Joint Interview: Author Sophia Gholz and Editor Sarah Rockett
I hope you’re enjoying the summer sunshine. I’m happy to feature my writing friend, Sophia Gholz, author of Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter! Plus, I have the pleasure of welcoming Sarah Rockett, editor at Sleeping Bear Press. Their book will be released on September 15th.
For our Kidlit Creatives Members, you have a chance to win a picture book critique (under 1100 words, non-rhyming) from Sophia Gholz. To WIN this special prize, follow the directions at the end of this post.
First, I want to share illustrator Dave Shephard’s cover art!
Hi Sophia! Congratulations on your new picture book – Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter. Please share why you wanted to write about Jack.
Thanks so much for hosting us, Manju. It’s wonderful to be back on your blog and to share this with my editor. Sarah rocks!
I actually hadn’t planned on writing about Jack originally. I happened upon some of his quotes while researching another book idea. Then I fell into the research rabbit hole. Before I knew it, I was digging up more and more info about Jack! As someone who struggled with debilitating O.C.D. as a teen and had a difficult time in school myself, I was inspired at how Jack learned to work with his dyslexia and persevered regardless of his struggle. In addition to that, Jurassic Park was the very first adult fiction book that I read (as a young teen) and I’ve always been a huge fan. When I found out that Jack Horner had inspired one of the main characters in Jurassic Park, I was blown away!
Hi Sarah! I understand that Sophia worked with you on her first book, The Boy Who Grew A Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng. Why did Sophia’s manuscript about Jack Horner also appeal to you? Please explain the acquisition process at Sleeping Bear Press.
Hi! Thanks so much for including me in the conversation here! Working with Sophia on The Boy Who Grew a Forest was such a dream. I was eager to see more from her. When I read her story about Jack, I knew it was a perfect fit for me and Sleeping Bear Press. I was drawn to the same elements of Jack’s story that Sophia mentioned above. It’s such a relatable and inspiring story—and one I think a lot of young kids need to hear. Most adults put so much value on succeeding in the traditional ways that kids don’t realize there are other ways to follow your passions and cut your own path to whatever success means to you. Plus, there was the added bonus of dinosaurs—which are a perennial hit with young readers.
When promising submissions, like this one, come in, our editorial team reviews them together. From there, the editor will present the project to the acquisition group. Our acquisition group is made up of representatives from every department at Sleeping Bear, so we’re able to examine projects from every angle. Projects that are approved at that meeting receive contracts and the editorial process begins!
Sophia: What was Jack Horner’s involvement during the process of creating this book?
After doing a ton of my own research and putting together a bare bones rough outline, my next step in drafting this manuscript was to reach out to Jack to see if he’d be willing to fill in some gaps. I was so nervous to contact him! But Jack was so kind and responsive. I contacted him with questions, and he happily answered them. I initially contacted Jack over a year before the manuscript sold. So, I wasn’t sure he would even remember me when I contacted him again (over a year later) to share the news that the book had potential interest! Thankfully, he did and was both encouraging and enthusiastic.
It wasn’t, however, until the art team at Sleeping Bear Press had rough sketches of the manuscript that we shared the whole manuscript with Jack for the first time. For someone who isn’t familiar with picture book formats, it sometimes helps them to see sketches to get a better idea of the full story. Plus, the whole team wanted to be sure Jack had a chance to look over everything for accuracy. Fun fact: Jack provided photographs for the illustrator to use for character sketches and those photos were amazing. It was so cool to see some behind-the-scenes pictures from Jack’s life and field experiences!
Sarah: Please take us through your editorial process of Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter.
Sophia and I did a few rounds of revisions for this one. When editing a picture book, I’m first looking for a story with a strong arc that is easy to follow. If a story doesn’t engage a reader and/or if it is confusing at all, it isn’t going to be one that people gravitate to. So we made some edits to tighten up those elements. We also looked at word choice and standardizing some of the lovely repeated elements in Sophia’s text.
After our initial manuscript edit, we looked at the text with the sketches. We requested a number of changes from the illustrator and edited text a bit more to really marry it to the art. And then when final art came in, we did the same. I like having the ability to continue polishing text as the project progresses.
I love working collaboratively with authors—and the whole team working on a book. I think the back-and-forth makes every element of a project stronger. So I love working with Sophia. She’s always up for writing though specific elements—even if we end up going back to how we had it originally.
Sophia: In addition to interviewing Jack, what other research did you do?
As much as I could! I am of the mind that there is no such thing as too much research. Almost every time I work on a nonfiction manuscript, I uncover a new layer or new facts with each dive into research. It isn’t until I feel as though I have thoroughly exhausted all resources and avenues that the research may be approaching an okay place to pause. For this story, I read every blog post and interview I could find. I scoured the internet and watched videos and read books. I even watched various documentaries that featured clips with Jack. I was lucky to have such a fun subject to write about. Jack has led a fascinating life and has contributed so much to the field of paleontology. Researching this book was a blast.
Sarah: What makes a manuscript the right fit for Sleeping Bear Press?
Our tagline is that Sleeping Bear Press brings meaningful stories to young readers. So that covers a wide range of stories. But we love stories with heart, humor and stories that illuminate inspiring characters. We’re also drawn to stories about the natural world—and taking care of it. Stories that lend themselves to backmatter and additional or independent learning are a sweet spot for Sleeping Bear Press.
Thanks very much, Sophia and Sarah!
Sophia Gholz is an award-winning children's book author, music lover, magic seeker and avid reader. Sophia enjoys writing fiction with humor and heart. When writing nonfiction, she pulls on her love of science and her strong family background in ecology. Since 2017, Sophia has helped oversee the Henry L. Gholz SEEDS National Field Trip Endowment for The Ecological Society of America, funding ecological field experiences for students from diverse backgrounds. She is also a founding board member of KidLiteracy.org, a nonprofit organization focused on early literacy initiatives. Sophia’s debut book, The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng, received the Florida State Book Award Gold Medal, a Eureka! Nonfiction Honor Award and was named a 2020 Green Earth Honor Book. When she’s not writing from her home base in Florida, you can find Sophia reading, visiting schools or exploring the great outdoors with her family. For more, visit Sophia at:
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/sophiagholzauthor
Sarah Rockett has been working in the children's publishing industry for more than a decade and truly believes that picture books have the power to change the world. She loves traveling, spending time outdoors, and--of course--reading. She lives in Michigan with her husband, young son, and lazy cocker spaniel.
Prize offer: For a chance to win a PB critique (under 1100 words, non-rhyming) from Sophia -read this post, 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 August 27th.
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