When I read in the SCBWI-Carolinas Facebook Pal Group that Tara Cattie Luebbe's debut picture book was coming out in March, I asked if she wanted to share her path to publication. She not only agreed, but offered to give away a copy of each book! Details on how to enter the giveaways are below.
CAROL: Can you share the backstory for each of these books? How did you got your ideas and how did the stories develop?
TARA: I AM FAMOUS is about a little girl who believes she is a famous actress, singer, and dancer. Because she is famous, she’s always being photographed by the paparazzi (her parents). When she messes up her biggest gig ever, she realizes her fans are the best kind—loyal.
|Albert Whitman, March 2018|
The idea for I AM FAMOUS came from listening to Weird Al. He has a parody of Taylor Swift’s song You Belong to Me called TMZ, which is about the paparazzi stalking celebrities. It reminded me of today’s parents, social media and their children.
SHARK NATE-O is about a shark-obsessed boy who pretends he is a shark, but who can’t swim. He takes swimming lessons and uses shark facts along the way to help overcome his fear. There is also a nonfiction shark fact section in the back.
|Little Bee Books, April 2018|
The idea for SHARK NATE-O came from a boy in my second-grade class who always pretended to be a shark and would chomp us at recess. But that wasn’t enough for a picture book. It wasn’t until my own son, Nate, went through a shark phase while also taking swimming lessons that I began to envision the story. My brother called him “Shark Nate-O” and that was the lightening rod, and title, I needed.
CAROL: Both books are co-written with your sister, Becky Cattie. Can you share your collaborative process?
|Tara and Becky|
TARA: It was never the plan to co-author with my sister. When I began writing, I sent her my first story and she sent it back half-changed for the better. So, I asked her if she wanted to do this together! We live in different states, so we do a lot on email and phone calls. We just go back and forth until it’s right.
CAROL: Was there any interaction between the two of you and your illustrators?
TARA: We had no contact with the illustrators during the process. Any art changes we wanted to suggest were made through the editors.
CAROL: Are you agented? What was your path to finding the publishers?
TARA: I am represented by Tracy Marchini of Bookends Literary. Both of my debut books were post-conference submissions from the SCBWI Illinois Prairie Writers and Illustrators Day. We heard from both publishers soon afterwards and were able to get Tracy on board to help us from there.
CAROL: What role did SCBWI Carolinas have in publication of these books?
TARA: I joined SCBWI-C shortly after beginning my writing journey. Through the organization I met valuable critique partners which has been a huge part of my success. I enjoy the conference every year and love connecting with other writers from our great region.
I've talked about how you can support authors by pre-ordering their books. Another way is to request your local library to purchase a copy. It only takes a few minutes to fill out a request form and authors really appreciate it!
Tara and Becky are giving away a copy of I AM FAMOUS and SHARK NATE-O. Please leave me your name AND email address (if you are new to my blog). The top two names selected by Random.org will win books on April 20th.
Tara Luebbe is an ex-retailer turned picture book author. She co-writes with her sister Becky Cattie. They are the authors of I AM FAMOUS, illustrated by Joanne Lew Vriethoff, (Albert Whitman 2018); SHARK NATE-O, illustrated by Daniel Duncan, (little bee books 2018); I USED TO BE FAMOUS, illustrated by Joanne Lew Vriethoff (Albert Whitman Spring 2019); and CONAN THE LIBRARIAN (Roaring Brook Press Spring 2020). She is also the founder of Writing with the Stars, a free mentorship program for aspiring picture book writers. You can learn more at beckytarabooks.com and you can find her on Twitter @t_luebbe.