Debut authors. We love ’em. Especially when they’re also super nice people and friends, like Sarah Glenn Fortson. Sarah agreed to a visit so we could talk about her new book, THIS COWGIRL AIN’T KIDDIN’ ABOUT THE POTTY (illustrated by Russ Cox, published by Peter Pauper Press).
A bit about the story: Cowgirl A.K. is just too busy to bother tackling the “big white stallion” (the toilet). “Ain’t kiddin’,” she tells her mother (and then her teacher). “I got no time for the potty.”
And she IS busy! She has “fences to varnish, horses to harness, and spurs that tarnish.” And, at school, learning to do. All the while, A.K.’s proudly outfitted exactly like her idol, Wild Wilma Wilkee, the most famous cowgirl of all. (Photos are from the f&g graciously provided by Peter Pauper Press.)
Then, on a school trip to a rodeo, she sees Wild Wilma Wilkee, live and in person! A.K. follows Wilma through the crowd for an autograph…but loses her at the line of port-a-potties.
When Wilma shows up again, she signs A.K.’s ten-gallon hat and even consents to a picture of the two of them. Then…
“Back at the bunkhouse, the day was winding down. A.K. placed her new photo beside her bed and took ONE MORE LOOK.”
That’s when she notices that yes, she and Wilma are dressed alike, head to toe…except for — uh-oh! — that diaper fringe sticking out from her jeans! So begins her change of heart, hilariously illustrated in scenes in which she gallops down the hall in her new bronco-bunting’ undies and tackles the big white stallion at long last.
The book is so fun to read aloud, because the cowgirl VOICE is outstanding and allows plenty of opportunities for the read-alouder to ham it up.
So let’s get to our interview!
Jill: First, I have to ask: Sarah, what sparked this story idea?
Sarah: And first, I have to say, “Thank you, Jill. I am honored to be here with you on Picture Book Builders!”
The spark for this story came while babysitting a three, almost four-year-old, who was quite reluctant about the potty. I was on a mission. When Mom returned, I wanted to tell her of our success. So, I may have been pushing a little hard, trying every trick in the book to get her into the bathroom and on the potty. She was not buying it and finally turned to me and said, “Don’t you know, I’m busy. I have stuff to do.” She then stomped off to her room and may have closed the door on me.
Jill: Haha! So much for your resolve, Sarah! Here on PBB, we always (okay, usually) strive to pinpoint the one thing about a picture book that strikes us as outstanding in some way. In COWGIRL, that’s undoubtedly the hilarious and spot-on cowgirl voice. Is narrator A.K.’s rootin’ tootin’ drawl something that evolved over time, or was that pretty much how you heard it from the beginning?
Sarah: It definitely evolved. In the first version of the story, the main character was a princess, but something didn’t feel right about that. I wanted a more “earthy” girl. I happened to be visiting friends in Arizona and they took us to a rodeo. That’s when the cowgirl was born. I’m originally from the south so the drawl comes naturally. I just added a little cowpoke lingo.
Jill: Well, it definitely works. How many revisions did it take to know THIS COWGIRL was exactly right? Were there more after it was acquired?
Sarah: I don’t know how many revisions there were, but I do remember most of them involved cutting. Some were micro-cuts when I got cold-feet about some daring scenes. Like when she whipped off her jeans and her diaper, I had her galloping down the hall in her ten-gallon hat and that was all. I figured the big hat would cover what it needed to cover. But…I chickened-out. I also cut a big scene on a school bus going to the rodeo. I needed a lower word count and that scene didn’t feel necessary. After the story was acquired, we only made small changes when wording didn’t match up with the illustrations.
Jill: Tell us about getting The Call.
Sarah: My editor, Mara Conlon (Peter Pauper Press) was in the audience at The Writing Barn when I read COWGIRL. I chose to read that particular story, because I was nervous and figured something short and funny would get me through. I was not expecting anyone to want it! My previous agent, after one rejection, told me not many publishers wanted “potty” books. So I had put it on the back burner.
All through the process leading to acquisition, I kept my excitement “in check.” I know other writers, waiting for their first offer, will understand that feeling of “let’s not jinx this.”
My contract from Mara arrived by email while I was attending my second weekend intensive at The Writing Barn.
Jill: Score one for writing workshops! Did you have a say in the illustration process? What was it like getting your first look at Russ Cox’s big, bright, funny sketches, especially considering this was your debut book?
Sarah: Russ Cox and I were at one time represented by the same agent. She had asked Russ to sketch some sample cowgirls. I had those sketches and with Russ’s permission, sent them to Mara. I was so excited when they chose him and confident that whatever he and Mara decided would work for me. And, oh my goodness, did it ever! I am in awe. Russ works very fast. Either that, or he doesn’t sleep. Every few days a new scene would come in. I loved them all. I hope everyone will make a point of noticing the back cover. I had no idea that was in the works!
Jill: Back cover: LOL. Too cute! And this swag created by Blue Slip Media (and Russ Cox) to go with the book! Swoon-worthy.
Okay, everybody, Sarah’s editor has been kind enough to offer us a giveaway copy of THIS COWGIRL AIN’T KIDDIN’ ABOUT THE POTTY! Want it? All you have to do is leave a comment below. Yee-haw!
Meanwhile, the winner of my last giveaway, who’ll win an autographed copy of Jody Jensen Shaffer’s adorable IT’S A FIELD TRIP, BUSY BUS! is ….LeeAnn Rizzuti! Congratulations, LeeAnn!
This story is adorable!
Sarah, your words are so much fun to read out loud, and I love the illustrations.
And the door hanger idea is brilliant.
Huge congratulations on reading your story at a workshop and getting an offer – well done!
Hi, Heather! Thank you so much. And congratulations on HULA WARRIOR!
LOVE this, Russ!!! And especially those door hangers! 😀 <3
And hurray for Dot Day!
This is such a fun concept and the voice is fantastic! I’m looking forward to reading this one. Thanks for sharing it with us!
Thank you, Becky.
That is adorable! I love it! Perfect combo of character and illustrations. Congrats! Yee-haw!
Much appreciate your comments, Angie.
Adorable! Loved reading this. Can’t wait to see your book.
Thank you and congratulations on I AM GOOSE!
I guess there’s always a new take on a particular theme… if you’re creative enough! YEEHAW!
Love AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET!
Jill, thanks for this interview.
Sarah, congratulations! This book is priceless!! I’m sure there isn’t a mother or grandmother among us who hasn’t faced a potty challenge.
AWWW, you’re very kind, Mary.
This is a great read aloud, and I ain’t kiddin’! Congratulations, Sarah and Russ!!! I’m so excited for this book to come out. Yee-ha!
I think I remember reading it to you for your bedtime story on Cape Cod.
Sounds hilarious. Wish it had been around when my daughter was a toddler!
And it looks like you’ve got two new books coming out?
Sarah, your cow-girl lingo and voice are rootin’ tootin,’ straight shootin’!!! I can’t wait to read this! Congratulations to you and Russ!!
Howdy do, Judy…I’m lovin’ your cow-girl voice and rhyme, too!
So excited about this fantastic book from the incredibly talented Sarah! You nailed the voice and humor perfectly! And the illustrations are adorable! Yee-Haw, this is a winner!
Linda, for YOU to tell me I “nailed” the HUMOR means the rootin’ tootin’ world to me!
Thanks for the interview, Jill!
And Sarah, I love how this story was discovered at a workshop! Very cool. Congratulations. Can’t wait to read this!!
Hannah, I know…. it was so unexpected.
Well, well, well…you had me at the title!
Love that response, Kathy!!! Thank you!
How fun is this? Thanks for sharing!
This is so fun. I love how it came to be, too. Congratulations!
Thank you, Mary!
This book reminds me so much of my daughter! She was always “too busy” to get potty trained. This book will be fun to read!
Thank you, Danielle!
Such a fun take on an age old challenge! Can’t wait to read this and share with my soon to potty train granddaughter! Adorable illustrations, also. Congratulations on this debut book.
Granddaughter! Lucky you! Thank you, Kathy.
My heart is just bursting with joy for you and your debut, Sarah. I couldn’t be happier. You and Russ did such a wonderful job! Congratulations!!!
Awww, Michele, you are so very kind to say that. Thank you.
I’m trying to remember…I think when we were at Jill and Linda’s retreat, I hadn’t gotten the official offer yet, but was thinking I might.
YEE HA! What a fun interview. Thanks, Jill, and congratulations, Sarah!
Thank you so much, Linda. I’m honored by your reply.
This could not be cuter. Congratulations, Sarah!
Appreciate it, David.
I just went on your website…beautiful, bold work!!!
Congratulations, Sarah. You definitely found a new approach to this familiar concept!
This post really made me smile. What a great approach to the topic. The voice is spot on and the bold illustration are the icing on the cake. Nicely done
At last something truly original! And the illustrations to die for… Great debut!
I love this story! Clever and fun! It’s a perfect way to encourage your child to climb on that “big white stallion.”
What a fabulous idea!
Love this! I have a 2 year old cowboy who definitely needs encouragin’
Three year olds ALWAYS have stuff to do. 🙂 Love this story already. Can’t wait to read it. And CONGRATULATIONS!
Sounds very cute. Congrats, Sarah!
A read aloud with a distinctive character voice is story time treasure, Sarah. Congratulations! I’ll be circling the campfire waitin’ fer this’un.
this is absolutelt fabulous! such a fun character-driven story <3
Oh my gosh, I love this book so much. Ain’t kiddin’.
I’m late to the potty party but what a great story behind the story too! Congratulations!!!