Author Archives: tpierce

As the Book Release Nears…

On January 31, my picture book, MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN was released! (Okay, since you had to ask, I’ll show you the cover).

busygreengardencoverwebsize

And I’m super-fortunate to have my first board book, MAMA LOVES YOU SO coming out in March (Well, if you insist, here’s that cover, as well!)

MamaLovesYouSo

Now, before you go thinking this all about me shamelessly promoting my new books, let me say I do have a point. And it’s an important one. And important and fun part of the “book deal to publication” process. What is Terry, you eagerly ask?

Inscriptions!

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I recently took a copy of my book to my local library to donate to their children’s library. I was also running a bunch of errands so as I left my house I grabbed the book. Then it suddenly occurred to me…ack! I needed to sign in. What to say? What to say?

Here’s my point. With each book, comes the opportunity to create an inscription that fits with the theme of the story. It’s one of the many fun things about a new book! When my easy reader, TAE KWON DO! I always signed it, “Get a kick out of reading!” When my picture book, BLACKBERRY BANQUET, came out I often signed it, “Reading is a banquet for the mind.”

Back to me running out of the house, I hadn’t given a single thought as to how I would sign my new books. Yeah…I’ve been kind of busy AND I’m out of practice! And not only that, I know it’s wise to have more than one inscription for your book. I recalled a school visit I did where, at an after-school signing, a parent walked up and set four of my books down in front of me. I thanked her and asked who to inscribe the books to. She said each book was for a different child in the family (including some cousins). It struck me that it would be a letdown if I signed them all the same, so on the spot I made up four different inscriptions (not my cleverest moment as it had been a long day and I was getting tired). Ever since then I always think of three theme-based inscriptions for each book.

My criteria for a good inscription is that: 1) it ties into the theme of the book, 2) is fairly short and hopefully clever, and 3) I print it out because many children don’t know how to read cursive writing (although I do write my name in cursive and I alter my signature so it differs from the one I use on legal documents).

For MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN, the story is about a developing chrysalis hidden in the garden. Thus, I’m thinking something like, “Reading gives you wings” as one possibility. But that’s just one, so I thought I’d throw it out there to see if I can solicit any other suggestions for anyone who wants some practice on creating inscriptions. Also, I’d love to hear your own clever inscriptions!

Any suggestions?

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PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a middle-grade adventure novel. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to Mammoth Lakes every summer to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension (go Bruins!).

 

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Filed under Book signing, Writing

Okay…What’s Next?

This is the big question that comes after the initial book deal. We’re eager to sign our contract, be introduced to our new editor, work on revisions and see our “baby” come to life. Bring it on, world! But the fact is, these things take time. Brace yourself: I’m still waiting to sign a contract for a deal that was made in September of 2015! So, what’s a writer to do while he or she is waiting for all the “book deal” magic to happen?

Start another story!

Many writers, myself included, work on multiple projects but occasionally I find myself in a moment where I’m between projects. It’s like that “moment between breaths” I experience doing yoga, where it feels like time stands still for just a moment. It’s then, in my writing, that I have to find some inspiration for a new story idea.

Where do you get your ideas? Every author is asked this question. Honestly, for me, some ideas strike as quick as lightning while others are as slow in coming as molasses on a December day. I’ve always believed that the best ideas for me to pursue are those that come from the heart; stories about things I connect with. But sometimes my brain needs a “little” prompting. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the ways I get my imagination moving and finding potential story ideas that spark my mind.

recycle

Recycle an existing story or song: You’ve heard of “fractured fairy tales” haven’t you? This is where someone takes a fairy tale and puts a new twist on it. A contemporary example would be Tara Lazar’s Little Red Gliding Hood. Or another favorite is Mo Willems’s Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. Perhaps you could impose a clever twist on a favorite childhood fairy tale or song?

 

goldfish

Seek visual inspiration: Google “Interesting Photographs” and see what comes up. Does anything grab your attention and shake your writing brain to a heightened state of curiosity?

 

 readingstacksRead for inspiration: Pour over as many picture books as you can and see if you can find a “mentor text” that inspires you, so that you can use that story for inspiration and run with your own imagination.

 

pintaildonkey

 

Pin the Tail on the Story Donkey: This is where you randomly select story elements (character/s, setting) and let your imagination run wild with possible conflicts. For example, close your eyes and randomly choose one thing from each column below to create your story premise:

MAIN CHARACTER SETTING SECONDARY CHARACTER
Dinosaur Classroom Cowboy
Monster Playground Fireman
Child Park Mailman
Unicorn Child’s bedroom Teacher
Cat Bathtub Ballerina
Dragon Mom’s office Race car driver
Puppy Pond Pirate
Gorilla Mountains Shark
Lizard Ocean Principal
Worm Cave Doctor
Parrot Circus Ghost
Squid Zoo Grandpa

 

Once you have a nugget of an idea, read these blog posts from author Tara Lazar’s Blog, where every she annually hosts PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month):

Kelly Bingham on developing an idea.

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen on developing your character.

Diana Murray on creating a character-driven story with conflict.

Or better yet, sign up for Tara’s 2017 PiBoIdMo (in January!) where you have a fun challenge of thinking of one picture book story IDEA every day (that’s 31 ideas by the end of the month!!!).

Best of luck with creating your new story sparks!

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PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a middle-grade adventure novel. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to Mammoth Lakes every summer to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension. She has two books coming out in spring 2017, My Busy Green Garden (Tilbury House) and Mama Loves You So (Little Simon).

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Filed under Inspiration, Time Management, waiting, Writing

What would You Do If You Encountered THE NIAN MONSTER???

Today we continue our celebration of the release of Andrea Wang’s picture book, The Nian Monster.

nianmonstercover

I found so many things I loved about this book that it’s hard to focus on just one. Alina Chau’s illustrations are delightful (such a scary yet adorable Nian monster!). The notion of societal complacency requiring a sharp mind to resolve a problem it created gives a message of hope. But the writing is what struck me the most.

Andrea did a fabulous job of seamlessly weaving Chinese New Year traditions into a fiction story. It’s a lovely read, as we follow Xingling’s story of how she outsmarts the Nian monster, but along the way we’re enriched with culture. We hear the words and sounds, taste the foods, see the colors and of course, get to know that rascally Nian monster himself!

For a bit of fun, watch The Nian Monster book trailer.

 

When Andrea shared the book trailer with our flock of EMUs, a question came to mind:

What would you do if you encountered the Nian Monster?

So, I asked the wonderful folks here at EMU’s Debuts for their responses…

Elly Swartz: If I came face-to-face with the Nian monster, likely I would scream first. But then, in the hollow echo of my voice, I’d swallow my scared and reach out to the Nian monster. After all, something must connect us? Is it chocolate? Crossword puzzles? Going for a walk? Maybe it’s just a day hanging out with your favorite friend or a monster.

Debbi Michiko Florence: What would I do if I encountered the Nian Monster? Honestly? I’d probably scream and run for my life! But in a different world, I would like to believe I’d behave as cleverly and bravely as Xingling does. Maybe I’d trick the Nian Monster into taking a stroll to the river. I’d tell him about the delicious oysters and lobster we have in coastal Connecticut. Then he would jump into the river, and perhaps a big current would sweep him out to sea.

Christina Uss: My kids and I just watched Andrea’s trailer and our responses were:

Jack (age 9): “Hide.”

Me (age 43): “Run!”

Jack again: I’m changing my answer to “Run and then hide.”

Susannah (age 9) but sounding like Aragorn from Lord of the Rings: “Fight.”

Me and Jack: “We’re changing our answers. If you tell us how, we will stay and fight with you.”

*There’s nothing like a family who sticks together!

Terry Pierce:  For me personally, whenever I’ve felt threatened, I typically “freeze” while simultaneously trying to keep a level head. With the Nian Monster, I think my “level headed” response would offer to bake him a batch of my amazing chocolate chip cookies. Homemade cookies always have a way of taming even the wildest beast! And through a mutual love of baked goods, we could strike up a conversation and find other things to chat about.

You’ve seen how Xingling and a few EMUs have responded. Now, ask yourself (if you haven’t already), what would YOU do if the Nian Monster came after you?

*Andrea will be giving away a copy of The Nian Monster — just comment on one of the posts this week to enter!

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PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a middle-grade adventure novel. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to Mammoth Lakes every summer to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension. She has two books coming out in spring 2017, My Busy Green Garden (Tilbury House) and Mama Loves You So (Little Simon).

 

 

 

 

 

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Swirling the Drain…

Last month, I had an idea for today’s post. It wasn’t a bad idea, and one I might use eventually, but when it came time to actually DO something about it (it involved other people), an uneasy feeling came over me. That little voice saying, “Are you crazy? One more project to coordinate?” Let me set the scene…

I had just finished a round of revisions for my novel. CHECK.

I finally got a messy first draft on a new picture book story down on paper that I’d been thinking about for two months. CHECK.

I had to start seriously thinking about a promotional plan for my upcoming books. CHE–. UH-Oh.

This was me…

im-scared-jpg

Book promotion???

Starting a new project that involved multiple people just wasn’t going to happen. The fact is, I feel like I’m swirling the drain every time I think about book promotion. Which seems silly. I’ve launched books before. I’m done blog tours and had signings. I’m not new to this. BUT…the last time I launched a new book was in 2008. It feels like I’m learning it all over again! Couple that with the facts that 1) I start teaching another online course in January, and 2) I have one book coming out on Jan. 31 and another on March 15, well…there you go! My brain is swirling.

One of the things I’ve come to learn about myself through the years is that when I begin to feel a sense of panic my best remedy is to act, which usually involves planning (at least that way I feel like I’m moving forward—even if I don’t know where I’m going). Maybe it’s because writing (even list-making) is a comfortable place for me but regardless, it always helps. So, I did a little research and found three resources for helping me get started with planning some promotional activities.

First, I recalled from years past that authors Mary Hershey and Robin LaFevers  had a fabulous blog about marketing for introverts, Shrinking Violets Promotions. I admire these two generous ladies for their writing but also because their blog is loaded with all kinds of great ideas. Because I’m an introvert, their blog speaks to me and provides me with some great advice.

Second, I came across an article on Author Unlimited called “50 Ways to Promote Your Book.” It also has many ideas (50 + more! For both adult and children’s market authors). This helped stop my brain from swirling and got it focused on some real action—things I could implement!

dessert

Third, and best of all (because like a fabulous dessert, I save the best for last), I did some research and have initiated a conversation with Curious City,  a children’s book marketing agency. Kirsten Cappy is the heart of Curious City and a promotional dynamo. One of the things that appeals to me is that Kirsten can tailor-make a marketing plan that meets the needs of the individual author. So, for someone like me (remember, I’m an introvert!), this is very, very appealing. Just like a fabulous dessert (except Kirsten doesn’t make my mouth water!).

So, if you’re in that place where you’re starting to think about book promotion (post-deal but prior-to-launch), give these sites a look. I hope they help you on your own promotional journey!

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PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a middle-grade adventure novel. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to Mammoth Lakes every summer to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension (go Bruins!).

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Book Promotion, Panic, Promotion

Interview with STEP RIGHT UP author, Donna Janell Bowman

This week on EMU’s Debuts, we’re celebrating the release of STEP RIGHT UP: HOW DOC AND JIM KEY TAUGHT THE WORLD ABOUT KINDNESS, written by fellow EMU, Donna Janell Bowman. In today’s world, there seems to be a need for more kindness, towards fellow humans and animals. Donna’s amazing picture book biography shows how one man and one horse began an entire movement, the humane movement to treat animals with kindness. Please join us in celebrating Donna’s debut picture book!

Step Right Up cover hi res

What inspired you to write about Doc Key and Jim?

Oh, gosh, there was so much to be inspired by! Initially, I was drawn to the story because of the remarkable things the horse Beautiful Jim Key was purportedly able to do: spelling, writing, calculating math problems, filing letters, making change from a cash register, and more. That was all so fascinating! As I researched, I became even more enamored with William “Doc” Key, a formerly-enslaved man—the trainer behind Jim’s remarkable kindness-based “education.” Ultimately, I realized that the deeper significance to the story was the duo’s relationship and how, together, they made a profound difference in the humane movement. In a word, this was a story about kindness—a subject that we need more of these days.

Daniel Minter’s artwork is stunning and a perfect match for your story. What did you think when you first saw the artwork for the book?

It is stunning, isn’t it? When I first saw the art, I oohed, and aahed. I might have gotten a bit misty-eyed, too. It felt a bit like meeting Doc and Jim for the first time. What’s interesting is that I’d had a vision of the characters and setting (mostly photo realistic,) in my head for many years before art was done. But, when I saw Daniel’s lino-cut and acrylic illustrations, with a color palette and style that reflect the period, I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the world bringing Doc and Jim to life. Just as my heart is woven into the text, Daniel’s is etched and painted into the images.

You did a fabulous job of showing Doc Key’s core belief of kindness throughout the story. Can you talk a little bit about that? Was it evident in your research? How did you keep the focus tight as you wrote the story? (I ask because this can be challenging when writing nonfiction picture books)

This is a great, multi-layered question. One of the challenges with writing about a historical subject is finding common threads in documentation that help the writer determine the focus. Kindness was a common thread that appeared in promotional pamphlets, quotes by Doc, and newspaper accounts about Beautiful Jim Key performances—all emphasizing that Jim had only ever been treated with kindness. That was in stark contrast to the way most animals were treated in the 19th century. The theme was solidified when I learned of the sponsorship of humane societies, the creation of new humane societies, donated proceeds, the Jim Key Pledge of Kindness, Doc’s Service to Humanity Award, and Jim’s Living Example Award. I even found a photo of a Jim Key horse ambulance, funded by Jim’s performances. This is simplifying it, of course, but you can see how evidence supported the kindness theme.

The other part of your question about focus…well, that’s the biggest challenge of all when writing a picture book biography. Without a tight angle, writing about a notable man’s entire seventy-three years, in the limited space of a picture book, would require the broadest strokes of exposition. For Step Right Up, I chose to focus tightly on the relationship between Doc and Jim, primarily during their training and performance years.

The Author Sources included at the back of the book is extensive. How long did you research before you actually began writing the first draft?

Oh, if only you could see my full list of sources, which is about three times as long as the select list that landed in the back matter. I researched quite a bit before I wrote my first draft back in 2006, and I never stopped researching, right up til the week the book went to print. It’s been so long since my first draft, but I want to say that I put first crappy words on the page about six months into research. The meatiest research came after that first draft. I donned white gloves to peruse crumbling scrapbooks in state library archives, I squinted through microfilm (I even bought my own microfilm copy,) I read hundreds of 1876-1912 newspaper articles, and I travelled to Tennessee for onsite research. And that doesn’t count the books I read about the humane movement, slavery and reconstruction in Tennessee, and animal behavior. In a way, Doc and Jim prepared me for all other books to come.

You were inspired to launch a fundraising effort in conjunction with your book. Tell us about that.  

Yes, I did. What I didn’t mention earlier is that I grew up on a ranch and spent all my free time training for horse shows. I have a deep and abiding love of horses and all animals. They have enriched my life in countless ways. So, with Step Right Up, I saw a way to give back through two efforts. With Lee and Low’s support, I am reviving the original Jim Key Pledge of Kindness, which will be featured later in the week. The second effort is to raise money for an equine humane society. When law enforcement seizes starved, abused, neglected, and stray horses (I’m lumping mules, ponies, donkeys here, too.), they can’t simply take them to the local animal shelter. Large animals are a unique challenge.  It can cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars to rehabilitate a horse nutritionally, medically, and with training. My hope is to use Step Right Up as a way to shine a light on the problem of abuse while helping a worthy organization. I’ve set up a Crowdrise account, benefiting Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society. I think Doc would be pleased. Here’s the link: Step Right Up and Help the Rescued Horses of Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society.

donnalaunch

I’m going to steal Jason’s final question in Megan Weber Lloyd’s interview, which he stole from Elaine Vickers interview with Pat Zietlow Miller. Finish this sentence: The perfect reader for this book would be…

The perfect reader for this book would be myself at age nine or ten. Seriously, I would have loved learning about Doc and Jim when I was a kid, which is why I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is my debut picture book. But, your question is about other readers, so I think the perfect reader for this book is any kid or adult who loves animals, inspiring stories about perseverance and overcoming obstacles, and stories about the power of kindness.

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PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a middle-grade adventure novel. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to Mammoth Lakes every summer to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension (go Bruins!).

 

 

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THE PIT OF DESPAIR

Every serious writer has been there. That awful place of self-doubt, frustration, and hopelessness. I call it the Pit of Despair.

We work in a business that’s full of rejection but the irony is that you have to put your work “out there” if your goal is publication. At first, you might play it safe and show family members (who always love your work, which is why they’re not reliable for honest feedback but that’s another story). Then we venture out into the writing community and share of work with other writers, teachers, enter contests, etc. After we feel confident, we expand to editors and agents, the “gatekeepers.” The progress from idea to book deal is full of crests and valleys. But sometimes the valleys are low. I mean really, really low, where you feel like you’re in a big ol’ hole in the ground filled with uncertainty and hopelessness. The Pit of Despair.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. EMU’s Debuts posts are usually cheerful and upbeat. What’s up with you, Terry? You goin’ through a rough patch?

Well, not anymore. I’ll admit that last spring I did go through a rough patch. I’d worked for over two years on a nonfiction picture book that I was convinced was going to be the breakout story that would launch my writing career to a new place. The story was a biography about someone I highly respect and admire. Tears would stream down my face as I wrote, amazed at his story. Yep, this was going to be the one.

And then my agent emailed me, “We’ve been scooped.” Another writer had written a picture book biography about the same person and a major publisher was releasing the book this fall. She said there wasn’t any point to us pursuing my story any further.

Helloooo, Pit of Despair. It felt like I’d been kicked in my gut so hard I couldn’t breathe. I was numb for days. I wanted to give up. And this was while I already had four (4!) book deals in hand, which goes to show that anyone at any time can slip into The Pit of Despair.

Then, I recalled a scene from what I think is one of the best television shows ever, West Wing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VM56KXM4y4c

In the clip, Leo McGarry reminds us that we’re not alone in that hole. There is always someone who has been there before, who knows the way out, who has our back.

This is why networking and writing connections are so important. I turned to my closest writing friends during this time (and of course, my spouse). I connected with people close to me. They reminded me that my value as a writer (a human being who writes) doesn’t come from acceptances or rejections or circumstance beyond my control, but by my efforts and having the courage to put myself “out there.”

Eventually, I clawed my way out of the pit, through journaling, yoga and a promise to be kinder to myself. I thought I was back on track with my writing but it wasn’t until I attended the annual EMLA Retreat in June that I experienced an overwhelming amount of support (unintended happy incidences and connections) that launched me out of the pit and into a standing position. Only two people at the retreat knew how I had struggled just weeks prior, yet I felt lifted by everyone. This is what a writing community does. We lift each other through compassion, empathy and encouragement.

SignPost

In July, while backpacking with my family, I saw a signpost that reminded me of the writing journey. We do need to “use the existing trail” but we also need places for “restoration” where we can connect with others.

I hope anyone who reads this has found, or works to find, that special place of restoration and support so when they’re in The Pit of Despair they’ll have someone who can help them find their way out and bring them into the light of day with sunshine warming their writing soul.

 

 

 

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PierceHeadshotUCLA (2) About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a  middle-grade adventure novel. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension (go Bruins!). Terry has two books coming out in the spring 2017, MAMA LOVES YOU SO (Little Simon) and MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN (Tilbury House).

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Filed under Connections and Networking, Writing and Life

The Call… (And It’s Lovely to Meet You!)

Many EMUs have introduced themselves by sharing their experience of getting “THE CALL.” I think all writers have visions of how “the call” will happen but the fact is you never know when it will come. The good news is that no matter when it happens it is A-MAZING and a bit surreal, like flying into a rainbow and sliding into a pot of gold unicorns dusted in purple and green glitter.

To give a little personal backstory (this is my first post, after all. Hello! I’m Terry. Nice to meet you!), before I signed with EMLA, I had sold 18 manuscripts on my own. But when the economy collapsed in 2008, so went my career. It was harder to sell my work so I decided to up my game and go back to school to earn an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Two years after graduation, I signed with Trish Lawrence and EMLA. For another two years I toiled away, writing and revising manuscripts I hoped Trish could sell.

Fast forward to November, 2015. Two days before Thanksgiving, and I was in vacation mode. You know that place where you’ve mentally checked out and the last thing on your mind is your career? My husband and I had settled down for the evening in our cozy mountain home, snowflakes gently falling outside, a warm fire burning, hot drinks in hand.

Suddenly, my phone broke out with the chorus of Pharrell Williams’s song, “Happy.” I instantly recognized it as Trish’s ringtone. But wait—it was Thanksgiving week. Oh nuts! She must’ve accidentally butt-dialed me, I thought, because surely two days before Thanksgiving she was also in vacation mode. I answered the phone, “Hi…Trish?” Well, the ringtone fit because she was happy to tell me that Simon & Schuster had made an offer on my manuscript, Mama Loves You So. Because my husband was right there, I started squealing, “We got an offer on Mama! We got an offer on Mama!” I can still hear Trish’s laughter in the background (that moment will stay with me forever :)). Once I calmed down (because this is how I was feeling…)

PenguinsJumping

…she explained that Little Simon wanted to publish my manuscript as a board book for a new line of Little Simon books called, Stories to Start (first stories for parents to share with babies). Wowieee!!! I loved the idea of being part of a new book line and perhaps even more I loved the idea that I’d written a board book (who knew? I thought I wrote a picture book!). My writing goal, after all, is to turn young children onto books to begin their journey as lifelong readers.

Fast forward again to two days ago (eight months after “the call”) and I was delighted to see Mama Loves You So listed in Publisher’s Weekly “Spring 2017 Sneak Previews.” Yippeeee! I can finally tell people that Little Simon is publishing my book, a story that’s close to my heart (I first thought of the idea—using nature metaphors to reflect a mother’s love for her baby—when my son was an infant—he’s now 32!).

Back to the point of this post, you never know when “the call” will happen or when your story ideas will come to fruition. So don’t ever count yourself out and always embrace the unexpected!

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PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)

About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a  middle-grade adventure novel. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to Mammoth Lakes every summer to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension (go Bruins!).

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