This week, I am so excited to welcome an author and editor team to KidLit Oasis! Nicholas Solis and his editor at Sleeping Bear Press, Sarah Rockett, will give us the inside scoop of their collaboration on The Color Collector, the behind-the-scenes details from submission to acquisition and beyond, plus much more!
But that's not all! Sleeping Bear Press is also kindly giving away a copy of the book to one of my blog readers -- check out the details at the end of the interview.
And now, without further ado, here are Nick and Sarah! Thank you both for being on KidLit Oasis and for sharing this wonderful book with my readers! Let me start with my first question to Nick...
1. Nick, please tell us about the journey of publication for The Color Collector -- from the inspiration for the story and writing the first draft to how it ended up on Sarah's desk. I love hearing about the story behind the story and my readers do, too!
My inspiration for The Color Collector was a piece of art that was hanging up at The Austin Art Garage in Austin, TX. It had a lonely little girl, with the saddest eyes I had ever seen, catching falling leaves and placing them in a knapsack. The painting stuck with me for days and I just kept wondering about why she was so sad. I wrote several rough drafts, but none of them felt right. Then one night I woke up at two in the morning with the entire story. I quickly wrote it down before I forgot it. It was much sparser than the original drafts, but the text felt like it fit the lonely little girl with the sad eyes. I continued to work on the draft over the next few years, and started taking classes at The Writing Barn, where I was able to edit it with the help of the fantastic authors who taught there.
In 2018, I was at the International Literacy Association Conference where I started talking to Sarah about books. We traded contacts and I sent in some of my stories to Sleeping Bear Press, and she liked The Color Collector!!!
2. Sarah, please guide us through your thoughts and the process from when you first read The Color Collector to acquiring the story. What made you fall in love with it? What stood out?
Meeting Nick at the ILA conference was such a joy! I could tell how passionate he is about his students and writing for kids—I knew he would be a wonderful author. Nick ended up submitting a handful of manuscripts to us. They all had a ton of potential, and most were really funny, but Color Collector felt really intentional and soulful. The themes of finding beauty in the discarded and being a friend felt really timely. There were so many directions a reader could go with the story. And it had such amazing illustration potential. Luckily, our acquisition team agreed and we were able to sign the project!
3. Nick, how different is the final, published story from the draft that Sarah saw?
It’s pretty similar to the draft that Sarah saw. Sarah has a fantastic eye for editing, and she helped me really tighten up the story. But overall, it was just losing a word or phrase here or there. We did lose one page of text, but that was replaced with the amazing illustrations of Renia Metallinou!
4. Sarah, what was the revision process like after acquisitions?
Nick is right. Not a ton changed with the manuscript in the revision process. But when you’re working with a picture book manuscript—and especially one like Color Collector that is lyrical in nature and already has a tight word count—every single word and punctuation mark is really important. We made a handful of word choice and style edits, but not much more than that. Nick was collaborative and flexible as we worked on the story. It was a great partnership!
5. Nick, what surprised you the most in the journey of this book?
The thing that surprised me most was the editing process. This is the first book that I ever worked with an editor on. I wasn’t exactly sure how it would go. When you sell a book, you’re just happy to get it out there and you’ll pretty much agree to anything. But you struggle with questions like, “What if they change my entire book?” or “What if they get rid of a part that I really love?” But when Sara came back with edits, I thought they were all really great suggestions.
One thing that I absolutely appreciated was when I asked Sarah if we could change the characteristics of the narrator and she enthusiastically agreed. I wanted someone who looked more like me. I’m Mexican-American and I’m trying to push for more representation in the books I create. Sarah and Sleeping Bear Press were on board without question. We gave the boy character tan skin and dark hair like mine and many of the students I teach. I love that they can see themselves inside this book.
6. Sarah, please tell us how the illustrator was chosen and how the selection process works at Sleeping Bear Press. What was your vision for the art and who were the people involved in the decision? Are authors asked for input?
The illustrator selection process is really a team effort at Sleeping Bear. I always ask the author for input on what they see as the style for the book. And then the art director and I talk about what we see working and narrow down a list of choices. Sometimes we all see something different for a particular story, but in this case I think we all wanted to see something creative with dramatic colors. Our art director is wonderful and always guides this process in the right direction. She has a knack for seeing artist portfolios and knowing how they might be able to use their style to make the book shine. And then our authors are looped in for notes throughout the sketch and final art process. The illustration process can be stressful for authors. It’s like sending your kid to sleepaway camp or daycare for the first time! But this is the author’s story and we want them to love the book 100%.
7. Nick, what do you hope readers will take away from the story and what do you believe would resonate with them? How do you envision young kids connecting to your characters?
The main thing I would love readers to take away from this book is that even a small act of kindness can make a huge difference. The narrator is curious about what Violet does with all of the things she collects. He basically asks her a question and then just listens. That’s it. But that small act of kindness made a huge difference in her life. My parents divorced when I was young, so I had to move schools in the middle of the year. I had no friends and no one to talk to. I was absolutely miserable. But one day in class a kid named Dylan said hi to me. We talked for a bit and I met some of his friends. That small interaction changed the course of my entire life. I was a shy, introverted kid. But as the school year progressed, I came out of my shell. I made more and more friends. I later became a teacher that used my story to help spread kindness throughout my classroom. And now I am a writer with a book hoping to spread that message to a wider audience. It all happened with a simple, “Hi.” But it completely changed my life. I hope the readers will do the same for someone else they meet along the way.
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>>>Click on the cover image to order your copy directly from Sleeping Bear Press!<<<
A new classmate from abroad and a boy who notices she's lonely as he, too, was new once... and in the midst of grayness, a quiet friendship is born. The two kids progressively warm up to each other-- observing each other and connecting from a distance --slowly closing the gap between their two separate worlds.
As their friendship blossoms over time, so does the burst of color on the pages.
The emotional arc is quite effectively enhanced by the visuals, with the art starting in black, white, and gray spreads and slowly progressing towards a gorgeous, full-blown rainbow palette.
Themes of friendship, empathy, and immigration will resonate with readers on multiple levels. Great addition to home and school libraries, for ages 4-8 years.
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Nicholas Solis is an award-winning elementary teacher and author. In 2018, he was the recipient of the Walter Dean Myers Grant from We Need Diverse Books. Growing up, he didn’t have a lot of friends. He moved around a lot and being the new kid at school wasn’t always easy. But in junior high, one kid reached out and was simply nice to him. That gesture of friendship has shaped Nicholas’s entire life. He regularly brings up that story with his students in the hopes of motivating them to reach out to others whenever they can. He lives with his wife, Morgan, their dog, Charlie, and their amazing son, Leo, in Austin, Texas. Learn more about Nicholas at nicholassolis.com
Sarah Rockett has been working in the children's publishing industry for more than a decade and truly believes that picture books have the power to change the world. She loves traveling, spending time outdoors, and--of course--reading. She lives in Michigan with her husband, young son, and lazy cocker spaniel.
G I V E A W A Y ! ! !
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Carolyn Combs is the winner of THE COLOR COLLECTOR. Congratulations, Carolyn!
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About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a
award-winning children's author, speaker, and writing coach on a mission to inspire children not only to read and write more, but to use their creativity, follow their passions, dream big and believe in themselves.
Rosie visits schools and shares her inspirational journey as an immigrant from Bulgaria and how she became a published author, encouraging kids to persist, push through rejections, and hold a high vision for themselves.
Rosie's upcoming picture book, Sunday Rain, will be released in March 2021. It's a story that celebrates imagination, the love of books, and new friendships.
Check out her Critique Services here, her Workshops here, and her school visits page here.
Rosie is represented by Jessica Schmeilder of Golden Wheat Literary.