Hello, writers, artists, readers, educators, parents.... and all!
Thank you for being here! Remember, this is a place to refresh your mind, recharge your spirit, and get literary inspired!
And what a double treat I have for you on KidLit Oasis this week! I am so excited to be talking with a pair of creators, author Beth Anderson and Illustrator Anne Lambelet, and their amazing newly released picture book, CLOAKED IN COURAGE: UNCOVERING DEBORAH SAMPSON, PATRIOT SOLDIER.
Welcome, Beth and Anne! I can't wait to hear about your collaboration and all the juicy details, the behind-the-scenes in the creation of this book, and the wisdom you have to share with my readers. I know we will all be inspired and enriched by your journey with this book.
Beth, please tell us how the idea for this story came about? Walk us through the writing and revising process – how many drafts, how long it took to complete it, when did you share with your agent etc.
BA: I had come across Deborah Sampson in the past but wasn’t grabbed by what little I knew about her. Then in 2019, an article appeared about a diary that was found with a reference to Sampson’s failed attempt at enlisting. This caught my attention, because primary source discoveries do that, and suddenly I considered her challenges. It was clearly a story that needed to be told, but I didn’t have any idea of how to tell it… and I wasn’t hooked emotionally. I started researching in the summer of 2019. After only one draft in October 2019, I was totally stuck. I focused on Sampson as a mystery, inviting the reader to imagine with me and question the various aspects of her story—because the research raised so many questions due to a lot of misinformation. But it was distant and really didn’t work.
In January 2020 I prepared for the release of LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT, a series of school visits, a conference, and a trip to NYC. Then Covid hit. For a while, I couldn’t get words on the page. At the end of April, I picked up the Sampson manuscript and tried again. I needed to work on something. The research became a lesson in historical detective work and required me to search farther and wider. After lots more digging, I began to find the person. And then, I was hooked. After about 15 revisions, I shared it with my agent. (But really, it was still not ready.)
Let’s hear about the submission process. How long did it take from submission to offer? How did you get the news? Where were you at that moment? Can you give us the juicy details around that?
BA: We did an exclusive submission in July 2020 to Carolyn Yoder at Calkins Creek. I’d worked with her on five other books. Because it only went to one editor, it played out a bit differently than usual. It was basically an R&R&R&R&R&R. I took it through 8-10 more revisions, sharing a few along the way with the editor, before receiving an offer in October. And then, of course, a few more revisions under contract.
I had shifted how I attacked a draft with this story, and I think it resulted in more pre-writing and fewer revisions initially, though it still ended up close to my usual 30. As we all were adjusting to a new normal, this manuscript just happened differently. I was mentally a bit clogged in that first year of the pandemic, and publishing seemed to slow. But the editor’s interest kept me going. So many challenges with this story!
When did you find out who the illustrator was and what were your thoughts about the pairing?
BA: I always ask my agent, Stephanie Fretwell-Hill about illustrators, and share our thoughts when the editor asks about my vision. Anne is also one of Stephanie’s clients, and her name came up immediately. Her style seemed a great fit, and I loved her work. And so did the editor!
Anne, what did you think of the story when you were approached about illustrating it? What attracted you to the book? Why did you decide to get on board?
AL: I was immediately excited by the manuscript! I love empowering stories about strong, female characters, and it was even more exciting knowing that Deborah Sampson was a real — but mostly unknown— historical figure. The book felt like an opportunity to shed some light on a woman who deserved more widespread attention and admiration. I also live in Philadelphia, a city bursting with revolutionary war-era history that I’ve developed a lot of pride in, so I was also very excited to create art for that time period.
Were there any challenges in the process of telling Deborah’s story in the art? Did you collaborate with Beth while working on the illustrations?
AL: I’d say the biggest challenge for me was making sure that everything was completely historically accurate. Illustrating a book can often feel like directing a film. You have the script, but in every image, you need to design costumes, dress sets, furnish props, cast actors. There are so many small details to consider, and, with non-fiction, that takes a lot of research. It’s crucial that each choice be correct for the time period, whether it be as important as the color of a military uniform or as seemingly insignificant as what side dish is sitting out on a dining table. Though our editor served as a go-between for Beth and me, there was a lot of back and forth between us — as well as an additional historical expert — to make sure that I was depicting this era just right.
Beth, when did you first see what Deborah’s character looked like in sketches? What was it like compared to the image that you had in your mind perhaps?
BA: I saw the first dummy in April 2021. Amazing! The only historical images of Deborah Sampson are crudely done and not flattering—no photographs exist. Consequently, I didn’t have a detailed image in my mind, just someone likeable and, I guess, average. Anne’s rendering nailed it—a rather plain woman, yet both strong and vulnerable, that lets the reader think she could be anyone and makes her ability to pass as a man believable.
Anne, what was your favorite spread to illustrate and why?
AL: There were several spreads that I really enjoyed working on, but my favorite was probably the battle scene where Deborah gets shot in the leg. The text on the spread was charged with so much urgency and energy that, even on the first read-through of the manuscript, images for that particular excerpt were already popping into my head. I loved piecing together all the little vignettes so that the reader’s eye flows across the spread through Beth’s words, hopefully evoking the same movement and action. Plus, I love drawing trees, so it also felt fun and spontaneous letting those hints of landscape fill in the background.
Beth, what was your favorite spread when you saw the complete dummy and why?
BA: The opening spread is my favorite. Initially, it was on one page, when it was expanded to the full spread, and when I saw it in color….WOW!! The depth of the art that I already felt beautifully introduced us to Deborah and the idea that she was sort of “uncontainable” was amazing. The opening text poses a large, complicated question—what makes us who we are? I had to introduce the reader to this child and the context of the time in as few words as possible, but words that would make you want to turn the page. I couldn’t even imagine how an illustrator would support that big, complicated idea. Anne’s art so perfectly brings the idea home, lets us see this child, and immerses us in emotion. There is SO MUCH in that spread! It gives me goosebumps!
This question is for both of you, Beth, and Anne. What do you hope readers will take away from the book? What do you wish for this story to accomplish in the hands of children?
BA: With all the stories I tell, I hope kids will widen their view of the world just a bit and see that everyone is a part of history. This is so much what Sampson’s story is about. How she wanted more than she was handed, saw herself as capable, and pushed past gender roles. And mostly how she turned challenges into chances. I want kids to see possibility in their own lives and know they are capable beings.
AL: I hope that readers see the importance of staying strong no matter the obstacles, of believing in yourself even if the rest of society seems against you, and, finally, that gender does not define a person’s capacity for dedication, hard work, bravery and perseverance.
My final question is for both of you again. What’s next for you? What coming up, what are you working on, any new projects we should be on the lookout for, any upcoming events you’d like to share around the launch?
BA: Anne and I “met” with Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, CO, for a virtual chat on Facebook Live to celebrate our launch. If you missed it, please look for the link to the recording on my website. It’s truly special for an author and illustrator to get an opportunity to discuss a book and ask all the questions they wondered about in the process of creating it.
I’m very excited about THOMAS JEFFERSON’S BATTLE FOR SCIENCE: BIAS, TRUTH, AND A MIGHTY MOOSE which releases in fall 2023. The illustrations by Jeremy Holmes are fabulous! I’m awaiting the final art and just know it will blow me over. There’s nothing I love more than a story with history, humor, AND science!
HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT: KATE WARNE AND THE RACE TO SAVE PRESIDENT LINCOLN is currently with illustrator Sally Wern Comport. I can’t wait to see the sketches! And I’m working on final revisions for a story, as yet unannounced, about another amazing young woman. My desk is currently covered with articles and timelines and notes and books on my next WIP as I eke out a first draft, the hardest part for me.
AL: I’m currently illustrating a non-fiction picture book by Penny Parker Klostermann about another strong, female, historical figure named Nan Songer. She raised spiders during WWII and harvested their silk which she then sold to the US military for use in gun sights. I am also very excited to announce that I’m currently beginning work on my first graphic novel for which I am both the author and the illustrator. This book is a non-fiction tour of the amazing abilities of cephalopods, and the readers’ guide on the tour is an adorable dumbo octopus named Grimpy. My biggest upcoming project however is that, in November, I’ll become a mom for the first time! With a baby arriving so soon, publication dates for the Nan Songer book and the octopus graphic novel aren’t until 2025.
Huge congrats on all fronts, Anne! Doesn't get more exciting than that!! And wow, Beth, you are on fire for sure! I can't wait to see all those books, too!
Thank you both for being my guests on KidLit Oasis -- it was such a pleasure chatting with you, and I wish you many more successes, lots of joy in everything you do, and tons of creative bliss!
Order your copy of Cloaked in Courage HERE
Educator Guide: cloaked-in-courage_educatordiscussion-guide.pdf
About Beth Anderson
Beth Anderson, a former educator, has always marveled at the power of books. With linguistics and reading degrees, a fascination with language, and a penchant for untold tales, she strives for accidental learning in the midst of a great story. Beth lives in Loveland, Colorado where she laughs, ponders, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same. She’s the award-winning author of CLOAKED IN COURAGE, FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE, REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT, TAD LINCOLN’S RESTLESS WRIGGLE, “SMELLY” KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES, LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT!, and AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET. Beth has more historical picture books on the way.
About Anne Lambelet
Anne Lambelet earned her bachelor’s degree in illustration from the University of the Arts in 2014. After graduating she immediately dove into her career as a freelance illustrator working with clients such as HarperCollins, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster and Owlcrate. Her first author-illustrated picture book, Maria the Matador, was published in 2019, and she’s been both writing and illustrating books for young readers ever since. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, her adorable dog, Eevee, her obese (but also adorable) cat Fitzgerald, and, very soon, a brand new baby. She is currently represented by Stephanie Fretwell-Hill of Red Fox Literary.
Connect with Anne:
G I V E A W A Y! ! !
Leave a comment on this post to be entered in the drawing for a chance to win a copy of CLOAKED IN COURAGE. Good luck!
Welcome, Michelle! Thank you for joining us on the blog. Please briefly describe your journey to publication.
Thank you, Rosie, for welcoming me to your Chitchat series on KidLit Oasis.
It’s so valuable for writers, pre-published or multi-published, to read about journeys to publication because they are each so unique! Every creative should keep in mind that each person’s path contains bumps and turns, but also joys and celebrations. Here are a few highlights of mine…
I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a child. Being an author was my dream ever since my third-grade teacher assigned us to write and illustrate our own picture books. The PTA moms made our stories into real books from donated fabric and cereal boxes. I will never forget holding that book in my hands!
Fast forward thirty years, I reconsidered that dream while living in Belgium. During my graduate and teaching years in the States, I had written, published, and won recognition for my adult poetry. But having children sparked once again my dream of publishing a picture book.
I spent years writing bedtime stories and then years revising those stories. While querying, I was often told that they were “too quiet.” So, I wrote some “less quiet” stories, two of which were published as early readers. I also wrote a couple middle grade manuscripts.
I eventually queried an agent with a middle grade novel, who then asked to see any picture books manuscripts I had. I sent her a few. And in the end, this agent, Essie White of Storm Literary Agency, signed me as a client because she loved my quieter, more literary stories.
It may have taken more years than I could have ever anticipated for Teddy Let’s Go! to be published, but it did find the perfect publishing home at Enchanted Lion Books. I am so thrilled that readers everywhere will be able to meet Teddy on December 6, 2022.
Would you walk us through the experience of getting the news of your publishing offer? How long after submission did it happen? Were you aware that it went to acquisitions or was it a surprise? How did you get the news (email, phone call, text) and where were you/what were you doing when that happened? What was your immediate reaction? Who was the first person you shared the news with? I'm always curious about how other authors experienced this particular moment of "The News" so, please give us all the juicy details! :)
Teddy Let’s Go! went on submission in Spring 2016. And then one afternoon in Fall 2018, I was writing in my office when an email popped up from my agent. I read it several times to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood! Claudia Zoe Bedrick at Enchanted Lion Books wanted to publish Teddy Let’s Go! and Nahid Kazemi was already on board to illustrate it!
Almost immediately after responding to Essie, I sent an email to my husband, and I couldn’t wait to pick up my daughters from school! But other than them, no one could know.
Because Claudia is the publisher at ELB, the manuscript didn’t go to an acquisitions meeting. But paperwork and contracts take time. So, I didn’t sign a contract until the following Spring 2019. The deal was finally listed in Publisher’s Weekly, and I could share the news with everyone… What a hard secret to keep!
What do you find most challenging in this business, either on the creative or publishing side of things? What do you find most rewarding? What helps you stay motivated?
The most challenging aspect of publishing is the business side because so much is out of the author’s control. All we can do, as writers or illustrators, is to keep learning, growing, and producing our best work. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to know what trends will be in the marketplace. As writers, we can’t, nor should we, control how quickly illustrations get done.
Although publishing is a slow process, there are many rewards along the way: crafting the perfect phrase or metaphor, meeting a fellow creative that becomes a dear friend, having the opportunity to learn from more experienced authors, finally connecting with the dream agent, … and then of course getting that email and phone call to talk about the publisher who wants your work. I feel very privileged to be able to know and work with Claudia and the team at Enchanted Lion. I’ve admired their books for years! It’s greatly satisfying to be publishing Teddy Let’s Go! with ELB.
What helps me stay motivated is the craft of writing. I really enjoy it! I love putting myself in my characters’ shoes, joining them on adventures, discovering their lives (fiction and NF), and imagining the readers who might need their stories.
Another motivation is hearing about other people’s creative journeys. We’re all in this together no matter how different our paths are. Particularly in the kid lit community, the camaraderie and encouragements I’ve received along the way have been invaluable.
Could you share any craft tools or techniques that you find most helpful to you when working on a project? What does your revision process look like?
When I have a new idea for a picture book, I write it all down without stopping to edit. It’s often a long mess of words. But then I get to edit, and I enjoy editing. I see the first draft as a blob of clay or chunk of stone that needs sculpted and chipped away. I find that fun.
However, when writing a novel, I’ll write as much as I can in a day. When I go back to it, I reread what I’ve written, edit a bit, and then continue writing. Usually about five to ten chapters in, I’ll have a really good idea of my characters, setting, and what I want to happen. At that point, I write a rough outline before going any further with the manuscript.
No matter the manuscript, I’ll revise until I can’t see where else I can improve it. This is when I share it with critique partners. When no one has any other suggestions that can improve the work, I’ll do another read-through and send it to Essie. She gives wonderful feedback. So, I consider her comments and make necessary changes.
Looking back, what do you consider your biggest publishing career accomplishment so far? What are some of the things you'd like to accomplish in the next year from now?
My biggest accomplishment is not quitting.
At least for a year before signing with Storm Literary, I would ask myself monthly, “When do I stop?” And then someone, a critique partner, another writer, or feedback from webinar or conference would say just what I needed to hear to go one more month. To anyone reading this who is nodding their head, relating to the doubts, let this be your “don’t stop” message. If you’re reading this, you care enough about your craft and your audience to keep going.
What I’d like to accomplish in the next year from now is to polish my MG verse novel and have it ready for submission (hopefully in the next few months). I also have a new idea for a picture book in verse I would like to explore.
What is your vision for this book? What kind of impact do you hope it would have on readers?
I envision my book being shared with grandparents, parents, children, and siblings at home, in school, and at library readings. I hope it reaches an audience who appreciates it and that it brings them joy. I hope the story touches readers’ hearts and helps them feel loved and know they have a lot of love to give as well.
So, what's coming up next for you? Please tell us about any new releases, exciting news, upcoming events or anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Teddy Let’s Go! releases December 6, but I’m having a special pre-launch event at my local bookstore, Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC on November 19. My December calendar is filling up with local events, but I am looking forward to travel and virtual events in the new year as well.
For a signed copy, please order from my local bookstore and mention that you’d like it signed in the comment section at checkout: Park Road Books
Michelle Nott is a dual-nationality author who finds inspiration in her family, her travels, and particularly in American and French literature, culture, and art. Born in the United States, Michelle has also lived in France and in Belgium.
Michelle taught French (pre-K, elementary, high school, and college) and Creative Writing (high school) before focusing her attention on writing for children. She finds crafting picture books an ideal way to combine her love and respect for children, language, and fine art. She strives to share this passion with readers of all ages.
Teddy Let’s Go! is Michelle’s third book for children and her debut picture book. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and their rescue dog.
G I V E A W A Y! ! !
One lucky winner will receive a fiction picture book critique from Michelle! Just comment on this post by 11/28/22 to be entered in the drawing.
About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a multi-published, award-winning children's author and kid lit Writing Coach. She's the creator of Picture Book Mastery System™ that is proven to help emerging children's writers advance their career and get closer to their publishing goals.
Rosie's latest picture book, Sunday Rain, was featured in The New York Times and recommended by Parents magazine. Her upcoming picture book, The School of Failure: A Story About Success will be released in the spring of 2022 in both China and the USA.
Rosie also loves to visit schools and her interactive workshops empower students to unleash their creativity and grow in confidence through reading, writing, and creating. Teachers and librarians love Rosie for her bubbly, upbeat personality which captures students' attention, encourages them to think creatively, and motivates them to pursue big dreams.
She has been featured on TV, radio, podcasts, and print media, and also speaks on women's and moms’ topics, sharing her journey from a Bulgarian immigrant to a published author.
Find out more about Rosie's online courses, mentorships, and her work by visiting her website: RosieJPova.com
Check out her Critique Services here, her Workshops here, and her school visits page here.
Rosie is represented by Jennifer Herrington of Harvey Klinger Literary.