Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Behind the Scenes with Gretchen Griffith's New Picture Book and a Giveaway!


Many years ago, Gretchen Griffith commuted to Charlotte to be a part of our SCBWI critique group. Since then she has found a group much closer to her home in Hickory, NC, but I have watched from afar as she got her much-worked on article "Finding Forty Two" published in Highlights in 2009, and then went on to publish two books set in the North Carolina mountains. Today, I'm happy to share the story behind her newly-released picture book, "When Christmas Feels Like Home." Her publisher, Albert Whitman, is providing a giveaway copy. Details at the end of the blog. 

Carol: Can you share the backstory of this book? What influenced you as you wrote it? How did you come up with the story idea? How did you find your publisher?

GretchenI wrote the manuscript in 2008 for the 2009 Highlights for Children writing contest when the theme was “contemporary world culture stories,” but it was in my head for quite a while before that. I lived in Lima, Peru when I was in high school, so I have experienced the anxiety associated with moving into a new culture. For several years I’ve worked with high school exchange students who go from the US to other countries and those who arrive in North Carolina as well. Our orientation materials tell them to anticipate milestones of when they will fit into the new culture, as well as the ups and downs they'll experience.

With that concept in mind, I began to think about the milestones my fourth grade students would face moving into a new culture, or even if they were just moving from one town to the next. When would their new city feel like home?

By the time I received word that my manuscript didn’t win, I had gone on to other projects, to honing my craft, attending conferences, and studying how to revise what I had written. Most key to this manuscript, I began reading blogs that offered tips on submitting. Somewhere along the line I found a reference to an editor at Albert Whitman & Company looking for international or diversity themed children’s picture books.  

I dragged out the manuscript from the floppy disk (yes, it was that long ago technology-wise) and took a new look at it. Being away from it for over a year helped me see it as a stranger would and through this new perspective I was able to find flaws. I rewrote, fielded it to my critique group (essential step) and revised it again. I submitted and returned to my other projects, always writing, always tending to improving my writing, and I admit, always checking the mailbox.

When the letter came, it wasn’t an acceptance. It was a “the pacing needs some work and we’ll look at it again” kind of letter. I revised and resubmitted a few more times until the offer finally came. Even then, I had to mold and refine until the words sang.

Carol: The illustrations truly complement the story. What are your thoughts about how the book has been illustrated? Did you submit the manuscript with many art notes? 

Gretchen: The illustrator, Carolina Farias, is from Argentina. I had nothing to do with selecting her, but what a perfect match to my manuscript!  I offered no input other than a few minor points. I did say that there couldn’t be any older brothers in the family illustrations because the story line of the main character being alone wouldn’t have worked.

I'm on the picture book authors’ panel at this year’s fall SCBWI Carolinas conference in Charlotte, September 27-29 where I’ll fill everyone in on more details. Meanwhile, stop by and visit my blog. Comments are always welcome!

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To win a copy of this book (think: present for a fortunate child or grandchild!) please follow these rules:

  • Post this blog on your social media site of choice OR become a new follower of this blog and I'll enter your name once. 
  • Post this blog on two different social media sites OR become a new follower of this blog AND post it on a social media site and I'll enter your name twice.
  • Either way, leave a comment with your email address (if you are new to my blog) with what you did. 
  • Winner will be drawn on Monday morning, August 26 - so get those entries in!



30 comments:

Sandra Warren said...

Great post about Gretchen Griffith's new book. It's always great to hear about another author's journey. We have much to learn from each other.

When Christmas Feels Like Home is a wonderful book. I purchased three for my granddaughters for Christmas.

Teresa Fannin said...

It has been wonderful to watch this journey unfold, the imagery in When Christmas Feels Like Home will always be a part of me now. Congrats, Gretchen!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Teresa and Sandra. I guess you've seen this book from it's infancy and can be proud "aunts" now!

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Thanks for the post, Carol. Congratulations, Gretchen! I do remember you from our old SCBWI group way back when. Can't wait to read your book. Will post on Twitter and FB.

Linda Fulkerson said...

Congratulations, Gretchen! I am looking forward to reading your book. I have subscribed and will post on Facebook.

jfowen.com said...

What an interesting post! I was happy to share it on facebook.

I have a question for Gretchen. When you were in Peru, was there eventually a time when you felt that Lima was truly "home"?

We're anxiously awaiting the arrival of our copies of Gretchen's book and expect that they will be treasured by each of our grandchildren.

jerryo2025@gmail.com

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, LInda..and welcome aboard. Your name was added to the "hat"- twice!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Jerry. I'll make sure that Gretchen answers your question!

Gretchen Griffith said...

I've not thought about a specific time like Eduardo in my book when I realized this was home. Looking back, I guess it was when my host sister and I began to be more sisters than roommates, when we began giggling over the same things and whispering into the wee hours.
Thanks for asking, Jerry.

Rosi said...

It always puts a smile on my face when I hear success stories that include pulling an old manuscript out of a drawer. I just pulled one out that I'm submitting to a contest. Fingers crossed. The book looks really cute.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for stopping by, Rosi. Looks like a book for the grands, doesn't it?

Clara Gillow Clark said...

Congratulations to Gretchen! As so many of the others have written, it is always interesting to read about another author's journey. When Christmas Feels Like Home is the sort of book that many will cherish. Best wishes to Gretchen! Thanks for the post, Carol!

Linda A. said...

Carol,
I'm so glad you interviewed Gretchen about her lovely picture book. I've known about it since her first submission. I'm so happy for Gretchen. Learning more of the "behind the scenes" was great fun.

I posted a link to this blog post at LinkedIn. Please include me in the drawing. Thanks!

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Carol,
Thanks for interviewing Gretchen about her new book. It's so much fun to learn the story behind great fiction.

Congratulations, Gretchen Griffith!
Yee Haw for you, your book, and your publisher!
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Joan Y. Edwards said...

I forgot to tell you that I posted it on Facebook and on Twitter. I'd love to win the Giveaway.

Celebrate you and your blog today
Joan Y. Edwards

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Joan. You're in!

Kathy B said...

Congratulations Gretchen! I can't wait to read it. Thank you Carol for doing the interview. It is wonderful to read about a SCBWI Carolinas success story.

Susan Hornbach said...

The title makes me feel warm. If I were in another place, I think Christmas would bring me some homemade comfort. I wish you well with your new book. Thanks for the wonderful interview and best wishes for much success.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kathy, for stopping by my blog! It is encouraging to us all to see when perseverance and good writing skills (and of course a story) pay off!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Susan, for your comment Susan. I think Gretchen's book sounds like a winner too!

Young Authors Program said...

Great success story, Carol. And congratulations Gretchen. These are the stories that keep me writing forward! Posting blog link to my Twitter and Facebook...doubling my chance of winning!

Lois said...

Great post and good advice for all writers, to keep going. Thanks Carol. I'v subscribed to your blog and look forward to reading other such posts.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Dorothy- you're in twice, and Thanks Lois for subscribing! entered you both.

Janelle said...

I love the concept and cover of your book, Gretchen! Looking forward to reading it!

I hope you have lots of copies of it for sale at the fall conference for those of us who don't win it! :)

Will post this post to my twitter followers.

Carol Baldwin said...

Janelle- I bet you love this book--it is right up your alley! WIll include your name in the giveaway!

wordwranglernc said...

Oooh! I posted it on FB and Twitter! The cover of this pb is precious! I'm looking forward to seeing you at the Fall conference!

Samantha Bell said...

So excited for Gretchen! Can't wait to read it! Joined the blog (I thought I already had!) and posted it on FB. :)

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Donna and Samantha. You're both in!

Alice said...

hi carol. I was wondering if you would do some more children's books, as i am a child who has an insane two massive bookshelves full of them and im struggling for good reads

Carol Baldwin said...

Alice- I blog about lots of different kinds of children's books. Not sure how you found my blog, but stay tuned for more!