Saturday, July 2, 2011

HIGH FIVE #9: Don't Let Grammar Fears Stop You From Writing

Flashlight Press, 2009
Welcome, Amanda! Thanks for joining us today. Your first picture book, I Need My Monster is a delightful book. Congratulations!
When Gabe, the monster that lives under Ethan's bed, goes on vacation, Ethan finds that the substitute monsters Gabe has sent just won't do and wonders how he will ever fall asleep.
Question ONE: How has reading picture books to your children made you a better parent?

I think spending close, quality time with my children is critical. In a world where there is so much upheaval, they need to know they have a safe place and loving family. Reading together is a great way to foster that.

I couldn't agree more. Well said.

Question TWO: What are three of your favorite picture books (because we all know you have way more than three)?

I don’t really remember reading picture books as a child – I know I did, my childhood is mostly a blur. Some of my favorites now are: 
  1. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch 
  2. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka 
  3. The Empty Pot by Demi
I've never heard of The Empty Pot. I'll have to search that one out.

Question THREE: How did you come up with the idea for your debut book? And what was your road to publication like? How many revisions did your manuscript undergo, if you kept count? Did you have an agent? How many publishers did you submit to before getting an acceptance letter?

One night, after my 3 year old daughter, got out of bed again. I wished she was afraid of monsters. At the time she was afraid of almost everything, but monsters did not phase her one bit. I know this is a poor reflection on my parenting skills, but I was desperate to get some rest. I had recently given birth to our fourth child. I think the lack of sleep plus the desire for her to stay in bed spawned the idea that if she did have a monster, he was doing a lousy job or maybe he just needed a vacation. The story evolved from there. 

The road to publication was long and rocky. My manuscript underwent several revisions as it worked its way through my critique group and then more with my editor. In total it was about 11 revisions.

I don’t have an agent. Despite winning several state awards I’m still not able to attract the right agent – yet.
I submitted the manuscript to 22 publishing houses and agents. Flashlight held it for a year before committing to a contract. I submitted to them in 2005. We worked on revisions together through 2006. By 2007 they offered me a contract. The book was released in 2009.

What a long road we writers submit ourselves to. Hope you find the right agent when the time is right. In the mean time, here's to hoping you get a second book published soon.

Question FOUR: How might teachers use your book in the classroom?

Here is an amazing and comprehensive lesson plan. It’s a beautiful thing, but I don’t know who to give the credit to. Many teachers use the “monster bits” page as a springboard to help students create a drawing of their own monster. I’ve heard some teachers use this page to teach students about predicting and understanding how many different monster combinations can be produced using 2 or 3 variations of one feature. 

Ooh! That would be a GREAT MATH lesson!

You can create a “monster glyph” by assigning different features to be drawn on a monster, according to the student’s own experiences. For example, if you’re a boy draw a tall monster, if you have siblings draw a tail, draw a horn for each person who lives in your house. 

That's a great activity for listening and following directions. Everybody's monster will undoubtedly look different, and be lots of fun, too.

Many teachers love the rich vocabulary and encourage students to create their own list of descriptive words for a monster. There’s a lot to work with!

Question FIVE: What are some writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication?

I struggle with grammar and spelling. For a long time I let that stop me from writing. If you really want to tell a story, you’ll find a way!

Keep writing until you write something that everyone else loves as much as you do. It’s a long, hard road, but it’s worth it.

You have to write – a lot! Keep writing until you have a handle on the craft. Surround yourself with a supportive critique group. Write when nobody else believes in you.

Don’t wait until you retire to start writing! It really does take 7 – 10 years to see your first book in print. If you plan to write for a career, start now.

Also, it’s important to write books that are current. Don’t try to write the kind of story you grew up with. Publishers don’t want dated material. Read! Read! Read!

Thank you so very much for your time! It was delightful to learn from you. I'm inspired by your dedication, knowledge, and willingness to share. Thanks, again.


  1. Very cool! And that book sounds delightful!

  2. Thanks Christie and Amanda for your honest look into publishing a picture book. Amanda, your hard work and determination obviously paid off because, 'I Need My Monster,' is a great book! I love Howard Mc Williams illustrations by the way. Thank you also for relieving the enormous pressure writer's have to be perfect. Like anything in life you have to practice to become better and writing is no exception. I believe that if you have the vision and creative imagination then you should persevere because you can always learn grammar and punctuation but learning to write a good story is a lot harder.

  3. Thank you Amanda for sharing your road to publication. At first glance " I need my Monster" sounds like it would have gotten a bite right away, so hearing that it took almost four years from submitting to publication is heartening. There really is a waiting period.

    Also thanks for your encouraging words on writing. I want to re read that for myself.

    Thanks also Christie for sharing Amanda with us. :)

  4. Blogger ate my first comment but here goes another try.

    Thanks Christie for sharing Amanda with us in this interview. The words of encouragement are well received. I want to re read it today.


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