Let’s Talk, Patricia Saunders!

Somewhere in the range of 15 years ago, I spent the summer with my aunt & uncle working at a camp for gifted & talented students in the DFW area. My list of responsibilities was simple, prepare snacks and set-up/take-down/extra-set-of-hands kind of work; the teachers were the ones in charge of the kiddos. If my memory serves me well, one of my favorite rooms to help out in was the art room. The teacher was funny, passionate, down to earth and none other than my guest today! You can imagine my surprise a couple years ago when I crossed paths with her again, this time on an aspiring author level of the picture book variety. (Shout out to the same aunt who helped us to connect happens to be one of my most loyal followers! 😉) Patricia didn’t remain ‘aspiring’ for long after we reconnected and today, I’m thrilled to help her celebrate the release of her debut (and soon to follow second) picture book! She’s had a fascinating journey to publication, so I hope you’ll read on…

Hooray! I’m so excited it’s finally here! Before we get started, you know me (and my people), I can’t invite anyone over to visit without offering a drink. So, what’ll it be?!? Good question! I love milkshakes :>) and Mocha Frappuccino, but I don’t splurge that often. So, there’s nothing better than really good ice-cold water…like Ozarka from Arkansas.

I definitely think a book release calls for a splurge. Milkshakes for everyone!!! Your day job is an art teacher at an elementary school. How did you find picture books? Or better yet, how did picture books find you? It was through our visiting authors that got me excited about picture books. I used them with my lesson plans. And then there was the art history for kindergarten and 1st grade, which was Prehistoric Art. I wanted to teach the kids the substance of the art and I discovered The Altamira Cave located in Spain. That led to contacting the museum. In short, I created a power-point for the kids with maps, little stories, a printable coloring book and so on. Then in 2014 it turned into a picture book manuscript! I’ve revised many times and it will be published one day, I believe.

Oh, that sounds fascinating! Back at the beginning of your journey, what were the first courses/classes/conferences that helped you kick start your writing journey? Spring 2014, I found Kristen Fulton’s archeological writing class, on line. That summer I attended her 1st WOW Retreat. That’s what really kick started my writing as a picture book author. There I met agents, editors and authors. I also attended Pat Miller’s Conference in Houston that following Fall and I took Susanna Hill’s online writing class. These were within the first months of my writing efforts.

Yes! You helped me to connect with the online WOW Community! I attending an online course at your encouraging and learned a TON. Let’s talk about your debut picture book, Mother Teresa: The Little Pencil in God’s Hand… CONGRATULATIONS!!! Where did you find the story nugget for this one? I always wondered how Mother Teresa grew into the woman she became. My book is dedicated to the caregivers in the world. I found my nugget by reading and found her childhood fascinating.

Mother Theresa page

Talk about starting strong right out the gate. You picked such a famous MC! I can only imagine that was daunting, although I’m sure there was no shortage of research material. What was the hardest point of the writing process for this book? The writing process wasn’t as hard as making sure what I was writing was truth! I was shocked to discover that a lot of information in books about Mother Teresa is not true at all. For instance, many books claim she had a clubfoot. Well, that’s false which I discovered through reaching out to the Mother Teresa Center in Rome. I found out by accident because I needed to know for illustration purposes. Not only was that not true, but the quote I had chosen had been paraphrased. In the end, the Mother Teresa Center offered three other equivalent options. I had to get written permission to use the quote and they also required a copy of my book.

So, what you’re saying, is your book has a permanent home in Rome?!? I bet not many debut authors can say that! Can we talk a little about illustrating… you found yourself wearing both author and illustrator hats unexpectedly for Mother Teresa. Did that change your approach to the story at all? No, my story was already written and it never changed. Even though I have a BA in Art and Performance, an M.A. in Art and an MFA, I never thought of myself as an illustrator. At first, I felt awkward but I found myself enjoying the picture making process.

And now your writing resume is stacked! I’m always curious when talking with non-fiction writers… Do you have a favorite fact that you learned about Mother Teresa in your research that you didn’t include in the book? What’s not in the story is in the back matter. I tried to get it all in and I think I did. Except I didn’t share how much Sister Teresa enjoyed teaching which is what she did in India. She later became the principal and Mother Teresa. I also didn’t share how she would help her brother climb up high to reach the sweets in their mother’s cupboard. She never tattle-tailed on him. We can’t imagine Mother Teresa doing something like this. But you have to realize that she was once a little girl . . . just an ordinary girl. It should make us see the human child within her.

How wonderful (& adorably sneaky!!) That really makes her so relatable for all of us, but especially the picture book audience. You have a second book coming soon… Can we talk about that one, too? Yes, we can. It’s about the origin of the muffuletta sandwich. It’s a Muffuletta! It’s a Whata? It’s a fun book and it practically wrote itself. I’m anxious to get to the illustrations. I’ve contacted the owners of the ‘shopa’ and we’ll be making our way down to New Orleans in a few weeks just to introduce myself. (Check out this sneak peek of her illustrations!)

Muffuletta-in-progress

It’s one of the greatest cities on earth, that’s for sure! I always enjoy time spent in New Orleans because you never have the same experience… and it’s definitely never boring. What a great place to have a story originate from. Now you really HAVE to go… aw shucks.😉. In the midst of your travels, how are you balancing writing new stories with the marketing of these books? I’m not sure yet :>) I’ve spent my time making bookmarks, having pencils made and I taught for three weeks in June. Now I’m working on stuff that I ignored. I do know that I’m going to have to make a schedule of when to do what :>)

I have a book signing with Logos Book Store in Dallas, September 21st. I’ve also connected with Carole Weitzel @ Authors and More who will handle all my events. (Learn more here.)

Just by what I’ve seen over social media, you seem to have a great relationship with your editor. Tell us about how you two found each other? Clear Fork Publishing and Callie Metler-Smith are a great fit for me. I don’t know if it’s a Texas thing or what but we’ve been on the same page since day one. I submitted my manuscript and she responded with a few questions. Then a few weeks passed and on Good Friday, 2017, she emailed me with a contract and apologized for taking so long! Really? I was on cloud ten :>) It seems like Callie is the Energizer Bunny. She owns the town’s newspaper, she’s on the school board, she’s a writer, and she has a family to raise. Callie is definitely an inspiration. I love Callie and I feel extremely blessed to know her. Established in 2009, Clear Fork Media published its first book in 2014 and is well on its way.

What’s next? Do you have anything coming down the pipe? I’m really excited about an Early Reader series that I started working on last November. It could end up being a chapter book series? I have five written. The MC is Wesley Rose a nine-year-old girl living in Texas. A few years ago, a cute, blonde, blue eyed nurse introduced herself, “I’m Wesley Rose”. I had to smile, “with a name like that, you should be a country western singer.” I never forgot :>)

Oh, she sounds adorable! I can’t wait to read more! So, where can my readers find & follow you on social media? Where can we get our hands on a copy of Mother Teresa: The Little Pencil in God’s Hand? My website http://www.patriciasaunders.com, on Twitter @writersaunders & Facebook. 

Mother Teresa: The Little Pencil In GodPatricia Saunders’s Hand can be purchased at: www.clearforkpublishing.com and on Amazon (click here).

And the best news is, she’s doing a giveaway! Enter HERE… winner be chose one week from today and will receive a copy of Mother Teresa: The Little Pencil in God’s Hand (plus maybe a few other goodies!) 

I’m so glad you stopped by today! I love nothing better than celebrating the success of one of my first writing friends. More good things to come… I hope no one is melting in this heat!

 

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!
-JP

What’s the Why? My Picture Book Equation

This morning, I witnessed magic in my living room.  The kind that gently pulls everyone together under the same spell before anyone realizes what’s happening. It was a sticky July morning, windows wet with condensation and the smell of pancakes still wafting from the kitchen. (OC gets credit those, she’s a whiz with a spatula.)  It was there, in the sweet spot after breakfast but before the day really got started that YC, he’s 5 now, came to me with a book. It wasn’t one of our newest ones. It wasn’t shiny, or silly but it was long overdue. This summer has been filled with family board games, movie nights and vacations. We’ve been soaking up the laughter and the late nights, but it has been light on bed time stories.

A few weeks back I wrote about my struggles with our kids losing interest in picture books. Even the youngest, is choosing longer, more advanced stories that we read by chapters. But this book, this was an old favorite. We snuggled together on the sofa and I honestly don’t know who was more excited.  Most days, I would call for the other two the kiddos to join us, this time, I just started reading. It didn’t take long- two, maybe three pages into the book MC was sitting near his brother and OC was snuggled up by my shoulder.  For the beautiful few moments it took us to read about “Mike Mulligan, Mary Ann and some others…” the house was quiet and everyone was entranced.  Picture book magic, my favorite kind. I was elated to see it still exists, and reminded of the times I’ve seen its power in the past.  There have been teenage nieces and nephews, stopped in their tracks by a bed time story. Neighborhood kids who declare they don’t like reading, mesmerized by the power of words read from a picture book page.. Picture books are magic in its purest, most approachable form, and that is why I’m so drawn to write them. 

It’s easy to lose track of the ‘why I write picture books’ as I’m trying to find my own version of ‘how.’  I need to make sure that I stay driven by the ‘why’, and not bogged down by the ‘when’. I know that I have a lot to learn, but the answer to the ‘why’ will remind me that I don’t necessarily need to have a ‘who’ in order to find success.  There are no shortage of elements in the publishing equation, I need to remember that the ‘why’ is the most important. I write picture books because I want to connect with the most genuine members of the human race.  I want to speak in a language that they understand, and tell stories that resonate with their precious little spirits.  I want to make them laugh, and most importantly let them know they are seen.

In the past few months, I’ve doubled down on myself… I’ve taken a leap of faith and created more time to write. I purchased a domain name, just to have in my back pocket. I’m applying for the #PBCHAT Mentorship, and you should too.  I’m also knee deep into a summer writing challenge within my critique group and I have an exciting interview coming up. (I love celebrating the success of friends.) Keep your fingers crossed for me that if one of the mentors is a good fit, we find each other in the hundreds of applications… I promise to do the same for you.

 

Stay tuned for the interview!

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP