I love it when new picture books pop on the scene. In fact, finding them and reading them is one of my favorite things to do.
And, when, a cool new picture book is written by a friend who’s worked hard to be the best writer possible for years, well, that’s even better.
Today, I’m so happy to welcome Cynthia Schumerth to Picture Book Builders. Her upcoming book with Mary Reaves Uhles, LET’S POP, POP, POPCORN, comes out March 15 from Sleeping Bear Press, and is available for pre-order now from bookstores and online booksellers. (And, remember, pre-orders really help authors!)
Cynthia was kind enough to answer some questions for me about how this beautiful book exploded into being!
How did you get the idea for this book? Was there a “pop” of inspiration?
The idea for LET’S POP, POP, POPCORN! developed out of frustration and writer’s block. My critique partner and I were having a conversation about just that. Then, I remembered something I’ve heard at every writer’s conference I’ve ever attended—write what you love. I love popcorn, so that’s what I decided to write about.
What’s your own personal history with popcorn? Have you grown it? What’s your favorite way and place to eat it?
From the time I was little and sharing treats with my four siblings, popcorn has always been my favorite snack. Even with all the varieties of popcorn available today, my favorite remains plain old salted popcorn, popped in a pan, on top the stove. I do love movie popcorn, and I always get a bag of popcorn when we go to our local college hockey games. But my favorite place to eat it is sitting on my own couch watching a good TV show. I always have a bag of popcorn kernels in the fridge waiting to be popped. (I’ve found that it pops better if you keep it in the fridge.)
I tried to grow popcorn with my kids when they were young. We didn’t grow a lot of it, and it didn’t all produce. But we got enough to shuck, dry, pluck, and pop enough for a few bowls. It was the best popcorn we ever had because we grew it ourselves.
This book rhymes. And, a Dr. Seuss board book you wrote — I AM HORTON — also rhymes. Do you prefer to write in rhyme? How do you approach rhyming texts?
I never set out to write in rhyme. Rhyme is hard, and it has to be so perfect. I AM HORTON, had to be in rhyme as it needed to reflect the Dr. Seuss style. For that book, I was given a specific number of stanzas so I knew what I had to work with. That actually made it a bit easier to write. LET’S POP, POP, POPCORN! just couldn’t be written in any other style. Some books are just meant to rhyme. I had always heard that, but really didn’t understand it until I wrote this book. I tried prose, but it just kept coming out in rhyme.
Writing a rhyming text is really not so different than writing in prose, as far as the final product goes. You need all the same parts. A beginning, middle, and end.
One thing that is important is making sure that you aren’t unnecessarily adding words or superfluous sentences to force the rhyme to work. Just like when writing in prose, every word matters and every sentence must move your story forward. You can’t transpose wording to “make” your rhyme work either. It has to flow naturally.
You are a very persistent and consistent writer. Tell us about your path to publication.
I started writing over 25 years ago. Our local children’s librarian noticed I was always checking out books on writing for children. She told me about a children’s writing group that met at Butterfly Books, our local children’s book store (now closed). I attended a meeting, met some published authors and other aspiring authors, learned about SCBWI, and I was hooked. This is also were I found my first critique group and friends I will cherish forever. We were all new writers but devoted to learning the craft. I was writing and submitting on and off while raising a family (great for generating ideas) and working full time at a maximum security prison (not so great for the creative spirit).
I was getting those dreaded “good rejection letters,” and even had a few really close calls, but just couldn’t quite get there. It’s really important to me that my kids see me succeed—to show them that if you don’t give up you can do anything you put your mind to. So I kept writing. I received some writing awards along the way, but most of the time I was still just getting rejection letters. But I knew I could never give up. I attended SCBWI meetings, went to workshops, and attended writing conferences.
In 2016, I was chosen as the mentorship recipient for SCBWI-WI and was mentored for a full year by you. I knew you were busy with your own very successful writing career, but you were so generous with your time and sharing your expertise. I will always be grateful to you, Pat, for the year you spent mentoring me. That was the boost and confidence-builder I needed to go full steam ahead with my writing!
After that year, I got an agent (since parted ways), and in 2018, LET’S POP, POP, POPCORN! was accepted by Sleeping Bear Press and will be released March 15, 2021. I have already received my advance copies, and I can tell you there is nothing like the feeling you get holding a dream that’s come true in your hands!
Thanks so much for having me on Picture Book Builders!
Thanks for joining us, Cynthia. And while I have my own advance copy of LET’S POP, POP, POPCORN! I can’t wait to see it out in the world, helping readers learn about how popcorn goes from a seed to a cob to kernels that pop, pop, pop. (And there are science activities and information in the back!)
Cynthia will give a copy of her book to one person who leaves a comment on this post (U.S. residents only).
Tell us why you want the book!
Or your favorite kind of popcorn!
Or where you are on your writing journey!
Reading Cynthia’s story gives me hope. I’m 10+ years in, still pre-published, and not even getting the “good rejection letters” yet. Congratulations to Cynthia! What an inspiration!
Don’t give up Mary. Your dream will come true if you persist!
Don’t give up Mary. Your dream will come true too!
Congratulations Cynthia!!! I love stories behind the stories and esp. of perseverance. As soon as I saw the title, I wanted to get it for my mother-in-law, who LOVES popcorn. And it was also the first snack food I ever ate when we came to the US. Such a delight. We love movie nights at home with salted and buttered popcorn too.
Hope she likes the book. And I’ll be once you had your first taste of popcorn you were hooked.
I’m off to ‘pop’ my kernels into the fridge for storage – thanks for the tip!
(And sorry for the pun!)
Pop on Cathy!
I’ll preorder! You know how HAPPY I am for you, Cynthia. Nobody deserves it more!!!
Thanks so much Jill. Your support was a big part of my success!
I’ll always be grateful for that and your friendship.
I love this post and I LOVE popcorn! I’m with you: plain popcorn with a bit of butter and salt, though I use an air popper bowl in the microwave. My middle son and I pop some nearly every night. Then I sit down and watch a bit of TV to unwind.
WOW! You eat even more popcorn than me!
Congratulations! I love popcorn and your story. Thanks for the inspiration.
I love popcorn and your story. Thanks for the inspiration. Congratulations!
Sounds like fun! My son is a big popcorn fan and likes to try the different popcorn seasonings. Would love to share this with him!
Cynthia, as a fellow popcorn aficionado, I say CONGRATULATIONS! Hearing your story of persistence gives those of us who haven’t yet broken through hope!
You’ll break through. Just keep believing in your work.
Congratulations, Cynthia! Two years ago, Miranda and Baptiste Paul did a writing retreat and we were able to meet with you and Miranda’s other CPs for a visit. I remember hearing about this book then, and I’m so glad it’s almost out. I can’t wait to read it!
I’d love a copy of this book for my four-year-old grandchild. My writing journey seems to be temporarily stalled. I’m home-schooling my grand kids in the morning and when they leave in the afternoon I fall asleep. The pandemic has taken its toll on my writing.
I can certainly relate to that. From what I’ve read a lot of authors are having that same issue. Hang in there!
Well, isn’t this adorable! I make popcorn every day…so this book is perfect for me!
What a cute idea for a book. Thanks for an inspiring post.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
This post encourages me to keep writing and keep putting my best work out there, as well as make connections and support/cheer on others. Right now, I am querying agents and also have submitted my picture book to my first publisher. Feels great and also scary to put my work out into the world. P.S. I love to eat freshly popped Kettle corn I find at community events/fairs.
I know how scary that is. Good for you for taking those steps. You can’t get published it you don’t submit! Good Luck!!!
Congrats Cynthia! Great story and you were so lucky to have Pat mentor you.
You are sure right about being lucky to have Pat on my side. She’s amazing. If your SCBWI offers has a mentor program I’d advise everyone to apply.
Thank you for sharing the story behind your wonderful book, Cynthia. The road to publication is not for the faint-hearted, and it sure helps to have a mentor like Pat to help put you over the line. Congratulations!
Having a mentor really is a great experience, and having Pat was over the moon great.
I recently gave my toddler popcorn for the first time and he’s obsessed. He will love to read about in this book.
I hope if your little one gets the chance he enjoys the book as much as he enjoys his popcorn!
Thanks for the inspiring post Cynthia and Pat! After recent surgery and the need for a low fat diet, popcorn is my new favorite snack! Plain, salted for me. Looking forward to reading your book – it’s on my list!
Sorry to hear about the surgery. Hope you’re feeling better soon!
What a fun book! Congratulations, Cynthia.
I like to drizzle honey over my salted and buttered popcorn 🙂
Now that’s an interesting twist on popcorn. I’ll have to give it a try.
Popcorn! My favorite food too. I like in with nutritional yeast, and if I’m feeling spicy, I’ll drizzle on lime juice and hot sauce.
And big, big congratulations, Cynthia. You persevered, you did it.
Thanks for the congrats. Lime juice and hot sauce is an interesting twist.
I have loved popcorn too! In junior high I popped popcorn nearly every week and made homemade caramel corn. I would sell it to my classmates. I made a $30 profit at the end of the year. I would love to receive a copy of your book.
I’ll bet your classmates couldn’t wait for Monday to come.
Thanks to both of you for a terrific interview. Your writing journey mirrors mine in many ways, Cynthia–except that publication took me far longer. Persistence is everything. All that aside, if I were stranded on a desert island, popcorn would be on my list.
I’d want popcorn too!
“Tell us why you want the book!” This looks and sounds fun, and I know we’d enjoy it!
“Or your favorite kind of popcorn!” Hmm…white cheddar?
“Or where you are on your writing journey!” I have lots of notes and lots of ideas for different sorts of literary projects, including at least one picture book.
Sounds like you’re well on your way!
I’m new to writing for PBs and in that beginning stage where it’s just so intimidating, so your story is an inspiration! I’ve decided that I’m having too much fun creating stories and pictures to stop, even if I’m never published. Btw, Kettle Corn is my jam ?
Terrific post on persistence and how valuable encouraging support is. Congratulations on your new book!
Congratulations, Cynthia! Popcorn is absolutely my favorite snack so I have to have this book! Thank you for sharing your book’s journey into the world.
Thank you for sharing your path to publication, Cynthia. Some paths are longer, and it’s encouraging to see how you persevered.
Chicago-area born and raised, my favorite popcorn is Garrett’s Chicago mix, of course!
We all have a favorite. I don’t think I’ve seen Garrett’s on the shelves in my neck of the woods.
Congratulations on the new book! I love popcorn. Sometimes we make popcorn with a sprinkle of ranch powder mix- yum-o!
That sounds yummy!
I love popcorn. Growing up, popcorn with apple slices was a Sunday night treat while we watched television. These two foods will always belong together for me. Thanks for sharing your persistence as a writer. Congratulations!
It’s so interesting to see all the different ways people enjoy popcorn.
This might be the happiest picture book I hope to read! I’m a popcorn fanatic (my family knows: once a week I will not be cooking… Popcorn for dinner!! Fave brand: Irville Redenbacher White Corn ?
I love popcorn too!
Another popcorn lover! Yeah!
Thanks, Cynthia! It was great to read your story. I’ve been feeling pretty discouraged lately, but this helped put things into perspective.
Well deserved, Cynthia. You have definitely shown your children the value of persistence. I can’t wait to read your book. Who doesn’t love popcorn.
Kudos to you, Cynthia. Thanks for sharing your publishing journey.
Congratulations! This looks like such a fun book! And, as a fellow rhymer, I’m so happy to see another rhyming book out in the world. My debut, BRAINSTORM!, (also in rhyme!) is also being published by Sleeping Bear in 2022! LOVE them! Congrats again. Can’t wait to read this one!
Greetings fellow bear cub! I agree, Sleeping Bear is a dream to work with. Best of luck with your upcoming release!! I’ll be watching for it.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Cynthia. I am years into writing, too, and am inspired by your persistence and passion. Much success to you and your new book!
Mary I hope you never give up. It is really rewarding to reach that publication goal. But the journey has been so much fun and all the wonderful people I’ve been lucky enough to meet and now call friends is priceless.
Cynthia – your path to publication sounds very similar to mine; I’m so glad to hear that your perseverance paid off. And of course, kudos to SCBWI for the community of support! I hope this book and your journey bring inspiration to many.
This might be the happiest book I hope to read! I’m a popcorn fanatic (my family knows: once/week I will NOT be cooking… it’s POPCORN for DINNER night!). Fave brand: Orville Redenbacher White Corn 🙂
Congratulations, Cynthia! I am so excited for you!!! Can’t wait to get my copy of LET’S POP, POP, POPCORN! Wishing you all the best!!!! ( going with all the exclamation points because I’m just so darn happy for you!!!!!)
Thanks so much Judy! Your comment really means a lot to me.
What a fun idea. My dad loved popcorn. We always laughed at how there was a trail of popcorn showing where he’d been. So excited for your new adventure, Cynthia and wish you the best with it. Always wonderful to see a fellow Wisconsinite doing well.
Thanks Becki. We are so lucky to have such a strong supportive membership in WI.
I’ll bet your dad was easy to find when you played hide and seek!
I really enjoyed your interview, Cynthia, and am so happy for you! It sounds like my writing path is very similar to yours. Although I am still in the pre-published stage after 25 years, I still enjoy writing and am fortunate to be able to read my unpublished stories to a wonderful group of 2nd grade students! My husband is a teacher and avid gardener and I know his students will LOVE this story, especially when I tell them your inspirational story and how you came to write it and NEVER gave up! Congratulations!!
Still on my writing journey as a pre-published author. Congratulations!
Congratulations! It sounds like a cute book….I love kids books that rhyme.
I am also a popcorn lover. Cheddar is my favorite flavor.
Cynthia, your story is so encouraging. It’s hard to wait 20-some years for a dream to come true. (I’m still waiting and working, but you are proof that “waiting” does not mean “never.”) I bet you’ll be a great mentor to others, just as Pat was to you. Wishing you many joyful book birthdays.
(Oh, and I prefer stovetop-popped, butter-drenched, salt-sprinkled popcorn. Absolutely no microwave versions.)
What a wonderful interview! I loved reading about your journey, Cynthia. Congratulations!! The book looks fabulous . . . and is making me hungry for popcorn. 🙂
Thanks for sharing your story, Cynthia. I’m so glad you got the mentorship that helped funnel all of your hard work and dreams into a published book. I LOVE popcorn, so I’ll have to check it out for sure! Congratulations!
My favorite kind of popcorn is the kind I enjoy on the couch with my grandsons! Congratulations and can’t wait to read it!!!
Inspired by the Jiffy Pop I remember from when I was a kid, I cook mine in oil on the stovetop, then salt it. For me and my family, that’s all it needs :–)
And, after a long writing journey of my own, I’ve got a 2022 book coming out with Sleeping Bear, as well!
I love popcorn, and I love hearing how this book came to be! Congratulations!
AAaahhh! The illustrator here just popping in (pun intended) to say I enjoyed reading about your own writing journey Cynthia! AND mentored by Pat Zietlow Miller?? Oh my goodness so jealous… i love her writing! I completely stammered through a gushing hello when she signed come books for me at Southern Festival of Books a few years ago.
I loved reading how this book came to be and I am looking forward to reading it.
I loved reading how this book came to be and I am looking forward to reading it.