Picture book author Sue Gallion stopped by to chat with MCPL.
MCPL: Sue, first, congratulations on your debut picture book, Pug Meets Pig, published last year by Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster. It did so well that the further adventures, Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat, just landed on bookstore shelves. Two picture books in two years, that’s fantastic! Did you have both stories planned from the beginning?
Sue: Thank you! No, I began working on the text that became Pug Meets Pig in 2011 as a stand-alone book. The Beach Lane Books editors bought the manuscript in fall 2013 after I had a manuscript critique with one of them at a Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference. A few weeks later, near Halloween, the sight of my next-door neighbor’s dog dressed in a glow-in-the-dark skeleton costume inspired another Pug and Pig story. I was really fortunate that Beach Lane bought it a year later.
MCPL: I love your books’ illustrations! How much collaboration did you do with artist Joyce Wan? What’s the author/illustrator relationship like?
Sue: I love Joyce Wan’s work too. She also has a wonderful series of board books that are a huge hit with my grandson, especially, You Are My Cupcake.
Most people don’t realize that a picture book author and artist usually have no contact with each other during the book publication process. The thinking behind this is that an author tells half of the story through the text, and then the illustrator tells the visual story.
The editor and art director for the publishing house are the leaders of the book team. They work separately with the author on text changes and the illustrator on art changes. So I saw sketch dummies of both books by email, but my feedback was to our editor. I couldn’t be happier with the way Joyce brought Pug and Pig to life.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet Joyce several times now, and we’ve teamed up on extras for the books, such as coloring pages, activity kits, and curriculum guides. Those can be downloaded for free on my website, suegallion.com.
MCPL: Would you tell us a little about your journey to publication? Why have you chosen to write for children?
Sue: I grew up in a family of printers, teachers, and all-around book people. I was lucky that I was read to a lot as a child, and we always had books around. My mom took us to the library every week as kids too. I majored in journalism in college and worked as a writer for companies and hospitals in Texas. When I had kids, I rediscovered children’s books all over again. I started learning about and working on writing for kids about 12 years ago. I’d encourage people who are interested in writing for children to check out the Kansas/Missouri region of SCBWI. Our area is home to many wonderful children’s writers and illustrators, and there are good opportunities to learn. It’s a more complicated business than people might expect, and it involves a lot of waiting, but it’s where my heart is.
MCPL: Are there pets or people in your life who inspired your characters?
Sue: Yes! The first Pug and Pig book was inspired by a true story. A friend of mine’s daughter and family had a pug named Charlotte. Then they decided to adopt a rescue pet pig, which they named Wilbur. Unfortunately, the two didn’t get along well, so they ended up finding a different home for Wilbur. That’s what started me on the manuscript.
I don’t have a pug or a pig—kids ask me that a lot. But the characteristics of my family dog (a black lab mix) and other dogs I’ve known certainly show up in my book characters.
MCPL: Your website has a long list of Pug and Pig events coming up. Have you had any surprises when you read your stories aloud to children? Do they laugh where you expect them to?
Sue: Reading and talking with kids always brings surprises! Their creativity and conversations are fabulous. Recently, two young sisters attended a storytime and told me that they have a pet pug and also pet pigs. I even got to see pictures! Everyone’s favorite spread of Pug Meets Pig tends to be when Pig gets stuck in the doggy door.
MCPL: Are you working on Pug and Pig’s next adventure?
Sue: I do have more stories in mind for these two pals. I’ll keep you posted!
And thanks for inviting me to MCPL!