Tammi Sauer has sold over a dozen picture books to major publishing houses. In addition to winning awards, her books have gone on to do great things. Cowboy Camp was developed into a musical in Katy, Texas. Mostly Monsterly was selected to be a part of the 2012 Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories program. And Chicken Dance was released in French which makes her feel extra fancy. For more info, visit her website.
Let the conversation begin!
How do you recharge your creative batteries?
My favorite way to recharge my creative batteries is to read. This reading is not limited to picture books. I am a huge fan of young adult novels. I also listen to audio books when I am alone in my car—especially autobiographies. I was actually listening one of those when I came up with the idea for one of my upcoming picture books. Thank you, Kristin Chenoweth!
Is any material in your books based on real life experiences or purely imagination?
Most of my books get their starting points from a real life situation. Oh, Nuts!, illustrated by Dan Krall, is one such example.
The real life experience:
I take my kids to the zoo a lot. We always try to figure out the best thing we saw that day. These best things have ranged from hearing a lion roar so loudly we felt it in our feet to watching the moose play in the sprinkler to viewing countless baby zoo animals doing incredibly adorable things. On one of our visits, my daughter noticed a squirrel. She dropped a walnut near the squirrel. He grabbed it, raced to the base of a tree, frantically dug a hole, dropped in the walnut, buried it, then flopped down on it starfish-style. We felt like we were watching a cartoon. He did the same act again and again, and that frenetic squirrel was truly the BEST thing we saw at the zoo that day.
Cutesy, Blinky and Bob live in the zoo. But does anyone pay attention to them? No! All the zoo-goers are too busy gawking at gorillas, clicking cameras at the koalas, even staring at the sloth! That is, until these chipmunks concoct a full-on campaign to become the most popular animals in the zoo. But it won’t be easy. No matter what our heroes try, it’s hard to upstage exotic creatures like zebras and wallabies and poison dart frogs. And when this fame-hungry trio finally achieves the stardom they’ve been dreaming of, they may discover it’s not all it was cracked up to be. Oh, nuts!
Are you a person who makes the bed in the morning?
Yup. Unfortunately, I’m the only person in the family who has this urge.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
When I first started writing picture books, I thought I would come up with a brilliant idea on Monday, write the story on Tuesday, and get five offers by Friday. I was clueless. I wrote terrible stories that I thought were wonderful. Eventually, my writing got better. When I wrote Cowboy Camp, I had a really good feeling about that manuscript. I researched lots of publishing houses and sent Cowboy Camp to some carefully selected slush piles. That manuscript ended up going to acquisitions at three houses. Oh, the joy! But no takers. Oh, the agony! Eventually, I found the perfect fit for Cowboy Camp at Sterling. Yeehaw!
Best writing advice you’ve ever received?
My best writing advice came from an interview I read on Cynsations back in 2006. It completely captures what I feel needs to go into every picture book manuscript I write:
“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 Hazen
If you were handed free opera tickets, would you go or sell them?
Um, I would sell them. BUT I’d be happy to trade them in for free tickets to a musical.
Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Yes! This has been a crazy year. I have five titles debuting in 2012:
Me Want Pet!, illustrated by Bob Shea (Paula Wiseman Books/S&S, March 2012)
Bawk & Roll, illustrated by Dan Santat (Sterling, April 2012)
Oh, Nuts!, illustrated by Dan Krall (Bloomsbury, September 2012)
Princess in Training, illustrated by Joe Berger (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2012)
The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oklahoma, illustrated by Victoria Hutto (Sterling, October 2012)
What is the best thing that happened to you this year?
My family found out my mom’s cancer treatments are working!!!!!!!
What was your favorite thing to play with as a child?
My sister and I really enjoyed building forts. We’d drag all of our dolls and stuffed animals underneath the dining room table, set up a fan, and pretend there was a tornado whirling just behind our walls of blankets. Ooh, the drama!
What is your biggest pet peeve?
It really freaks me out when people clip their fingernails in public. A few months ago, I was on an airplane and suffered my most horrific public nail-clipping encounter. The lady across the aisle from me clipped her nails, her son’s nails, and her daughter’s nails into her Sky Mall then tucked the catalog into the seat pocket in front of her. It was painful.
If someone rented a billboard for you, what would you put on it?