Author Spotlight: Darcy Pattison
Feb. 15, 2019
Today we are excited to feature PB author Darcy Pattison and her SIX books to be released in 2019! ROSIE THE RIBETER: The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, illustrated by Nathaniel Gold (Mim's House April) and POLLEN: Darwin’s 130 Year Prediction, illustrated by Peter Willis (Mims House, May). Those will be followed by two novels, THE WAYFINDER (Mim's House, June) and THE FALCONER (Mims House, July). In the fall is another science picture book: ECLIPSE: How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, illustrated by Peter Willis (Mim's House, October). Be sure to enter to win a copy of ROSIE THE RIBETER: The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I’ve always been a reader. In sixth grade, I read Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings (the Harry Potter of my day) and decided that someday I wanted to be on the flip side of such a book. I wanted to write the books that others loved. I did nothing about that, though, until I was married with four children. I was homeschooling and wondered how to teach writing. Donald Graves, who was starting a revolution in teaching writing to kids, said that if you want to teach kids to write, you must write in front of them. I tried it! Soon, I was writing far more than my children and haven’t stopped yet.
Congrats on your many successful self published fiction and nonfiction books. Why do you think you have been so successful when so many others have not been?
A couple things have contributed to my success, especially in nonfiction picture books. First, I had traditionally published for years before I stepped into self-publishing, which taught me the importance of quality in the writing and illustrations.
More important, though, I realized that children’s nonfiction is largely sold to schools. Aaron Shepard’s classic book, Aiming at Amazon (outdated now, but still interesting for his philosophy of selling books), talks about how to sell ONLY on Amazon. Instead, I needed to find my way to success without selling on Amazon. If you ask a school librarian where they buy books, they don’t say Amazon. They look to educational distributors who provide a variety of services valuable to them, such as cataloging, special bindings, and books recommended for their state’s curriculum. I spent the first three years getting listed with educational distributors such as Follett and Mackin. Their business is about half of my sales.
Finally, I take the time to study national curriculums for subject areas. Since I have specialized in science/nature books, I’m especially interested in the NextGen Science Standards (NextGenScience.org) Picture book ideas are always compared against the classroom teacher’s need for such a book to teach a standard. It’s not the only requirement for me to move forward with a project, but it’s an important one. In other words, I make sure there’s an audience for the book that I can easily reach.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about self publishing their work?
Self-publishing is a mindset change that frees you to make your own decisions. It’s intimidating at first, because, well, you make your own decisions. You won’t know everything at first, and that’s OK. There’s much more help than there was even five years ago. There are resources and people to ask. And that’s my biggest advice: ask for help and be ready to pay professionals to help make your book the best possible.
What projects are you working on now?
In 2019, I’ll have six books coming out, and I’m working on 2020 titles. First up are two science picture books: ROSIE THE RIBETER: The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (April) and POLLEN: Darwin’s 130 Year Prediction (May). Those will be followed by two novels, THE WAYFINDER (June) and THE FALCONER (July). In the fall is another science picture book: ECLIPSE: How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity (October).
Finally, here’s a surprise. I’ll have a book out from Dayspring, a Christian publisher. THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE is a pop-up version of the familiar children’s song. Yes, I’m glad to return to traditional publishing – for the right project with the right publisher.
By the way, POLLEN has just been named a Junior Library Guild selection.
What advice would you give your younger self? Is this the same advice you'd give to aspiring authors?
Don’t let anyone steal your dreams. THE WAYFINDER was traditionally published by Greenwillow/Harpercollins in 2000. Immediately, I wrote THE FALCONER, which they rejected.
Naively, I had expected them to help me edit to make it a great book. But THE WAYFINDER’s sales were the problem. It had sold well in hardcover for a debut fantasy middle-grade novel, but not well enough overall by Harpercollins’ standards. They said that sales weren’t strong enough to go to paperback, even though they expected me to really find my audience there. So, there was no paperback audience, no second book. I was devastated. I didn’t take it as a business decision. Instead, I internalized it as, “I’m a lousy novelist.”
I let them steal my dream. While I’ve written other novels over the years, that one still intimidated me as a colossal failure. Last year, I returned to that dream, found a great editor, paid her to edit and collaborate with me on the project, and am thrilled that it’s coming out this year. It’s a good story and always was a good story. I just needed an editor who shared my vision for what it could be. Never again will I allow others to steal my dreams. Don’t let publishers steal YOUR dreams, either.
What is something most people don't know about you?
I’m a “cover girl.” I have a quilt featured on the cover of the Quilting Today magazine, October/November, 1991.
Where can people find you online?
My publishing company is MimsHouse.com. From January – April, 2019, the Mims House blog is hosting guest posts by 23 children’s science writers in preparation for the Linking Literacy event at the NSTA National Convention in April. (See p. 11 of the conference schedule: http://static.nsta.org/pdfs/2019NationalPreview.pdf)
Interested in self-publishing? I’ll be teaching a Highlights Foundation Workshop, Self or Indie Publishing: Answering the Big Questions 2019 on March 25-28, 2019.
This workshop will be an up-to-date look at how to publish the books of your dreams and reach the right audiences. Come and dream with me!
Storyteller, writing teacher, Queen of Revisions, and founder of Mims House (mimshouse.com) publisher, Darcy Pattison has been published in ten languages. Her books, published with Harcourt, Philomel/Penguin, Harpercollins, Arbordale, and Mims House have received recognition for excellence with starred reviews in Kirkus, BCCB and PW. Four nonfiction nature books have been honored as National Science Teachers Association Outstanding Science Trade books: Desert Baths (2013), Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma (2015), Nefertiti the Spidernaut (2017), Clang! Ernst Chladni’s Sound Experiments (2019).
The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman (Harcourt) received an Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature Honor Book award and has been published in a Houghton Mifflin textbook. The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story is a Junior Library Guild selection and a 2018 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Notable Children’s Book in Language Arts. Pollen: Darwin’s 130 Year Prediction is a 2019 Junior Library Guild selection. She’s the 2007 recipient of the Arkansas Governor’s Arts Award for Individual Artist for her work in children’s literature.