Interview, Picture Books, Reading

INTERVIEW with Debut Picture Book Author Rebecca Colby… and A GIVEAWAY!

Wee Lassie coverToday 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!)

Rebecca's two wee lassies. Adorable, aren't' they?
Rebecca’s two wee lassies. Adorable, aren’t’ they?

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:

Thank you, Rebecca, for stopping by.  To learn more about Rebecca and her books by visiting her on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.Image 1

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.

42 thoughts on “INTERVIEW with Debut Picture Book Author Rebecca Colby… and A GIVEAWAY!”

  1. This sounds cute. What a great idea to have a wee lassie along on each author visit! I don’t know what she swallows already, but my dog, Cupcake thinks she should swallow a liver-treat because they’re delicious – almost as delicious as the “candies” that the geese leave in the grass….

    1. Ha! I stepped in some deer “candy” today on a walk with my wee lassies. I think Cupcake would be disappointed with this story as the food might not be to her taste, but a big thank you for your comment and her guess. 🙂 PS Cupcake is such a great name for a dog! There’s got to be a story there!

  2. Terrific interview, Laura and Rebecca! What if the wee lassie swallowed a goat on a boat eating buttered toast? Much success with your books. They sound super fun!

    1. You haven’t lived life until you’ve tried midgie shortbread, Cathy! Thanks for commenting! And if you ever change your mind, I’ll send you the recipe. 😉

    1. Thank you, Juliana. So do I! Reading about debut authors always gave me strength and motivation to keep writing when things got tough. And I love hearing any success stories!

  3. Great interview! I love the illustrations and I can’t wait to see what else she eats! Kippers and mutton?? Congratulations on your launch and the sale of your witchy book.

  4. Congrats to Rebecca! I am lucky enough to be in Rebecca’s critique group and privileged to have seen wee lassie go from draft to perfection. Rebecca has such a fun, creative mind and I promise she is just beginning to make her mark in the picture book world! Even though I’ve read this story, I am itching to get my hands on the finished book…and it won’t be long, as my signed copy is in the mail 🙂
    Her teacher’s guide is amazing!!!
    Laura, don’t enter me in the giveaway as I’ve already won one copy and have another on order. Thanks for this interview! It was great!

    1. My stories wouldn’t be half as good without my critique partners offering guidance and feedback on them. And I’m the lucky one to be in Penny’s critique group! 🙂 Thanks for everything, Penny! Your copy is now in the post.

  5. Great interview. Rebecca is doing an awesome job with marketing because I keep seeing the Wee Lassie across the internet! I hope the wee lassie swallows some bagpipes, but not a man’s kilt which would be terribly inappropriate in a children’s book:)

  6. I love how you took a traditional book and suited it to your culture. How fun. I like your trailer with the bagpipes! Thanks, Laura and Rebecca!

    1. Thank you, Tina. I think there ought to be more regional versions. My daughter is writing a Hawaiian version but I’m leaning towards an Irish pot-of-gold swallowing leprechaun if it hasn’t already been done.

  7. Great interview! When the above commenter mentioned a book trailer, I had to seek it out–love it! And I love how there is also a puffin and a seal in your story–two of my favorite creatures. I’m so looking forward to this book!

    1. Thank you very much, Marcia. The puffin and seal are just two of the many Scottish creatures that wee lassie swallows. Kate did a fantastic job on the seal. It’s my second favorite of her illustrations after Nessie.

  8. My goodness, Rebecca and Kaqte’s book is adorable. I also covet those orange braids. It brings back a flood of feelings about why I love PBs in the first place.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments, Mirka. And funny you should say that about the orange braids. @discoverkelpies is looking for wee lassie lookalikes at the moment… I hope they find some lookalikes soon!

  9. Congratulations, Morning Scribbler. 🙂
    You have come a long way from entering the rhyming contests on my blog. I remember reading the first version you posted on the Poets’ Garage and hope I’m lucky enough to win a signed copy of your first of many books.

    1. Another critique partner whose group I’m so pleased to be a part of–thanks so much for all your help and support over the last five years, Sherry! And thanks for stopping by!

  10. I think you’re right, Heather! And as you’re probably aware, there are those people who believe the Loch Ness monster is a plesiosaur (the pliosaurs longer-necked cousin), who got trapped in this cold, deep-bottomed lake over millions of years ago and survived. They just found the legendary giant squid last year–perhaps they’ll find Nessie one of these days! 🙂 Thanks for watching the trailer and for your comments!

  11. Rebecca, that is one fantastic Teacher’s Guide! You did such a great job on it, and the trailer…can’t say enough about the accent 😀 Congrats on both your books! Thanks for the great interview, Laura!

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