Hello, Eastern PA members! I’m thrilled to introduce Pamela Tuck. Pamela is a writer, mother, and SCBWI PAL member who grew up in Greenville, North Carolina, but now lives in Eastern Pennsylvania. She is the author of Mother of Many, the 2007 Lee & Low Books New Voices Award winner As Fast As Words Could Fly, Color Struck, and The Adventure of Sheldon, the Mushroom. Pamela credits her writing to her upbringing surrounded by southern storytellers. Pamela is critiquing picture book manuscripts as part of the Eastern PA SCBWI Eight & Under revision program. For more information about this program and to register for a critique with Pamela, please visit the event page at https://epa.scbwi.org/events/manuscript-critiques-by-scbwi-pal-members/
Virginia: Pamela, can you tell us about your path to writing?
Pamela: I began my writing journey in second grade after winning a school poetry contest. I came from a family of storytellers, so I acquired a love of storytelling at an early age. My teachers and family encouraged me to continue writing, and I eventually branched off into short stories and plays. When I decided to become a children’s book author, SCBWI was my first professional experience with the children’s book market. I gleaned so much about the industry and how to become successful from other writers and manuscript critiques from the conferences.
Virginia: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Pamela: I think the best writing advice I ever received was from an author who stressed that stories should come full circle. The beginning should give a hint of the ending and the ending should circle back to the beginning. That tactic has helped me in understanding my story arcs and how to progress my plot and character development, knowing my endings will help me write stronger beginnings and plant plot clues/hints along the way.
Virginia: I love this advice! Do you have a favorite book on the craft of writing?
Pamela: My very favorite book that helped me in writing was Noah Lukeman’s A Dash of Style. It may not deal directly with how to develop characters or plots, but I gained so much from this book concerning the principle of using words as artful expressions through punctuation. This book gave me so much understanding of how powerful the written word can be based on how it’s written.
Virginia: Are you in a critique group?
Pamela: I am not currently in a critique group, but they have been very beneficial for me as a writer. When paired with other writers, you’re exposed to different styles, techniques, and perspectives. I learn so much from each member, whether I’m giving or receiving critiques. My last critique group was a rhyming picture book critique group and the inspiration, support, and constructive criticism are what helped me develop my latest book, Mother of Many.
Virginia: Can you tell us about your journey to publication of Mother of Many?
Pamela: I got the idea for Mother of Many after participating in a 30-day picture book idea challenge. I had to write down ideas for picture books for 30 days. At the end of the challenge, I had 30 ideas, but no stories written. A few months later, I joined a rhyming picture book challenge and had to actually write a story. In going through my list of ideas, my tentative title, The Young Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, stood out because it was based on a nursery rhyme, “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.” However, I never really mentioned the nursery rhyme, I just simply wrote a story explaining the woman’s actions through my daily life as a mother of many. The problem was that my story was about a perfect little family and I assumed that readers already knew the nursery rhyme. It was brought to my attention during the critiques that my story wasn’t realistic. It hurt, but then I said, “If you want reality, I’ll give you reality.” My revised version told the “real-life” events that became the birth of Mother of Many.
Months after the challenge, I sent my story to an author friend, who wrote rhyming picture books, for a professional critique and she told me I did a wonderful job of showing how the children messed up everything, but I didn’t show how they cleaned up. Her advice took me back to the idea of bringing the story full circle. I added more to the original story, to include the resolution of “teamwork” and made Mother of Many complete. I pitched the story to several publishing houses, only to receive very positive rejection letters. I was told that the rhyming was wonderful and the story was funny and well written, but it wasn’t a fit for any of the publishing houses I submitted the story to. I was determined to see this book in print because it was also a memorial keepsake of my family of 13 prior to losing my husband, Joel, in 2014.
I researched independent publishing options and discovered a hybrid publisher, Mascot Books, who gave me the freedom of independently publishing, mixed with some of the same benefits of traditional publishing. My experience with traditional publishing helped me focus my marketing channels and, thankfully, Mother of Many received the Mom’s Choice Award before it was officially released in June 2019. So far, it has received three awards and has garnered raving reviews from teachers and students. My mixed experience with traditional and independent publishing helped in the successfulness of my publication journey, but I owe so much to my writing peers and partners who helped me develop a story worthy of publication.
Virginia: I certainly agree! I’m so grateful to the many writers who have helped me along the way. Thank you so much, Pamela, for sharing your inspiring story and words of wisdom. I know Mother of Many is a very special book to you! I’m going to give away one copy to an Eastern PA SCBWI member who comments on this post or anyone who registers for a critique with Pamela.
Thank you again for supporting our writers!
And now for the giveaway details! There are two ways to enter to win a copy of the award-winning book Mother of Many:
- Sign up for a critique with Pamela as part of our Eight & Under revision program (https://epa.scbwi.org/events/manuscript-critiques-by-scbwi-pal-members/). You will be automatically entered to win when you register.
- Eastern PA SCBWI members may leave a comment on this post by July 19, 2020, to be entered.
One winner will be drawn at random on July 20, 2020. We’ll announce our winner in the comments.