Did you know I was rained out at my first book signing at an event called Luckett’s Fair? See last week’s post here. Before getting rained out I met some amazing authors and Carol Cole was one of them. I loved her book The Penguin Lady and we traded. I gave her a copy of Annie’s Special Day and she gave me a copy of her book The Penguin Lady. While talking with her I found out some things about her but it wasn’t enough. So I was happy to email her and get back these answers. And as is routine for me, I separated the interview into two posts so we could get the entire scoop. Here is the first post.
I loved meeting you at Lucketts Fair and loved reading your book The Penguin Lady. It made me laugh and was a delight to read. Since we were rained out I didn’t have much chance of learning about how you came to write this book or the publishing process so this will be an extra treat for me.
1—Can you tell us a little about the book?
The Penguin Lady is a counting book for preschool through second grade children. It features Penelope Parker who loves penguins. Her brother sends her one Galápagos penguin for her birthday and she gradually acquires 10 different species of penguins from all over the southern hemisphere. She eventually winds up with 55 penguins all over her house and yard. Younger children will enjoy having the story read to them. Beginning readers will be able to read the story themselves and learn about the different penguins. The back of the book has 4 pages of learning activities including a map of the world showing where the penguins live. Sylvan Dell, the publisher also has created a 52 page teacher’s guide for the book that can be downloaded from their website: http://www.sylvandellpublishing.com/bookpage.php?id=116
2—I saw from your bio that there was an original penguin lady and you got the idea from her or rather she inspired the idea for you. Can you tell us a little about how it happened and how long it took to write your book?
I worked as physical therapist in the Arlington County Schools for the past 29 years – I just retired this past June. At one of the schools, there is a special education teacher, Susan Wulf across
the hall from the therapy room. She loves penguins and her entire room is filled with all kinds of penguins. She has pictures, globes, pens and pencils, mouse pads, many stuffed penguins and even a 42” life-size inflated Emperor Penguin in her classroom.
When I decided to write a counting book – Susan and her penguins were the inspiration for the character. The original version featured the first page (that has never changed from the start) and then literally 10 lines about 10 different penguins, some real, some stuffed, some mechanical and even a set of salt and pepper shakers. This was 8 years ago.
3—what was the querying process and how did you find your publisher?
I belong to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and had many critiques sessions at their various conferences through the years. Each editor or agent and even one illustrator as well as my critique group helped me develop the final version. I submitted the manuscripts to different publishers over the years, all of them turning it down for various reasons. In October 2009, I had a 15 minute critique with Donna German, Editor and Co-Owner of Sylvan Dell Publishing at the fall SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference.
She received the manuscript ahead of the conference and had red marks all over the 3 pages. She asked many questions and had constructive remarks. At the end of the 15 minutes, she said she thought I could make it work and wanted to see it again!
4—What was it like getting an illustrator and working with Sherry Rogers, your illustrator?
Sylvan Dell Publishing like almost all large and small press publishers match an illustrator that they know and/or have worked with in the past with an author. It is recommended that unless you’re a professional artist, to not try to illustrate your own book. Donna sent my manuscript to Sherry, who had illustrated 10 other books for Sylvan Dell at that time, and she fell in love with the story. We were asked not to have any contact with each other until the illustrations were completed and we both honored that request. Donna was the go-between for any messages from Sherry and me.
Donna shared the illustrations with me via email – all of Sylvan Dell’s communication is through email including the submission packet which is quite extensive. Sylvan Dell sells to schools and libraries and their vision is: Math and Science through literature. All their picture books have to meet state guidelines for Standards of Learning and I had to quote specific standards in my submission packet.
The Penguin Lady was originally to be published this past August (2012), but Sherry liked the story so much, she cranked out the illustrations and my publishing date was bumped up to the past February (2012).
And how can we get in touch with you? What is your face book page, your web site and twitter handle?
I can be found on face book under my name and also under The Penguin Lady. My website is: carolacole.com where you can find out about my other writing, email me and sign my guestbook. I do not use twitter.
Here is where I break for the first part of the interview readers. Next week we’ll cover her horror story of marketing so be sure and come back for that. Thanks so much, Carol, for sharing yourself with us. I am so glad you will be here to answer any questions in the comments.
Bio: Carol Cole has have worked with young children in schools for about 30 years as a pediatric physical therapist before she retired in June 2012. She started writing “scripts” for a favorite TV show when she was ten years old and hasn’t stopped writing since! Carol is the author of over 45 articles and short stories found online and in anthologies.The Penguin Lady is her début picture book. She lives with her husband and son and their dog and 2 cats in Northern Virginia.