The Backstory: EVERYONE'S SLEEPY BUT THE BABY & TRICK OR TREAT, BUGS TO EAT
This week I am thrilled to introduce, Tracy C. Gold! Tracy is bringing us two backstories for the price of one today. First up is her board book, EVERYONE'S SLEEPY BUT THE BABY, releasing March 16, followed by her picture book, TRICK OR TREAT, BUGS TO EAT, releasing August 2021.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind not one, but TWO of your books.
First off, please tell us a little bit about “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby,” your book coming out from Familius on March 16, 2021, illustrated by Adele Dafflon.
“Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” is like “Go the F**k to Sleep,” except you can actually read it to your kid. It’s a short-but-sweet board book that speaks to the frustrations new parents feel when their babies JUST. WON’T. SLEEP! The illustrations feature a super cute baby, dog, and lots of other animals so babies should love the book just as much as parents! Spoiler alert, by the end of the book, the whole family is snoozing, even the baby.
What a great concept! Having had kids in the "just won't sleep" phase not so long ago this is such a relatable book and the visuals seem like they would be very engaging for little ones.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration?
I like to say this book is “non-fiction,” because it was directly inspired by many, many sleepless nights with my daughter. She’s almost 3 now and we still have this issue. I’m told by experienced parents that this really never ends because when your kids are teens you’re up all night waiting for them to come home or worrying about what kind of trouble they’re getting in at college, so I guess I’m settled in for the long haul.
What a way to channel those sleepless nights into creativity.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby”? Was it something undeniable you had to write immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?
The idea-to-final-manuscript process for “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” actually happened very quickly! This was shocking for me as I also write novels and spend years on those. One afternoon in summer 2019, when my baby was about a year old, I looked around with half-open eyes, got jealous because my dog was sleeping, and wished my baby would stop wanting to play instead of nap. I jotted down some notes on my phone about the feeling. Then a few days later, when I actually managed to get my child to nap, I added to the manuscript. I had this hunch that it was something special and sent it off to a few small publishers almost immediately. Then I panicked because I hadn’t had anyone critique it and hadn’t ever had a critique on a picture book before! I reached out to a few freelance editors to see what they charged for critiquing picture books and sent them the manuscript. One editor said not to pay her to edit the book because she didn’t think it would ever sell. That felt pretty horrible to read. Then another editor said not to pay her to edit the book because she thought it was perfect as is. What?! That editor, Jennifer Rees, turned out to be right! Just one week after I’d sent the book to Familius, Christopher Robbins, the president, emailed to say they were interested in publishing it! After I freaked out in joy, I checked with the friend who’d first told me about Familius, author Kathy MacMillan, and she had such wonderful things to say about them. In a few weeks, the contract was signed! Then, I worked with an editor at Familius, Laurie Duersch. We added more rhyme and reordered some of the stanzas. After that it was a long wait to find out who the illustrator was, and I was thrilled to see Adele Dafflon’s beautiful work. Familius asked for my feedback on the cover and internal art, and we made some changes, mostly to make sure the book showed a safe sleeping environment for the baby. And now it’s off to the printer!
WOW! What a whirlwind first go at picture books. It is incredible how subjective the industry is and how two editors could have such wildly different views of your manuscript. I am glad your book landed in the right hands and that we will all get to enjoy it!
And now, I’d love to know more about “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat,” your book coming out from Sourcebooks. Could you please give us a quick synopsis?
“Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat” is about a bat going trick-or-treating for bugs! It’s set to the rhyme of “Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet.” On top of being silly and fun, it includes non-fiction information about bats and the important role they play in our ecosystem.
This sounds like a read-aloud I need for my classroom. The familiar rhyme would make it so fun to read and the non-fiction information would be the perfect jumping-off point for further investigations.
Where did the idea come from?
This one is a little less romantic! After selling “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby,” I sent other picture books out to literary agents and secured representation from the wonderful Carrie Pestritto. Carrie had requests from editors for Halloween books. While I was brainstorming, I remembered a trip I took to Austin, TX, where I saw a million bats fly out from under a bridge all at once at sunset. That seemed like a story made for Halloween, so my bat research started!
I love that you can pinpoint the exact inspiration for each of these books. I have been to Austin and seen those bats. It is no surprise they inspired a picture book.
Could you tell us a bit about how this idea developed into what is now "Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat"?
I definitely had to sit with this idea. It took a few weeks between my agent saying “Editors are looking for Halloween books” and sending her a draft, and then months of sporadic revisions after that.
I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but because I’d brainstormed Halloween books in general and Halloween animals, I had the idea to write a book that was a spin on the “Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet” song. I have a copy of “Mother Ghost” by Rachel Kolar (illustrated by Roland Garrigue) and “Edgar Gets Ready for Bed” by Jennifer Adams (illustrated by Ron Stucki). Both of those are new spins on classics (Mother Goose rhymes and Poe’s “The Raven,” respectively), so I’m sure they were in the back of my mind somewhere.
I spent a lot of time researching bats and what they eat online, then wrote several stanzas, which I did by singing the lines to see if they matched the rhythm of “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat,” and sent my agent a copy--she liked the idea! After that, I revised with both critique partners and my agent. I then revised this book along with many others at a weekend “unworkshop” retreat at the Highlights Foundation, which I highly recommend for any writer who struggles to find time to write in their daily lives, especially if you’re in driving distance to the Poconos in PA!
Carrie sent the book on submission at some point in late Fall 2019, and I got an offer of publication from Kelly Barrales-Saylor at Sourcebooks in March 2020 just as the world was shutting down. I was thrilled when I saw the cutest bat illustrations ever from Nancy Leschnikoff. Interestingly, for this book, all of the (relatively minor) changes in the text came once the basic sketches were done, whereas with Familius, I worked on a Word Document. I also reached out to a friend of mine who is a former bat biologist, Liz Mering, and she helped me with some fact checking and bat facts.
Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
My ideas generally come from the real world, whether it’s the world inside my daughter’s bedroom, watching bats in Texas, or reading about something interesting in a magazine. I love the magazines from my local zoo and aquarium for this reason--I get so much inspiration from them! I have a second book contracted with Sourcebooks that will be along the same lines as “Trick or Treat” so we’ll have to see what real-world animal inspires that!
I had never thought of magazines from the zoo or aquariums. I can only imagine the interesting animals and facts within them just waiting to become picture books.
What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?
Well, I’ve already mentioned a few, if we’re talking about picture books specifically! Adam Mansbach’s “Go the F**k to Sleep,” illustrated by Ricardo Cortés, definitely inspired me to include a wink to parents in “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby.” “Mother Ghost” and “Edgar Goes to Bed,” mentioned earlier, certainly inspired “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat.” In terms of more classics, “Humphrey the Lost Whale” by Wendy Tokuda and illustrated by Richard H. Hall is one of my favorite non-fiction animal books. I get so emotionally involved in Humphrey’s journey!
What are the must haves for your workspace?
Well, I have an office with a door that closes, an ergonomic keyboard and chair, and a big monitor. However, during Covid, I haven’t had steady childcare, and many days only get to work while my daughter’s sleeping. My office is ten feet from her room and no matter how loud I turn up the white noise, I swear she knows if I’m in my office and refuses to sleep. So I often end up working on my couch and getting quite a backache as a result, womp womp.
Too funny! Sounds like this could be the inspiration for a sequel to "Noone's Sleepy but the Baby".
Here is my lumpy couch where I often find myself working!
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
Keep going, but put lots of eggs in your basket. I racked up hundreds of rejections from agents on a few novels after querying for years, but sold the very first picture book I sent to publishers. If I had totally given up on writing, or told myself some story about how “I don’t write picture books,” I never would have taken that chance. If you’re feeling stuck, try a new genre or age category. Oh, and I’m still working on those novels, too!
Yes to being flexible and open to opportunities!
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
I’m working on a preorder campaign for “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” where for every receipt I get at email@example.com, I’m donating a copy of the book to ShareBaby, a local charity that gives baby supplies to families in need. You can stock up on a great baby shower gift book in advance!
This is a great idea! Your book will now be my family's go-to shower gift.
Where can people connect more with you?
You can find out more about illustrator Adèle Dafflon on Instagram @adeledafflon. Illustrator Nancy Leschnikoff is also on Instagram @NancyNoodleDoodles.
You can preorder “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” at the following places, and most places books are sold:
You can preorder “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat” at the following places, with more to come:
Tracy thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. It was so wonderful learning more about your inspiration and the path to publication for each of your books.
Readers be sure to get in on Tracy's preorder campaign for "Everyone's Sleepy but the Baby," which releases on March 16, and mark your calendars for the release of "Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat," expected this August.
Tracy is generously offering not one, not two, not three, but FOUR giveaways!
1 lucky person will win a manuscript critique, while 3 others will receive a copy of "Everyone's Sleepy but the Baby," after it releases on 3/16.
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Post about this interview on FB and tell me in the comments that you did.
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ABOUT TRACY C. GOLD
Tracy C. Gold loves bringing characters to life. She is a writer, freelance editor, and mom living in Baltimore, Maryland. She has two picture books forthcoming in 2021, “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” from Familius in March and “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat” from Sourcebooks in August. She also writes short stories, essays, novels, and poems. Her work has been published in several magazines and anthologies. Tracy earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts at the University of Baltimore and earned her B.A. in English from Duke University. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s playing with her toddler, or hanging out with her horse and dog, both rescues.
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
Andrew’s background of being surrounded by children, both at work and at home, has been a treasure trove of inspiration.
A nature lover, Andrew can be found exploring the woods of Massachusetts with his wife and three kids.
While often witty and imaginative, Andrew’s stories can also delve into the more serious and emotional topics that children can experience.
Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Flannery Literary.