Editorial Director/Debut PB Author(!!) Frances Gilbert (+ GIVEAWAY)

Oh, people. Grab your favorite beverage, settle into your coziest chair, and soak up the brilliance of the one and only Frances Gilbert! Not only is Frances a gifted editor and my favorite Canadian, she is an author as well. SHE’S ONE OF US!

This, by the way, is what Kirkus had to say about Go, Girls, Go!, her book with illustrator Allison Black.

“A hit for girls who identify strongly with girlhood and love things that go.”

And Booklist shared the following:

“This rousing call to girl power….puts girls in the driver’s seat of all kinds of vehicles, in which they haul things around, steer into port, fly through the air, and save people—making a lot of noise as they work….Active verbs abound, the rhyming text is propulsive, and Black’s illustrations are blasting with color and movement. A satisfying ending moves the text from what girls can do to “What about you? Give it a try! Go, girl, go!”

Nice, huh?

Frances, welcome to Picture Book Builders.

Tell us about Go, Girls, Go! What was the inspiration behind this action-packed, girl-power book?

It started with a conversation at Random House, where I work, about gender biases in picture books. I mentioned it later that evening to a friend, who asked a great question: What would a book about cars and trucks for girls look like? I wanted to know too, so I wrote it. It was more of an academic exercise, never with the idea of having it published. But then I got hooked on the theme. Around that time, I went to Iceland and the plane had an all-female crew, which was so exciting. I started to think about how we limit girls for life if we don’t give them opportunities to see themselves in the driver’s seat, to be in charge of their lives, to go wherever they want to go, figuratively and literally. At that point, it became a mission.

I love that you incorporated lots of onomatopoeia as well as a repeating line in this book. Those things are story time gold! Do you keep your future readers in mind as you write?

I keep in mind the kids and the adults who are reading to them because adults often need a bit of help at story time. They’re tired, they’ve had a long day, they still have laundry to do. I wanted to load my book up with lots of fun sound words, like “Honk!” and “Zoom!” so adults can have fun reading it aloud and kids can easily join in by hollering along. And I wrote the refrain “Go, girls, go!” because I wanted the book to feel like a call to action, with girls cheering for themselves from start to finish. I wanted a loud book–and I got one!

Have you ever experience rejection as a writer? If so, how do you handle it? Brownies? Binge-watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? Cuddling with your ridiculously adorable cats?

Teddy and Jack

Ha! I don’t need an excuse to eat a tray of brownies with my cats and Mrs. Maisel, but the truth is I LOVED getting rejected when I sent out this manuscript! I shared it with a small circle of editors. It went to an acquisitions meeting at each house, which was exciting, as I know how rare that is.


Regardless of what happens at acquisitions, it means the editor likes your work. Then I got a couple of rejections, which, interestingly enough, both said the opposite thing, proving that this really is subjective. When I got those rejections, I celebrated! I was in the game! Woo-hoo! And then I got a hard “maybe” from one house and a “Yes!” from the wonderful Andrea Welch at Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster and when I opened the email I literally sprinted around my apartment at midnight, screaming. I can’t count the number of book offers I’ve made to authors over the years, and yet being on the receiving end felt like I was on another planet.

You’ve been a children’s book editor for 25 years. How did it feel to be a first-time picture book author?

Nerve-wracking! It’s been fascinating to see what it’s like on the other side of the desk. You and I have worked on six books together, Tammi, and now I know how I’ve tortured you: The anticipation of who will be the illustrator (luckily, Andrea and my art director Lauren Rille chose the amazing Allison Black); the endless waiting for your book to come out (as an editor, I get it; as an author, it’s excruciating); and working hard to get the word out about your book (I’m @GoGirlsGoBooks on Twitter). It’s made me a much more empathetic editor.

A few months ago, you were working on a new manuscript. You posted a wonderful thread on Twitter about how, when you edit your own manuscripts, you use the same principles that you apply when editing at work. Would you please share those ten principles that you used with the Picture Book Builders crowd?

Happy to share!

  1. Does every word count? I literally stop and examine every single word, over and over. Is each one needed? Am I sure? Can I convey the idea in fewer words? Cut, cut, cut. Pause. Reread. Cut again. Then again.
  2. Does my story start with a line and a scene that grabs my readers hard and makes them want to turn the page?
  3. Is there something new visually on each page?
  4. Can I cut a line and let the illustrator convey that detail instead? (I did this a LOT and the story got funnier, more wry the less I said.)
  5. Is the pacing working? Is any one page too long or draggy? (Answer: Yes. I split up a scene and re-paginated and it got tighter.)
  6. Am I milking each page turn? Is every opportunity for dramatic or humorous effect being used?
  7. Is there a theme or thread or line or joke that I can come around to and pick up again later in the story for a fun refrain? (I didn’t see this at first and then found one that I included on my last page.)
  8. If there’s a “message,” is it super-duper subtle and not trying too hard to teach a lesson?
  9. Are my characters’ voices strong and distinct and do they remain consistent?
  10. Is my last line a satisfying ending, but also one that might make a kid want to start from the beginning again?

Scoop time! What’s next for you?

I have a gift book that’s a tribute to The Velveteen Rabbit called I Will Always Be Your Bunny (with adorable art by Julianna Swaney) coming in December from Random House and my third Step Into Reading easy reader, I Love My Grandma!, coming in March. I can’t wait to do more. I love being a writer.

Thanks so much for joining us, Frances!

Readers, if you want more Frances, you are in luck! Check out this interview between Frances and author/illustrator Mike Boldt.


FRANCES GILBERT started her career in children’s books when she was still a child, working in the children’s department of her town library throughout high school. Her first job in publishing was as a Book Club Editor at Scholastic Canada in Toronto. She moved to New York in 2000 to set up the children’s editorial division at Sterling Publishing, where she stayed till 2012. Frances then moved to Random House Children’s Books, where she is Editor-in-Chief of Doubleday Books for Young Readers. Titles she has acquired and edited include the following: The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain, Philip Stead, and Erin Stead; I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty and Mike Boldt; Wordy Birdy by Tammi Sauer and Dave Mottram; Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro and Tatjana Mai-Wyss; and the Hello, World! board book series by Jill McDonald.

In addition to editing children’s books, Frances also writes them. She is the author of Go, Girls, Go! (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster); I Love Pink! and I Love My Tutu! (Step Into Reading); an abridgment of The Secret Garden (Little Golden Books); and the forthcoming titles I Love My Grandma! (Step Into Reading); and I Will Always Be Your Bunny (Doubleday). She lives in New York City with her fuzzy cats Jack and Teddy.

You can follow Frances on Twitter at @GoGirlsGoBooks, where she posts about children’s writing, editing, and girl-centric picture books.



For a chance to win a copy of Go, Girls, Go!, leave a comment and/or share this post on Twitter. Please be sure to tag Frances @GoGirlsGoBooks and Tammi @SauerTammi. Winner must live in the continental United States.



Congratulations, Lynn Alpert! You won a copy of Chicken Break!

Tammi Sauer

Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is a full-time children's book author who presents at schools and conferences across the country. She has more than 30 published picture books and has many others on the way. Her books have received awards, earned starred reviews, made lists, been made into musicals, and been translated into many different languages. Most importantly, kids really like her books! To learn more about Tammi and her books, please visit tammisauer.com and follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.


  1. Thanks for sharing your fascinating journey, Frances—and thank you, Tammi, for interviewing her. I can’t wait to read this book! ?

  2. Thanks for a great post, Frances and Tammi. I’m printing out this checklist! I’m excited to read Go, Girls, Go!! Congratulations!

  3. I’m copying those 10 principles and double-checking all my manuscripts using it! Thanks for the background on Go, Girls, Go! and your writing experience, Frances. I can’t wait to read Go, Girls, Go!

  4. Your enthusiasm for books and stories is utterly contagious!
    I bookmarked those 10 terrific tips on Twitter, but now I will print them out and hang them over my desk. SO good!
    Thank you!
    GO, girls, GO!

  5. Fabulous editing tips, and this book looks awesome!

  6. Saving these 10 Revision Tips to apply to my newest manuscript. Congratulations, Frances, on your debut book. I especially love your nod to Bessie in the airplane. 🙂 Stellar interview, Tammi, and six books together, what a treat!

  7. Frances is THE BEST, and I can’t wait to read Go, Girls, Go! Thanks for this fun interview, Tammi!

  8. I’m getting this book for my new granddaughter! She has a big brother who loves vehicles. I am happy to have the list of tips to revise my picture book manuscripts. Thank you, Frances and Tammi:)

  9. Love it! A book whose time has come. And those illustrations are fantastic. Great editing tips, too! Looking forward to reading this one. Thanks for the interview.

  10. Love the ENERGY of this book! Great tips here, Frances. Thanks!

  11. Like you, I’ve edited children’s books before becoming a writer, so I celebrate along with you! What a great topic for a PB: the vivid verbs, onomatopoeia, and colorful illustrations are sure to grab kids’ attention.

  12. Thank you, Frances and Tammy. What a great post! Go, Girls, Gi will make a great Christmas present for my granddaughters.

  13. Congratulations Frances! I just put in a request at my library. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  14. Thank you for such a fun and informative interview, Frances and Tammi! Love the clear, concise advice on writing picture books and seeing the perspective change from editor to author. So happy for you on your upcoming book release, “Go, Girls, Go!”

  15. Love this book and can’t wait to get it for my girls, especially because they’re already a big fan of other more boy-oriented “loud/car/truck” books. But this one’s all for them!

  16. This sounds like such a fun book! I’m going to order it for my granddaughter who is always go, go, going! Thanks for writing it!

  17. Congratulations! I’m looking forward to reading it to my granddaughter.

  18. Thanks for the great interview! I admire Frances, and am so thankful for the publishing insights she shares on Twitter. I would love to win a copy of Go, Girls, Go to read with my little boy.

  19. Love it! I was happy with one woman driver in SUNNY and here’s a book FULL of them!

  20. This looks like a good book.
    And thanks for the 10 tips. They will come in handy when going over my manuscripts.

  21. Congratulations, Frances! Thank you for the great editing tips and for sharing the journey of your book. This is a great book for girls and boys to read!

  22. Susan Johnston Taylor

    Congrats, Frances! I can’t wait to read this book.

  23. Carmela McCain Simmons

    Go, Frances, go! I can’t wait to share this book.

  24. What a great interview and such a delight to see this book! Congratulations!!!
    Thanks, too, for the great revision tips.

  25. I love this book already, Frances! Thanks for sharing your writing/editing rules. I’m going to put them to good use. 🙂

  26. Congratulations, Frances! The book looks fabulous! And very fun to hear what it’s like for you being on the other side of this process. Thanks for the interview, Tammi!

  27. Such a inspiring and uplifting interview! I can’t wait to read Go, Girls, Go!

  28. I enjoyed reading Frances Gilbert’s journey to publication and I know I’ll enjoy reading GO GIRLS, GO!

  29. Love this interview & and the story behind Go Girls Go! Congratulations, Frances, and that’s awesome you’re both a fantastic editor & writer!

  30. Love reading this journey and look forward to reading this book!!

  31. Congratulations Frances. Good to hear you’ve ventured out from behind the scenes!

  32. This book is great on so many levels–the energy that jumps off the page with the colors and graphics, the rhyme and “sounds,” and most of all, putting women in the driver’s seat of so many powerful vehicles. What an important role model this book is! I also appreciated the inside story contrasting the editor/author experiences. Thank you.

  33. Super interview Tammi. Thanks for the revision tips Frances.

  34. Thank you for those excellent tips about writing picture books. And for your new book Go Girls Go! Can’t wait to get it into the hands of every young reader I know.

  35. oh ~ love these 10 tips, and your wry humour!! Thank you for sharing your tale, from both sides of the desk

  36. Go, Girls, Go! looks like a keeper and a lot of fun to read. Ten great tips to ask your story too.

  37. What great tips! Can’t wait to read the book! Thanks!

  38. Congratulations Frances! Your book sounds like so much fun. All the best.

  39. This looks so fun and motivational. Congratulations! And thank you for sharing the details of your journey to publication. Always enlightening to learn what was involved. Thank you!

  40. I just checked with our library here in Australia and Go Girls Go is there! Yay! And I’ve also asked our library to order Chicken Break! They said yes!

  41. This book sounds like so much fun to read aloud and inspire girls. Thanks for the inside story on how it came to be published, Frances. Thanks, Tammi, for this interview.

  42. Go Francis Go. I love the bright colors and putting girls in the driver’s seats. I’m looking forward to holding it in my hands. Thanks, for a great article, Tammi.

  43. Jennifer Lane Wilson

    Zooming to get it at library! Go, go, go

  44. Thank you for the interview and great revision tips! I am so looking forward to reading this one. Congratulations Frances!

  45. Congrats, Frances! This is wonderful news and so are your revision tips.

  46. Congratulations, Frances! Thank for the wonderful editing tips.

  47. As someone with 8 sisters I love, love, love books that promote strong females. I cannot wait to get a copy of this book! And thanks SO much for the revision checklist. I know I’ll come back to those questions again and again.

  48. Yay! Congratulations! As a life long preschool teacher, I always see boys playing with “girl” toys and girls playing with “boy” toys. We did not have that distinction in my classrooms. Toys were for all. Best wishes!

  49. I love that girls are operating the big machines! I always played with cars and trucks and disliked dolls, so I know there will be a huge audience for this fun and bright book. I shared on twitter: https://twitter.com/dhammelef/status/1191783129586888704

  50. I am in love with the concept of this book. What a wonderful interview. I look forward to reading this one and sharing it in my classroom.

  51. I love the storyline and this book’s bright colors. A winner!

  52. Congrats to Frances, and thanks to Tammi for a great interview!
    The two of you make a great team – creative minds with the vision to leave room for illustrators to help tell a story.
    Allison Black’s strong lines, colors, and graphic layouts burst with energy and action. They are a wonderful complement to your text, Frances! Bravo! Best of luck with Go, Girls, Go!

  53. Great interview,, Frances and Tammi. Will be watching for GO, GO, GIRLS.

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