Today's guest is children's author, Dawn Prochovnic. She has authored a series Story Time with Signs and Rhymes.
AUTHOR: Dawn Babb Prochovnic
BOOK TITLE: Story Time with Signs & Rhymes (8 new books in this series including, “Four Seasons! Five Senses!” “Hip, Hip, Hooray! It’s Family Day!” “There’s a Story in My Head,” and “Shape Detective.”)
PUBLISHER: Abdo Publishing Group
BUY LINK: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=story+time+with+signs+%26+rhymes&x=0&y=0#/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=prochovnic&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Aprochovnic
Or see updated information at her web site:
Please tell me how long you've been writing, and why you decided to become a writer.
When I was in the 8th grade I authored a poetry book that I gave to my mom on Mother’s Day. That is my earliest recollection of considering myself a writer. In the years that followed, high school essays, college term papers, and corporate white papers gradually replaced my creative writing time.
Fast-forward nearly 20 years later, when I rediscovered my passion for creative writing: In the year 2000 I started SmallTalk Learning, a company that specializes in teaching sign language workshops for hearing infants/toddlers, young children, and their grown-ups. The instructional materials I developed for my classes began to take the shape of theme-based children’s stories. In the summer of 2004, I attended my first of many writing conferences, and I formed a critique group so that I could refine my writing skills and learn about the publishing world. After many rounds of critique, countless revisions, and heaps of submissions and rejections, I signed my first publishing contract in March of 2008. I now have 16 picture books published and several more in various stages of development—some that are making their rounds through publisher’s slush piles and others that are still being fine-tuned.
Are you a full-time writer or a part-time writer, and how do you organize your writing time?
I’m a part-time writer, but I approach my writing work with a full-time mentality. I aim to write every week. As a serious writer, I realize I’m supposed to say that I write every day, but the reality is that some weeks I don’t. I set creative writing goals for myself every week. The first part of each week I send an email to the co-founder of my critique group to share my creative writing goals for the coming week and report on the status of the past week’s goals. I’m the mother of two active children, and I keep busy running my business and volunteering in my community, so I have to consciously set aside time to write. I treasure my writing time like a gift. I do not have a regular time or place that I write, but I am always noodling ideas in my head. Sometimes I write at my desk or at the kitchen table; sometimes I write while I’m waiting to pick my kids up from a sporting practice; and sometimes I stay up late to write. I am not an effective morning writer.
What influences your writing?
I think it would be easier to summarize what doesn’t influence my writing! I feel like my writing is influenced by just about everything around me. Books were a big part of my childhood, and I know that Dr. Seuss is in my bones. For more current inspiration, I watch and listen to my own children, I closely observe the children I meet in my classes and at school/library visits, and I read countless children’s books.
Is this your first published work? What other types of writing have you done?
The books in the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes series are my first published works for children. Throughout my career I have published a variety of articles in professional magazines and trade journals, and my master’s thesis, which focused on the topic of blending work and family, was published in the year 2000. Writing has been a big part of all of my professional endeavors, and in my personal life I continue to employ the old fashioned custom of writing letters and love notes to friends and family.
Why did you choose to write a children's story?
The stories I have written for the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes series simply insisted on being written. As a sign language instructor, I was aware of the fact that there were no books for children that met the need I was looking to fill. There were picture dictionaries that showed a single word like apple or ball, along with the illustration for that word and the illustration for a the American Sign Language sign for that word, and there were more sophisticated books for middle school-aged children that explored sign language more deeply. There were also fairy tales that had been translated into sign language, but there were no original stories that incorporated early childhood concepts like colors/animals/feelings, along with rhythm and/or rhyme and American Sign Language. My stories filled a gap in the marketplace.
The stories I’ve written outside of the Story Time series have emerged as I’ve learned to listen to the creative voice lurking deep inside me.
What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
One of the books I have coming out in January is entitled, “There’s a Story in My Head.” The first morsels of this story came to me when I was flying home from Disney Land with my family several years ago. I was thinking about how sometimes I have an idea for a story in my head, but when I try to write it down, it somehow evaporates into a weak jumble of words. I started thinking more about how this idea could expand to other parts of the body, like there are stories on the tip of my tongue just waiting to be told, and stories in my fingertips waiting to be typed out. I kept hearing a refrain in my head that went something like, “There’s a story on my tongue. I can taste it when I’m eating. There’s a story in my eyes. I can see it through a lens. There’s a story in my heart. Listen closely to it beating. Imagine all the stories I can write!” The story evolved from there. It’s not unusual for my rhyming stories to be inspired by a rhythmic idea or word pattern. I was a drummer in my middle school band, and I think that is related to my connection with the rhythm and patterns in words!
What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?
I explored a variety of options when I was looking for a publishing home for my first books. In the end I decided that I wanted to be a writer and not a publisher, so I focused my energy on finding a publisher that was a good fit for the books I was marketing. That said, I think the publishing market is changing rapidly, and I believe there are going to be many twists and turns before we settle on something we can comfortably call “the new normal.” I’m open-minded about what the future might hold.
What is your marketing strategy?
I think there are many levels of marketing. When I’m reaching out to potential publishers with a new manuscript, I think of myself as a marketer. I research publishers and editors thoroughly before submitting my work, and I do my best to craft cover letters that portray my understanding of the marketplace and how my work fits into it. With my published works, I engage in a wide variety of outreach activities to promote my work including conducting school and library visits, presenting at professional conferences, coordinating private book events for play groups and scout troops, maintaining a current website with an online store, and participating in social media tools such as Facebook. In the coming year I plan to start a blog that focuses on several of the topics I am interested in such as early literacy, sign language, developing young writers, and teaching tips and strategies.
What are your thoughts about children's writers needing an agent or not needing one?
When I attended my first writing conference in 2004 the common thinking was that it was nearly as hard to get an agent as it was to get an editor and that children’s writers really didn’t need to have an agent. Since then the tide seems to have shifted, largely because so many houses are now closed to un-agented submissions. I tend to focus my submissions on editors I have had some contact with via prior submissions and/or writing conferences, or, as I mentioned previously, I thoroughly research the market and target my submission to a particular editor I have “come to know” through my research. That said, I do find that this process robs me of time that could otherwise be spent writing new books or marketing my published books. I do plan to give an agent search more consideration in the coming year, though given that I primarily write picture books, the field of agents for my type of work is not expansive.
Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
They can follow me on facebook (Dawn Babb Prochovnic), or visit my website, smalltalklearning.com, and follow one of the quick links on the left of the page such as, “Visit Dawn’s Author Website.”
Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children's literature?
The most important tip I can offer other writers is to read heaps and heaps of children’s books. Study the books that sing to your heart, and learn to identify what it is about those books that touch you in some way. In addition, I would encourage writers to join or form a critique group, and listen to the feedback the group offers with a spirit of curiosity. Lastly, I would encourage other writers to brace for rejection, because writing children’s books is not an endeavor for the faint of heart!
Please give us a brief synopsis about your current book and when and where it will be available.
I have eight new books in the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes series coming out in Jaunary. The titles in this second series include: “Four Seasons! Five Senses!” “Hip, Hip, Hooray! It’s Family Day!” “There’s a Story in My Head,” and “Shape Detective.” Each rhythmic story explores an early childhood concept such as parts of the body or shapes, and the book design incorporates American Sign Language signs into each page spread, inviting children (and their grown-ups!) to sign along with the story. The books can be obtained directly from my publisher (abdopub.com), via the “store” tab on my author website accessed from smalltalklearning.com, through online booksellers such as Amazon.com, and by special request from other booksellers. Pre-orders are available now, and orders will be shipped starting no later than mid-January.
Excerpt from “For Seasons! Five Senses!”
It is winter!
I see a sled. I see some skis.
I hear a sniffle and a sneeze.
My hands feel cold. As cold as ice.
My nose smells peppermint and spice.
I love the taste of chicken soup on a cozy winter day.
Excerpt from “Hip Hip Hooray! It’s Family Day!”
Mommy loves to dance with me. Whirly, twirly, spin!
Daddy loves to tickle me. Wiggly, giggly, grin!
Sister swings so high with me. Swooshy, whooshy, soar!
Brother runs so fast with me. Rompy, stompy, score!