The second Friday of the month is quickly becoming my favorite! Today, I’m sharing Sue Gallion and I’s conversation. I had the chance to pick her brain about not only her debut picture book (and a little about her second) but also all things SCBWI. I’m just starting to get involved and find my place within my local chapter. I am so excited about being a card-carrying member so, I had no shortage of questions. I hope you learn as much as I did… I should warn you, there’s an awful lot of cuteness in between the lines. Proceed with caution!
Sue, thanks for joining us here! Can I get you something to drink? Coffee or a whole-milk latte would be even better. Thanks for your hospitality!
Certainly! We finally have another “cool front” around here, so coffee sounds great. It had been so warm the past few days that I almost opened a lemonade stand! Oh, well. The struggles of the south. Let’s get started, would you mind telling us a little about how you started writing for children? My background is journalism and public relations, but I got re-hooked on children’s books when my kids were young. I took a children’s literature class about 12 years ago with the thought of becoming a reading specialist, but the assignment to write my own ABC book took me in a different direction. And here I am!
I’d like to jump right into SCBWI. How did you become involved in the first place? How did you find your place? What’s your favorite part of the organization? (Can you tell I’m a new member and just a little excited about it?) I found out about SCBWI from another writer’s group. One of the scarier things in this business to me (which you have to do over and over again!) is walk into a room where you know no one and start a conversation. The first SCBWI event I attended was a full-day workshop in Kansas City with Harold Underdown and several other top speakers. I mentioned to one of the volunteers helping with lunch that I was willing to help out with a future event. The next thing I knew, I was coordinating cupcake donations and stuffing packets. I became Assistant Regional Advisor in 2011 to Colleen Cook, who was the person I introduced myself to at the coffee station at that first event.
I could tell you a thousand favorite things about SCBWI. Many of the people I most respect and admire I’ve met through SCBWI. It is an extraordinary creative community with so many opportunities to learn and grow in our craft. I am certain I never would have been traditionally published without SCBWI. More importantly, I have grown as a writer, as an advocate for children’s literacy, and as a person through SCBWI and the people I’ve come to know.
I encourage people to be brave and pursue this dream by connecting with others, and then be sure to pat yourself on the back for being brave! It takes guts to share your work with others. It also takes a lot of humility and perseverance.
How serendipitous! You’re totally right, somehow as an adult, it’s still a bit nerve-wracking to be the new kid on the playground. How long were you involved for before you sold Pug Meets Pig? About five years. The sale of the manuscript actually came directly from a manuscript consultation at the SCBWI LA conference in 2013.
Of course, it did. You and SCBWI have quite a sweet love story. Was Pug Meets Pig your first picture book manuscript? No way! I worked on many manuscripts before it, and I revised it over several years. I do wish I had moved on from some of my first manuscripts sooner, though. I think lots of us get too caught up in that one first story and revise it over and over again, rather than move on to new ideas. Lin Oliver of SCBWI has solid advice to think of your career and your body of work rather than just one book. We all have more than one idea in us.
That’s excellent advice. It took me longer than I care to admit to realize that I needed to move on past my first manuscript and start working on others. Do you remember the first time you saw it on a bookstore shelf? You bet! It was shelved right next to Josh Funk’s Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast. Also a thrill!
Ohhhh, that’s a great shelf to be on! Surely you took a picture? Then to have your second picture book follow so closely must’ve been the most delicious icing on the cake. Pug & Pig Trick or Treat is equally as adorable. Not to mention, now you have a series! Was writing Trick or Treat more or less difficult than you anticipated? Will we have the chance to follow this pair on more adventures? The second story was inspired by my dog’s reaction to the dog next door dressed in a skeleton costume. I had no plans to write a second book, and I had no idea if Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster would ever buy it. It was a thrill when Andrea Welch acquired it right away. Stay tuned for more adventures for these two!
I can’t wait to tell my kids! They’re going to be thrilled. So you must’ve done something to get your book on that incredible shelf. Can you tell us how you approached the release of your debut picture book? What worked well for you from a marketing standpoint? That’s a whole other blog, but I took every approach I could imagine, including mailing books to celebrity pugs and pigs around the country.
I’ll just have to invite you back one day and you can tell us all about marketing, pigs and pugs, debut and seasonal books. Can you tell us about your experience working with an illustrator? The animals are so adorable… I could just reach out and pinch their cheeks! Seeing this story come to life visually was one of the most thrilling parts of this whole process. Joyce Wan is an incredible artist and visual storyteller. The team of Andrea Welch and Allyn Johnston, Beach Lane editors, and Lauren Rille, the art director, is simply brilliant. It’s been an honor to work with them and I’ve learned so much from them.
That reminds me of the quote I heard once on a podcast, ‘it takes a village to make a picture book.’ Within the words of your story, there’s a profound message about adapting to change and accepting others into ‘your space’. With three kids, very close in age, that’s a lesson that gets lots of practice at my house! Did that drive your story, or did the theme come along as you wrote it? The issue of change was at the heart of the story from the very beginning. Whether you’re a young child with a new sibling or an adult with a new colleague or family member, change can be hard! The themes of empathy and acceptance of others and their differences are very important to me. As I study picture books and work to improve my own writing, I look for that layer of emotion and heart, and I hope it’s part of my own books.
I appreciated the heart in this one so much and there’s an equally great message in Trick or Treat. Your one year anniversary as a published author just passed on September 26! If a release date is considered a book birthday, seems fitting call that your First Book-iversary! Did you celebrate the day? I did a story time for the second Pug and Pig book at a local toy store with a real pig that day, which was a wonderful way to celebrate.
What’s the best thing about dropping the pre- from pre-published and making it to the published side of the industry? The most rewarding part has been the interaction with kids and families and their responses to the book. What a joy!
Not to mention the fact that you get to hang out with the super cute pig! (Did you spot Eva the pig in the picture???) Is there anything you’ve learned in the past year that you wished you had known in advance? I wish I’d been more organized day by day. In addition to a good writing winter, I need to do a giant office cleanout! And I wish I had attended more story times at libraries or school visits by other authors before this year. Watching someone else do a story time and seeing how kids respond is a great learning opportunity for a writer, and it’s very good preparation for library and school visits in the future.
I just went to my first, obviously to be supportive but mentally I was taking notes. What’s up next for you?!? Where can we find, and follow you on Social Media? I’m looking forward to a good writing winter, with lots of coffee! Find me on Twitter (my favorite!) @SueLGallion, or on Facebook at Sue Lowell Gallion. My website is suegallion.com.
Thanks for taking the time to visit with me!
Thanks for the opportunity! And best wishes for your writing winter ahead, too!
Wasn’t she fantastic? Next month, come back for more fun! I’ll be talking to Jodi McKay, author of Where Are the Words? and I’m equally excited about sharing that conversation! I also had a lot of excitement this week. I made it on to Susanna Hill’s Would You Read it Wednesday! Next week I’m going to rebuild my pitch right here, using some of the fantastic feedback I received. Until then, I hope you’re writing/building/doing something fabulous!
Thanks for reading, come back anytime!