Usually, on the 5th of each month, I share an interview with a debut picture book author so we can all learn how it's done and give us hope and inspiration for our own work. I ask 5 questions. The last time I did this was May of 2013, due to going to school for web design. Now, it's back with a bang. And bigger and better than ever, or at least more often, that's for sure. Beginning today, Friday March 14th, I will be posting a new debut picture book author interview each Friday for the next 14 Fridays through June 14th (okay, you got me, it's actually Friday the 13th in June). Anyway, buckle up and visit often. It's going to be a wild ride!
Romelle [pronounced: RO-mah-lee] Broas Guittap will start us off on this fabulous journey. Her manuscript, Artsy-Fartsy Spider, won her a critique in the Spring 2012 Lucky Clover Picture Book Contest. You can still enter the 2014 Winter contest. Deadline is March 31. Romelle now has more than one book published, though Artsy-Fartsy Spider is not yet one of them. Without any further ado, please welcome Romelle with a big HIGH FIVE congratulations for her debut picture book!
Title: Casey Chameleon
Author: Romelle Broas
Illustrator: Lydia F. Ferron
Publisher: Flying Books, Ltd.
Release date: October 2012
Word count: 450
Have you ever seen a pink chameleon? "When I'm tickled, I turn pink," says Casey. What you don't want to see is Casey turning red! Casey thinks someone has stolen her special feather and she finds herself turning red with anger. Can she manage to find her true colors?Question ONE: What are three of your favorite picture books? Just three mind you.
ONLY three? That's like choosing your favorite son or daughter. Here goes:
1) The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone
This is my first introduction to what is called breaking the 4th wall and I didn't even know it back then when I first read it to my son 13 years ago. I loved the book for its ingenuity and charm. What I enjoyed most about this book is that it always made my son giggle.
2) Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly
This book is so funny! The pacing of the text and the illustrations are brilliant. The stick figure drawing adds to the humor of the book. I adore Prudence and her persistence to get a pet. She doesn't come across as whiny or spoiled, but rather sweet and clever.
3) Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
It's absolutely adorable. In this book Mr. Tiger lives in a town where everything is very proper. Then his instinct gets a hold of him and he lets loose. Mr. Tiger transforms from a personified creature to a true tiger. I love its message of staying true to yourself. Peter Brown did a fantastic job relaying this message in a humorous and fun way.
Question TWO: Now I really need to read your book #3. So, how often did you read to your children when they were younger? Do you feel like you have an extra special bond with your children because of books?
I have two boys. Ages 11 and 13. When they were younger I read to them at bedtime and just before nap time. It was a very special time for us. Now that they're grown, they read to themselves. But books are still a part of our routine. We go to the library 3 times a week and
pick out our books together. That's become our time together. I do have a special relationship with my two sons because of books. The quality time carved out for story-telling time when they were younger lets us experience joy, laughter, sadness, and even uncertainty together. Because of it, my boys are open to talking with me about their questions and concerns regarding life lessons. I am blessed to have boys who can open up about their feelings. It's a wonderful thing. I have books to thank.
Question THREE: I hardly think that 11 and 13 constitutes being grown. I sometimes read to my (now 22-year-old) step-son until he was 12, but it was usually a chapter from a novel. A-men to books! How might fully-grown teachers use your book in the classroom?
Playing with colors is always fun. Learning to associate colors with emotions brings it to another level of sensory awareness. Teachers can use Casey Chameleon as a tool:
- to help readers identify colors.
- to help students explore the different ways they deal with emotions. (In the story, Casey experiences different emotions and finds ways to cope with it.)
- for a fun exercise to incorporate as part of the art curriculum by having students paint their emotions on a canvas using colors that express how they feel.
Question FOUR: Sounds fun! Seems like a lot of other COLOR books have been hitting the shelves lately. So, what was your road to publication like?
I first wrote Casey Chameleon in April 2010 as part of the Picture Book Marathon hosted by Lora Koehler and Jean Reagan. This was about when I started writing picture books. My story went through 3 rounds of critiques by my online critique group and 9 revisions. I started submitting my manuscript in January 2011. That's 9 months of editing. I submitted to 10 publishers and received 10 rejections. After the last rejection, I accepted its fate and put it away while I worked on others. Luck was on my side when Hana Nagel, publishing editor of Flying Books, Ltd., read my Twitter bio:
I am a mother, marathoner, and children's writer. My aspiration is to write picture books. Follow me on my journey.
That's what she did. She followed and contacted me via Twitter DM (direct message) asking me if I had a story to submit. I researched Flying Books and found that they were an eBook publisher. Ebooks weren't widely received at the time, but I wanted to be a part of it since I knew this technology was not going away. Flying Books was also a new publisher so I thought they'd be more open to publishing first-time authors. This was a small window that flew open in front of me. I chose 2 stories that I wrote early in my writing career to test the eBook market. Hana came back with a response in January 2012 and said that Flying Books was interested in publishing one of the two stories I submitted.
Hana paired me up with an illustrator. What was unique about the publishing process was that Flying Books gave me creative control of my book, which meant that I got to work one-on-one with my illustrator. The plus? I got a say as to what I envisioned the book to look like. The negative? I had no background in book layout. Regardless, I was pleased with Lydia's work. In October 2012, Casey Chameleon was published!
Since then I've been successful in the eBook market. Tummy Monster was published with MeeGenius in December 2013. MeeGenius is also working on publishing another story of mine, Running Boy. The date of publication is still yet to be determined.
I've been saving my stronger stories for the traditional book market. Instead of submitting directly to publishers, I decided to find an agent. I don't want to submit carelessly to a bunch of agents so I am taking my time and being thoughtful about the process.
Question FIVE: Congratulations on all your successes! What are your top three writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication?
You probably have heard it a million times, but I’ll say it again.
- Tip #1: Write often. The more your write, the better you'll get. The more stories you create, the better your chances are at finding that gem.
- Tip #2: When you feel your story is as good as it can be, let it sit for a while. Give it a week’s time or more before re-reading it. You may see something you may have overlooked or rediscover new ideas to make your story even better.
- Tip #3: Get involved with writers groups. I belong to several on Facebook and LinkedIn. It's a great opportunity to be inspired and gain valuable information on writing tips and the publishing market. It's also wonderful for the camaraderie and support. Getting connected with social media has opened doors for me.
Thank you so much, Romelle! I hope you find a home for Artsy-Fartsy Spider one day. If you feel like answering any extra questions from my readers, just say so in the comments. Thanks, again!
Be sure to come back next week for another great interview. And come back tomorrow for tips on how to engage yourself in the writing process when you're scared or overwhelmed. In the mean time, keep on keepin' on...