First 2017 Post — An Author’s First Book!

Happy New Year! We’re glad to see you back at Picture Book Builders as we kick off 2017! I wish all of you a wonderful year filled with great stories, friendships, and an extra dose of kindness.

I thought it would be fun to start this brand new year with first-time author, Meg Fleming, and her incredibly sweet, gorgeous book, I HEART YOU, which celebrates what our world could use a bit more of–love. Meg’s debut picture book released last month, and she’s kindly stopped by to tell us about her new book. So without further ado … here’s the super-delightful Meg! (And if you’ve met Meg, you know she is indeed super-delightful.)

First off, how did you get the idea for I HEART YOU?

Well, actually… I was revising another story and a wise, wonderful author (and friend!), Esther Hershenhorn, suggested I pull out all the verbs in my manuscript and write them out as a list— to make sure I was using the best possible verbs. As I went through that exercise, I couldn’t help but play around with the verbs—I started resituating and rhyming and it was just a fun little puzzle.

A little while later a rhythm…
a beat…
a pattern…
fell into my head and I couldn’t shake it loose. (That’s my favorite thing. It’s the best when rhythm falls from the sky.) So, I had to sit down and find my way through it.

I kept thinking show don’t tell… show don’t tell, and then a question came:
How would I say “I love you” to my kids if I couldn’t actually say it?

And that was the birth of the idea.

(Illus. credit: Sarah Jane Wright)

What was the revision process for the book like before it sold?

I kept this story pretty close, actually. With some stories, I work through revisions heavily with my critique groups and critique partners—this one, I kept close. There was something in it that I didn’t want to interfere with. I wrote the initial draft and let it sit for a while so that it could just be there… it could just be mine. I revised it lightly, trying to shake out a story arc without disrupting the spirit of the story, and then after some time I shared it with my critique group. After they read it they had tears in their eyes, so I took that as a good sign.

(Illus. credit: Sarah Jane Wright)

I HEART YOU has been out for almost a month. What has this “release month” been like for you?

Haaaa! That is a great question! I really didn’t know what to expect from the release month. There were so many questions spinning around and since this was my first book, I had no idea what to think. I had three great events to kick off I Heart You’s existence: a kid-filled bookfair at Barnes and Noble, an awesome launch party at Town Center Books, my local bookstore, and a fabulous reading and presentation at Laurel Book Store in Oakland. The best part has been seeing friends, family and even strangers read my book. I knew I’d be excited to see it on the shelves, cause, c’mon… the whole thing is kind of crazy, but I guess I didn’t think it would come so close to people’s lives. I didn’t think about babies patting the pages because their hands don’t do the page-turn-thing yet. I didn’t think about older siblings reading it to younger siblings. And I didn’t think about librarians saying things like “Oh! This would be great for our lap readers!”

The whole month has been very exciting and special. Mostly, I’ve been feeling immensely grateful to everyone who has believed in this manuscript from the get-go— my critique partners, my editor, Andrea Welch, my agent, Emily van Beek, and gosh… Sarah Jane Wright, I am so incredibly thankful that she got it. Cause she rocked it!

All in all, it’s been a great month!

(Illus. credit: Sarah Jane Wright)

Any marketing/promotion suggestions for other authors?

Hmmm… I am still all ears on this topic. I’m definitely trying to figure this aspect out as I go. We did do a fun Mannequin Challenge at my launch which was supposed to go viral and people were gonna be like “Oh my gosh… did you see this WONDER?!” Seriously. Did you see it? Oh my gosh, you have GOT to see it. Look! (

Lol… truth be told, I am a Marketing WIP! 😉

Thank you again for having me! This was lovely.

(Illus. credit: Sarah Jane Wright)

And thank you Meg for sharing your wonderful book with all of us! You can find out more about Meg and her books–yes!–she has more coming out soon at

Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than 100 books. A mechanical engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about science topics and fascinating historical figures. Recent books include: SWISH! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, The Daring Dozen, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Astronaut Annie, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, Dangerous Jane, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, The Inventor’s Secret, and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Coming soon -- MARS IS, JUNE ALMEIDA VIRUS DETECTIVE! THE WOMAN WHO DISCOVERED THE FIRST HUMAN CORONAVIRUS, THE UNIVERSE AND YOU, and TBA titles from Calkins Creek, Peachtree, and Random House. Learn more about Suzanne and her books at:


  1. It looks lovely, Suzanne & definitely more of what we need right now! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I look forward to reading Meg’s book. Learning about how the book came to be makes me even more excited to get it!

  3. Beautiful! I heart a minimal text like this. Will look for this one.

  4. Loved the post, Suzanne. Congratulations, Meg…what a beautiful book…and I agree with the librarians…it would be wonderful for lap readers. 😉
    And thank you for sharing your revision process and marketing journey…my debut pb, Sweet Dreams, Sarah, has been pushed back to Feb 2018…so I am happily gathering promotion ideas and will take a look at your Mannequin Challenge.

    • What a great idea, Vivian, to use the extra time the publisher has graciously given you (which doesn’t always feel like a gift when your pub. date gets pushed back) to gather marketing ideas!

    • Thank you so much, Vivian! That is so nice.

      Congratulations on SWEET DREAMS, SARAH! I completely understand the waiting. Hang tight… it will definitely be worth it. And thanks for humoring my DESPERATE PLAY for people to actually look at that Mannequin Challenge! 😀

  5. Oh man, what a sweet idea. It looks wonderful with it’s limited but moving text. Must see.

  6. Lindsay Hanson Metcalf

    Ideas are everywhere… I loved hearing how this one came about. It will be a treasure for many little readers, I’m sure!

  7. I read this book and was delighted with its simple message, rhythm and one word rhyme. So perfect for little ones and so full of heart!

  8. What an exciting time for you, Meg. Congratulations! This books looks just lovely, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

  9. I look forward to reading! I love your tip about keeping your story to yourself for a while before sharing with your critique group … and then the reaction – tears in their eyes – that must have been amazing to see!

    • Good point Melissa, it is good to keep certain stories to yourself so you can see your original “vision” through before getting others’ ideas.

    • Thank you, Melissa. I think it’s so important to listen to your own instincts as an artist– first and foremost. Some stories simply need to breathe so that you yourself can accept that they’re out there… and that is enough. The fact that the story exists is quite remarkable. Believe me, there are plenty of times where my stories need a whole slew of eyes on them– but when the magic, explainable stuff happens, I like to leave it be.

      And yes, it was amazing when my critique group had that reaction. Thanks so much. 🙂

  10. Congratulations! I can’t wait to read this book. Thank you for sharing your inspirational process. ?

  11. I love that idea – playing with verbs!
    Thanks for the post!

  12. Meg, I love how Esther’s advice helped you revise. What a lovely book you’ve written!

    • Thank you so much, Kathy! (Do you know Esther?! She is such a gem.) But it is so cool to see how the revision process for one book can lead to inspiration for the next. Thank you for your kind words. 🙂

  13. Lovely, indeed! Thanks so much for the introduction, Suzanne, and congratulations, Meg. The book looks beautiful!

  14. Thank you, Meg and Suzanne! This looks like a winner!

  15. Thanks Suzanne for highlighting this amazingly sweet book. I look forward to holding it and sharing it with little ones. Congrats Meg on a great debut PB.

  16. Thanks for sharing your story, Meg. Your book is beautiful!

  17. Beautiful book and beautiful words. Mannequin challenge is super cute!

  18. Looks like a beautiful book. I think I will try the ‘verb’ exercise with my manuscripts, too.

  19. A sweetheart of a book and wonderful pairing of author and illustrator. I’ll be giving this title to some favorite kiddos for Valentine’s Day! Thanks Suzanne and Meg!

  20. I heart you, Meg Fleming! Your new book is delightful. I sent it to the grandbaby for Christmas. (Yes, she will be one of those either patting the pages or ripping them!)

  21. What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing your journey to publication. I agree with Sue – sounds like the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for my little one.

  22. The mannequin challenge video is great. What a great marketing tool.
    I can’t wait to get the book.

  23. Meg,
    you book I heart you sounds wonderful and what a great exercise total out all of the verbs in a manuscript and make them stronger.

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