How to Write Like a Professional

How to Write Like a Professional
6 Surprising Mistakes That Make Writers Look Like Amateurs... and How to Avoid Them

Saturday, May 5, 2012

High Five Interview #16: Brenda Reeves Sturgis and 10 Tips in the Road


So your debut picture book is out. Here’s a big HIGH FIVE congratulations to you! 

Title: 10 Turkeys in the Road
Author: Brenda Reeves Sturgis
Illustrator: David Slonim
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish, Scholastic Book Clubs
Release date: September 2011, November 2011
Word count: 500
Short summary or blurb: When 10 turkeys block a country road, they cause a farmer to become increasingly frustrated with their silly circus antics while they fly away one at a time, until they get exactly what they are really after all along.

Question ONE: What are three of your favorite picture books? Just three mind you.
Mrs. Biddlebox by the late Linda Smith, Sixteen Cows by Lisa Wheeler, and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

I love Sixteen Cows too! We've checked it out from the library numerous times!

Question TWO: How often did you read to your children when they were younger; do you feel like you have a special bond with your children because of books? 
I always read to all of my children nightly. They were stellar students because of their love for books and reading and writing. I read to them all from the moment I found I was pregnant with each one and continued reading until they read books themselves.

Wow! Womb readers...

Question THREE: How might teachers use your book in the classroom?
I have extensive lesson plans for teachers on my website at www.brendareevessturgis.com. There are free downloads which include coloring pages, puzzles, puppets, songs, and games. My lesson plans were created for Kindergarten through 6th grade.

Question FOUR:
What was your road to publication like?
a)      Can you talk a bit about revisions, submitting to publishers, and how you feel about agents? 

I am a stickler for revision, and am an incessant reviser and tweaker. I worked hard for many years, attended conferences, joined critique groups, and learned how to write. My journey began in 2004 after I was invited to and attended a school visit with author Lynn Plourde. Kirsten Cappy of Curious City recommended me. I worked with Kirsten on a major marketing campaign where we launched to 17,000 librarians across the country. Kirsten Cappy was integral in getting my name out there. The PTO president, Susan Hupper Witt was amazing at handling things behind the scenes, and the school visit was magical. The kids were inquisitive and funny, thoughtful and delightful. I felt that I was a duck in the water, and that I'd been born to do exactly what I was doing in that moment.

I hosted Lisa Wheeler in a boot camp workshop here in Maine where I learned tons. I organized it, advertised for it, and we brought her here from Michigan for 4 days. I e-mailed Lisa and asked her if she would come. I advertised for many months to get participants, and hosted the 8-hour boot camp. The attendees were blown away by her presentation. Anybody who can get to one of her boot camps should definitely go. They'll learn a plethora of knowledge. I learned an immense amount from her. She is one of the best picture book writers, and certainly one of the top three rhymers in our business. It was a true blessing to learn from her and to get to know her. In 2007 and 2008, I also attended RUCCL (Rutgers Council of Children’s Literature).

I sold 10 Turkeys in the Road in 2008 to Margery Cuyler via a previous agent, and it took 3 years before it hit the shelves. It’s been a fun and rewarding journey. I am now represented by the wonderful Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary. She offered representation after my book was sold. We’re very hopeful for 2012 and have some polished projects out and about.


b)      Tell us a bit about any illustrator notes you may have used, and how your title may have evolved.

10 Turkeys in the Road had quite a few illustration notes because the turkeys were actually doing different things that the text suggested in the beginning. My good friend Shari Dash Greenspan, editor of Flashlight Press had some great input for the very first illustration notes, and they evolved from there. I sent 10 Turkeys in the Road to Shari Dash Greenspan, she loved it but it wasn't a good fit for flashlight. Shari sent along in-depth illustration suggestions, she is an incredible visionary. I met her back in 2005 when I queried her and we became professional friends. I value her opinions greatly, and run many things by her for her editorial eye. David Slonim, the illustrator, had some great ideas as well, and brought his own creative genius to the picture book project. The title was always 10 Turkeys in the Road but in the beginning the number 10 was written out as TEN. However, the publisher wanted it to be numerical to be better identified by schools and libraries as a counting book.

Question FIVE: What are your top 5 writing tips for writers seeking publication?
  1. Learn how to write a picture book. Learn how to create a dummy and a storyboard.
  2. Research the market. Research editors and agents thoroughly.
  3. Keep a notebook of ideas and favorite words. Carry it with you.
  4. Get out away from your computer, live and learn, because ideas are formed where you least expect them.
  5. Do NOT quit!
Thanks so much for visiting with us today! I hope others were inspired as much as I was. Hope you sell another book in the near future. My children love your book and the humorous illustrations. 


You can learn more about Brenda Reeves Sturgis at her website. Be sure to check out more interviews with debut authors for more inspiration and tips.

6 comments:

  1. I was definitely inspired!!! Thanks for the informative interview :•)

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  2. Great interview! I can also agree that Lisa Wheeler's boot camps are amazing!

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  3. So glad you ladies enjoyed it. Hope you share it with others. Be sure to check out my other interviews with debut pb authors.

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  4. I'm so glad you interviewed her and asked such great questions. Thanks. :)

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  5. Great questions and great interview. I finally read and loved 10 Turkeys in the Road this past March while in the US. This was on Emma Dryden's recommendation as I am trying to develop my rhyme!

    I love the advice to get out and live a bit, as that's where ideas can start flowing. i do think we can get stuck too easily behind our computers!

    Good luck with the 2012 projects, Brenda!

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  6. Great interview! The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein has been a favorite in our house.

    Susanne
    PUTTING WORDS DOWN ON PAPER

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