Today I’m delighted to have children’s author and poet, Rebecca Colby, as my guest. Rebecca and I met through the Poet’s Garage and, as former critique buddies, I can attest that she is a rhyming whizz with a quirky, fun sense of humor. She’s joining me today to celebrate the launch of her debut picture book, THERE WAS A WEE LASSIE WHO SWALLOWED A MIDGIE (Floris Books, March 2014), a Scottish twist on the traditional rhyme.
Laura: Welcome, Rebecca. First off, congratulations! THERE WAS A WEE LASSIE WHO SWALLOWED A MIDGIE has been out in Great Britain for just over a month. How has the launch been?
Rebecca: It’s been a fun journey so far! The launch party was filled with wee lassies, wee laddies, and even dozens of midgies—although only in the form of midgie cupcakes and midgie shortbread. Since the launch, I’ve been out on an average of two events per week at libraries and schools, as well as taking a fantastic trip to Edinburgh to the Scottish Storytelling Centre to share my book. To make the readings more interactive, I hired a local seamstress to produce a wee lassie costume. A child volunteer at each event is asked to dress in the costume and ‘swallow’ all the creatures in the book as it is read. Most of the events have also included a craft-making session with Loch Ness monster puppets and Loch Ness monster fridge magnets. (Take one guess as to what else the wee lassie swallows besides a midgie!)
In the way of on-line promotion, I’ve started a mini-marketing collective for published children’s writers and have been busy organizing the collective. I’ve also produced a teacher’s guide for the book which is now available to download from my website. But I’ll talk more about that in a minute.
I’m not the only one who has been busy with the launch of the book. My publisher has produced a trailer, complete with the obligatory Scottish bagpipe music. For a sneak peek inside the book, check out the trailer.
Laura: I’ve always loved the traditional “There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly” and have enjoyed different twists on it over the years. Can you tell us a little bit about WEE LASSIE’s journey from spark to publication?
Rebecca: Like you, Laura, I’ve also always enjoyed the traditional rhyme “There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly” and the various twists on it. One of my favorite twists is Jennifer Ward’s “There Was a Coyote Who Swallowed a Flea.” But it was when I came across the laugh-out-loud Australian version, “There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Mozzie” by P. Crumble, that I got the idea to write a Scottish version.
My original idea was to have the wee lassie swallow the Queen (then turn ill and green), but I eventually decided that would be too contentious and probably not agreeable to most publishers, so I changed it. Once the manuscript was finished, I submitted it to Floris Books in Edinburgh for their Picture Kelpies imprint. Their website listed a reply time of three months. As advertised, it was nearly three months later when they wrote back offering me a contract.
I should add that while WEE LASSIE is my first book to be published, it’s not the first book I sold. I acquired my agent, Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, a month before WEE LASSIE sold. Within a week of signing with Kathleen, she sold my first book—a book about a witch parade entitled IT’S RAINING BATS AND FROGS–to Feiwel & Friends. But it will be summer 2015 before that first (or rather, second) book comes out.
Laura: The illustrations that accompany your story are fetching. Tell us a little bit about the artist. Do you have a favorite creature she’s drawn or a favorite spread?
Rebecca: The illustrator, Kate McClelland, did a fantastic job with the book. She’s an Edinburgh-based artist who likes working in mixed media. As she explained to me, she feels she would get bored working with only one material like watercolors and pencils, and prefers to use lots of different materials to create an image.
It’s hard picking a favorite creature or spread when you love all of them equally. It’s kind of like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. They’re all wonderful in their own ways. But given that I’m drawn to the mysterious side of life, I’d have to say the Loch Ness monster spread really makes me smile. With Kate’s kind permission, it’s the illustration I’ve chosen to feature on my website and social media sites.
I just want to add that Kate is an illustrator to watch. She’s already hard at work on her next picture book—a book that she’s both writing and illustrating. To follow Kate’s work and learn more about her, you can visit her website.
Laura: Teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum or extend the enjoyment with post-reading activities. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?
Rebecca:I sure do! As a parent of two wee lassies and as a former teacher, I know how important curriculum-based and post-reading activities are to enhancing the picture book reading experience. With that in mind, I produced a teacher’s guide to WEE LASSIE that includes everything from measuring length with midgies and learning about animal habitats, to baking midgie shortbread and making the Loch Ness monster puppets mentioned above. The guide also includes interviews with the illustrator, Kate McLelland, and myself, as well as coloring pages for younger children. You can download a free copy of the guide from my website at: www.rebeccacolbybooks.com/teachers
Now for the GIVEAWAY! Rebecca has generously offered to give away one signed copy of THERE WAS A WEE LASSIE WHO SWALLOWED A MIDGIE. To enter for a chance to win this signed copy simply leave a comment. Optional: Tell us what else the wee lassie might swallow. (Note: You must be at least 13 to enter and you may only enter once.) The contest ends Thursday, 4/17/2014 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner, whose name will be pulled from a hat, will be announced Friday.
NOTE: The Giveaway is now over. Thank you to all who entered. The winner is announced here.