Thursday, January 12, 2012

Introducing.... Banana Peel Thursdays!

Hello world!

So excited you could join me.  Well, today is the DAY! I would like to present to you my new weekly feature...Banana Peel Thursdays

What the heck does that mean?

Well, long, long December, I started this blog to document my own experience of becoming a writer of children's books, the ups, the downs and the down-right embarrassing. I have met some amazing individuals along the blogging way and have been very impressed by what they contribute to the online writing community. I was so inspired that I decided I wanted to contribute in some way as well. Having virtually no experience under my belt, I was at a loss. Then it hit me (it flew across the kitchen) ... a banana peel! That was it!

Banana Peel Thursdays are about validating the experiences of all authors (pre-published and published), recognizing that we are not alone in defeat and comprehending the fact that we ALL are susceptible to slipping on banana peels. This weekly feature will contain stories straight from the mouths of talented, published authors who are willing to describe their not-so-perfect experiences in their careers as writers. Each week I will post the story of a different children's author detailing their most humbling moments, often accompanied by other fascinating realizations they've faced along the way. 

I feel so lucky to have been in contact with such talent and that their work has graced my email inbox! They are truly great sports!  I hope that not only will these authors' stories humanize the experience for all of us who choose to write for children, but that these posts will allow the participating writers to be recognized and appreciated in the craft to which they have so wholly devoted themselves. 

Thank you so very much for joining me for the FIRST Banana Peel Thursday! Please be sure to subscribe to the blog or have posts emailed to you so that you don't miss out on all the greatness coming your way!

With that said, ehh hemmmm....I would like to introduce the first children's author to be featured...the wonderful Susanna Leonard Hill!


Elizabeth had this inspired idea.  "Let's get published authors to entertain up-and-coming writers with stories of when they were humbled, embarrassed or hit over the head with an aha moment."  Well who am I to say no to that?  The only question is which one of my MANY humiliating, embarrassing moments to share :)  Perhaps instead of one banana peel, I'll share a whole bunch.

My first book signing: I arrived at a local public school's book fair and sat before a cafeteria table that was FAR too big for my one little book. 

 I was not the only author in attendance.  Amy Axelrod was to my left.  Her table groaned under the weight of her numerous books, in hardcover and paperback, so many that the table couldn't hold them all and she had to stack some on the floor.  Charles Smith was to my right.  Same situation - countless amazing, very popular books.  Two other authors had fewer books than Amy and Charles, but way more than me!  Children and parents flocked to Amy and Charles and the others.  I sat there, hoping someone, anyone, would ask me to sign at least one copy of my little book.  I felt so small.  I remember hoping that a day would come when my table didn't look quite so empty!  Maybe I wouldn't have as many books as Amy and Charles - but at least two would be nice :)

My first school visit: Nobody told me what was involved in a school visit.  My friend, owner of a local bookstore, signed me up for the gig.  "What do I do?" I asked him.  "Just go and read your book," was his glib reply.  Well, this was hard enough.  What if they didn't like my book?  After all, they were in kindergarten and The House That Mack Built was really intended for preschool.  But I could read a book.  Except it turns out? it only takes about 4 minutes to read Mack.  I was supposed to keep 40 kindergartners entertained for 30 minutes.  I read the story and then we stared at each other.  I had no idea what to do next.  My hands began to shake.  My mouth was so dry I could barely articulate.  My teeth began to chatter with nerves and I had to clench my jaw to keep it under control.  You cannot rely on kindergartners to have useful questions to ask that you can take time answering.  The responses to "How old are you?" and "My uncle has a truck" are fairly limited :)  I found out the hard way exactly how long 30 minutes can be.  But the next time I went on a school visit you can bet the farm I was prepared!

My first conference: I was invited to speak at a conference for teachers.  Yikes!  I had grown fairly used to doing presentations for kids and was comfortable with that, but grown-ups!  That was a whole other thing!  The conference got off to a great start, though.  As I stood beside my table (now thankfully with a few more books on it!) a group of teachers approached purposefully.  Wow!  I thought.  They're coming over to look at my books!  How wonderful is that?  "Excuse me," said one of the ladies.  "Can you tell me where the rest room is?"  Oh.  A few minutes later, another woman approached.  She held a copy of someone else's picture book.  "How much is this?" she inquired.  "I'm sorry," I said.  "I don't know."  "Don't you work here?" she asked.  Well, actually, no.  Did my little name tag saying children's author and presenter not let her know who I was?  Did the sign saying "Author Signing" not clue her in?  You will be happy to know that I was able to point many visitors to the rest room that day.

Future Submissions:  After I got my first contract I was filled with confidence.  I was going to be a published writer!  I had written something that someone valued!  Well!  I was full of ideas.  I had plenty more where Mack came from.  I wrote and wrote and wrote.  And I waited for the next call with an offer.  Surely it would come soon!  Except you know what?  It didn't.  Turns out being published once is no guarantee of future publishing contracts.  I'm sure you all know this, but it came as a surprise to me.  At this point I have sold 9 books in the US and 1 in the Netherlands over the course of 10 years, which works out to about one a year, although that's not how it actually happened (I had 3 in one year once.) 

I am thrilled beyond measure to be able to say this.  Proud of my accomplishments.  But confident?  Not so much.  Published or not published, writers (and this is probably true of all creatives) are subject to discouragement, self-doubt, worry that they'll never have another good idea, or that they'll never publish a book (or another book).  Getting published doesn't make those things disappear.  In fact, sometimes, it makes them worse because you think, I did it before, why can't I do it now?  On the other hand, getting published really is magic.  It's a dream come true.  And I wish it for everyone reading this.  There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that compares to that phone call telling you an editor loves your story and is making you an offer to publish it :)  It won't make the writing easier.  It won't change who you are.  But it will certainly make you feel, at least for a while :) that all the hard work is worth it.

Thank you so much for inviting me to be part of the inaugural Banana Peel Thursday!

Susanna Leonard Hill is the author of  The House That Mack Built (Little Simon 2002), Taxi! (Little Simon 2005), Punxsutawney Phyllis (Holiday House 2005), No Sword Fighting In The House (Holiday House 2007), Not Yet, Rose (Eerdmans Books For Young Readers 2009), Airplane Flight (Little Simon 2009), Freight Train Trip (Little Simon 2009), Can't Sleep Without Sheep (Walker 2010), April Fool, Phyllis! (Holiday House 2011), and Beer Is Zo Moe (Veltman Uitgevers, 2010)  For general interest, Phyllis was translated into French for Scholastic Canada and published as Debout Marmotte.  Airplane and Freight Train are available in Japanese (I'm not even going to try to write the titles :))  Not Yet, Rose is available in Dutch as Een broertje of een zusje, Roos?  And Can't Sleep is supposed to be coming out in Korean one of these days... 

Please support Susanna by checking out her delightful books!
If you would like more information on Susanna and her work or should you wish to contact her, you can visit the following sites:

Thanks so much for visiting and a special thank you to Susanna for putting yourself out there and for even considering opening my email regarding this project! =)


  1. Horray for Susanna! Being the first guest for Banana Peel Thursday. That was a great post. I could see myself being caught with only one book at a book signing or wondering how to keep a group of kids interested for 30 minutes, especially the first It's these sort of posts that give us an insight into the real world of a writer.... yep banana peel and all!! Loved it Elizabeth, and thankyou, both of you.

  2. Such an interesting guest post! It is so good to know the reality of the publishing world pre-published or published. Well done Susanna! (And well done Elizabeth for the concept of Banana Peel Thursdays!)

  3. I love this! Thank you so much for posting this. It makes me feel hopeful and inspired all at once. Looking forward to more Thursdays!

  4. Elizabeth, thank you so much for having me! It was an honor to kick off Banana Peel Thursdays! I think this is a wonderful idea, and I can't wait to see what other authors have to say. If anyone has any questions, I will try to check in from time to time and answer. Diane, Ramona, and Julie, thank you for your nice comments :) (And Elizabeth, I'm sorry I didn't get here in time to post first - it took longer than usual to drive my daughter to school through sleet and freezing rain - ick!)

  5. Thanks for sharing these guffaws, Susanna! I can't believe the bathroom directions! LOL. Now if only I could have as many published books as Susanna Leonard Hill!!! ;-)

  6. Susanna -
    I didn't think it was possible, but now I love you even MORE!
    - Cathy

  7. Great post, Susanna. You've just mentioned EVERYTHING I've gone through as a writer, and it helps to know that you're not alone. I did wonder though when you mentioned that you were much more prepared for your next school visit, what did you do to prepare? How was it more successful? What are some of the best school visits you've had?

  8. Banana Peel Thursdays is a wonderful idea! It appears that getting a book published isn't the only hurdle that authors will face. Thirty minutes with a roomful of kindergartners and nothing to do - ouch!

  9. Elizabeth what a fantastic idea and you couldn't have picked a better banana peel than Susanna for your first Thursday. I was grinning like a horizontal banana after reading this. It followed so well after Tara's post yesterday and is so helpful for us unpublished authors to read.

  10. Great idea Elizabeth. Wonderful stories from Susanna. Reality - I love it.

  11. @ Tara - I am not making that up! Luckily I had scouted out the bathroom myself and so was able to be useful :) And as for books, yours look so fantastic!!! You're going to leave me in the dust before long - especially since I haven't sold a traditional PB ms in over 2 years. OUCH!

    @ Cathy - you are so sweet! :)

    @ Natasha - I'm glad you enjoyed it! The answer to your question is I thought about MACK. It is about a bunch of machines and people working together to build a house. So I made a board (And let me just say here that I am TOTALLY artistically challenged, so If I can do it, anyone can do it!) which I colored green for grass and drew a river through. I made a barge out of popsicle sticks and trees out of pieces of stuff from the arts&crafts store that looked tree-like which I velcroed to the board (so they could be removed.) Then I got my son's toy dump truck, loader, cement mixer, etc. And when I went on visits, I acted out the story and let the kids take turns driving the trucks, taking down the trees, pretending to dig a hole for the foundation etc... It was very successful! Then, when Phyllis came out, I got a Phyllis puppet and boy do we have fun with that. She sings! She tells jokes! She's wildly entertaining for a groundhog. Does that help?

    @ Heather - teachers do it all the time, but if you're new to it, it ain't easy!!!

    @ Joanna - you are so nice :) Glad you enjoyed it. Elizabeth had a great idea!

    @ Stacy - glad you liked it!

  12. Wow, Susanna! Thank you for sharing your experiences. And Thanks Elizabeth for hosting. It's always good to know I'm not alone in my fumbles. Of course Susanna has plenty of successes to balance it all out. Love your books Susanna!

  13. I really enjoyed your humorous and realistic adventures in publishing, Susanna. As an old timer in the field I have my own "war stories" to tell, and it can be tempting to get discouraged at times. Often so many blogs are so rosy and optimistic that I feel like I might be the only one going through the doldrums. It's nice to know I have company! Thanks for your willingness to share some of the less enjoyable aspects of this mostly wonderful field.

  14. Thank you, Susanna! You are such a positive and encouraging person to know. Thank you Elizabeth for beginning this series!

  15. thank you so much for sharing with us. Looking forward to the next Banana Peel!

  16. Susanna, I love your humor and honesty in describing your first book signing, school visit and conference. Like you, starting out, I had the same fears and the shyness to overcome. But, we've come a long way, baby! I'm so impressed with how well you spoke off the cuff when we were on that authors' panel- when the moderator didn't pose any questions or give us any direction. The writing is the easy part!

  17. Oh, yes. That feeling I'm feeling right now - that is the glow of INSPIRATION. Thank you Susanna for your candor and your honesty - and your sticking with it to create so many wonderful books. Thank you for sharing all three dimensions, and for letting us (me) hear the chimes of writer, mother, newbie, and experience. We are not alone! It's OK to start with one book (and knowledge of where the restrooms are.)

    And thanks for the Thursday, Elizabeth - I'm already excited for the Thursdays to come. Is it wrong to add a long-term goal - to someday be the featured author here? DONE!

    (Not anonymous - Love from Melissa K.)

  18. I loved it! Elizabeth I am so impressed that you put this together and you just started your blog in December?? WOW! Way to jump in the mix of things! :) And Susanna, I love your candor and humor and the way you make yourself so accessible to "pre-published," authors. You truly pay it forward. :)

  19. @ Hannah - thank you so much!

    @ Diane - I hope you're going next :)

    @ Miranda - aw shucks! Thanks :)

    @ Sandi - my pleasure! Can I show you to the restrooms?

    @ Iza - I hope you're going to sign on for this! EVeryone will totally love you!

    @ Melissa - you're too kind! And sticking with it is really hard sometimes, which is why it's great to be part of this wonderful community!

    @ Natalie - thanks so much for your kind words! And I'm impressed with Elizabeth too! Such a GREAT idea! I'm looking forward to future Banana Peel Thursdays!

  20. Hi Elizabeth. Great idea for a blog series. I am now following.

    Susanna, awesome way to kick it off!

  21. Elizabeth, Great post. We all like to hear about the ups and downs of other authors. Validates our own journeys.

  22. Great idea, Elizabeth! This is truly going to be a wonderful blog series.
    And Susanna, as always you are truly inspiring! Thank you for always taking the time to share with those pre-published authors who value your advice so much!

  23. @ Corey - thanks! I hope you're going to do this too! :)

    @ Marcie - I'm glad if you enjoyed it!

  24. Thanks for sharing! It is nice to know that even published authors have their bad moments too. We're all in this together!

  25. I just wanted to thank everyone again for visiting the site today. Susanna, a huge thank you to you for sharing your special banana peel moments. =)

    In addition to validating and humanizing the experience of being an author, I sincerely hope that this series grows to become one that will at the very least put a smile on its readers' faces! Hope to see you again next week!

  26. I loved the stories! Thanks for sharing, Susanna. Great feature - Elizabeth, looking forward to more BANANA PEEL THURSDAYS!!!!!

  27. This sounds really fun. I can emphasize with the kindergarten class experience.

  28. Oops, late to the party - but glad I finally made it! This is an excellent idea, Elizabeth, and Susanna was the perfect first guest. That book fair scenario gives me nightmares - I mean, what better way to highlight the feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and I-don't-belong-here that we creatives suffer. Yikes. Yay for you, Susanna, for living through it and living to tell the tale. Looking forward to the next session, Elizabeth!

  29. Wow Susanna! You are very brave to share those stories with us, and I love what you have to say at the end. Getting published is magic but it's not the end all be all or a guarantee for the future. You inspire me so much!

    Elizabeth - great idea for a series! Can't wait to read more!!

  30. Elizabeth -thank YOU! i'm looking forward to THursday and seeing who's next!

    Eric - I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    Beth - I love visiting classrooms now, but boy, that first time was scary! :)

    Renee - I was an avid horse-back rider back in the olden days, and I had an instructor who said "You have to throw your heart over the fence!" - I think that's true of a lot of things in life!

    Julie - thanks so much and I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

  31. What a fun feature! I loved reading more about Susanna's "banana peel" moments.