Tammi Sauer was a teacher and library media specialist, but is now a full-time picture book author. She’s visited hundreds of schools and spoken at various conferences across the nation, including at Disney World! Woo-woo! She has sold 25 picture books to major publishing houses (Bloomsbury, Disney*Hyperion, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Simon & Schuster, and Sterling).
In addition to winning awards, many of her books have gone on to do great things. For instance, MOSTLY MONSTERLY was selected for the 2012 Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories program, NUGGET AND FANG is currently featured on the Spring 2015 Scholastic Book Fair DVD which was shared with more than 50 million students, and CHICKEN DANCE was recently developed into a musical by ArtsPower National Touring Theatre and currently has 53 shows scheduled for spring 2016.
For what age audience do you write?
I write picture books. My audience ranges from 3-103. You are never too old to enjoy a picture book.
Henry: unless you’re 104…
Tell us about your picture book, YOUR ALIEN.
YOUR ALIEN (Sterling, 8/4/15), illustrated by Goro Fujita. When a little boy meets a stranded alien child, the two instantly strike up a fabulous friendship. They go to school, explore the neighborhood, and have lots of fun. But at bedtime, something seems wrong with the alien. Can the boy figure out what his new buddy needs most of all?
So far, the book’s received wonderful reviews.
“Not since E.T. has extraterrestrial entertainment stood such a good chance of making kids (and their parents) tear up.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Will likely inspire preschoolers to stare hopefully heavenward looking for their own close encounters.” – Kirkus, starred review
Henry: I very much enjoyed this book. Bonus points for doing a science fiction (one of my favorite genres) picture book! I’m working on a sci-fi PB that involves time travel.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I hope readers will discover that friends and family are the most important things in the universe… no matter who you are.
Henry: Aliens are people too. That’s why they like Reece’s Pieces. Just ’cause they sometimes invade earth is no reason to hold a grudge.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
When it comes to writing, my biggest challenge is coming up with a good idea. Some people can come up with 2,453 ideas before breakfast. Not me. Once I have that strong, fresh, irresistible-to-editors idea, though, the fun begins.
Henry: Hah, I am the yang to your yin in that regard. Great titles and ideas come easily, but the execution, especially the revisions, is the heavy lift for me.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
The Mayor and Edmond City Council declared July 9, 2015 in Edmond, Oklahoma, to be Tammi Sauer Day. Woo!
Henry: Awesome. Are there pose-able action figures available? Now had that been declared by the Council of Elrond, that’d really be something…
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Getting published takes a solid understanding of the craft, some talent, and a little luck.
Henry: Plus the skin of a rhino and the patience of a sloth.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
Yes! Years ago, I found this quote by author Lynn Hazen:
“My main considerations for any picture book are humor, emotion, just the right details, read-aloud-ability, pacing, page turns, and of course, plot. Something has to happen to your characters that young readers will care about and relate to. Oh, and you have to accomplish all that in as few words as possible, while creating plenty of illustration possibilities. No easy task.”
Henry: No easy task indeed. If you’ve never tried writing a PB, you’re in for a surprise.
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
I don’t have any strange rituals, but I do enjoy having a 32oz. tropical tea next to me at all times.
Henry: So, you are against measuring tea in the metric system? Is this an indictment of the public education system?
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
My favorite is a unicorn. A unicorn would be a big hit at school visits.
Henry: Indeed. And unicorns appear in lots of KidLit, including Peter Beagle’s THE LAST UNICORN, J.K. Rowling’s HARRY POTTER series, Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s UNI THE UNICORN, and my (as yet unpublished) BEST PET IN THE CASTLE.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.
In 1987, I had a huge crush on Jason Bateman. I even wrote a computer program called “Bateman Fever” in my eighth grade computer class. I am still pro-Jason Bateman.
Henry: He is a talented actor, but my tastes run more toward Kate Beckinsale. Still, I’ve never written any Kate-centric software…
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to read, ski, travel, spend time with family and friends, and eat out as often as possible.
Do you have any other books you’d like to mention?
GINNY LOUISE AND THE SCHOOL SHOWDOWN (Disney*Hyperion), illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, and ROAR! (Paula Wiseman/S&S), illustrated by Liz Starin.
Henry: I’m a big fan of your work. I have to tell you that I came up with this great idea for a picture book. So, I first did some research to see if there were any similar books already published. Thanks for nothing for MOSTLY MONSTERLY, Tammi! 🙂
Where can readers find your work?
My books are available on Amazon, in Barnes & Noble, and at many indies across the nation. Signed copies of my books can be found at Best of Books in Edmond, Oklahoma, or through the store’s website: bestofbooksok.com.
Henry: Thanks for taking the time to visit with us, Tammi. Take note: YOUR ALIEN sequel YOUR ALIEN RETURNS will be published on October 4, 2016. I’m told it will not feature Sigourney Weaver, facehuggers or chestbursters, sadly. For even more Tammi news, see her website at http://www.tammisauer.com. This interview can also be read at the San Diego Books Examiner.