Author Terry Pierce Keeps the Ball Rolling with her New Picture Book

I’d like to welcome my friend and a wonderful author, Terry Pierce here on Real Stores for Real Girls.

Terry and I have known each other for fifteen years, and I’ve witnessed her growth as a writer. Belonging to the same online critique group, her valuable suggestions to my own writing were spot on and much appreciated. Please join me as Terry shares her thoughts and experience on the writing life.

What is your favorite picture book that you’ve written? Last spring, Simon & Schuster released my first board book, MAMA LOVES YOU SO (illustrated by the amazing Simone Shin). This book holds a special place in my heart because I got the story idea when my son was a baby (he’s now 33!). That was long before I’d even considered writing children’s books, but after hearing the song “Longer” by singer Dan Fogelberg, I thought that someone should write a children’s book that equates a mother’s love for her baby to the power of nature.

Ahh, Terry, so amazing that a gem of a story stayed with you for so long. 

Yes, Jean Ann, that idea hung in my head all those years. Two years ago, while hiking in the Sierras, the idea struck me again, as if my infant son was there with me, bobbing along in his Gerrypack on my back. I sat down and wrote it right then and there (I always carry a small notepad and pencil with me when I hike). When I first held the book in my hands, it struck an emotional chord like no other book I’d written. It speaks to the power of love. I just adore it and hope outdoorsy moms everywhere will love reading it to their little ones.

Outdoorsy moms WILL love this story, and I’m confident it will sell well.

What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision of MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN? The most challenging aspect of this story was finding the final “spark” that made it sell. I wrote it in 2006, submitted it to a few editors but only received “declines” (in the writing world, they’re called “rejections” but really, that’s so harsh!).

I agree, Terry, they need to change the word to “decline” for the sensitive writers out there everywhere. 

At a 2007 SCBWI retreat, I read the first page of MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN to an editor who asked me to send her the full manuscript. She wrote me back while I was in middle of getting my MFA (Masters of Fine Arts), telling me that she liked the concept and the language, but that it was missing something, a spark. I set her note aside and didn’t get back to it until 2014! It was then that I thought to add a repeating line of three words, “In clever disguise.” Kids love disguises and mysteries, so why not add a mystery element to the story to spark reader interest? I submitted it to Tilbury House and within two hours, they wrote me back saying they loved it and were very interested in acquiring it! (and I only had to revise one word for them).

Oh, Terry, this is fantastic!

Is there anything special you keep on your desk/wall as you work? I keep a small pile of three flat stones (descending in size) near my desk. I have it there as a reminder to keep my life balanced. For good health, I need to balance work and play, social and solitude, writing and exploring, my physical and mental being.

If you could give one piece of advice for aspiring writers, what would it be? I always recommend to writers to join the SCBWI and become active in your local writing and book events. But perhaps the most important advice I could give to any writer—or anyone who is following their life’s passion—is Never Give Up. If you work hard, be open-minded, develop your writing skills, and persevere, you’ll find success. But saying to persevere is sometimes easier said than done.

So true, Terry!

Last year, I wrote about what I call The Pit of Despair—that dark, hopeless place where all writers sometimes find themselves—on the blog, EMU’s Debuts: From Deal to Debut: The Path to Publication, (https://emusdebuts.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/the-pit-of-despair/). I think it’s important to know that 1) we all have serious setbacks, and 2) we’re not alone when we experience them. Connecting with other writers is vital to our survival in this business. We really do need each other. Well, I suppose that’s true in life, as well!

Great article, Terry!

Writing is a competitive and tough business. How long did it take for you to get your first book published? It took me five years to get my first book published, but I tackled writing with fierce determination. I had closed my Montessori school and was in limbo, career-wise. I’d been thinking about writing children’s books for a few months, so I decided to go for it. Even though I had no idea how to write for children or how long it typically took to get published, I gave myself a five-year deadline. If I didn’t have a book come out within five years, I was going to find another career (which is kind of ridiculous, considering that it usually takes 5-10 years to get published).

Of course, I was thrilled when I got a phone call from an editor asking me to write a book for them (my first contract offer was to write a children’s joke book). But I think it’s important to know that before I received my first book deal, I received 160 rejection letters. Yes, 1-6-0 (that’s not a typo!).  I preferred to call them “160 learning experiences.” Writing IS a tough business and you need a tough skin if you’re going to keep at it, despite all the declines to publish your work. You have to learn from your mistakes and move on (and yes, I did allow myself the occasional “pity party” because we’re all human).

Oh, boy, do I ever understand about rejection letters and pity parties for my own writing endeavors.

So, in addition to being persistent, Jean Ann, I’d say to young writers and young women who are pursuing any passion or dream, is to be brave. Have the courage to say, “Yes, this attempt at achieving my goal didn’t get the result I wanted, but I can learn from it and take that knowledge and do better. Why? Because I’m an intelligent, hard-working individual who has the courage to keep aspiring to achieve her dreams.”

Thank you, Terry, for your encouraging words to young ladies everywhere. I look forward to another fantastic interview in the future. I’d also like to suggest purchasing one of Terry’s books as a gift for the younger reader. 🙂

The release date for Jack and Jill… is March 6, 2018 (but folks can pre-order now 😉)