Author Spotlight: Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw

Author Spotlight: Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw

It's Tuesday. That must mean...a new Picture Book Spotlight. Welcome back.

I'd like to start things off by saying THANK YOU for reading, recommending, and retweeting our posts! My hope for this blog is that it is meaningful, practical, thought provoking and entertaining.

Many congratulations goes out to Betsy Parkinson! Betsy won a picture book manuscript critique by Alyssa Jennette of Stonesong Literary Agency. If you happened to miss that post, you can read it here.

Don't forget we still have Jess Hernandez's giveaway in full swing--a query critique by Jess! Did you see that she got an agent? Read about it here.

Today we have a very unique Author Spotlight. If you didn't know, nonfiction picture books are super hot right now. However, Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw's new book is ice cold.

And creamy.

See what I did there? You're welcome.

This fabulous picture book is a must read--check it out! Not many authors can say their children exist in illustrated form (which is now something on my parent bucket list), but Suzanne can. Her debut book, I Campaigned for Ice Cream: A Boy's Quest for Ice Cream Trucks features the real life story of her son's journey into sweet civic engagement (again, you're welcome).

Suzanne does have a giveaway with her post so be sure to read to the end. Two signed books!--a two scoop special (seriously, you're welcome).

Enough of the puns. I hear the eyes rolling...

Here's Suzanne!

  • my laptop

  • a Roget’s Thesaurus (the actual book not online)

  • a pair of fuzzy socks

What’s something you absolutely must have in your refrigerator, pantry, or freezer? (besides ice cream) : )

Actually, I don’t keep any ice cream in the house because it’s way too tempting, but I always have a bar of quality dark chocolate on hand.

Sitting on my sofa looking out at our lake. It calms and centers me and allows the ideas to flow.

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into kid lit...why picture books?

It has been my lifelong goal to publish a children’s book. In elementary school, I was that kid who when assigned a two-page paper, wrote ten. I received my first rejection letter (of many) from Western Publishing Company for my manuscript Boogie the Snail when I was twelve. In high school, I was co-editor of the school newspaper and co-wrote articles for the High School Happenings page of a local newspaper. As a freshman in college I majored in journalism, but my desire to teach children triumphed. Now as a nonfiction kidlit author, I have combined both passions!

Several years ago, I decided that if I didn’t make a concerted effort to carve out time to write I was never going to accomplish my goal. So, one New Year’s Eve, I made a resolution to make writing a priority and it was the first resolution I’ve ever kept. I picked up a manuscript I started years back, a fiction middle-grade version of I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM. I also resolved to take classes to further my craft. One of my first courses was Kristen Fulton’s Nonfiction Archeology class. The idea of writing nonfiction books strongly resonated with me.

I teach developing readers by immersing my students in a different science theme each year and I saw nonfiction as a natural progression from my method of teaching to my writing. The course inspired me to try the ice cream truck story in a nonfiction picture book format and it worked. Now I’m hooked!

Thank you, it has been an incredible experience. I know it’s a cliché, but it truly is a dream come true and to have started with this story is extra special. I won’t go into that now as it’s the perfect segway to your next question.

Our books are always near and dear to our hearts, but this book for you is in another category. Tell us about the unique origin story for I Campaigned for Ice Cream: A Boy’s Quest for Ice Cream Trucks.

I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM is a legacy to my family. It was inspired by my son Josh, who at nine-years-old (he’s 27 now) wondered why ice cream trucks never came to our neighborhood. He soon discovered that a 1954 peddlers’ law forbade the sale of anything on our township streets including ice cream. Josh felt strongly that this was unfair. With a little guidance from his teacher momma, he decided to petition town hall to get the law changed. The book tells the story of Josh’s passionate journey to bring the joy of ice cream trucks to his town.

This story is phenomenal--even better that it's true! I also really enjoyed your puns and ice cream related figurative language--a solid detail that consistently tied your narrative together in a unifying and delicious way. This story has such an inspirational message of perseverance (and is highly educational!). Talk to us about the response you’ve had sharing Josh’s story.

Awww…thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the puns. That part was risky as I didn’t want them to feel like “groaners” (recently learned that expression from Jeremy, Josh’s younger brother). Fortunately, most of the feedback has been that the ice cream related words are part of the story’s charm. The overall response to the book has also been positive. The message that you can make a difference in our world no matter how old you are is one that is current and resonates with “kids” of all ages. When I’m done reading the book, a booming applause usually erupts. I’d like to think it’s for my writing, but I have a feeling it’s more for Josh’s victory. Either way I’m the proud momma of the main character and the book!

Talk to us about the process of distilling this true story that you got to live in real life into a picture book format...what was that like? Anything you had to cut or that just didn’t translate into a picture book?

When my kids were younger, I was an avid scrapbooker, so I had an extensive scrapbook to use for my research. It included copies of city documents, agendas, the law, Josh’s petition, letter, speeches, etc., along with all the newspaper articles we could find.

Additionally, I had VCR tapes (does that age me?) of all the board meetings and the TV news stories. As part of my research, I watched and transcribed every single board meeting so I could be assured my information and any quotes I used were 100% accurate. There were so many fun side stories to Josh’s quest that I couldn’t include but share when I do my school visits.

Your glossary is sweet added bonus (see, I can pepper in ice cream puns too!). Was this something you included in the original manuscript or something added later in the process? Why was it important to include this back matter?

LOL! Yes, you can; it becomes contagious. I had the glossary from the beginning. The teacher in me wanted to include vocabulary essential to the civic process. I worked hard to portray the meaning of most of the glossary words through the context, but felt it was important to provide accurate definitions of each in the backmatter. Interestingly though, I discovered there were two words I should have included. Many preschoolers and early elementary students don’t know the meaning of the words “Aye” and “Nay”. I now start my author visits with the younger set by explaining those two words and have them apply their newfound knowledge in a mock vote involving ice cream.

I can honestly say my launch party was amazing and one-of-a-kind. It took place “in the room where it happened”(for all the Hamilton fans reading this)—West Bloomfield Town Hall bringing everything full circle. I approached Steve Kaplan, the current supervisor of the township (he was on the board when Josh petitioned for ice cream trucks) to see if I could have my party in the board room. He quickly grabbed onto the idea and offered to host. Attending were trustees from the 2001 board, current township employees, many friends and family members, and Josh! who flew in from Colorado.

The township hosted an actual live show which was broadcasted on West Bloomfield’s community television station, so I now have a tape (this time DVD) of my entire launch party!

The program included speeches from and interviews of myself, Josh, my publisher (who also flew in for the event) and Mr. Kaplan. West Bloomfield provided the food which of course included an ice cream truck.

The final treat (sorry, but I couldn’t resist throwing in another ice cream pun) included not only a book signing by the author, but also by the main character!