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  • Writer's pictureManju Howard

BAA, BAA, TAP SHEEP’s Scenic Path to Publication by Kenda Henthorn

Everyone’s path to publication is unique. I’m happy to host Kenda Henthorn who will share her journey with interesting turns that led to her fun debut picture book.

For our Kidlit Creatives Members, you have a chance to win a signed copy of BAA, BAA, TAP SHEEP. To WIN this special prize, follow the directions at the end of this post.

First, I want to share illustrator Lauren Gallegos' playful cover art!

As a trio of tired tots settles into bed for the night, the sheep who should be helping them countdown to slumber, kick up their hooves instead, in an energetic dance performance. Starting with one little lamb and counting up to 10, these "sleep" sheep tap, waltz, tango, and even boogie-woogie, as they get their nighttime groove on. But finally, after their energy is danced out, nap sheep lulls everyone to sleep. (Written in the rhythm of Baa, Baa, Black Sheep).

Welcome, Kenda!

Hi Manju! Kidlit Creatives has always been near and dear to me as a life-spring of encouragement, inspiration and support over the years so it’s such a joy to be joining you here today! I’m thrilled to share the good news of my upcoming debut picture book, illustrated by the amazing Lauren Gallegos. BAA, BAA, TAP SHEEP is available everywhere on May 15th.

How did your book’s path to publishing begin?

Even though BAA, BAA TAP SHEEP was my shortest manuscript yet (198 words), and the story and rhyme came together surprisingly easily, its path to publication was a bit bumpy and took a few unexpected scenic twists and turns.

After one of my middle grade manuscripts won first place in the 2017 Rate Your Story (RYS) Awesome Openers Contest, I queried it around, got an offer of representation and by the end of 2017, we were off and running on submissions! By the following Spring of 2018, I’d written a few new rhymers and wanted industry feedback on them at our Oklahoma SCBWI conference. So even though I already had representation, I submitted BAA, BAA TAP SHEEP to Allison Remcheck, an agent with Stimola Literary Studio (SLS) for critique. Remember, I already had an agent and wasn’t seeking representation, so I’d just signed up for an “off-site” critique for a written, professional manuscript evaluation, and not an in-person, face-to-face discussion. So, imagine my surprise when our Oklahoma SCBWI Regional Advisor, Jill Donaldson, tapped me on the shoulder during one of our conference speaker’s presentations, and told me that Allison wanted to speak with me! Allison LOVED the manuscript, shared my vision for it, suggested an absolutely stellar stanza revision, and offered me representation…which sadly, I could not accept.

Fast forward six months though. When my prior agent left the industry suddenly, Allison’s passion and enthusiasm for my little lamb rhymer immediately jumped to mind. I queried her with the revised manuscript and asked if her offer was still on the table. Within minutes she responded with Yes! She couldn’t stop thinking about those daring, adorable sheep, so we scheduled The Call and in November 2018, my career path took a wonderfully “right” turn with Allison as my new agent!

You’ve got your dream agent by this point, so publication must’ve been a breeze, right?

Placing the manuscript with the right publisher took a while. At only 198 words, my BAA, BAA, TAP SHEEP is a very young book for a very young audience, so I think the story may have been overshadowed by other manuscripts on our initial submissions. But eventually, by the end of 2019, Barb McNally, Editor extraordinaire with Sleeping Bear Press expressed interest and took my story to their acquisitions department in early 2020. And there, even though we received unanimous support at their meeting, with the COVID-caused uncertainty across the entire publication industry, a decision was made to place the acquisition process for my book (and many others) on hold. We didn’t resume and finalize our contract until February 2021, almost a year later. The amazing illustrator, Lauren Gallegos, was hired and began work immediately, and finally, we were all back on the bus and driving to our publishing destination!

So at long last, almost five years later (2017-2022), this little bitty lamb book will be leaping into life in bookstores everywhere on May 15th!!

Was the long, bumpy ride worth it?

Ewe better baa-lieve it!

Yes, the process took longer than expected, but in the long run, I ended up with The Best agent, editor and illustrator for this project and I’m thrilled with the beautiful book we’ve created!

There are plenty of publishing paths forward. I’m proof of that! Many paths don’t wind around sideways quite as much as mine has, but it’s still paid off! So even when things occasionally stall, I hope you’ll tank up with fuel and keep driving forward! Enjoy every mile of YOUR ride on each of your many publishing destinations ahead!

Thanks, Kenda!

Kenda is originally from Pennsylvania and grew up behind the scenes on her parents' western movie sets. Those dramas fueled her dreams since she was a kid on a pony.

She works in the aviation industry now, so it's no surprise that her writing inspirations and aspirations are sky-high, too! Kenda resides in Oklahoma and when the winds aren't sweeping down the plains, she enjoys flying, kayaking, and riding horses or her motorcycle. (Vroom-vroom!)

She has served as a Regional Coordinator for the Oklahoma SCBWI and a Best in Rhyme Award committee member and judge.

Kenda Henthorn | Kenda Henthorn

(3) Kenda Henthorn | Facebook

(2) Kenda Henthorn (@kendahenthorn) / Twitter

Kenda Henthorn (@kendakay24) • Instagram photos and videos

And please enjoy BAA, BAA, TAP SHEEP!

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Prize offer: For a chance to win a signed copy of BAA, BAA, TAP SHEEP, leave a comment on our Kidlit Creatives page (must be a member) and share this interview on your Twitter or Facebook. Deadline to enter is Saturday, May 14th.

All posts on Manju's blog promote members of Kidlit Creatives: Create, Query & Support. Request to join us by hopping over to our FB page.

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