debut books about monsters!

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  10. Great interview, Christie and Tiffany! I love The Monster Who Lost His Mean and can't wait to read Ollie And Claire! :)

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  11. Hi, Saw you signed up for the A-Z challenge, and I am a new follower. Would love the PB dummy. Thank you. My email is cathyensley@gmail.com. It will be fun to read your blog.

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