Exciting news! My picture book, The Remember Tree, is available from Cedar Fort Publishing and Media. I will be doing multiple bookstore events in Pittsburgh and the Salt Lake City area, and I would love to see you there!
I think it’s fitting that this book is my first traditionally published book. When I was a child, every year at Christmas my parents would read us a story about the symbols of Christmas. In the story my parents read, Santa Claus visits a family, pulls items out of his sack, and explains what each one means. He asks the listener to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Our family would also often do the “Twelve Days of Christmas” for a few other families, where for 12 days before Christmas, we would drop off a piece of this story and a little gift to go with it. I remember crafting a sleigh one year out of candy canes and cardboard.
Ever since then, I have wanted to write and illustrate a picture book about the symbols of Christmas. When I finally decided to write my own book, I focused on the relationship between a grandmother and her grandchild as a variation of the story we read when I was a child.
My illustration skills are a bit rusty, and in this case, I decided I didn’t have the skills I needed to illustrate the way I wanted the book to be illustrated. So I chose to write the text and leave the illustrations to someone else.
I wrote my first draft of The Remember Tree three years ago, in October 2016.
At this point, I had written and submitted many different manuscripts to literary agents. I submitted The Remember Tree to a few agents, and within a few weeks had an agent interested. We spoke on the phone and he said he knew he could sell this book. He then asked me to submit other manuscripts before taking me on as a client.
At the time, I was also submitting my learn-to-read alphabet book. I sent that to him, with a couple other stories. A month later, he emailed me back and said my other manuscripts were unmarketable, so he was going to have to pass on representing me as an agent.
I was pretty crushed. This was the closest I had come to making my dreams of publication come true. The very next day, I led Storytime at the Penguin Bookshop, where I was using materials from my “unmarketable” learn-to-read book to teach kids to read. After it was over, one of the moms asked me where I purchased my materials. I told her I had created them and was trying to find an agent to get it published. She was bummed. She wanted the materials right then – her daughter was at the perfect age to learn to read.
That morning, something clicked in my brain. The agent was wrong. My book was marketable. Heck, I already had my first customer.
I decided to put my Remember Tree manuscript on hold while I focused my efforts on self-publishing ABC See, Hear, Do: Learn to Read 55 Words. Almost three years later, I’ve sold well over 10,000 copies, won a Mom’s Choice Gold Award, and have been an Amazon best-seller. So yup, that agent was most definitely wrong. There is a thriving market for my ABC See, Hear, Do series, and I love being a part of it!
Despite my success, I continued to write and submit other manuscripts to agents. Then, about a year and a half ago, I attended a conference where an author told us she had sold over 100 books directly to small and mid-size publishers without an agent. I admit, I had never thought much about submitting directly to publishers, because everyone always said get a literary agent first. But she got me thinking.
As I researched small and mid-size publishers, I saw the books Cedar Fort published and immediately thought of my old manuscript The Remember Tree. It was worth a shot, I figured. So I dusted it off, revised it, and sent it off to Cedar Fort. A few weeks later, an editor responded. She loved the idea, but it needed some work, so she’d have to pass. Thankfully, she gave me a little more feedback and said if I were willing to revise it, she would love to look at it again.
As I studied her critique, I knew she was right, but it took some work to apply the changes. Multiple riddles and revision hours later, I sent it to my critique group. They gave me more great feedback, and I revised like crazy.
Finally, I submitted the story again, and in August 2018, Cedar Fort accepted my book for publication! Woohoo! I can not wait for this book to go out into the world. Because beyond my dreams coming true and the hours and hours of work involved, beyond the fun riddles and beautiful ornaments, this book has a message I’ve been wanting to share since I was a child myself. I hope this book inspires children to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Because as much as I love the fluff of Christmas, I also love the Savior and am excited to share that love with children. Just like the story of my youth, I hope reading The Remember Tree will become part of many more Christmas traditions.