Maria Gianferrari’s Calls …


As I stretch my Emu’s debut fledgling wings, I remember not “the call,” but several calls that kept me fluttering and striving for flight toward my goal of becoming a published author.

Call #1 came on the evening of May 29th, 2008, as I was reading to my then six year old daughter. I quickly checked the caller ID; I didn’t recognize the name, so I let it go to voicemail. After my daughter was tucked in bed, I listened to the message. The caller was Susan Goodman, a nonfiction writer and judge for PEN New England’s Susan Bloom Discovery Award. I knew I hadn’t won the award—the winners had recently been announced—what could it be? Susan told me how much she loved my submission, a nonfiction picture book called Terrific Tongues. She thought its strength was its structure, a form of direct address that had an engaging, kid friendly voice. And then came the surprise: it had been a contender for the award, but the deal breaker was its too technical ending. We then had a conversation about how to make the ending more organic, and a pleasant conversation about writing in general. Though this was technically a rejection call, it gave me hope. Susan had taken the time out of her busy schedule to give me encouragement, and that’s exactly what I needed.



Fast forward nearly one year later: I revised and revised and revised Terrific Tongues, and re-submitted it for the Discovery Award in 2009. Call #2 came on March 23, 2009. This time when I saw “Susan Goodman” on my caller ID, my stomach began flipping and flopping—could it be? As I picked up the phone and said hello, Susan happily told me I was one of four winners (along with the fabulous Anna Staniszewski, another EMLA member!) I couldn’t believe it! I was overjoyed and terrified: I would have to read my manuscript aloud along with the other winners at the awards evening. That evening came late in May, and I was thrilled to be reading it along with the help of my daughter, now 7. Afterwards, I greeted old friends, and met new ones, one in particular who would become most instrumental in my journey toward publication: Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Joan had also been honored with a Susan Bloom Discovery Award, I came to find out. She congratulated me on receiving the award, and asked if I’d ever considered getting an agent. We exchanged information, and met for coffee. At the time, I had only two submission ready manuscripts, both of which were nonfiction picture books. The timing wasn’t quite right for representation, but Joan was kind and thoughtful and hopeful about my work, encouraging me to keep in touch, and re-submit once I had more completed projects. So I wrote and re-wrote; drafted and revised.          LJIZlzHgQ7WPSh5KVTCB_Typewriter


Fast forward again: May 2011. I met Joan briefly at the NE-SCBWI conference, as I was waiting for my critique. She said a hearty hello, and invited me to submit my manuscripts. After a trip x-country, the end of the summer arrived, and I submitted multiple manuscripts to Joan. I obsessively checked my email. A couple of months later Joan’s name appeared in my in-box: she was very interested in my writing and asked me to do some revisions. Hooray! We emailed back and forth as I worked on revisions. Call #3 came on precisely August 27th, 2012: Joan wanted to represent me! She was so excited about my work that she sent out some submissions before I had even returned the signed contract! Woo-hoo!


oldphone    Valentine’s day 2013 arrived, and so did the so-called “call.” I had just returned home from picking my daughter up at school, when I heard a voice on the answering machine: Joan’s! I picked it up mid call: she had received an offer on my picture book, then called Penelope, Untalented, from Cynthia Platt at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt! This is what the conversation sounded like on my end:

Me: “Oh my God.”

Daughter: “What, mom? Who is it?”

Me: “Oh, my God!”

Daughter: “What is it?!”

Me: “I can’t believe it! OH MY GOD!”

Daughter: “Mom!”

At some point, Joan asked me if I wanted to sit down, she then told me that we had an offer for a two-book deal debut! The best Valentine’s day present ever! After a thousand thank-yous, and a happy dance with daughter and dog, it was time to make calls of my own, to my husband and mother, and eventually, to my family and friends to thank them for their encouragement, and for believing in me and my work. The years before these calls were long, lonely years of hard work and rejection, but they were also filled with cheering and bolstering my writing friends as they cheered and bolstered me.


Now my dream of being a published author will soon be here! My debut picture book, now titled Penny & Jelly: The School Show, will be released in July 2015, and the second Penny & Jelly adventure will arrive in Spring  2016.             9780544230149_lres

I think it’s fitting that we call ourselves emus—we are flightless birds now ready to take wing. Hope is, after all, the thing with feathers.        flyingbirds



Maria writes fiction and nonfiction picture books while dog Becca snores at her feet. This is what they do when they’re not writing (or snoring).  Her debut picture book, Penny & Jelly: The School Show, illustrated by Thyra Heder, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in July 2015, with a second Penny & Jelly book to follow in Spring 2016. Maria has both fiction and  nonfiction picture books forthcoming from Roaring Brook Press,  Aladdin Books and Boyds Mills Press. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary. To learn more, please visit her website:, or visit Maria at Facebook.

Photos of Maria & Becca by Monogram Arts Photo.           Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset








Filed under The Call

23 responses to “Maria Gianferrari’s Calls …

  1. Cathy Ballou Mealey

    A delightful and inspiring post – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mariagianferrari

    That was fast–thanks so much, Cathy. See you over at PiBoIdMo 🙂


  3. annastan

    I loved reading this, Maria. I can’t wait to get my hands on your book this summer!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rebecca Van Slyke

    Happydancing for you, Maria! It’s those all-too-rare calls that keep us going. But when they come…WOWZA! Suddenly it was all worthwhile.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved hearing your story, Maria!!! Congrats on all your upcoming books. I look forward to reading them!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lindsey Lane

    You are a born story teller, Maria. PIcture books. Blog posts. I love reading the tales you weave. So glad you are with us. Welcome.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. tamaraellissmith

    I love the call stories. Which are so often the callssssss….right? Yours is so wonderful, Maria. Thank you for sharing it!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Maria, I don’t know which I like more: the post or the photo of you and Becca, the real-life Penny and Jelly! Congratulations on all the calls that led you to your dream.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. carolegerber

    Wonderful news on all the sales, Maria! The same thing happened to me when I got the call on my last book, THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN OHIO, out this year. Meredith Mundy, executive editor at Sterling called me on my home phone and I didn’t recognize the number, so let it go to voice mail. When I called her back – immediately, of course – she kindly assured me she also screens her calls!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lois Sepahban

    Maria, I love that picture of you and Becca! Thank you for sharing this wonderful story!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. mariagianferrari

    Thanks so much everyone! I love our kidlit community–it’s so supportive!
    Congratulations to all with forthcoming books! And to those still waiting for their calls: keep writing, keep dreaming. Your call(s) will soon come!


  12. kevanjatt

    Maria! Thanks for this! I was able to relive the magic of MY call through your words. And it IS magical.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I love a good success story. Congratulations!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. What a wonderful story, Maria. And that photo with your dog is just plain awesome. So glad to have you as a part of the Emus!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Debra Shumaker

    LOVE this! What a fantastic story, Maria. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy of Penny and Jelly!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. mariagianferrari

    Thanks so much to all of you!


  17. Sheri Dillard

    Yay, Maria! So happy for you! 🙂


  18. I loved reading your success story, Maria, and I’m so glad you’re joining the mob! Welcome aboard!! =D

    Liked by 1 person

  19. mariagianferrari

    Mille grazie, Laurie & Sheri!


  20. Great post! And welcome to the Emu mob, Maria! How inspiring and real to hear about your journey. I look forward to reading your books.


  21. mariagianferrari

    Thanks for the warm welcome, Donna! 🙂


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