Author Spotlight: Gabi Snyder
May 15, 2020
We are excited to feature Gabi Snyder and her debut picture book, TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, illustrated by Robin Rosenthal (Abrams Appleseed, May 19, 2020) .
Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
As a kid, I loved reading, and I loved writing poems and stories. I still remember the thrill of writing one of my first stories – about a stick of gum who escapes the factory and strikes out for Hollywood. Yep, she got into some “sticky” situations. But though my child-self loved writing, the idea of becoming a writer never seemed like a real possibility.
So I dabbled in writing for several years before I took a leap and studied writing, with a focus on writing fiction for adults, at the University of Texas. After earning my MA, I took a succession of jobs that used writing (like grant writing and instructional design), but I struggled to find time for my own writing.
Fast forward to 2013: when my kids were little (3 and 5), we moved from Austin to Corvallis, Oregon. With a break from work following the move, I found time to get back to my own writing. Only by then, I’d become immersed in the world of picture books and fallen in love with this form of storytelling. In 2014, I wrote my first picture books.
Congrats on your debut picture book, TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE. Tell us about it and what inspired you.
TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, illustrated by Robin Rosenthal and just out (May 19) from Abrams Appleseed, starts with a gate left open and a dog escaping her yard to join a poodle on a trike. Soon it’s three dogs on a scooter and then four dogs on a bike. With each new mode of transportation, a new dog is added to the fun. But what the pups fail to notice is that the original dog’s family cat is in hot pursuit.
As a kid, one of my favorite picture books was GO, DOG. GO! by P.D. Eastman. The silly dogs and sense of movement and fun in TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE are, in part, an homage to the P.D. Eastman classic. In TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, we count up to 10 and back down again while moving through different and escalating modes of transportation.
And the dog versus cat dynamic that plays out in the story was inspired, in part, by my childhood pets. I grew up with a cat we called Kinko (named for his kinked tail) and an assortment of dogs. Kinko was the undisputed boss. Now my family includes one dog and one cat. (They take turns keeping each other in line.)
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
I’d say my road to publication was both long and winding AND short and sweet! Long and winding: from 2014 to 2017, I received over 100 passes from agents and editors. But thrown in the mix were some champagne rejections and a few requests to see more work. Finally, in 2018, I signed with my agent, the fabulous Natalie Lakosil of Bradford Literary. Short and sweet: since signing with Natalie, we’ve sold two picture books.
You have another book coming out; tell us about it.
My second picture book, LISTEN, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, will be out in spring 2021 from Simon & Schuster/Wiseman. LISTEN begins with noise: the BEEP! WOOF! ERNT-ERNT! VROOM! of a busy morning, and draws the reader closer as it encourages listening to quieter and quieter sounds. It encourages mindfulness and not only hearing, but really listening, paying attention to the quiet, and even silence, around and within you.
What projects are you working on now? Are you able to concentrate?
I’m working on some funny/silly manuscripts, like TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, and some more contemplative stories, like LISTEN. And I’m inching along with my very first chapter book manuscript.
Like many, I’m struggling to find the time and the focus for my work these days. I have two school-aged kids at home, but even when I do get a stretch of uninterrupted writing time, my brain feels muddy and uncooperative. For me, it helps to set super modest goals like “Write about X for 15 minutes.” Setting a timer and closing all distractions (even turning off the Internet) helps, too!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Be gentle with yourself; in other words, don’t expect instant brilliance, instant success. And be especially easy on yourself right now when your attention is likely pulled in so many directions. In times of stress, it can be easy to fall back on bad old habits, like mindlessly scrolling through social media when you mean to be writing. That’s when it’s especially important to lean heavily on your good habits. If taking walks helps clear your head and let you focus, then (assuming you can safely walk right now) keep taking walks!
And know that the more you practice – the more you read and write – the better writer you’ll become. You may have to write 20 stories before you write one that begins to match your vision.
Also, everyone gives this advice but I’m going to give it too because it’s super good advice: write something new. Yes, revise the drafts that call to you. But also, write something new. I promise that what you’ve learned writing and revising those earlier drafts will shine through in your new drafts. Your new first drafts might still be lousy – that’s the nature of first drafts – but they’ll be better than your old first drafts. And you’ll have a better idea how to revise them!
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I was not a physically adventurous child, and it took me awhile to learn how to ride a bike, but once I did master bike-riding, I loved the sense of freedom and joy I felt when pedaling around my neighborhood, and later, all over my small town. Taking solo bike rides to discover new things in familiar places is one of my favorite activities as an adult, too.
Also, random bonus detail, I make sound effects when I feel too cold. It helps!
Where can people find you online?
You can find me online at gabisnyder.com.
Or follow me on…
Reader. Writer. Lover of chocolate. Gabi’s debut picture book, TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE, is out now (May 2020) from Abrams Appleseed, and her second picture book, LISTEN, will be out in spring 2021 from Simon & Schuster/Wiseman. Gabi lives in Oregon with her family, including one daredevil dog and the cat who keeps everyone in line.