I'm excited to welcome back to #FirstDraftFriday one of my guests from our first year - Tracy C. Gold! Tracy's newest picture book, a beautiful tribute to moms, was years in the making! Read on to get inspired and then draft your own picture book manuscript today.
CALL YOUR MOTHER, written by Tracy C. Gold and illustrated by Vivian Mineker, is out next month from Familius.
To pre-order or learn more about Tracy, visit: tracycgold.com
Tracy is generously offering a manuscript critique as a prize for someone who completes a draft today! Details on how to enter at the end of this post.
Welcome Tracy! Can you tell us a little about CALL YOUR MOTHER and what inspired you to sit down and write the first draft of it?
CALL YOUR MOTHER is a book about all the times you need your mother, from when you’re a baby to when you become a parent yourself.
This book had a very interesting drafting process. What I now think of as the first draft was written on the notes app on my phone…I don’t remember exactly when I wrote it but I’m sure it was when I was watching my kid or otherwise had no time to sit down and write. The refrain for this draft was “What would mama do?” and it was about a kid who solved problems by thinking about what their mom would do, up until the kid became a parent and struggled with their own kid and found they still needed to ask “What Would Mama Do?” I liked the idea of following the changing relationship between a kid and their mom throughout childhood until the kid became a parent.
I put this in a Word Doc and sent it to my agent and we both realized we didn’t quite love it but couldn’t really pin down why.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m connecting with Christopher Robbins, the President of Familius, the publisher of my first book EVERYONE'S SLEEPY BUT THE BABY. He mentioned looking for books about moms.
Thinking about all the times my grandpa used to tell my dad “Carl, call your mother,” I sat down and wrote CALL YOUR MOTHER. Well turns out the book followed the changing relationship between a kid and their mom throughout childhood until the kid became a parent.
This sounds kind of familiar, I thought to myself…even thinking maybe there was a published book just like this. After searching around, I remembered WHAT WOULD MAMA DO? and realized that CALL YOUR MOTHER was super similar but a way better approach.
Did you do any pre-drafting or brainstorming exercises to help you flesh out the CALL YOUR MOTHER idea?
I didn’t really do this for CALL YOUR MOTHER, but for my non-fiction books, TRICK OR TREAT, BUGS TO EAT and HIDE AND SEEK, NUTS TO EAT, I did a lot of research about bats and squirrels, respectively. I draft a few stanzas to make sure I’ve got the format I want, and then I go and research. For those books, I had to create lists of what bats and squirrels ate. As I research, I also list fun verbs and sounds that are related to those animals. When I’m not sure how to flesh out a rhyming stanza, referring to that list is very helpful.
Can you share an excerpt of your original manuscript that changed significantly and how it appears in the final book? How did you know this needed work and what was the process like to get it where it is today?
Sure…if you’re okay with spoiling the ending, I think that’s what grew in leaps and bounds.
Here’s the ending that still lives in the notes in my phone:
Oh no, the baby’s crying! Screaming thrashing, sending toys flying!
I stop and think it through.
What would Mama do?
Mamas always know what to do.
Because they learned from Mamas like you.
And here’s the ending in the final book: When your baby’s small and new,
And you don’t know what to do…
“Mom, how did you do it?”
Call your mother.
“I did just the same as you,
I would call my mother too.”
I was trying and failing to get that multi-generational love, help, and respect to come through in the first draft. If I’m remembering correctly, when I sat down to write what I thought was the first draft of CALL YOUR MOTHER only to realize I’d been chewing on it for years, this ending flowed out very easily. I got lucky that the established rhyme and rhythm of the book kind of set me right up for it! (Even though the dialogue up to that point, which was all from the child to the mother, was not rhyming like the rest of the book.)
What is the hardest part of writing a first draft for you? And how do you deal with that?
For me when I’m drafting a rhyming book sometimes I get stuck trying to get the rhyme and rhythm perfect. I have to just kind of let myself go and write “horrible” rhyme and rhythm. Normally I overwrite—I might create double the amount of stanzas I think I eventually need. Then I’ll keep only the best ones. If I can’t get the rhyme and rhythm right, I just cut the entire stanza instead of agonizing over it, ha.
Any other tips and tricks for getting that first draft committed to the page?
Don’t feel like you have to have the perfect set up! Jot down notes on your phone. Record voice memos for yourself. Write on that crumpled receipt you have in your purse/pocket. Give yourself permission to let the book be rough. You can fix it later. It’s so helpful to have something to start from.
Let's get started making "something to start from" because it's #FirstDraftFriday!
To enter for a chance at a free picture book (under 1000 words) critique from Tracy, do the following by 10 pm ET today (Feb. 2, 2024):
Complete a full picture book draft
Return to this blog post and comment that you’ve completed your draft and provide your Twitter handle or full name. You will need to Sign Up/Log In to leave a comment (it’s easy - just an email and password).
You don’t need to send in your draft or provide proof - we’re all about the honor system here! The lucky winner will be randomly drawn from the comments and announced on Twitter shortly after 10 pm ET tonight.