Once upon a Peanut & Moe...

I like a catchy jingle. I like to either make them up or co-opt them from pop-culture and make them my own. I guess you could say it's my 'thing', though not many people know this about me.

Many years ago I took a depressing indie tune with the lyrics 'too much, not too much' and turned it into the more upbeat and amusing, 'Too much mayo, not enough mayo'. (I will gladly sing it for you if you see me in real life and ask nicely)  Naturally, I sang it to make turkey sandwiches.

On a quiet drive home from an illustrator meeting, I somehow realized 'too much! not enough!" was a fantastic refrain for a picture book. This may have been my first original idea for a book of my own. And if it wasn't, it was certainly the first one that seemed good enough to remember.

It seems like a bit of a miracle, but this little note from nine years ago fits the book coming out in August. Originally I named the monsters Little & Big. Names would go through major revisions, but the characters never wavered.

I struck gold (sort of!) with premise #2. The first part is essentially what happens, and they do get to camp under the stars but you have to wait until book #2 comes out next year.

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So, you might be thinking, "What the heck took nine years if you figured all this out from the start?". I'm showing you snippets from a notebook that I started on August 20th, 2009. My son was 8 months old and I was on the verge of a breakdown because I just needed time to myself to make art. That Sunday morning I left with a mission, putting my husband on baby duty, while I grabbed a new notebook and headed for the nearest coffee shop. I got there and it wasn't open yet. Wasn't going to be open anytime soon, in fact. I may have cried. But then I got to work. I sat in my car and wrote page after page. I doodled ideas for what these monster friends looked like. I thought of all the ways they could irritate each other, and how the little guy would make things better. And then I went home. Back to my overwhelmed new stay-at-home-mom life. But the glimmer of this book was a life line. 

I worked on this story all those years. Bird by bird, as Anne Lamott would say. I made art. I made dummies. I shared them with critique partners and started from scratch again. I got an agent and we submitted my dummy. It made it to sales and acquisitions and to revision with two lovely publishers at the same time. And because publishing is often perplexing and unpredictable, it ended up back on my desk again. There was a small army of wonderful friends who listened when I grouched about how long it was all taking. I got busy with other projects and sold my first book, SMALL. Around the same time, I illustrated a book with a fantastic editor at Tundra books. When it was time to think about my monsters again, my agent and I wondered. Perhaps Samantha Swenson would be a good match? The first news was good! But then time went by (again, publishing) and I worried. But the real news was spectacular. Not only did Tundra want to publish TOO MUCH, they offered me a two book deal. And as fate would have it, that second book is another Peanut & Moe story. I had known these characters for so long, that they almost wrote their own second story. Oh, pish. I wrote it. With the wonderful and smart guidance of my editor, Sam. And this one didn't take nine years from start to finish. It took under a year.

I will share a lot about Peanut & Moe in the weeks leading up to their book debut, but I wanted to start here. Whether you are a reader, a teacher, or a pre-published author, I hope you walk away learning a bit about what inspires me as a writer (jingles!) and what helped me publish this book (tenacity! passion! good friends! never quitting! a great agent, editor, and publisher!)

TWO Months until TOO MUCH!

1. Countdown to TOO MUCH! And just like that, a book I had an idea for about a decade ago will be in stores in two months! TOO MUCH! NOT ENOUGH! has been getting some excellent press. You can read reviews on Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, University of Manitoba (I really loved their review), and Story Monsters Ink. I was also recently interviewed on Boston Voyager where I talk about my winding journey to become an author/illustrator. I'll be blogging quite a bit more in the next two months - sharing sketches and videos about the making of TOO MUCH! Stay tuned!

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2. In today's mail I've been squirreling away swag for just this moment. I'm finally sending out these boxes to independent bookstores across the US. If you are a bookstore owner, send me an email and I'll make one up just for you! Some of you will get a Moe box, some will get a Peanut box, and just one of you will get a Moe AND Peanut box! But who!

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3. My To-Be-Read Mountain I've been incredibly busy at this time of year for the past few years. Which inevitably leads to a huge pile of books I desperately WANT to read but have no time for. I dream of a book vacation and until then will humbly share most of these books with the kids who are burning through books at a fierce rate. Also, there are a dozen books I want to add to this pile but I am barely restraining myself (Mary's Monster by Lita Judge will land there soon, I know it.)

4. Father's Day Shopping If you follow me on social media, you'll notice I've shared IT'S GREAT BEING A DAD quite a bit in advance of Father's Day. I had so much fun creating the illustrations for this book, and it's a little uncomfortable for me to hawk books aggressively but I really think more families need this book! You still have time to order from uh, that place with prime shipping and have something for Dad to cuddle up with on Sunday morning while you finish making breakfast (or getting dressed to go out!) ***But if you live near Exeter, Water Street Bookstore has a few copies left AND a million other awesome books - I dare you to leave with just one. I know I can't do it.

5. But I'm listening! Don't feel too sad for my lack of reading time. I am plowing through a lot through my ears while I work. Recent audiobooks I've enjoyed: Wild, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, and have just started Genuine Fraud. For podcasts I've burned through a ton of Hollywood Crime Scene (my new fav!) peppered with weekly listens to Westworld with Jay, Jack & Mike, Wait, Wait, and How I Built This.