One of the greatest things about being The Edmond Sun’s “Mom Around Town” are the amazing parents I meet. One such parent is Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and writer extraordinaire, who is achieving her dreams in developing picture books for some of the nation’s biggest publishers.
Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is now a full time picture book author who has visited hundreds of schools and spoken at various conferences across the nation. To date, the Edmond mother of two has sold 21picture books to publishers that include industry giants such as Disney*Hyperion, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Simon & Schuster. Recently, her book Mostly Monsterly was selected for the 2012 Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories program, and Me Want Pet! was released in French (“Which makes me feel extra fancy,” Sauer said).
But what may be most exciting for Sauer is that her book, Nugget and Fang, along with Sauer herself, appear on the Spring 2015 Scholastic Book Fair DVD, which will be shared with millions of students (check it out at www.scholastic.com/bookfairs/ESvideo).
So, imagine my delight when I had the opportunity to ask this local superstar mom about her career and how she started the journey to becoming a big name in children’s books.
Q: “What is it that you love most about what you do?”
A: “Wow, there are so many things…. I think the best part about being a picture book author is that I am passionate about my job. It helps that I have a knack for finding the funny in a situation, and I can zone in to my inner 6-year-old. Also, as a former teacher and library media specialist, I enjoy getting back into schools to celebrate reading and writing with thousands of kids each year during my author visits. Picture books are generally read aloud and shared, and it’s such a great feeling knowing something I’ve written is creating moments of connection.”
Q: “How did you decide that writing picture books is what you wanted to do, and how did you get started?”
A: “I never planned to be a children’s book author. The Plan was to be a 3rd-grade teacher. However, during my senior year of college at Kansas State University, Dr. Marjorie Hancock, my language arts professor, pulled me aside after class and said, ‘Tammi, you have a gift with words. You should pursue publication.’ Knowing she believed in me made me believe in myself.
“But I didn’t get serious about writing right away. Years went by. I became a library media specialist. Then a pre-k teacher. Then a mom. It wasn’t until an illustrator visited my daughter’s preschool class that I decided to make a commitment to writing. That day, I went straight to the bookstore, picked up the latest copy of The Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market Guide, and made a promise to myself. Instead of watching Oprah, reading magazines, or talking to my mom on the phone during my kids’ naptime, I would devote it to studying picture books and doing my very best to figure out how to write one. I proceeded to write some very terrible stories…and I received more than a hundred rejections! But I kept at it and got better. A year later, I had my first offer. Cowboy Camp was pulled from the ‘slush’ pile. Yeehaw! Since then, I’ve sold 20 more books.”
Q: “What advice would you give to other moms who feel maybe life is a little too busy to follow their dreams?”
A: “I think one of the best gifts a mom can give herself is to have something that is just for her. For me, that something is writing. Pursuing my passion not only makes me feel more complete, but I think I am an even better mom because of it. It’s not about finding the time; it’s about making the time.”
Q: “How does being a mom inspire your work?”
A: “Many of the things my kids have said and done over the years have made their way into my books. For example, I got the idea to write Princess in Training during one of our regular visits to the library. I got the idea for Oh, Nuts! while we were at the zoo. Because of my kids’ love of animals, we’ve lived with way too many pets. That love sparked the idea behind Me Want Pet! about a cave boy who goes in pursuit of the perfect prehistoric pet.”
Q: “As a mom and writer, what is ahead for you?”
A: “Mom-wise, I am trying to deal with the fact that my son is going to start high school next year and my daughter will start college the year after that. The time is going by so fast. Too fast! As for my job, I have lots of writing, reading, revising, visiting schools, and speaking at conferences in store for me. I also have three books scheduled to hit the shelves in 2015: Ginny Louise and the School Showdown (Disney*Hyperion), Your Alien (Sterling), and Roar! (Simon & Schuster).”