I have come to know Tammi Sauer over the years through many OK SCBWI events, and I have been delighted to watch her publishing career grow. We’ve been plotting and planning for her to stop by for an interview for awhile now, but busy lives and crazy schedules – mostly hers – have prevented this. I mean, what’s gal to do when the mayor names a day after you? This year she has three books being published, with the latest one, ROAR!, releasing in no time at all on October 6th!
Busy, busy busy!
Somehow, we finally managed to align the planets so this bright and shiny Oklahoma star could come by for a visit to the blog.
We’ll get to see the fantastical, star-studded trailer for ROAR! a little later in this post.
And one lucky reader will win a signed copy! So stay tuned!
Tammi Sauer grew up on a farm in the vast metropolis of Victoria, Kansas, where she liked to play tag with the pigs in her cheerleading uniform when not embezzeling money from her siblings.
She worked as a teacher and library media specialist before
turning to a life of crime beginning her career as a full-time picture book author, and going on tour with some funky dancing chickens. (I may be mixing up some of my facts a bit, but I like this version.)
She really is a picture book author and has actually sold 24 books to major publishing houses. In addition to winning awards, her books have gone on to do great things. MOSTLY MONSTERLY was selected for the 2012 Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories program. ME WANT PET! was recently released in French which makes her feel extra fancy. And NUGGET AND FANG, along with Tammi herself, appears on the Spring 2015 Scholastic Book Fair DVD which is seen by millions kids across the nation.
Before we dive into the interview, let’s learn a little bit about Tammi’s latest book:
ROAR! by Tammi Sauer
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Genres: Picture Book
With scissors and tape a boy transforms himself into…a dragon! “ROAR!” he says. He is BIG. He is SCARY. Well, not really. When two dragons come over for a play date, what on earth will these three find to do together? The boy doesn’t have big teeth and he can’t breathe fire. He is just a boy. And the dragons can’t eat ice cream or do cartwheels. They are just dragons. Luckily, the dragons care more about what they all can do together, like make silly faces and do the funky monkey dance. What they really care about is being friends.
That looks so awesome, I just want to dust off the old dragon costume (doesn’t everyone have one?) and stomp around the office.
Valerie Lawson: ROAR is your first picture book written completely in dialogue, why did you make this creative choice?
Tammi Sauer: I have always enjoyed using the classic picture book structure: character has a problem/want, character faces obstacles of escalating difficulty, character encounters a black moment in which all seems lost, character manages to solve the problem by the story’s end.
A few years ago, though, I challenged myself to try a variety of different approaches for telling a story, and writing a book entirely in dialogue was one of them. I wanted to stretch as a writer.
It was fun. And hard.
VL: Even though you were successful with those classic structure books, I love that you took the chance on trying something new. It’s really paid off!
The only character in the book with a name, Stanley the cat, was the creation of the illustrator, Liz Starin. What other surprises did you find when you saw the drawings for the first time?
TS: I discovered that the story was set in the boy’s world. When I was writing the manuscript, I envisioned it set in the dragons’ world. Also, I pictured Standard Issue Dragons. Liz’s dragons were a fresh, wonderful, and welcome surprise.
VL: You do a lot of school visits each year, what’s your favorite part about interacting with the kids? Any standout memories/stories from the last year or two?
TS: As a former teacher and library media specialist, I love visiting schools and getting kids fired up about reading and writing. These visits have resulted in marriage proposals, invitations to play dates, and lots of great fan mail.
There are beautiful, quiet moments as well. Following a recent presentation for a large group of fourth and fifth graders, a girl waited for the room to clear. Then she came up to me, gave a shy smile, and said, “I’m a writer, too.”
VL: Oh, that last one just gives you tingles! Inspiring another generation of writers.
And when can we expect to see another dance video like the Librarian?
TS: Ha! I think I am a one-hit wonder in that department. I do, however, make a cameo in the ROAR! trailer.
VL: Nice segue! We will get to view that wonderful trailer right here after this interview.
In many posts talking about revising a manuscript, you’ve mentioned being happy after taking an entire day to change or cut a single word. What can you tell us about your revision process?
TS: Oh, I am a revision nerd!
Getting a manuscript juuuuust riiiiiiight is my favorite part of the process. It feels like a game to me. I strive to use only the best words. I remind myself to tell as much as possible in as little as possible.
Reading my manuscript aloud is another must—it helps to ensure that the rhythm is there. I also step away from my manuscript and grab lunch or run an errand. Getting away from it for an hour or so helps me to return refreshed. OH. The revision process ALWAYS involves ice tea. I am currently hooked on OnCue’s unsweetened tangerine green tea. It sounds gross. But is it good. I promise.
VL: Great ideas! I always find taking a break works wonders, too.
This is your thirteenth published picture book, what’s the best piece of advice you can pass on to fellow authors?
TS: My best advice came from a quote I once read in a Cynsations blog post (blog by author Cynthia Leitich Smith).
“My main considerations for any picture book are humor, emotion, just the right details, read-aloud-ability, pacing, page turns, and of course, plot. Something has to happen to your characters that young readers will care about and relate to. Oh, and you have to accomplish all that in as few words as possible, while creating plenty of illustration possibilities. No easy task.”—Lynn E. Hazen.
VL: No easy task, indeed. Fantastic quote.
What can you tell us about what you are currently working on/soon to have released?
TS: I’m usually pretty hush-hush about my current projects. They feel like eggs in the incubator to me. Not all of them will hatch, but I always hope for good.
I can, however, tell you what’s in store for 2016. I have four upcoming titles:
Mary Had a Little Glam, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Sterling), is my first rhymer. It was an incredible challenge. I recently saw Vanessa’s sketches, and I am in love with sweet and sassy Mary.
I Love Cake! Starring Rabbit, Porcupine, and Moose, illustrated by Angela Rozelaar (HarperCollins), is about some of life’s finer things—good friends and cake. It also involves some spectacular sweaters.
Ginny Louise and the School Field Day, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger (Disney*Hyperion), is a sequel to Ginny Louise and the School Showdown. In book two, the irrepressibly cheerful Ginny Louise takes on the Truman Elementary Troublemakers in a whole new way.
Your Alien Returns, illustrated by Goro Fujita (Sterling), is a companion to Your Alien. This time around, the boy goes on a play date that is out of this world.
VL: Whew! Another busy year for you! Two sequels, how wonderful! And cake! I can’t wait to see them all.
Thank you so much for sharing your time with us, Tammi. Always a pleasure.
And now for your viewing pleasure…
The trailer for ROAR! includes cameo appearances from some of today’s fiercest authors and illustrators. You’ve been warned. Please view responsibly.
To learn more about the making of the trailer and behind-the-scenes scoop, check out this blog post by Tammi on Picture Book Builders.
Tammi is giving away a SIGNED COPY of her new book ROAR! to one lucky reader of this blog!
To enter, all you have to do is name every author and illustrator who appears in the ROAR! trailer, along with their complete body of work listed in chronological order from bestselling to – JUST KIDDING!
ENTER HERE!!! ➤➤➤ Tammi Sauer Rafflecopter giveaway
(If you really, really want to enter, but don’t want to use the Rafflecopter feature, feel free to post a comment below as your entry, and I’ll manually add you to the giveaway.)
Winner will be selected on October 19th.
CONGRATULATIONS TO LYNNE MARIE!
SHE’S THE WINNER OF THE SIGNED COPY OF ROAR!
Learn more about Tammi Sauer here.
Follow Tammi on Twitter here.
Follow Tammi’s group blog Picture Book Builders here.