Interview by Sharon Mayhew
Connie: A friend who had books published by Guardian Angel Publishing recommended that I submit my manuscript. I visited the website - http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/ - and really liked what I saw. Now it's my turn to recommend GAP to others!
Sharon: I noticed several GAP authors did a book signing in Saint Louis in September, what was the best part of the event?
Connie: We did two events in St. Louis, one at the Children's Illustrated Art Museum, and a book signing at Borders. The event at the museum was such fun with many home school families attending and participating in the many activities we had for them. My favorite part was reading Animal Sound Mix-up to them and the fun they had with it and getting to share their own animal sounds afterward.It was great getting to meet GAP publisher, Lynda Burch, and some of the other authors and illustrators.
Sharon: Do you have any other events planned?
Connie: Since we went from St. Louis on to visit children, grandchildren and other family for two weeks and recently returned home, I'm just now able to get some events lined up. I plan to do events at the library and some preschool classes and will be contacting others soon, as well as looking into doing book signings. I've talked with some others about doing a signing together sometime, which I know from the St. Louis experience is fun!
Sharon: Animal Sound Mix-up is such a cute book! What "sparked" the idea for it?
Connie: Having young grandchildren! They are learning so much, including the sounds animal makes, and I started thinking about the variety of sounds animals make and how different they all are. Then, I guess craziness set in (I might have caught that from my grandsons)!
Sharon: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
Connie: Keep writing, find what you do best and share it with others, get feedback so you can improve your writing, and if you want to be published, be persistent and not discouraged in the face of rejections but have faith in yourself and the talent God has given you!
Interview of SFC Blog: Families Matter
What do you enjoy most about writing for children? Thinking about the fun children will have reading it or having it read to them is the best part. Children have such a spontaneous joy that is delightful to see, and being able to add to that in some small way is a great gift.
What are some of your favorite children's books to read? I always enjoy the ones that rhyme, especially for young children. Those featuring animals are my favorites. I remember reading Winnie the Pooh books to my daughter when she was little, and now I'm reading books to her children. It's interesting to see which books are still enjoyed after all those years and the great variety of new ones available.
If you had to pick an animal to be, which one and why? I'd want to be a cat. I love the way they purr when contented, and I'd like to do that! Also, having a fur coat would be great when it's cold, and I get cold very easily.
Are you available for school visits? If so, how can a teacher, school, or PTA member contact you? Yes, I would be happy to do school visits and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through my website, http://www.childrenbooks.webs.com
Aday: Connie, what a fun and wacky concept for a book. Where did the idea come from?
Connie: We all get these stray thoughts that wander into the mind, and the secret is to grab hold of them and jot notes while it’s fresh to develop when there’s a chance. One day I was thinking about little children learning what sounds animals make, and I thought, what if they didn’t make those particular sounds? What would that be like?
Aday: Tell us about getting your mind in a creative mode? How do you begin your writing process?
Connie: It’s most helpful to discover when you are the most creative, when your thought processes are clearest and you’re most open to inspiration. For me, it’s in the morning that creativity peaks, and I need to start writing before it fades away as the day goes on. A particular place to write is also important, away from distractions and either quiet or surrounded by music or images that best stimulate your creativity. I enjoy soft instrumental music and a window to look out or being outdoors but sometimes just need complete silence in a comfortable place by myself.
Aday: Many writers utilize a writing group. Where do you get constructive critiques and feedback?
Connie: I have several friends that are very good with feedback and constructive suggestions about my writing. My husband’s suggestions are always valuable to me as well. It’s good to have someone else read your work with fresh eyes that might catch something that you have overlooked or have ideas for what might improve it. Also, having someone else read it aloud often will make it clearer where improvement is needed.
Aday: What plans do you have to market your book?
Connie: I’ve already contacted my church bookshop and a large local Christian bookstore, and they both are stocking Animal Sound Mix-up. I will be doing readings for different preschool classes this fall, providing order forms for the children to take home to parents. The central library is planning to request copies for each of the branches and arrange for me to do programs and sell and sign copies. Word of mouth is a great marketing tool, and I’ve sold many copies to other grandmothers and friends of my children with young children, who will show their friends. Online there are many opportunities for marketing, such as this blog tour, Facebook, Twitter, and other social communities and groups. Guardian Angel Publishing, the publisher of Animal Sound Mix-up, arranged a recent book signing at Borders and a special event for children, and I hope to do more things like that here and other places I visit as well.
Aday: Do you know of a confused bunch of animals? How did they get that way?
Connie: The only confused animals I know are in Animal Sound Mix-up, and they got that way through my imagination! Animals are part of a marvelous creation, filled with great variety, each unique in their own sounds as well as appearances.
Aday: What audience will your book appeal and why?
Connie: I’ve found that grandparents and parents are delighted with the words and Kit Grady’s wonderful illustrations, and young children find the rhymes and colorful pictures fun. From the children I’ve read Animal Sound Mix-up to, including my little grandsons, it seems the 3-5 year olds especially enjoy hearing it read, looking at it, and sharing the sounds the animals actually make. At the recent events with other Guardian Angel Publishing authors and artists in St. Louis I had an opportunity to read Animal Sound Mix-up to a group of home school children. They were quite an attentive audience and excited to share their own animal sounds afterward!
I’m pleased to have author Connie Arnold visiting Beth’s Book Basket today. She will be talking about her new children’s book from Guardian Angel Publishing entitled Animal Sound Mix-Up.
BETH: Connie, you have written three books of inspirational poetry for adults. How did writing those books help you with creating this children’s book?
CONNIE: The experience with rhythm and rhyme helped, since Animal Sound Mix-up is also a rhyming book. I have learned when and where I find the greatest inspiration and the creativity flows best. I’ve also discovered how important it is to know for whom you are writing and why you are writing what you write.
BETH: Talk a little bit about your process for writing Animal Sound Mix-Up. Did you choose the animals first or match up animal sound words that rhymed first or use some other method?
CONNIE: I thought about animal sounds and what animals would sound funny making those sounds. Also, the consideration of where those particular animals could be found and incorporating those locations into the verses and rhymes was an important part of it.
BETH: You did a great job choosing which animals and sounds to use. I noticed you mentioned your three grandsons in your book’s dedication. Did you read the manuscript to them at any time during writing and editing to get their input?
CONNIE: I didn’t get a chance to read Animal Sound Mix-up to my grandsons before it was published because they live about 1200 miles away, and we only see them a couple of times a year. I did recently return from visiting them when I gave them each their own copy and read it to them. They were excited that Nana wrote a book and it had their names in it. One of them asked, “You really wrote all these words?” The 6 year old, Luke, was able to read it, and 5 year old Noah almost can. Jesse, the 3 year old, wanted me to read it several times, giggled and said “no!” several times to the sounds, and enjoyed making the correct sounds for the animals.
BETH: What fun it must have been for your grandsons to read “Nana’s book.” I bet they loved the illustrations, too. Talk about your experience working with your illustrator, Kit Grady, and with Guardian Angel Publishing?
CONNIE: I’m extremely pleased with Kit’s wonderful illustrations. They really add character to the animals and bring them to life for the children. I’ve heard many comments about the great combination of words and pictures. I’m very thankful Guardian Angel Publishing accepted and published Animal Sound Mix-up. It has been a great experience in all ways. Lynda Burch is so efficient, works for the highest quality books for children and cares about the authors and illustrators.
BETH: It is always nice to hear authors are having good experiences with their publishers. I imagine this taste of success has made you want to write more. What projects are you working on at the moment?
CONNIE: I’m currently working on a couple of children’s book manuscripts, poems to post on my blogs (http://conniearnold.blogspot.com and http://childrensauthorconniearnold.blogspot.com), an inspirational poetry collection about the seasons, and another collection of poems with the theme of making life better.
BETH: As a NASCAR fan, I like to end interviews with a fun question. If you were a NASCAR driver, what sponsor(s) would you want on your car and why?
CONNIE: My oldest grandson is a big NASCAR fan, so I should ask him!
I’d like the sponsors to be Guardian Angel Publishing and RPJ & Company, the publisher of my recent inspirational poetry book, Abundant Comfort and Grace. I’d like to help others looking for good children’s and Christian publishers and recommend their quality books, as well as encouraging children to read.
BETH: Those sound like great sponsors.
Katie: Connie, share a little bit about yourself.
Connie: In talking about myself, I always start with the fact that I’m a wife, mother and grandmother, since those, to me, are my most important roles in life. I have two children with great spouses and three delightful little grandsons. My husband, Tom, and I live in North Carolina. He has recently retired, and we travel frequently to be with our loved ones. Animal Sound Mix-up is my first children’s book, but I have written three books of inspirational poetry. I’m glad to be able to share the talent God has given me with others through uplifting, encouraging and inspiring poetry. People can read some of my poems on my website blog at http://www.conniearnold.webs.com and some poems and other fun stuff for children at http://www.childrenbooks.webs.com
Katie: How long have you been writing for children?
Connie: I’ve only been writing for children the last three years or so.
Katie: What inspired you to write this picture book?
Connie: My little grandsons inspired my writing of this book through reading to them and helping them learn. It’s such fun to watch and listen to a young child making animal sounds!
Katie: Can you share what your early struggles were in writing this book?
Connie: Making the rhythms flow smoothly and the rhymes work naturally without sounding forced were the main struggle. But it was not too hard and such fun to write!
Katie: Do you plan on writing any more picture books?
Connie: Oh, yes, in fact I already have a manuscript that I’m in the process of signing a contract for with another publisher and two more manuscripts yet to be contracted. I continue to jot down poems and ideas and hope there will be more picture books yet to come!
Katie: Did you have an agent for this book, or did you query directly to your publisher, Guardian Angel Publishing?
Connie: No, I didn’t have an agent but submitted directly to Guardian Angel Publishing and received an acceptance fairly quickly. It has been a great experience!
Katie: What sort of marketing have you done for this book? Was your publisher able to help with any of the marketing efforts?
Connie: I have a new website devoted to children with news about Animal Sound Mix-up, poems, fun stuff, and links to other children’s books and fun sites. Also I’ve begun a new blog for sharing things of interest about children. I Twitter about the book and have a page for it on Facebook. This week I’m meeting with people at the Children’s Museum here, a preschool director, and the manager of a church bookstore for events and to sell books. I have already contacted the main library, and they are arranging for me to do a reading and program for children and to sign and sell books.
Guardian Angel Publishing had some events in St. Louis recently at the Children’s Illustrated Art Museum and a Border’s bookstore. There is also a blog at http://guardianangelfamily.blogspot.com to share about GAP books and authors and illustrators. A new and exciting way of sharing GAP books has just been announced in a press release from GAP President and CEO Lynda Burch about Be There Bedtime Stories, where people can read books to children and have the video on the pages of the book to send to the children. You can see more about it at http://www.betherebedtimestories.com
Katie: Considering what you have gone through to get your book published, what was the most difficult part of the publishing process?
Connie: Finding the right publisher for what you have written seems to be the most difficult part. I have done extensive research on different publishers over the last few years, and trying to find the one that is the best match is a challenge. In addition, the fact that publishers usually receive such a massive amount of submissions makes the need for your manuscript to really stand out extremely important.
Katie: What advice would you give to other authors who want to break into the picture book market?
Connie: Have your manuscript read by others and get feedback, talk to those who have published picture books about their experience and recommendations, be persistent and keep writing!