Hi, readers, writers, and turkey-lovers of all sorts! We're pleased to have Brenda Reeves Sturgis on the blog today during our Thanks and Giving celebration. What better way to celebrate the season of gratitude than with a few turkeys and a lot of humor? Brenda's and David Slonim's book, 10 Turkeys in the Road, follows ten turkeys getting ready for their big circus performance. An upset farmer who's simply trying to pass them increasingly becomes upset. Will the farmer be able to get around the turkeys in the road, or will the turkeys have another plan? Want to know more about Brenda and her hilarious book, PLUS want a chance to win a rhyming picture book critique from her? Read On...
Q: Hi, Brenda! Thanks for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit. We're so excited to celebrate the season of gratitude with you and hear all about your hilarious book, 10 Turkeys in the Road! Please share the seeds of inspiration for this entertaining book, as well as its journey to publication.
A: I was on my way to take my daughter, Stacie, to school. She was 5-year’s old. We lived on a country dirt road, and there were about 10 turkeys blocking the road. I was in a hurry, I was frustrated because we were running late. I wanted to beep at them, but instead, I watched them. I watched them chase each other across the road. I was mesmerized as they flew up into the trees. At that time, I didn’t know turkeys flew. I enjoyed that moment, even though I was running late, I stopped and watched. I woke up at 3:00 a.m. a few nights later, with the story idea in my head. I ran it by my critique group, and they liked it. I showed it to an editor friend of mine, and she liked it too, that is where the idea was born.
Q: This book underwent a makeover after submission – what was it originally, and what was Margery Cuyler’s vision for it? How did you go about nailing the sale?
Readers, if you want to get to know Margery Cuyler more, take a look at her Trick-or-Treat Post with us, here.
A: It had won an honorable mention in a writer’s contest, and this contest got the attention of my first agent. I was accepted in 2008 into RUCCL, (Rutgers University Council of Children’s Literature.) I was paired with Margery Cyler who was the publisher of Marshall Cavendish at that time. She liked the story, which was originally about turkeys just doing funny things in the road. Margery said, “I like this, but I want it about something else.” I said, “What would you like it about?” She said, “I would like it to be about a circus.” Margery knew what she wanted, so I went home, took it apart, and rewrote it, in rhyme about a turkey circus, a concept count back book. The refrain is, “One turkey flew away.” I had to find a way to write about a circus rhyming away. I used Rhyme Zone, which is always my favorite site to use when rhyming.
Q: Did you include any art notes to get the turkeys’ antics across. Why or why not?
A: I did include art notes originally, an editor friend of mine had sent me some thoughts on it and had included some art notes that she thought would be fun, so I included them in the manuscript. Once the story was acquired and I received the galleys, I did have to research if turkeys are in New Mexico or Arizona, because the circus is set in the desert.
Q: What was something surprising that you learned along the way and what tips do you have for anyone who’s looking to write a similar story?
A: One thing that was surprising to me is that the illustrator always has a totally different take on text than what an author writes. There is one page in the book where the farmer is throwing his old straw hat, but in the original text, I wrote, “The farmer waved his old straw hat.” When I got the illustrations, I saw the hat on the ground, and I knew I needed to change my word to threw instead of waved, because it was easier for me to change my text than the illustrator to change his entire illustration, I always tell this story to children at author visits, and they always find this fact fascinating. I would suggest that all writers research and read as many books that they can find, rhyming or otherwise to be able to get a feel for what has been done, and what you can do differently to find your own authentic voice.
Q: What does Thanksgiving mean to you? What is your favorite part of this holiday?
A: Thanksgiving is always a day when I reflect. I reflect on the past year, things that I am thankful for, losses that I had, things that have changed from one year to another. I am always most thankful for the ability to do what I love, which is to write for children, and I am always thankful for the health and happiness of my husband, children and grandchildren. I am always thankful to be able to write, and to especially to write in rhyme. Rhyme is the heart of me, and I am passionate about it.
Thanks so much for joining us, Brenda! It was a pleasure connecting with you and learning more about your hilarious book!
Q: Would you like to leave a treat for the readers?
I'd love to leave a dessert!
We always have apple pie at my house, and it is a simple apple pie recipe. I use a box crust, for a two-crust pie, and we always use McIntosh apples, heaped and piled high, 1 cup of sugar, pats of Kate’s butter, a few dashes of cinnamon, baked at 350% for 1 hour. I put tin foil around the pie so the edges don’t burn. Simple recipe, and it has to be, because I am the worst cook on the planet.
As an added treat: I am more than glad to critique a rhyming manuscript free of charge for a give-away.
As an extra tip: I can’t recommend SCBWI conferences enough, and I enjoy them when I am able to attend or present.
Thanks so much for such a delectable dessert!
Readers, if you'd like a chance to win Brenda's amazing giveaway 1) share this post on social media and 2) leave a comment below and thank Brenda for stopping by. Thanksgiving gifs are always appreciated. ;)
About Brenda Reeves Sturgis:
Brenda Reeves Stugis is the author of 10 Turkeys in the Road, Two Lions Publishing, The Lake Where Loon Lives, Islandport Press, Still a Family, Albert Whitman and Co, Broommates, Little Press Publishing, 2024 and After the Shelter, Albert Whitman and Co. 2024. Still a Family was named a top 100 book by the NY Public Library in 2017, and also a top 20 book by The Mighty Girl website in that same year. In December of 2020, Still a Family, was featured on PBS NYC Thirteen show, “Let’s Learn,” and reached one million families, in 2022, it was featured on a Japanese Saturday morning show and reached four million families. Brenda lives in the country in Maine, at the edge of the woods, where she has plenty of turkeys strutting around her yard and an occasional bear who wanders past. She is the mother of four grown children, and the grandmother to eight grandchildren and has been married to her husband Gary for 28-years. When she is not writing for children, she works as a nanny and as a household manager.
For more about Brenda and her book, check out the below link:
To purchase Brenda's books on Amazon, or to leave a review for them, click here.