Author Spotlight: Stacey Corrigan
Happy Tuesday and welcome to Picture Book Spotlight!
Thank you to all who participated in James McGowan's Agent Spotlight and picture book manuscript giveaway--what a phenomenal turnout! Missed it because you were too busy living in "reality" or under a rock? You can read it here.
Despite the great participation...there can only be one (Highlander) winner...please congratulate...
Our next Agent Spotlight giveaway will be next week so be sure to stay tuned!
I'm very excited to feature another Author Spotlight for a debut picture book. Stacey Corrigan is actually celebrating her launch date TODAY! What an absolute joy to share in this moment with her and feature her journey and work on this happy day.
Stacey would like to thank you for stopping by and for your support with not one....but TWO giveaways! See details at the end of our interview for how you can enter.
My laptop. Uninterrupted time. My CPs
What’s something you absolutely must have in your refrigerator or pantry?
Coffee. I know it is a mom/writer/teacher cliche, but I can’t function without it.
Where do you feel most inspired and why?
I cherish summer mornings at the lake before my family wakes. Not only does the peace and beauty of the lake foster creativity, but lake life gives me so much to work with.
I think my obsession with books started with Mom. She took us to the library all the time and I spent hours reading books we checked out. I was a super-sensitive child and teenager. Books helped me understand the world better.
In college, when stress was getting the best of me, I would go to the bookstore and read picture books. I bought one for my classroom collection every visit. I remember reading Amelia’s Road, by Linda Jacobs Altman, and marveled at how masterfully she told the story of Amelia, a migrant farm child. It was relatable, simple, and sweet. I was hooked.
As a teacher, I used picture books to teach everything. I even wrote and poorly illustrated a few stories I shared with my students. I had all kinds of ideas and always sort of believed I would publish a picture book someday, I just never knew where to start.
First of all...CONGRATULATIONS on the release of your debut picture book, The Pencil Eater! What does having your book out in the world TODAY mean to you?
It means I didn’t quit when it got hard. I’m proud of that.
Your main character (The Pencil Eater) is mischievous, purple, and fun! As soon as I started reading your story...I had to laugh--As a teacher, I have seen SO MANY pencils “eaten”over the years. Definitely something kids can relate to--they disappear so fast! How did this little guy come about? Give us the story behind the story.
I teach second grade. In the morning, I sharpen pencils. This particular group of students went through pencils at insane rates, so I sharpened 30 thinking that would be enough to get me through the morning. Fifteen minutes after the bell rang, a student said, “We’re out of pencils.” They were all gone. I couldn’t believe it. In frustration, I said, “Second graders are pencil eaters.” My whole class laughed. That weekend, I wrote my first draft ever.
I really like the part where The Pencil Eater is imagining all the terrible things Shay might do to him. The illustrations really do add a lot of humor to your story. In your manuscript, did you include specific art notes like the turtle wanting to eat him, or did you leave that up to the illustrator, Steve Page?
Having Steve illustrate my story was an amazing experience that helped me grow as a writer. I learned I tend to overwrite scenes. In the example you mentioned, I had written The Pencil Eater’s specific fears into the original text as part of the story (I used the phrase class pet, Steve came up with the turtle). After Steve illustrated that page, I realized my text was redundant so I dropped it.
One page I really love is page 5. I wrote, “But finding pencils is dangerous.” Steve came up with all the rest. I learned so much about leaving room for the illustrator by seeing what he did on this page. The humor he added here made the book better. I try to keep this page in mind when writing new stories.
Also, you mentioned art notes. I never used to use art notes, but I am starting to learn that when used correctly, they are effective. My agent, Rebecca Angus, asked me to add some simple art notes to my manuscript to help clarify a couple of scenes. It worked.
One thing that really works about your story is the first person perspective. I don’t think first person is right for every picture book, but I always like playing with perspective to see how a story can be transformed. How did the finished form of this book change from its first draft? Was it always in first person?
My original draft was first-person. I tried at least 50 different versions of this story. I wrote it as a play, as a news report, in really terrible rhyme, and played with point of view and perspective. I kept coming back to first-person because I wanted the reader to connect with The Pencil Eater and “get inside his head.” First-person seemed to be the best way to do that for this book. The sequel to the Pencil Eater, The Pencil Eater’s Confession, is also written in the first person but interestingly enough, those are the only two manuscripts of mine that are written like that.
It always boggles the mind how much time it takes to publish a picture book. Walk us through the timeline after the initial deal until now, and what sorts of things have you been working on to prepare for the The Pencil Eater’s August 6th release date?
I signed my contract in May of 2017. After completing some developmental edits and talks about page breaks, my publisher, Tannya Derby, sent out the text to some of her illustrators. I looked through samples a couple of months later. We selected Steve Page. His first sketches were right on. He understood who The Pencil Eater was. In Feb 2018, I got some rough drafts. That was awesome. Seeing my story come to life was thrilling and it is my wish that every writer I know gets the same experience.
After looking at the rough drafts, we made some illustration adjustments and text edits for awhile. Then came cover selection. I let my school help with that one. I had about six choices and the whole school voted. They picked the one I secretly was hoping for too!
Tannya emailed me in the spring of this year with the news The Pencil Eater would release in August. Although the process was long. I realize there was very little downtime along the way. It just takes a long time to make a good book. The first thing I did after finding out my book was going to be released was tell my family and then I announced it on Facebook. I have a community of family and friends on Facebook that are super supportive and have been waiting for the book to come out for so long. I had to tell them first.
Then, I announced it on Twitter. I wrote press releases and emailed them to all the communities I have ties to. A couple contacted me back and have asked to interview me. I have used Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to promote The Pencil Eater and blogs like Picture Book Spotlight have helped a ton.
My release party is August 6 at Cultivate Coffee and Tea at the Midland Mall in Midland, Michigan. I love this place. They are a nonprofit coffee shop. They provide coffee and tea to patrons for free. They run on donations and volunteers. They also do mission work in Africa. The place is built on all things good and I am honored to hold my release party there.
On August 7 I will be signing books at Education Express, a teacher supply store, in Bay City, Michigan. I love this little store and have shopped there as a teacher a lot. Being able to sell my book there is a really special experience for me.
On August 20th I will be appearing at Gather at Grove at Grove Park in Midland. The Gather at Grove events were organized by the Rotary Club of Midland to highlight the cities underappreciated parks. Special events have been held at Grove Park all summer long. Each event has a theme. The theme for August 20 is The Pencil Eater! I will be adding more events to my website www.StaceyCorrigan.com in the near future.
If you had a time machine and could travel back to give yourself any bit of an author pep talk or about how to navigate a debut, what would you say?
I would go back and tell myself to stop submitting stuff before it was ready. In terms of navigating a debut, I would not have organized my release party on the day the book debuts. I have had stress nightmares all summer long about books not showing up for the party.
I really can’t wait to share my book with the students at my school. Many have watched the story develop from a silly joke to a published book. They know how long it has taken (the 2nd graders who inspired this book will start 7th grade in September). I want them to see the end product. I want to show them that through hard work and persistence dreams come true.
One great thing about writing picture books is the amazing community you meet along the way. Some of the writers I first swapped critiques three or four years ago have their first books coming out later this year. I can’t wait for that. We started together, struggled together, and now we get to celebrate together.
What are some picture books published recently that have inspired you or had you laughing out loud?
There are so many amazing books out there. Some of my faves include:
Excellent Ed by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach.
I love Stacy McAnulty’s books. Excellent Ed is heart-warming and relatable, plus Ed is adorable.
Back to School With Bigfoot by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Martha Brockenbrough
Bigfoot has big worries about the first day of school. I read this one to my class last year on the first day of school and it really broke the ice. It is funny and relatable and Big Foot is irresistible!
Misunderstood Shark by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Scott Magoon
Misunderstood Shark is great. It has humor, heart, and shark facts all rolled into one great read. Ame Dyckman is a fun genius.
Three Bears and a Boat by David Soman
The illustrations in the book are captivating and this sibling story brought back memories of my own childhood.
Who would you like to give a shout-out to?
First, my family. They are incredibly supportive and have listened to me read all of my stories over and over again. They have given feedback, listened to me talk through plot holes, and waited patiently “for just a few more minutes” while I worked on the computer.
Next, my critiques partners past and present. I have been blessed with the best of them. They have tolerated my compulsive obsessive addiction to revision and are some of the most encouraging and patient people I know.
Last, Kid Lit 411, Sub It Club, and Julie Hedlund’s 12X12 Picture Book Challenge all played a huge part in my development as a writer. I highly recommend writers check them out.
They are essential to a child’s development. Not only do they facilitate the formation of foundation reading skills, they provide parents and teachers a practical way of connecting with children. They offer children safe opportunities to learn about the world around them and encourage children to use their imagination. I also believe they make the world a better place.
Thank you, Stacey! We are all so excited for you on this awesome day! Definitely looking forward to more work from you in the future. But keep those pencils out of sight... : )