I am so excited to welcome this picture book pair to the BookEnds team!
Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie’s picture books have a fantastic sense of whimsy, wit and humor. They also managed to find those unique spaces where a familiar concept (e.g. sibling rivalry or learning something new) can be explored in a completely new and unique way. They are so knowledgable about the market and really committed to the genre, which is great to see as an agent and fellow picture book aficionado!
I am thrilled to introduce Tara and Becky to our BookEnds blog readers. I hope you enjoy!
Tell us a bit about your writing process. How do you collaborate on a story?
Tara: I have a million picture book ideas daily. Some are terrible, some need more substance to make them work, and sometimes there is an idea that just works right away and I get it down on paper in an ugly first draft. I will work on it for a bit and then send to Becky.
Becky: Tara is the idea machine! She texts and emails constantly about new ideas. I help to flesh out the story and once we feel we have a plot, we go back and forth adding ideas, cutting words and smoothing out the rhythm. When we get to a pretty good spot, we will have a call and go line by line together on the phone. Then it goes to our respective critique groups and we reassess any feedback. Then we revise, and revise and revise…and when pretty enough, it goes to Tracy.
What do you love about writing picture books?
Tara: I have been reading picture books for the last 10 years with my kids and I used to own a kids toy and bookstore. My favorite thing to do was to handpick picture books for my customers. I had to differentiate myself from the chain bookstores, so I bought a lot of books from British and Australian publishers, smaller publishers, and books that just don’t get noticed by the big guys. My best tool was the backlist. There are so many great books that are on there that are not carried in the big stores. Even though a book may be 5 years old, that mom coming in my store had never heard of it, so it was new to her. When a customer returned to tell me the book was a hit, it was the best feeling ever. Now that I am writing them myself, I love envisioning the finished product and the kid who will hopefully think my book is a hit too.
Becky: The idea of getting kids to use their imagination, and the joys of sharing a good story together, is so special. Books provide quality time and are technology free.
Children are very loyal, and to create a story that they request over and over again, and the adults enjoy as well, is the real success.
What is the hardest part about writing for younger readers?
Tara: The hardest part is writing something that will resonate with kids and their parents. As a parent who has read thousands of picture books to my kids, I know I appreciate something that appeals to me in there, especially if it becomes a “repeater.”
Becky: Kids speak their mind. They can be some of the toughest critics! You have to keep their attention and give them a story on their level, without speaking down to them. It can be hard to find something a kid can relate to, avoid being didactic, and entertain them along the way.
What book do you wish you had written, and why?
Becky: Pickle-Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradfield because it is a fairy tale with a twist. The imaginative characters, beautiful illustrations and the message that goodness will win you the heart of the princess, is timeless. Also Pink Me Up by Charise Mericle Harper because I was a total “pink” girl and I love how it brings in the dad as a central figure who bonds with his daughter while breaking down stereotypes.
Tara: I second Pickle Chiffon Pie. It is the best picture book you’ve never heard of. I can’t pick just one, there are so many brilliant picture books out there. Lion vs Rabbit by Alex Latimer, I Really Want to Eat a Child by Sylvanie Donnio, Badger’s Fancy Meal by Keiko Kasza, Steve Raised by Wolves by Jared Chapman, Little Bird’s Bad Word by Jacob Grant, Crafty Chloe by Kelly DiPuchio, Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos are just a few of my favorites.
When you’re not writing, what would we catch you doing?
Tara: I have three boys, ages 5, 8 and 11, and spend all my non-writing time indoctrinating them to all things Star Wars, Hamilton and Weird Al (who is also a PB writer BTW). When there is any spare time at all, I love to read and binge watch TV shows with my husband.
Becky: I love seeing live theater and improv. Chicago has so much great talent! I also enjoy a good seafood or sushi dinner with friends, and am currently on a bowling team.