Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers 2011 – Trudy Harris

In the lead up to WIYRC, we thought it would be fun to introduce you to some of the faculty and staff who will make up this year’s gathering. If you haven’t signed up yet, it’s not too late. This is an amazing opportunity to meet authors, agents, editors, and publishers and gain invaluable feedback about your own writing. We hope you’ll join us this summer!

We’ll start with Trudy Harris, interviewed by Cherylynne W. Bago.

Cherylynne W. Bago: We keep hearing that the picture book market is still soft, yet your sales have remained solid.  Any secrets?

Trudy Harris: I think manuscripts sell best if they fill a market need. Every author should ask, “Why would someone buy my book?” If you can answer that question, you probably have a winner.

CWB: You have a day job as a kindergarten teacher, how do you feel that has affected your writing?

TH: There is a saying, “Read the kind of books you want to write.” I love the fact that I get to read picture books to children every day. Teaching kindergarten has helped me know what children enjoy and what teachers want.

CWB: Your son is the illustrator of your book, 20 Hungry Piggies. How did you manage to convince your publisher to allow that?

TH: I was speaking at a conference that my editor also happened to be attending. At lunch, I mentioned that my son would soon be graduating in illustration from Art Center College of Design. My editor shocked me by saying, ” You should do a book together.”

But, as it turned out, getting to work with my son Andrew, was not quite that easy. I wrote a manuscript and submitted it along with three of Andrew’s finished sample illustrations. Later, I learned that my manuscript had been accepted.

“What about Andrew as an illustrator?” I asked.

“Oh,” my editor said, “the art director makes that decision; and he’s out of town.”

Andrew and I waited with our fingers crossed for three more weeks before we learned that he was chosen to illustrate 20 Hungry Piggies. (My fingers are still sore.). Since that time, we have also been able to do Tally Cat Keeps Track together.

CWB: Up Bear Down Bear has very few words, yet is incredibly appealing. How did you conceptualize it?

TH: Up Bear Down Bear is a true story from my childhood. I wanted to tell this story in a simple style so that very young children could understand it and then learn to “read” four words. (Yes, it only has four words in it.)

CWB: Many of your books seem to focus on one specific teaching concept. How do you decide which concept to focus on in each book?

TH: I look for needs in my own classroom and talk to other teachers about what kinds of books they would use. Sometimes my editor also gives me ideas. If you don’t have these resources and want to write a picture book with an educational element, you may consider checking your state’s online curriculum standards. Curriculum standards can be a great springboard for ideas.

CWB: You’ve been published with national publishers. What made your pitch so successful?

TH: Each of my publishers specializes in a different type of picture book. I think that targeting my manuscripts has been an important key.

CWB: There are great activities to accompany your books on your website. How do you come up with these activities? How helpful have they been with driving traffic to your website?

TH: I try to create fun hands-on activities to support the concepts that are presented in my books. I believe any additional website helps are valuable.


One Response to Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers 2011 – Trudy Harris

  1. Nat Decker says:

    Thanks so much for this post, I can’t wait to go buy this book for my kids! Mrs. Harris is a wonderful teacher and her books are such a treat!

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