Friday, April 4, 2014

High Five #31 (4 of 14): Rebecca Colby's Big Break - In More Ways Than One

Week 4 of 14: Here’s a big HIGH FIVE congratulations going out to Rebecca Colby for her debut picture book, which just hit the shelves in the UK, and will be coming to the US in May. Read all about it!

Title:  There was a Wee Lassie who Swallowed a Midgie
Author: Rebecca Colby
Illustrator: Kate McLelland
Publisher: Picture Kelpies (Floris Books)
Release date: May 2014 US (March 2014 UK)
Word count: 624 words
In this Scottish twist on a much-loved rhyme, the wee lassie swallows a succession of Scotland’s favorite creatures to catch that pesky midgie—including a puffin, a Scottie dog, a seal, and even Nessie! After all that, the wee lassie can’t still be hungry. Can she? 
To find out more, you can also take a peek at the book on YouTube.

Question ONE: What are three of your favorite picture books? Just three mind you. 

  1. Tadpole’s Promise by Jeanne Willis, Illustrated by Tony Ross
    • This is a fantastic book about accepting others as they are, with an ending you won’t forget anytime soon. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but the children I’ve shared it with have all loved it, as I do.    
  2. Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer, Illustrated by Scott Magoon
    • This book is mostly monsterly, but like its main character, Bernadette, it also has a sweet side. The book shares the message that you should be yourself. Children will be pleasantly surprised to find out how Bernadette goes about remaining true to her sweet side while still acting like a monster. 
  3. No Matter What by Debi Gliori
    • I bought three copies of this book--one for each of my daughters and one for myself. It is a touching book about how a mother fox reassures her cub that her love for him is unconditional. I love this book and it never fails to bring tears to my eyes! 

Question TWO: Sounds like a lovely list. I bought Mostly Monsterly. Tammi Sauer is awesome. I should read it again. That is if I can find it on my shelves. So...what is your bedtime routine like with your children? How would you say books play a part in that?

I have two wee lassies at home who are 8 and 4 years old. Our bedtime routine is a bit bonkers because I’m not the best at enforcing bedtime. But if the kids have been bouncing off the walls for too long, all I have to say is, “If you’re not ready for bed in 5 minutes, there won’t be any stories tonight!” That always does the trick because they love their books! It’s a family affair and the four of us (hubby too) pig pile into one bed and read a couple of books before going to sleep. It’s a great way to end the day and everyone looks forward to it.

Question THREE: Oh, how I love that your hubby joins in the pig pile for book time. (Do you ever have to actually withhold their stories?) Speaking of stories, how might teachers use your story in the classroom?

Having been a teacher myself, I wanted to ensure the book could be used in the classroom across the curriculum. As such, I’ve produced a free teacher’s guide to the book for students in Kindergarten and Grade 1. The activities range from rhyming games, to measuring with midgies, making Loch Ness monster puppets, learning about habitats, playing Scottish animal movement games, and more. There are also a couple of coloring sheets at the end of the guide that are appropriate for younger children. The guide can be downloaded from my website.

Question FOUR: Awesome! I love that you have a website with resources available. What was your road to publication like and what resources can you give the rest of us?

My road to publication meandered for many years. I started writing picture books when my 8 year old was a baby, and I made every mistake in the book. I hired an illustrator for starters. Then I asked him to illustrate 31 pages of a 32 page book, not realizing until much later that I should have only asked him to illustrate 24 pages. After breaking the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of rejections received, I finally smartened up and found the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and sought professional advice. It was the best career move I’ve ever made. I can’t recommend SCBWI enough. Some of my best friends are SCBWI members, and the support is tremendous! Then I won the 2011 SCBWI Barbara Karlin grant and thought I’d made it. But it wasn’t until 2013 that an industry door finally opened for me.

I like to tell people I got two big breaks in one week: one good and one bad. I broke my wrist ice skating last February, but the day before, I was offered representation from Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Signing with Kathleen really helped to soften the blow of breaking my wrist. A week later Kathleen sold my first book to Feiwel & Friends--which was not the Wee Lassie book but rather a book about a witch parade entitled It’s Raining Bats and Frogs. It was a month later that Wee Lassie sold to Floris Books. The dream had finally come true.

Question FIVE: That is such an awesome story. I love how each writer's journey is truly unique. Congrats on BOTH books! What are your top three writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication so we can join you in the ranks of "dreams coming true"? 

  1. Read, read, read, then write, write, write! A writer needs to do both on a regular basis.
  2. Be determined to be determined! It can be a long road to publication and you musn’t give up. You know what they say about the difference between the writer that got published and the one that didn’t—the published writer never gave up! 
  3. Think outside the box. Can you come up with something that hasn’t been done before? Or find a brand new twist for a familiar story or rhyme? Don’t ever settle for your first 5 ideas because chances are they are not your best ideas. Challenge yourself to find something new to bring to the picture book market. (And if all else fails, go ice skating and hope for a big break!) 
Thank you so much, Rebecca! Part of the purpose of my blog is to help me read more and write more. And to help us all stay inspired and determined. Ideas, ideas... I suppose you can never have too many.

Keep on keepin' on...


  1. Leaving you a comment for your freebie Template for Studying Children's Books. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Sallianne, and for flagging up Christie's free template.

  2. Great post & this gives me hope. BTW, am praying for you and your recent loss!

    1. Keep the faith and don't ever give up! Thank you for stopping by, Kathy.

  3. This looks like a really cute book. Congrats to Rebecca. Thanks for the interview. Very interesting.


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