Author Spotlight: Heather Macht
Welcome back to another super fantabulous Picture Book Spotlight! You know how fast Twitter posts get buried...instead of digging through a relentless pile of hashtag slush, get automated emails every time we post! SUBSCRIBE! Seriously. All the cool kids are doing it. First time here? Make sure to check out our interview with author and agent, Colleen Oefelein and Caldecott Honoree, Brian Lies!
And now for the star of today's show...HEATHER MACHT!
What’s something you absolutely must have in your refrigerator or pantry?
Fresh Fruit! I’m such a sucker for a big bowl of fruit.
Name three things you can’t do your job without.
Coffee, creamer, and support (from my amazing husband, critique partners, and agent!).
Where do you feel most inspired and why?
Inspiration usually comes after a trip to the bookstore or library…To clarify, a trip without children where I can usually take an hour to read through the books without interruption.
What do you most love about working as a picture book author?
Oooh, TOUGH question! I love just about every aspect of the job. I think the number one thing I enjoy is inspiring children to be readers and literary lovers.
Tells us more about your journey into kid lit.
It was a looooong journey. I knew at the age of 18, when I graduated high school, that I wanted to be a picture book author. After declaring this to everyone (teachers, friends, parents), I Googled the whole “how-to” behind it, and realized there was A LOT more to it than I thought. YIKES! Once I fully did my research (including checking out as many picture books as I could from the local library, studying form and format, learning how to query agents/editors) and got the general gist of it all, I went for it! I never realized how hard rejections would be at first, or that it’d take a full 13 years before I received my first “YES” but I’m so glad I stuck with it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If your childhood self learned what you’re up to now as an adult, what would she say?
I think younger me would give older me a high five! And then she’d run and tell her third grade teacher that her “too big of an” imagination actually would pay off one day.
Congratulations on your upcoming books! The first one, The Ant Farm Escape!, is on sale now! What can you tell us about this book? Walk us through the journey from initial idea to finished product.
Thanks for the question, Brian! So, I spent a morning in a nearby bookstore and read a lot of construction/truck books. As I was reading them I envisioned ants doing all the work (my son was going through a HUGE ant phase at the time, so that really inspired me). Since I often think in rhyme, I started to hear little rhymes about ants doing construction work. I went home that day and spent the next week researching and writing the book, which included finding ways to include fun STEM facts. In researching ants, I found out that worker ants are all FEMALE! How did I not know this upfront? I instantly changed the illustration notes, adding notes to include “ants in hard hats and pony tails." Shortly after I finished everything, I heard #Pit2Pub was near so I went ahead and got my pitch ready. The rest is history! Pelican (who I have my first book with) asked to see it and offered me a contract on it shortly after.
Your other book, Rex The...We Don’t Know is coming out this fall. It’s so great that you have two books coming out in one year! What can you tell us about this one?
So, funny story about this one…I had written so many stories about specific pets of mine and they all were declined when I first started querying as a new author. Bummer! I tried telling stories about my gerbils, my cats, my dogs…nothing sold. One day, I had a thought: What if I rolled every pet I’ve ever loved, mixed them with my favorite fictional pets (i.e. a dragon and unicorn), and made them into one character? So if you imagine the craziest pet and creature ever, you’ll have Rex. This book is so near and dear to my heart mainly because when I see Rex, I see every pet I’ve ever had and loved. This book is going to be a LOT of fun for readers so I hope everyone gets a chance to check it out!
What is something you are doing to help promote these two books? Do you have any school visits or events lined up that you would like to share about?
SO MUCH! I’m creating book trailers, creating fliers to pass out to schools, hosting book launch parties, booking school visits, Tweeting about them on Twitter, scheduling blog tours – you name it! I really love getting to meet people, so all of this is a great way to connect with readers, too. How are you celebrating your upcoming book releases? I have a lot of celebrations lined up: celebrations with friends, celebrations with family, and book launch parties too. But my favorite way to celebrate, and what I’m looking forward to the most, is celebrating over a sushi dinner with my biggest fan: my husband.
Your first book, You May Just be a Dinosaur came out in 2015. Tell us about your journey to publication with this first project.
Another funny story about this one: In the third grade I turned what was supposed to be a science project about dinosaurs into a creative book project. The cover had a skateboarding, sunglasses and t-shirt wearing, Brontosaurs (you know, when those were still considered a species…I know, I’m old.). I thought it was funny, but my teacher told me I had too big of an imagination. Years later, after several rejected manuscripts, I was determined to make a fun and factual book about on of my favorite topics: dinosaurs. When brushing my teeth one morning, I imagined the same Brontosaurs from the third grade (now known as an Apatosaurus) trying to brush its teeth. Of course, it was having WAY too difficult of a time because of how small the toothbrush was in comparison to the dinosaur. The rhymes instantly started to flow and soon I had a completed manuscript in hand that would eventually sell to Pelican.
Without spoiling anything, what can you tell us about any current projects you have in the works?
Definitely more blended STEM books! Those are a lot of fun for me to write and research. And, I really like to write about monsters…so yeah, maybe something monster-ish.
Tell us a little bit about your journey as a querying author before Adria Goetz (Martin Literary) picked you up.
Well, I must admit when I first started querying I decided to skip looking for an agent and go directly to publishers instead. I thought since I was a successful businesswoman, I could do the job of an agent on my own. Boy was I wrong or what?! It took a long time to place the book (a couple years to be exact, including an almost “yes” from one publisher). I’m really thankful, and lucky, that I eventually found a publisher who would be perfect for the book, and others of mine! After the book was published, and after I got more involved in #kidlit, I decided to start trying to find an agent…and now that I do, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
How has working with Adria been a game changer for you as an author?
She’s been amazing to work with. She’s an editorial agent so she brings a fresh perspective to the table. She always provides thoughtful feedback on each manuscript, and lists ways to make them better and more marketable to publishers. She’s also really savvy and always comes up with a game plan for each finished manuscript. HUGE game changer!
Walk us through a typical day for you.
Since I have a one-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son, and a nine-year-old stepdaughter, my typical day is mainly focused on getting them up, fed, lunches packed, (the older children) to school and back, getting the house cleaned, and when my one-year-old is down for a nap, or occupied with a snack, or when the kids are in bed for the night, I sit down to write, research, and work. Oh, did I mention I have a dog likes to get walked a hundred times a day, too? Life is busy, but when there’s a will and desire, there is definitely a way!
As a published author, what are some challenges you’re currently working through?
Honestly, just visibility. With so many amazing books out there, you sometimes get lost in the crowd. But, when you think about it, that’s a great thing for kids: they have SO many amazing options out there.
What are some picture books that have come out recently that inspire you?
Some inspiring, recent releases are: Ginny Goblin is Not Allowed to Open This Box because girl monsters make me smile. The Mystery of the Haunted Farm for its humor. A Unicorn Named Sparkle for its heartwarming story. & They All Saw a Cat for its unique perspective.
Besides the obvious, what are you also looking forward to this year?
I’m looking forward to time with my friends and family, and also more time at the beach. I mainly love the beach for the amazing stargazing and seashell finding. Oh, and are there any scary movies coming out? If so, I’m TOTALLY looking forward to those, too.
What advice or encouragement do you have to offer querying authors and authors timid about even starting the querying process?
I’d say go for it! I know it can be intimidating, it always is at first, but the only person that’s stopping you from the next step is you. I’d also suggest taking place in a Twitter pitch party to get your feet wet, too; they’re kind of like mini queries. Pitch parties are fun experiences but are also really eye-opening as you get a feel of what agents and publishers are looking for.
What are some absolute must have resources or practices that have helped you find success?
When I get any idea for a new book, I Google it. That helps me find out: 1) If it’s too similar to an existing book (if so I go back to the drawing board) 2) What comp titles are out there and 3) What unique spin I can put on my book to set it apart from the comp titles. Also, my newest must-have resource is a critique group. Never will I go without one again.
How would you define success for yourself as a writer?
To me, success as a writer isn’t based on being a best-selling author. It’s based on happiness. Are YOU happy with your book? Are your readers happy with your book? Are you having fun when doing this line of work? If so, you’re successful - keep going! If not, find your happy place and get there ASAP.
Thank you so much for sharing so much with us, Heather! Can't wait to see The Ant Farm Escape! at the library...if I can wait that long.
Thanks for reading, kid lit fam! Tune in this coming Monday, February 11th for an Author Spotlight with Bridget Heos! Don't miss a Spotlight interview! Get automated emails by subscribing. Like this interview? Share your thoughts below or share with a friend!
About Heather Macht
Heather Macht is the author of The Ant Farm Escape! (Pelican, 2019), Rex the...We-Don't-Know (Pelican, 2019) and You May Just Be a Dinosaur (Pelican, 2015).
Macht has a degree in Fine Arts, is an active member of the SCBWI, and is the Assistant Administrator, the Newsletter Coordinator, and a volunteer judge for Rate Your Story. She loves spending her Saturday’s in bookstores or in libraries with friends.
Macht’s happily married and currently resides in Florida next door to a quiet beach. When she's not writing, Macht enjoys painting, reading poetry, and watching scary movies with her husband and children. Heather on Twitter, Heather's Website, Heather on Amazon, Ant Farm Escape! on Forward Reviews