Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Debut Author Interview with Sandra Feder


Sandra Feder is the author of DAISY'S PERFECT WORD.  I met Sandra at our local SCBWI conference in Oakland this year.  She was among the panel of debut authors speaking at the event.  She shared her publishing journey with the 100+ attendees.  Sandra is a sweet and lovely person with a wealth of information.  I wish all of you will have the chance to meet her in person as I did.  For more information about Sandra, please visit her website:

Sandra's story is a fascinating one.  In this interview, you will learn:
1) How she got her first publishing deal
2) How her picture book ended up as a midgrade novel
3) What it's like to transition from writing picture books to midgrade

 Welcome Sandra Feder!

How did you come up with the idea for Daisy's Perfect Word?
I noticed that my own children had fun playing with words and language when they were young.  I also noticed other children enjoying making up words and using words in fun ways.  One of my daughters came up with a very long name for herself, which is part of the story line of my second book.  Also, I am someone who has spent her life thinking about how we use words - first as a journalist and then as an author.  So creating a character who loves words seemed very natural.

Is Kids Can Press the first publisher you sent Daisy's Perfect Word to?
It was but not necessarily for the reasons you might think.  I had submitted a story and craft book that I wrote with an artist friend to Kids Can.  Along with wonderful storybooks for kids, Kids Can also publishes craft books.  I got the most lovely rejection letter from then editor-and-chief, Sheila Barry.  She loved our project but didn't think it worked for their list.  She offered to talk to me about what she liked, and so I set up a time to speak to her on the phone.  My biggest piece of advice is to always take someone up on an offer to talk to you about your work! 

After a delightful conversation, I had an opportunity to be in Toronto, where Kids Can is based, and Sheila asked me to stop by and bring some of my other work.  We met and immediately hit it off.  There really is no substitute for face-to-face meetings with people.  That’s one reason meeting editors and agents at conferences can be so beneficial.  When I met with Sheila, I showed her the very earliest version of the story, which eventually became Daisy’s Perfect Word.  Fast forward many years later and that story is now a book!

Kids Can Press only accepts submissions from Canadian authors.  How did you make that connection? 
Kids Can Press
As I mentioned, I came to Kids Can through a different book submission but then forged a wonderful bond with Sheila.  I knew it would be a hurdle for me to be published by them, as they publish very few American authors.  But by then, Sheila had become a mentor, and I wasn't willing to give up on the idea of working with her.  We both hoped that with the right project, we would be able to overcome the hurdle of me not being a Canadian. 

Kids Can is a wonderful organization, and every person there that I’ve had the pleasure of working with has been terrific.   Sheila has now moved on to become the publisher at Groundwood Books, another wonderful Canadian press.  I have a new editor at Kids Can, who has been a delight to work with.

Daisy's Perfect Word started out as a picture book.  Can you tell us why Sheila Barry thought it would be better as a midgrade chapter book?
Over the years of knowing each other, I had submitted many manuscripts to Sheila, but we both kept coming back to this story.  One day she said she had been thinking about it and had shown it to the publisher of Kids Can, Karen Boersma.  After talking about it, they thought it would work better as a chapter book.  Sheila thought I would have fun expanding the characters and story.   I think we both realized that my story was a narrative-driven piece, as opposed to one that had an equally strong visual component, which you need for a picture book.  I found that I absolutely loved the freedom to expand the storyline and to really develop my main character and the idea of her love of words.

I know you originally had a different title for your book.  Tell us why you changed it.  
I originally had the name of one my daughters in the title.  Initially, it helped me to create the character in the earlier versions of the book.  However, when I expanded it into a chapter book, the character changed so much and I was having so much fun giving her a unique personality, that I realized it was important to give her a new name as she really was an entirely new and fictional character.  Furthermore, once I changed her name, it freed me up to take the character in different directions.  I might not have done that if I felt like she had to be reflective of my daughter.

Was it easy or difficult to make that switch from PB to MG?
At first it felt a bit daunting, because I had never tried to write a chapter book.  But I totally trusted Sheila and realized that I had an editor and publisher who were interested in the story, so why wouldn't I want to give it a try.   As I mentioned, I quickly found that I totally loved the longer format and found it very freeing.  It was fun to be able to add more details as well as new characters and then to see where the story and characters took me.

Did you take any special classes or read specific books to prepare you to write MG?
Sheila had suggested some early chapter books for me to look at.  I looked at the Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo as well as others.   I saw that the early chapter books were a format that I thought I could do.  I also happened to attend a children’s writing conference around the same time I had decided to turn my manuscript into a chapter book. 

At the conference, one of the speakers who was a successful author, said she always tries to think in terms of creating a series rather than a stand-alone book.   If someone asks her for one idea, she gives them four.  I kept that idea in the back of my mind and when I finished the revised story, I realized I could keep going with the Daisy character and the theme of language and a love of words.  So I submitted my chapter book back to Kids Can and gave them eight ideas for other books in my proposed series.  They gave me a four-book contract!

How is it different from writing PB?
I think the main difference is that along with the overall story arc – which one has in a picture book as well – there also is an arc within each chapter.  I tried to make sure each chapter ended in a way that would make the reader want to turn the page to find out what happens next.  There also is a lovely feeling as a writer that you don’t have to cram your whole story into as few words as possible.  You can give the characters a bit of breathing room.  They can go to several different locations, and have many different experiences, all within the same story.

Thank you, Sandra, for sharing your experience with us. For those who haven't already, please pick up a copy of DAISY'S PERFECT WORD.

Published by Kids Can Press, Ltd. March 2012
About the book:
DAISY'S PERFECT WORD is the first in a series of four.  It is about a young girl, Daisy, who loves words and keeps a journal of her list of words.  One day, she learns that her favorite teacher is moving and wants to give her a gift―the perfect gift that only she could possibly find.  This is a delightful book that readers will relate to and enjoy. Writers like us will really appreciate this book because there is a little bit of Daisy in all of us.

In Sandra's second book, Daisy’s Defining Day, Daisy discovers alliteration.  It will be out in March, 2013. 

Visit to find out more of her upcoming books.

Fun Facts about Daisy's Perfect Word:
  • The picture book draft went through 8 revisions
  • Its midgrade format went through 6 revisions
  • It took 5 months from submission to acceptance
  • It took 2 years from contract to publication

For more author interviews: 
Robert Sanders, author of COWBOY CHRISTMAS
Nessa Morris, author of REACHING FOR RAINBOWS
Donna Earnhardt, author of BEING FRANK
Amy Dixon, author of MARATHON MOUSE
Karin LeFranc, author of A QUEST FOR GOOD MANNERS


  1. Thanks for this excellent interview. It's interesting (and not surprising) that the old-fashioned person-to-person connections are sometimes the most important ones.

    1. Yes, that's why conferences are so important. Hoping to meet you in person at one of our SCBWI Conferences some day.

  2. Thanks so much for this very helpful post, Sandra. My writing is taking off in the MG and chapter book direction, because I have so much more to say! Your insights are much appreciate da,

    1. Wow, Jarma, that is great. It's good that you can cross over genres.

  3. What an excellent interview, Romelle and Sandra. I really appreciated this since I recently had someone suggest that I take one of my PB characters and create a chapter book around her. Thanks!

    1. Glad you found Sandra's interview helpful, Carrie. That is exciting.

  4. It's always interesting to read about the personal connections. Congratulations on a fun sounding story Sandra. I want to read about the word journal.

    1. A few pages of Daisy's word journal is displayed at the end of the book!

  5. Great interview! I heard Nick Bruel talk about taking his Bad Kitty picture books and writing middle grade books from them too. He said he liked writing both. I think it's cool that you can write two books for different ages on the same story. This was an interesting interview for me to read! Thanks! :D

  6. Now that is an interesting twist- Nick Bruel's BAD KITTY turning into a MG. I can't wait to read that version!

  7. I loved this interview! I learned a great deal about how to reframe a PB idea that may be more MG. I am looking forward to reading about Daisy and her list of perfect words!

  8. Great interview Romelle! Sandra's insights gave me a lot to think about in 2013.

  9. Excellent interview, Sandra and Romelle! I love finding out how others started. How neat Sandra was able to break into a Canadian publisher!



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