Second Helpings

The other day, I called my publisher’s customer service line to request extra copies of Sarah Gives Thanks. I’m planning to visit a few libraries in November and I wanted to sell books after the readings.

The woman I spoke to was named Kiki and, upon hearing her name, I became very happy. Prior to this conversation, the only Kiki I had ever heard of was a character on the show The Fresh Beat Band. Fresh Beat Kiki dresses in pink and plays the guitar. Her catchphrase is “Kickin’!”

Doesn’t she look like the kind of person who might say “Kickin’?”

I am not a fan of The Fresh Beat Band, but I have earned many Karma points by watching the show with my son. And now, as I chatted on the phone to the other Kiki, I was enjoying the glow of recognition. “I have now met an actual Kiki,” I thought. “Kiki is a real name.”

Personal amusement aside, I still had work to do. So I told Kiki I would need about 50 books.

“Oh, well,” Kiki began. “I have good news and bad news.”

“I’ll take the bad news first, Kiki,” I said. Even when faced with bad news, I couldn’t stop saying Kiki. Try it. Kiki.

“The bad news is we only have 16 copies in the warehouse,” Kiki said.

“Oh, I don’t need them now. When will you restock?”

“Probably December.”

Considering that Sarah Gives Thanks is a Thanksgiving book, and that Thanksgiving is a November holiday, this did strike me as curious. Just as I was about to bring this tidbit to her attention, Kiki continued.

“You see,” she said, “the book is going into its second printing.”

“Wait, what?” I asked.

Sarah Gives Thanks is in its second printing.” Kiki said. “That’s the good news.”

“Kickin’!” I said.

Kiki didn’t know how to respond to that.

I once saw The Fresh Beat Band in concert. Jealous?

Sarah Gives Thanks is still available, mind you. It can be ordered online or through bookstores. The distributors have plenty on hand. You can easily get copy if you want one.

But the publisher is sold out!  And the publisher is gonna print more!

I attribute this good news to you guys. Since I came onto the blogging scene late last year, I’ve made many wonderful online pals. I have also been interviewed by six very supportive and generous people:

Susan Rocan
Roxie Hanna
Max Opray
Julie Hedlund
Lauri Meyers
And David Gardner (Sarah’s amazing illustrator)

All of these folks, by the way, have excellent blogs. Do check them out.

Another person of note is the great Stacy Jensen, who selected Sarah for her Perfect Picture Book Friday, and, ever since, has been all over the internet singing the book’s praises. Stacy also has an incredible blog; you should check hers out, too.

To the folks above, and to all of you who bought a book, I just want to say how very, very grateful I am.

Kiki’s news (and name) may have made my day, but you guys have made my year.


Sometimes we are defined by our obsessions.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about the inspiration behind my picture book manuscript, Momma No-Nose. The story is about as dissimilar from Sarah Gives Thanks as you can possibly get.

Here’s the gist of it: After a petting zoo burro goes rogue and gets a bit too nibbly, our narrator’s Momma suddenly finds herself noseless. This turns out to be quite a problem. She can no longer keep her glasses on her face or tell if the milk is sour. Worst of all, the once happy and outgoing Momma no longer wants to leave the house. Just in time for Mother’s Day, however, her artistic son makes Momma an ingenious PlayDoh proboscis that, in one fell swoop, restores her self-esteem and improves the family’s fortunes forever.

Oh, and, in case you need me to tell you, Momma No-Nose is supposed to be funny.

Now, I knew this story had long odds for publication before I finished the first draft. I kinda figured Momma No-Nose was gonna be one of those stories “just for me.” I was cool with that.

But I soooo loved the results of my early writing efforts. So I put in more effort. Then I put in even more effort. Then I presented it at my critique group – twice – and revised the story accordingly.

I admit, I went a little daft. I caught No-Nose Fever.

Sadly, No-Nose Fever is not contagious. Editors aren’t feelin’ the love for this story in a way editors have never not felt the love for a story of mine ever before. I actually got a rejection one hour after I submitted No-Nose – a personal record I have no desire to break, but one that kind of dazzles and impresses me, nonetheless.

But like the coyote’s obsession with his roadrunner, I couldn’t quite put this thing behind me. The more No-Nose was rejected, the more I refused to read the writing on the wall.

“I just haven’t found the right market,” I told myself.

So I kept at it, tweaking the cover letter and looking for ways to punch up the comedy and tighten the word count. Oh, and I kept submitting.

The story’s editorial appeal is as plain as the nose on her face.

My son, Alex, is the only other person with No-Nose Fever; it must be genetic. He would sometimes ask me about Momma No-Nose’s progress – and was almost as amazed as I was that no editor on earth seemed to like it. So the other day I made him a solemn promise: “If Momma No-Nose doesn’t get picked up by the end of this year,” I said, “I will draw all the pictures and make the book just for you.”

“Mine will be the only one?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“The ONLY one?”

“The only one.”

“Wow. The only one.” He let that roll around his brain for a while. Then he smiled.

I smiled, too. Suddenly the idea that Alex would have the only copy of Momma No-Nose felt like a wonderful, wonderful thing. I decided right then and there to stop pitching this story. I didn’t want to do anything to mess up my promise.

Besides, in that little moment with my son, I had achieved my goal; I had found a market for Momma No-Nose. It wasn’t a large market, but it was big enough for me.

Here. Have A Book Excerpt.

Don’t worry; things improve.

The turkey was fresh from the oven. Sarah Josepha Hale asked her five children to join hands in thanksgiving.

The baby grabbed on to Sarah’s finger, but the other four hesitated. Sarah understood. They had just returned from their father’s grave and were not in a thankful mood.

So she bowed her head alone.

“Dear Lord, we are thankful for having known him,” she began. “We are thankful for his love. And we are thankful for the love we have for each other.”

As Sarah spoke, her children fumbled for each other’s hands. As one, they thanked God for their good fortune.

After she said “Amen,” Sarah sent out one last silent prayer: “Please, God, help me find a way to support my family.”

 from Sarah Gives Thanks, Albert Whitman & Co., 2012