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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tammi Sauer interview

I first discovered Tammi Sauer's work when I was working as a children's librarian.  I was browsing our new book shelf for something to bring home for my daughter and the cover of Chicken Dance  caught my eye.  Having been an Elvis fan for as long as I can remember, I picked it up, checked it out and brought it home.  It was, in short, hilarious fun.

Fast forward to SCBWI annual last year.  It was the last day of the conference.  I was sitting in the last row and who should sneak in next to me but Tammi Sauer and Cynthea Liu.  Tammi and I exchanged business cards and I was delighted to exclaim, "Oh YOU wrote Chicken Dance!  My daughter and I LOVE that book!"

This led to the all important Facebook friendship, and as a result, you get to read my interview with her.  If you want something fun to read with your children, Tammi Sauer is the author for you.  If you want to read some picture books to examine style, humor and get inspired to perfect your own writing, Tammi Sauer is the author for you!

Thank you so much for agreeing to the interview, Tammi.  Can't wait to read your upcoming books!

Restless Writer (RW): My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed Chicken Dance. I’ve always loved Elvis. So the question is, how did you pair together poultry and Elvis? (It’s a brilliantly fun pairing!)

Tammi Sauer (TS):  When I first started working on Chicken Dance, I knew there would be a barnyard talent show, and I knew the grand prize had to be big. That prize couldn’t be a bucket of oats. It couldn’t be a hay bale. It had to be amazing and different and fresh. I was sitting around thinking chicken when two words popped into my head:  Elvis Poultry. And I knew I had my grand prize:  Tickets to Elvis Poultry in Concert:  The Final Doodle-Doo.

RW:  How did you choose the name ‘Bernadette’ for your little monster in Mostly Monsterly ?

TS:  My mom comes from a huge family. Seven boys:  Lawrence, Sylvester, Sonny, Al, Robert, George and Frank. Seven girls:  Rosalia, Ramona, Loretta, Caecilia, Vivian, Gladys, and Bernadine. While these names are perfectly lovely, I always thought they sounded like a great cast of characters for a monster school. When I came up with the idea for Mostly Monsterly, I didn’t even have to think about what the main character’s name should be. I tweaked Bernadine’s name and had the perfect fit for my big-hearted, little monster.

RW:  What are some picture books that make you laugh the hardest? (in a good way)

TS:  Oh, there are so many! Some of the books that have made me laugh out loud are Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Scott Magoon, What Will Fat Cat Sit On? written and illustrated by Jan Thomas, and Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox, illustrated by Lydia Monks.

RW:  Wannabe writers, like myself, hear over and over again that picture books are the hardest area of children’s publishing to break into. How did you manage to do it?

TS:  I kept reading, writing, revising, and researching. I never gave up, and I never stopped believing. I didn’t sell my first story. Or my second story. Or my third. But those stories helped me to be a better writer. The more I wrote, the better I wrote. I tell kids that writing is just like playing a sport or an instrument. You get better with practice.

RW:  The ‘average’ person often seems to think writing picture books must be easy. How long does it take you to complete a manuscript? How many rounds of revisions do you typically go through?

TS:  The hardest part for me is coming up with a great idea. That can take months and months. Once I have that idea, it generally takes a month or two for me to complete a solid manuscript. I then get feedback on the manuscript from my critique partners and from a number of other picture book writers. These days, I usually go through ten rounds of revision. Some of those revisions might just involve a few word changes, but with picture books, every word must be the right word.

RW:  Many people don’t realize that picture book writers don't choose their illustrators or have a lot of input into the illustrations of their books. Tell us the truth, how do you really feel when you’re holding your yet unseen artwork for your precious characters?

TS:  I feel nervous/excited/hopeful, but I always trust that my publishers will find the perfect match for each book. Getting those emails with art attachments is one of my favorite parts of the business.

RW:  Can you give us any hints on your upcoming projects?

TS:  I am super excited about the soon-to-be-released Mr. Duck Means Business. Mr. Duck loves his solitary life on his pond. One day he goes a little haywire when the barnyard animals mistakenly think they’ve been invited for a swim. Following that is Bawk and Roll, the sequel to Chicken Dance. In 2012, I have Princess-in-Training, Oh, Nuts, and Me Want Pet. Princesses, chipmunks and a Cave Boy? I can’t wait!

RW:  What is one of the coolest things you’ve been able to experience because of your writing?

TS:  I love hearing from kids. This is my all time favorite letter:
Dear Mrs. Sauer:
Your [sic] the best. Your [sic] my hero and roll [sic] model. My dream is to right [sic] a book. Do not tell her this but I like you more than Kelly Clarkson.


  1. Good news! You've been nominated for a blog award from "Lisa & Lisa Write a Book." Check it out: http://thelisas.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/were-better-than-okay-youre-better-than-okay/