Tag Archives: The Road That Trucks Built

We have a winner of The Road That Trucks Built!

It’s been a busy month of July here on Polilla Writes, and it’s been a great experience to be involved in the blog tours of When Your Lion Needs a Bath, When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles, and The Road That Trucks Built – all written by Susanna Leonard Hill. We’ve met her two illustrators – Daniel Wiseman and Erica Sirotich. We’ve learned some crazy, fun, surprising things about Susanna who shared recipes and crafts with us, and we’ve had three giveaways, one for each book, which brings me to …

the pleasure of announcing the winner of The Road That Trucks Built!

Using the random name picker thingie, I learned that ….

the winner’s comment included this: If I were one of these construction vehicles, I’d be a roller. 

And that person is …

DANIELLE!

CONGRATULATIONS,  DANIELLE!

You can expect a book in the mail from Susanna; just give her a little time. 🙂

Huge thanks to everyone who came to read and learn, participate and encourage. It means a lot to me that you came to visit my blog, and to Susanna, Daniel and Erica that you came to learn about their work.

I hope you all go purchase at least one copy of each of these fun books. (I’ve even made it super easy for you to find them by going to BUY THE BOOK here on my blog.) There are children out there who’ll enjoy them. Perhaps you’d like to donate a copy of one, two, or all three to your local school library or public library or day care. Books are meant to be shared and loved.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

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Last chance to win The Road That Trucks Built – by Susanna Leonard Hill

Hi, Picture Book Lovers!

I am adding my last extra blog post into my busy all-about-Susanna-Leonard-Hill-&-her-books-and-illustrators-in-July schedule. This is to remind you that today – at 9 PM EST – your chance to win, here on my blog, a copy of The Road That Trucks Built .. brakes to a halt … red light, over.

You can go HERE to read my interview with illustrator Erica Sirotich and leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of Susanna Leonard Hill‘s children’s book The Road That Trucks Built.

Take a look at this fun illustration created by Erica:

 

 

 

Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustration copyright © 2017 by Erica Sirotich
Used by permission of Little Simon

If you want to enter the draw, just leave a comment on the July 20 interview post telling us which truck you would want to be or drive – the bulldozer, the scraper, the grader, the paver, the roller, or the paint marker – and your name will go into the random name picker tool I use to determine who is the winner … of a book, not of permission to drive the truck.  🙂  It’s fair and easy!

The month is coming to a close – can you believe it! – ending my part in Susanna’s blog tour for Trucks.  Thanks to Susanna (author), Little Simon (publisher), and Erica Sirotich (illustrator), and – of course – to everyone who enjoyed this with us. We greatly value your interest and comments. 🙂

Be sure to check your email tonight if you entered the draw. In the next post (on July 30) I will announce the winner of The Road That Trucks Built.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂  

Truck snacks from Susanna Leonard Hill for when your little road builder gets the munchies

While we wait a few more days to know who of you wins a copy of The Road That Trucks Built by Susanna Leonard Hill, Susanna came up with a little trio of “recipes” to go with the TRUCK book. 🙂  Enjoy!

From Susanna …

If you’ve got a little road builder at your house, what could be better than a traffic light snack? 😊

Here are three options with varying degrees of preschool do-it-yourself and grown-up actually-having-to-cook involvement 😊

Easy Healthy Graham Cracker Traffic Lights

You will need graham crackers, strawberries, bananas, green grapes, and some kind of nut butter.

Divide graham crackers in half along the lines provided so you have rectangles instead of squares.

Slice circular pieces of strawberries, bananas, and green grapes.

Spread the graham cracker rectangles with a little peanut butter (or other nut butter to taste or if there are allergies).

Place a strawberry round on top for the red light, a banana round in the middle for the yellow light, and a green grape round on the bottom for the green light.

Voila!  Easy, healthy traffic light snack for your little driver!


Rice Krispie Treat Traffic Lights

You will need Rice Krispies, a bag of marshmallows, and about 1/2 a stick of butter, (or ready-made Rice Krispie Treats), and red, yellow and green m&ms.

Make a batch of Rice Krispie Treats as per the directions on the cereal box  or, if you’re short on time or prefer not to tangle with melted marshmallow 😊  do it the easy way and buy ready-made Rice Krispie Treats.

If you make them yourself, cut the treats into rectangles and, while still a little warm and soft, press red, yellow and green m&ms on for traffic lights.

If you use the ready-made ones they are precut to the correct dimensions but since they’re cold you’ll just need to use a tiny bit of nut butter, icing, or softened marshmallow to stick the m&ms onto them.

Voila!  Easy, still pretty healthy traffic light snack for your little construction worker!


Cookie Pop Traffic Lights

You will need a batch of your favorite sugar cookie recipe, or a Betty Crocker or similar mix with 1/3 cup butter, 1 egg, and a tablespoon of flour, or a roll of refrigerated sugar cookie dough, plus some popsicle sticks (flat craft sticks with rounded ends) and red, yellow, and green m&ms.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Prepare a batch of your favorite sugar cookie recipe (or do it the easy way and use Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix or refrigerated rolled sugar cookie dough)

Roll the dough on a floured surface about 1/4 inch thick and cut into 3 X 1 inch rectangles.

Place about an inch of a popsicle stick into a 1 inch side of each cookie.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet 2 inches apart.

Bake 7-9 minutes or until edges are light brown.

Immediately press red, yellow, and green m&ms into each cookie.

Cool 2 minutes, then remove from baking sheet and finish cooling on cooking racks for about 30 minutes or until completely cool.

Makes about 30 cookie traffic lights for your little road builder!

These all look so fun to make! And you can still enter the July 29 draw to win a copy of The Road That Trucks Built by commenting on my July 20 post

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

 

Interview with illustrator Erica Sirotich; & a book giveaway!

I’m delighted today to welcome you to my second illustrator interview! Erica Sirotich, illustrator of The Road That Trucks Built – written by Susanna Leonard Hill – accepted my invitation to answer some questions here for us.

Welcome to my interview corner, Erica! I’m happy to invite you as only the second illustrator I’ve ever interviewed. I’m learning wonderful things about creating. 🙂 By way of introduction, could you tell us a little about yourself?

 

Hi there! I am a freelance and children’s book illustrator living in St Pete, Florida. I’ve been working on picture books for about four years, and illustrating professionally for eight. I am the illustrator of Susanna Hill’s adorable The Road That Trucks Built, but I must mention that my author-illustrator debut, Found Dogs, just came out too (July 18)! It’s a picture book for young children about adopting dogs from the local shelter; it’s published by Dial (Penguin) and can be found wherever books are sold!
Other than drawing, I love my dog Russell Redfur (all dogs really); I enjoy lots of coffee and talk radio and podcasts while I work; and I’m a big collector. I collect picture books and art books, stamps, rocks from my travels, Japanese wooden kokeshi dolls, and most recently, plants.

Congratulations on your author-illustrator debut! That’s exciting! When did you first know you wanted to be an illustrator? Who or what inspired you, and what keeps you motivated?
Well, I’ve been drawing my entire life. My little brother and I grew up drawing together, and we’re both working illustrators now. As kids, we inspired and challenged each other all the time, and taught each other drawing techniques and tricks. He still inspires me (www.nicksirotich.com), and so do hundreds of other illustrators, whose work I follow online, on Instagram, and whose books I obsessively collect.

It’s wonderful you have someone close to you with that same interest. Can you tell us a little about your technique and choice of medium?
I sketch everything first in pencil, of course, and when sketches are approved by my art director, I refine them and move on to ink. Depending on the project, I either use brush pens and fine tip pens to create crisp line art (as in Trucks), or brushes and ink to create a slightly looser, softer look (as in Found Dogs). When the ink drawings are complete, I scan those in and collage the pieces together in Photoshop, and color the images digitally. My finished pieces are hybrids of traditional and digital illustration processes.

It all sounds very interesting. How do you decide on how the characters will look?
I just sketch and sketch and sketch and the characters’ personalities emerge gradually and organically from this process. For Trucks, I first had to study all of the vehicles that appear in the book to try to understand how they move and work. (I had never even heard of a scraper before!) So I gathered dozens of reference photos of the trucks and tacked them on my cork wall in front of my desk. Some of them reminded me of certain animals; for instance, the bulldozer reminded me of a little crab, and since we wanted the trucks to be characters in their own right, I embraced that comparison and drew her that way—as a crabby dozer. (She’s not crabby, actually; she’s cheery, and carries a purple flower in her exhaust pipe.)

Yes, she looks quite happy doing her work. 🙂 How much is your own idea when illustrating a book, and how much direction is decided for you? In other words, how much freedom are you given? Do you do any brainstorming with the author?
Usually when I’m working on initial sketches for a book the art director has provided a couple sentences describing what should appear on each page or spread. I’m given a lot of freedom to determine how to execute that, but once the entire book is sketched out, the art director often makes more recommendations to improve consistency across spreads, to fix tricky areas, to remove unnecessary elements or add necessary ones, and so on.
Recommendations in the Trucks illustration process included things like: let’s change the perspective on this page, or zoom out to see a wider view; let’s show each truck from the previous spread in the current spread; let’s show more rocks and sticks in the dirt; let’s add more confetti to the road opening celebration; things like that.
When illustrating a book, I work exclusively with the art director, not the author. That’s just the standard process in publishing. I do believe the art director/editor shows the author the sketches once they’re complete, and then the finished pieces at the end.
The author is consulted in part to make sure nothing has been misinterpreted or
misunderstood, and to make sure she likes how it’s materializing. But I don’t
communicate with the author directly; the art director calls most of the shots.

Your illustrations for Susanna’s book, The Road That Trucks Built, are very well-suited to children. How did you land this assignment? Approximately how long did it take you to complete this book?

Thank you! Well, I have an agent, Jenn Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary, so my projects mostly come straight through her. For Trucks, the art director saw my work and contacted Jenn to see if I’d be interested in illustrating it. I thought the manuscript was so cute and clever, and though animals are my favorite things to illustrate, I loved that in Trucks the vehicles had to be depicted as characters in their own right. So, of course, I jumped at the opportunity.
I believe the process for illustrating Trucks spanned about six months, but I was actively illustrating for about four. For a short period of time, I was hopping between illustrations for Trucks and Found Dogs.

What is it about illustrating children’s books that appeals to you?
I just love children’s books and I’m over the moon that I have had the opportunity to work on several thus far. I think some of the most compelling and innovative work in illustration these days is being done in picture books. There’s so many incredibly talented people out there making them, I’m just humbled and honored to play a tiny part in that world.
Also, I love that working on books is kind of a hybrid between being a freelancer and having a “real job.” When illustrating a book, you know you’ll be busy for several months at a time and can budget your time (and expenses) accordingly. Being self-employed can be a roller coaster of busy—not busy—busy and also making money—not making money—making money. Longer projects help build some stability in an otherwise unpredictable career.

I understand about your love for picture books, and when you help create them it must be thrilling! Writers have critique groups, editors, agents, how does that work for you as an illustrator?
I have a wonderful agent. It’s been her connections and enthusiasm for my work that’s led to all of my major projects over the last four years. For illustration-only projects, like Trucks, I work with art directors rather than editors. I don’t know of anything along the lines of an illustration critique group, but I have a lot of illustrator friends, as well as my brother, who weigh in if I get stuck or need advice. And I post a lot of work and process shots on Instagram, which has a very large illustration and picture book community. It’s nice to get feedback from folks there, and feel connected to a creative community that’s dispersed across the globe.

Obviously, it’s important to have those connections. Is being an illustrator all you had hoped or thought it would be?
Haha! Well, in some ways, yes. First and foremost, I get to draw (almost) every day, so in that way, I’m living the dream. Being self-employed can be difficult, though. I’m lucky to have some regular clients in addition to my book illustration projects, including Highlights Magazine, and that helps me fill in the gaps.
There’s that saying out there: If you do what you love, you won’t work a day in your life. That’s not true, ha! I usually work 6-7 days a week, nights included, and I work very hard. (Yes, sometimes I’m sitting on my couch in the living room while I work, but there’s always more to do and I don’t like to procrastinate.)
All that said, the work is a privilege and joy. The fact that, in the end, it lands in the hands of children makes it even more special and even kind of surreal. I just love it.

How wonderful that you have been able to turn what you love to do into something you … love to do for a  job! Do you have any advice for hopefuls?
There’s no substitute for dedication, persistence, work, and study. If you want to work on picture books (or on any particular book genre), read and study as many recently published picture books as you can (last five years, preferably). Use your favorites as mentor texts and try to really understand how those works are put together and why they are successful. Join SCBWI, study their website and resources, and do your best to attend at least one regional or international conference. Soak up the collective wisdom of that group. Hone your style and present your work professionally online, in a clean, standalone website. In your portfolio, show fewer strong pieces, rather than more mediocre ones. Follow agents on social media and, when you’re ready to submit your work to them, follow their guidelines and only submit your best. Maintain a professional persona online; don’t post things that you wouldn’t want a potential client
to see. And don’t quit your day job too soon. Getting consistent work in illustration and publishing can take years and years. Try not to be discouraged. The process is slow but the rewards are worth it. Good luck!

Thanks, Erica, for a very interesting interview and for giving us a glimpse into your world. 🙂 Congratulations, again, on your own book debut this week! I wish you continued success.

WHERE YOU CAN FIND ERICA:

Website
Twitter: @cuddlefishpress 
Instagram: @ericasirotichon 
FaceBook 

And now …

Susanna Leonard Hill, and her publisher, Little Simon, are offering to one of you a copy of The Road That Trucks Built

 

 

 

The rules are simple. Leave a comment on this post telling us which type of ‘truck’ in the road crew you would like to drive, and your name will be entered into the draw – not to actually drive one of them, though. (Sorry)  🙂  You have the ones in the story from which to choose: the bulldozer, the scraper, the grader, the paver, the roller, the paint marker. (If you read my interview with Susanna you know which one she is likely to choose. 🙂 )You have until Saturday, July 29, at 9:00 PM EST to enter. Using the “random name picker” I will select one name, and the next morning – Sunday, July 30 – I will announce the winner of a copy of The Road That Trucks Built. Be sure to check your email Saturday night because I will be contacting the winner for a mailing address.

Don’t delay, comment today! And please pass the news on to your friends; post on Twitter, FaceBook, or what ever way you communicate with the world. We thank you.

To catch up on the exciting things that have been happening here all month read about it. (You have until July 22 to enter the previous draw, too.)

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 

Book Review: The ROAD That TRUCKS BUILT – by Susanna Leonard Hill; fun activity, & announcements!

 

 

 

 

 

Book: The ROAD That TRUCKS BUILT
Author: Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustrator: Erica Sirotich
Publisher: Little Simon
Date: July 25, 2017
Genre: picture book; age 4 - 7, Preschool - 2
Pages: 40; hardcover
Price: $12.99
My rating: A fabulous book to delight the whole family

This is my seventh of twelve scheduled posts as my part in the back-to-back blog tours for Susanna Leonard Hill‘s three books coming out this month. How exciting is that! 🙂

Today I am reviewing the third of those three, a stand-alone book called The Road That Trucks Built, illustrated by Erica Sirotich. Even though it’s about trucks, this is a book that will appeal not only to little boys.

The first thing you’ll notice is the wonderful design (by Chani Yammer, as noted on the back cover) that allows the child to view each type of truck as it’s introduced in the story by turning a wheel that’s part of the front cover and tucked inside it. It’s not flimsy, either, but sturdy like the solid part of the covers. And it looks like a truck tire. Fun!

The Road That Trucks Built is a story written in easy, bouncy rhyme and rhythm. The reader is taken from being presented with a problem – that of traffic congestion and the need of a new road – to being taken through construction of the new road. Each step along the way is represented in lovely illustrations, showing the work done by each different type of truck in the road crew.  The trucks – a bulldozer, a scraper, a grader, a paver, a roller, a paint marker – are brightly illustrated and happy-faced. Then the story backtracks, reminding the reader of how the road got built taking each step in reverse, from paint marker to bulldozer.

This can be a wonderful memory game, a matching game, a learning colours game as each truck is a different colour, and identifying the words that rhyme.

In the very back are two facing pages on which is A guide to the trucks: and each one is shown with some descriptive words. An example is GRADER – Cab, Edge Blade, Engine, Front Axle – with a line from the word to the identified part. This is another way to learn and strengthen memory of the name of the truck, or its parts, or the colour. Susanna Leonard Hill has included many fun things for this book.

Erica Sirotich did a fantastic job at creating all the different trucks for this story.

 

 

And look at this illustration of the backed-up traffic before the new road is built:

 

 


Text copyright © 2017 by Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustration copyright © 2017 by Erica Sirotich
Used by permission of Little Simon

A cute illustration feature of this book is that both the front and back end-pages are covered with construction pylons – which you might know by another name such as traffic cones, road cones, highway cones, or  safety cones.

The Road That Trucks Built is available July 25, so you can pre-order now!

BONUS: To add to the fun, Susanna has provided us with a truck craft!

*** Popsicle Stick Pick-Up Truck

You will need:

4 jumbo popsicle sticks (per truck you want to make)

2 mini popsicle sticks (per truck you want to make)

Craft Paint and Paint Brushes  OR  Markers

Glue

Colored card stock

Scissors

Lay four jumbo popsicle sticks next to each other on a flat surface.

Glue two mini popsicle sticks across them (going the other way) one near each end.

This makes the body of the truck.

Set them aside until the glue has dried completely.

When the glue is dry, the kids can paint (or color) the popsicle sticks however they want while you cut wheels (circles), cabs (large trapezoids), windows (smaller trapezoids the same shape as the large ones), and grills (half circles) from card stock.

Glue the card stock wheels to the bottom of the popsicle stick truck body.

Glue the cab on top, and glue the window onto the cab.

Glue the grill on the front.

Feel free to embellish with rhinestones, glitter, paper flames, etc… whatever strikes your fancy!


Now you can play with the trucks or just display them proudly 😊 ***

Wait! Before you go I have two other important things to tell you.

Come back on Thursday, July 20, for my second illustrator interview! Erica Sirotich, illustrator of Susanna’s The Road That Trucks Built, shares some interesting insight into illustrating. And we’re having a giveaway! (Be sure to follow the fun and easy rules to get into the draw.)

Exciting things are happening all month! Read about it HERE

We look forward to your supportive comments.

You can find The ROAD That TRUCKS BUILT by Susanna Leonard Hill on my BUY THE BOOK page. I also post my reviews on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Goodreads, and on Chapters.Indigo if available there. 

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

BONUS: Blog tour schedule for The Road That Trucks Built (with slight variation regarding my posts near end of July)  This link takes you to Susanna’s blog.

 

Interview with author Susanna Leonard Hill; & book giveaway!

I am excited today to welcome you to my interview with author Susanna Leonard Hill! This interview is part of the blog tour that Susanna is doing for her picture books being released this month. Please read my review of When Your Lion Needs a Bath, and later my upcoming reviews of When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles (review on July 11), and The Road That Trucks Built (review on July 18.)    Now, allow me to introduce our guest author …

Welcome to my interview corner, Susanna! I’m happy to be participating in two back-to-back blog tours for your … not one, not two, but THREE new books coming out this month! Thank you for doing this interview at such an exciting time.

First, please tell our readers a little about yourself.

Hmm… a little about myself…

  • I was born in New York City.
  • I have two brothers and one sister.
  • I once poked my kindergarten teacher with an umbrella.
  • Wasps and ticks give me the heebie-jeebies.
  • The year I turned 9 my birthday was on Easter Sunday – which never happened before or since.
  • Red is my favorite color of jelly bean.
  • At summer camp I drank Orange Crush out of the can with a Twizzler.
  • I love to play with words – writing, of course, but also word games of all kinds.
  • I went to school for a really long time for advanced degrees I don’t use much when writing about bath-averse lions, little girls who won’t sleep, and opinionated groundhogs 🙂
  • I know all the words to the Gilligan’s Island and Partridge Family Theme Songs. (Though I am uncertain about the PIN# of my ATM card. 🙂
  • I have five amazing kids.
  • If it’s made of chocolate, I love it. 🙂
  • On my last school visit the popular guess on how old I am was 100. Seriously.

And you have a wonderful sense of humour, I’d say. 🙂  When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?

It probably sounds trite, but I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  (Well, after the phase where I wanted to drive a steam roller… 🙂 )  I grew up in a house full of books and I was always read to, so I had a very early love of picture books and there was something about them that just called to me.  I wanted to write one.  I wanted my name to be on a book because I had written it.  And something about writing helps me think.  I am far more comfortable writing than speaking!

I’m sure we’re all very glad you chose writing instead of operating a steam roller! 🙂  As a writer, do you do much reading? Who were/are your favourite authors or books or genres?

I have always read a lot.  When I was little I read Pippi Longstocking, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, the Little House books, the Anne of Green Gables series, every single Nancy Drew mystery, and every horse book I could get my hands on… just to name a few…!  Nowadays I read a wide variety – I like mysteries, action, adventure, fantasy – Jack Reacher, Game of Thrones, etc. – but I also read and like a lot of YA.

Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in
yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?

I have never felt like giving up writing.  I love to write.  I need to write.  But I have felt like giving up submitting.  It can be very discouraging.  I am not a person with a lot of self-confidence, so I’m not sure even now that I believe in myself.  But I did start identifying myself as a writer after my fourth book was published.  At that point I felt like, somehow, I was at least a little bit legitimate.

I understand about the submitting. Do you have a favourite motto or quote or Bible verse that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?

I don’t know if I do exactly… that’s an interesting question.  The quote at the top of my Face Book page is one I like a lot – “Live well.  Laugh often.  Love much.”

That’s a very good one to live by as it affects one’s attitude positively. How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals .. daily? weekly? monthly? long-range?

I write because I love to write.  I can’t really say that I have specific goals or a specific schedule.  Creativity takes a lot of energy, so there are times when life is busy and a day or a week will go by when I don’t write anything new.  And sometimes life is hard, and that can rob me of creativity as well.  But in general, writing is one of the things I look forward to – not that it’s easy! – but, as I’m sure is the case for many writers (and other creatives – artists, musicians, etc.), it fills a need in me and is something I can’t stay away from for long.

Yes, I agree, it does take a lot of energy. What other interests do you have for a change from writing?

I love to be outdoors.  I like to walk, run, and hike.  I love animals – dogs and horses in particular – and I love to ride, although I don’t have time for it as often as I’d like.  I play the piano (when it isn’t so covered in books that I can’t get to the keys 🙂 ) and I love to read.

All great ways to restore that creative energy. What have you had published thus far, and what do you remember about the very first time you were published?

THE HOUSE THAT MACK BUILT (Little Simon, 2002)
TAXI! (Little Simon 2005)
PUNXSUTAWNEY PHYLLIS (Holiday House 2005)
NO SWORD FIGHTING IN THE HOUSE (Holiday House 2007)
NOT YET, ROSE (Eerdmans Books For Young Readers 2009)
AIRPLANE FLIGHT (Little Simon 2009)
FREIGHT TRAIN TRIP (little Simon 2009)
CAN’T SLEEP WITHOUT SHEEP (Walker/Bloomsbury 2010)
APRIL FOOL, PHYLLIS! (Holiday House 2011)
BEER IS ZO MOE! (Veltman Uitgevers  2011) – available in Dutch only
WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH (Little Simon 2017)
WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES (Little Simon 2017)
THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT (Little Simon 2017)

Every time I get a call from my agent saying she has an offer, it’s like a dream come true.  I can’t believe how lucky I am that an editor liked something I wrote enough to get behind it and share it with the world.  And I feel grateful that there will be another book (because I never EVER take that for granted!)

But there’s something extra-special about the very first time. 🙂

I had gone from remedial language tutoring with dyslexic kids to being a full-time stay-at-home mom after my youngest was born. I had been writing for kids for a couple years in my “spare time” (2 AM by the bathroom nightlight, you know, that kind of spare time 🙂 ), and found my agent by serendipity (but that’s a story for another day!) and she had sent a couple of my manuscripts out on submission a few months earlier.

One cold, gray January day in the early afternoon, when one child was at first grade and two were napping, the phone rang.  It was Liza (my amazing and wonderful friend and agent.)

“So,” she said, with a smile in her voice, “I have an offer for you!”

My heart stopped.

I couldn’t breathe.

Her words wouldn’t sink in!

“What?” I stammered intelligently.

“Erin Molta at Little Simon wants to buy The House That Mack Built!” she said.

In a haze of unreality, I scribbled notes about the details of the deal, then hung up the phone in disbelief.  My heart was so full I couldn’t hold it in, but the babies were sleeping and every parent on earth knows you never want to wake a sleeping child!

So I hugged this wonderful, amazing, unbelievable news to myself, fist-pumped the air, squealed a silent “SQUEEEE!!!” in my head, and on light bare feet raced a lap or two of the downstairs of my house, overflowing with excited energy!

I was going to be published!

There was going to be a book with my name on it!

It was, quite literally, a dream come true and one of the best moments of my life!

I feel the excitement in your relating of it for us, Susanna! What process do you go through when writing and perfecting your work?

I write every first draft with pen and paper.  I think better with the physical act of forming letters 🙂  Once I have a draft, I type it into the computer, revising as I go.

Then I revise again.

Then I revise again.

Then I revise again.

You get the idea. 🙂

Until I feel like the manuscript is as strong as I can make it.

At that point, I usually give it to a trusted critique partner or two to read and comment on.  Occasionally I send it to an editor friend to critique for me.

When I feel like the manuscript is as ready as I can get it, I send it to my agent.

Sometimes she says, “This is great!  I’ll send it to so-and-so!”  Other times she tells me she thinks it could work if I change the ending or strengthen the conflict or something, in which case I take a crack at it.  But sometimes she just doesn’t see potential and doesn’t think she can sell it, and I have to chalk it up to an idea I couldn’t make work.  For now… 🙂

I, too, hand-write most of my drafts. The process of actual writing is healthier for the brain, a serious consideration.     I admire your work ethic and determination. What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?

I’m afraid there isn’t much in the way of “method” or “keeping track”! 🙂  I scribble things on random scraps of paper which litter my desk in piles!  If the occasion arises when I’m scrambling for ideas, I rummage through the piles! 🙂  I would include a photo of my desk, but I don’t want you to have nightmares. 🙂

Haha! You wouldn’t want to see my desk! I’ve found buried notes and thought … oh, wow, did I write this? It could be a good idea! 🙂 What inspired you to write your three newest books? When Your Lion Needs a Bath; When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles; The Road That Trucks Built.

I think I mentioned that I have 5 kids. 🙂  That pretty much sums it up. 🙂

A large percentage of my ideas come from life with my children who, I’m sure you will be shocked to know 🙂 , frequently objected to baths and haircuts and bedtime and were sometimes miserable with sniffles. So the WHEN YOUR… books came from a lot of those moments.  THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT was inspired by two things: my son, who as a toddler was so enamored of construction vehicles that one of his first words was “mass excavator”, and a good friend who actually builds roads.

There’s inspiration all around us, if we’ll only see it. 🙂  Approximately how long did it take you to write each of the three books? Did you have to do much research for any of them? Is there something specific you’d like to share about each of them?

You know, this will sound terrible, but I’m not really sure how long it took me to write each book!  I know I got the basic idea down and then went through several rounds of revision, much of it focused on tightening the text.  As for research, well, in the case of LION and ELEPHANT I’d pretty much done that over the course of 20 years as a parent. 🙂  And in the case of TRUCKS, my son picked out the books he wanted me to read to him and I read them…research as a bonus of reading with my child. 🙂

It all works! 🙂  The illustrations for each are wonderful. Did you get to share your vision with the illustrators of your books?

I never get to speak with my illustrators during the creation of the book.  But in the case of LION and ELEPHANT, I did include a fair number of art notes because the text was fairly brief and much of the humor depended on what was shown in the art in relation to what was said in the text, so I had to make sure my vision was clear.  Daniel did an absolutely fantastic job.  I couldn’t be happier!  His illustrations are exactly right for these stories! 🙂  I did not include such notes for Erica for TRUCKS, but even without my helpful instructions 🙂 she did a fantastic job!

I agree! Both illustrators did fabulous work. How ever did you manage to get three books published so close together? And along with that how did you go about finding a publisher? an editor? or did you have an agent to handle that for you? (You mentioned her earlier.)

The fact that these books are coming out so close together is just luck of the draw!  Since WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH and WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES are the start of a series, the editor wanted to release them together.  The third series title will release on January 2, 2018, and the fourth in Fall 2018.  THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT was edited by a different editor in the same house!  I don’t know how often that happens – it has never happened to me before – but somehow the books were all just ready at the same time.  I do have an agent – the wonderful and talented Liza Voges of Eden Street Lit without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today!– and she was in charge of submissions.

That’s amazing! What is it about writing children’s books that appeals to you?

Everything is new to children.  They are still full of curiosity and wonder.  I love writing for people who are so eager to absorb and for whom you can make a difference.  Because along with the positive side of newness, children have a lot to learn about the world and their place in it, and that can sometimes feel a little frightening, confusing, overwhelming, or lonely.  Books can help children understand both how things work and that they’re not alone in their experiences and feelings.  If I can help one child feel more comfortable with the arrival of a new sibling, or laugh over having the sniffles instead of feeling plain miserable, I feel like I did a good thing.  And just the opportunity to make reading an enjoyable experience for kids – something they can carry with them – is very appealing.

I like your heart. What do you do to help and encourage others in their writing goals?

I teach an online picture book writing class called Making Picture Book Magic, which I try to make accessible and affordable and doable time-wise, and which I hope is helpful to those who take it.  I also write a blog with features that allow writers to practice pitching (Would You Read It Wednesday), do a fun writing exercise together (Short & Sweets), or ask questions about the picture book writing life and craft (Oh Susanna!).  I also run several writing contests a year on my blog for which I try to include prizes such as critiques by editors, agents, and authors.  I also offer critiques of picture book manuscripts.

I plan to take your writing class at some point and have been urged by other writers because they’ve found it to be so good. I’ve only added my comment once in your pitching help, and I’ve participated in two of your writing contests. I’ll be back to try more! 🙂 Do you have other projects in the works? If so, can you give our readers any hints?

I have a couple more books coming out over the next 2 years …

  • WHEN YOUR LLAMA NEEDS A HAIRCUT (Little Simon January 2, 2018)
    WHEN YOUR MONKEYS WON’T GO TO BED (Little Simon Fall 2018)
    ALPHABEDTIME! (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House Spring 2019)
  • MOON DREAMS (Sourcebooks Spring 2019)

– those are all to some degree works-in-progress because there may well still be a call for edits on one or more of them.  Aside from those, I have a few other manuscripts I’m kicking around that are not ready for humans yet, although my dogs have had to listen to them innumerable times. 🙂

That’s actually FOUR more books, Susanna! How fortunate you are. As for dogs, they make a considerate audience; my little one tips her head attentively when I read anything out loud. 🙂 Is being a writer/author all you had hoped or thought it would be?

You know, Lynn, it really is – for me.  I love to write.  I am grateful that my circumstances allow me to do what I love, even though what I earn is more supplemental income than making a living.  I have been incredibly fortunate to be published, and that has allowed me to teach writing, which I love to do, and to do school visits which I also love, and to write a blog where I get to be part of a lovely community of like-minded folks.  So yes.  If anything it’s more than I thought it would be 🙂

I’m so glad for you.  Do you have any advice for hopefuls?

My advice is probably much the same as what you’ve heard from other writers.  Read as much as you can in the genre you hope to be published in.  Practice your writing.  Read good books on writing craft.  Take some writing courses if you can – online or in person.  Join SCBWI and go to some writing conferences.  Join a critique group. Write.  Write.  And write some more!  And if you really want to be published, never give up.  Keep improving your writing.  Keep trying.  Keep submitting.  Because the best idea ever won’t sell if you never bring yourself to write it and send it out into the world. 🙂

Thank you, Susanna, for an insightful interview. It’s been fun. 🙂

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Lynn, and for doing so much this month to give my new books a good start!

It’s truly my pleasure. 🙂   And now …

Susanna Leonard Hill and her publisher, Little Simon, are offering to one of you a copy of When Your LION Needs a BATH! Yay!!!

The rules are simple. Leave a comment on this post telling how you would coax your lion into the bath, and your name will be entered into the draw. 🙂 You have until Saturday, July 15, at 9:00 PM EST to enter. Using the “random name picker” I will select one name, and the next morning – Sunday, July 16 – I will announce the winner. Be sure to check your email Saturday night because I will be contacting the winner for a mailing address.

Check out Susanna’s blog for fun things including the schedule for the other participating blogs in her tour.  More from Susanna:

Website
Blog - watch a fun trailer for When Your Lion Needs a Bath
Making Picture Book Magic (online writing class)

Don’t delay, comment today! And please pass the news on to your friends; post on Twitter, FaceBook, or what ever way you communicate with the world. We thank you.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂