Happy Thursday Critters! It’s been a big week! Huge congrats to all the winners and honors from the ALA Youth Media Awards this past Monday. So many beautiful books to celebrate. If you haven’t had a chance to check out all the books honored this year, click here.
Also this week (today actually!) the Writing With the Stars mentorship program will announce the mentees chosen for this year’s contest. If you haven’t heard of this program and are an aspiring picture book author, illustrator, or author/illustrator, make sure to check it out and apply next year. This is an awesome contest run by picture book authors and sisters, Becky Cattie and Tara Leubbe, who both volunteer their time to give back to the Kidlit community. This is the second year I will be participating as a mentor and I’m so thrilled to be apart of this wonderful opportunity for new writers and illustrators.
Okay, now let’s get to our interview today!
YOU GUYS! TODAY WE HAVE SUE FLIESS! I’m so excited! We are big fans of Sue’s work here in our house. My three-year-old LOVES Tons of Trucks and The Bug Book. I was lucky enough to meet Sue last summer at ALA. She is incredibly funny and talented and I adore the playfulness in her picture books.
So without further ado, please welcome SUE FLIESS!
Where do you live?
Ashburn, in Northern Virginia
How many years have you been in publishing?
I started my journey in children’s publishing in 2005.
How did you first get published?
I attribute nearly all my success to the connections and industry knowledge I gained from being an active member of SCBWI (for those who don’t know, that’s the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators).
How many books have you published?
I have 27 books out in the world, and 6 currently under contract, coming out between now and sometime in 2020.
Do you write full-time?
Yes. Hooray for that! But let’s use ‘write’ loosely, as so many other book-related tasks must share that writing time.
What inspires you to create picture books?
They’re just more fun to write than any other kind of story! So, I guess the pure joy of letting my brain enter that wacky realm, keeps me coming back for more.
What surprised you the most working as an author?
How motivated I would be to continue to sell more manuscripts. I thought once I sold one, the fire in my belly would dim a bit, but it had the opposite effect. The sale of my first book lit an inferno and I’ve been on a writing tear ever since.
What is your favorite thing about being an author?
Having my own schedule (barring any publisher deadlines), being my own boss as far as writing what I want to write/feel passionate about, and visiting schools and meeting the readers/teachers/librarians.
What do you find difficult working as an author?
Prioritizing the ‘tougher’ writing. I tend to procrastinate on the writing that I’m struggling with. I have been “writing” a middle grade novel for going on 7 years now. Ha! But I keep getting ideas or publisher asks for new picture books, and they get moved to the top of my writing list, naturally.
What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?
Lots of things.
I go to the library and read books or if the timing is right, I’ll attend a writing conference, which always inspires. Sometimes I’ll meet other writers for lunch, or go on a weekend writing retreat. And my remote critique group meets once a month via Google Hangout, and often that is the kick in the pants I need to get back on track.
Anything you are habitual about when it comes to creativity?
COFFEE. I’m joking, sort of, but I just need to be awake and alert to be creative. Coffee helps.
Can you share a positive experience you’ve had in the kid lit community?
There are so many! I would say any time another author/illustrator takes the time to boost my book(s), attend a book signing, or refer me to a school for a school visit. Also, when I was starting out, a few authors took the time to meet with me for coffee – the dreaded ‘pick your brain’ conversation! I accept these invites now too when I can, to pay it forward, because I know there is nothing like talking with someone actually doing what you aspire to do.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and any books that are in the genre/style you wish to write in.
What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Again, this is too difficult! Any time I sign a new contract for a book is a highlight – a complete joy and reward. I would say that the real highlights though, come in the form of the children I meet at school visits, who think I’m the greatest thing since…video games. I get big hugs and hear things like, “Can you adopt me?” or “This has been the best day of my life!” You cannot beat that.
What is something you wish someone had told you when you first started writing?
It doesn’t matter how many books you have out, how many awards/honors you received, you will still have book events that are poorly-attended. Unpredictability is just part of the gig. Also, sometimes the book that was the ‘best thing you ever wrote’ and took you forever to get right, does not sell, but the one that just poured out in no time, gets scooped up right away.
Tell us about your newest book?
My newest book is called NINJA CAMP, and it just released on January 8! It follows the story of a group of campers who attend a summer ninja camp in the hopes of receiving the training they need to become the Ninjas of the Night. But they must be brave and guard the Shadow Blade…and when the rival camp invades and steals the relic, they must use their new skills to get it back. It’s in rhyme, and has a fast pace, and is fun to read aloud.
What’s up next for you?
I have a BIG year of books ahead, for which I’m so grateful! But I do dread the fact that I’ll be talking about myself all year on social media. So do a girl a favor and retweet me, yeah? Hehe.
On February 5, HOW TO TRACK AN EASTER BUNNY, illustrated by Simona Sanfilippo, releases with Sky Pony Press.
On March 1, THE EARTH GIVES MORE, illustrated by Christiane Engel, releases with Albert Whitman & Co.
This fall, HOW TO TRICK A CHRISTMAS ELF, also illustrated by Simona Sanfilippo, comes out.
Finally, LITTLE RED RHYMING HOOD publishes October 1 with Albert Whitman, illustrated by Petros Bouloubasis.
Anything else you’d like to share with aspiring authors and illustrators?
Don’t give up. It sounds so cliché, but there is a lot of rejection in this business, and it’s important to remember that it is such a subjective industry. Keep working on your craft and your story will find a home.
And last, but not least, favorite 80s movie?
Pretty in Pink. Story arc, soundtrack, actors—all of it!
Thank you so much for stopping by Critter Lit today Sue! We can’t wait to check out all the wonderful books you have coming out this year! So exciting!
Sue Fliess ("fleece") is the bestselling author of Robots, Robots Everywhere!, How to Trap a Leprechaun, and 25 other children's books, including Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins, Mary Had a Little Lab, Ninja Camp, Tons of Trucks, and many Little Golden Books. Her books have sold over 850k copies worldwide. Her background is in copywriting and PR/marketing, and her essays have been in O Magazine, HuffPo, Writer's Digest, & more. Fliess has also written for Walt Disney. Her books have received honors from SCBWI, have been used in school curricula, museum educational programs, been named to A Mighty Girl's Best Books lists, and have even been translated into French and Chinese. The Bug Book was chosen for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Mary Had a Little Lab was named to Oklahoma's Redbud Read-Aloud Award master list and made the top 10 for Rhyme Revolution's Best in Rhyme award. She's a member of SCBWI & Children's Book Guild of DC. She does school visits and speaking engagements and lives with her family in No. Virginia. Visit her at www.suefliess.com.
TO PRE-ORDER Sue’s newest book, ring up your local bookstore, or click here.
Want a chance to win a copy of NINJA CAMP?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, February 7th! US addresses only please.
What's up on deck? Tune in next week for an interview with debut author Laura Roettiger.