Dawn Babb Prochovnic is the winner of our special October promotion for Happy Book Birthday. Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? and Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? will be released on October 8 from West Margin Press. Ten copies of Cowgirl will be purchased and sent to Reading Is Fundamental.
We interviewed Dawn about her road to publishing success.
The road to getting Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty and its companion, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty, was long, to say the least. What advice do you have about holding onto excitement about a manuscript you believe in while also setting it aside to work on other projects?
I always have multiple manuscripts at various stages of development competing for my creative attention. At any given time, at least a couple of manuscripts are in my “active” revision file, others are out on submission, and still others are filed away. Some of my manuscripts that get filed away stay filed away, while others get pulled out and re-read (and as appropriate, re-worked) every so often. My Pirate story flowed in and out of the revision/submission/filed away rotation for a number of years. Although I added several other stories to the rotation throughout those years, my enthusiasm for Pirate remained deeply anchored. Truth be told, I loved the story so much, every now and then I’d pull it out of the file just to re-read it for my own enjoyment. Not every story grabs hold of me quite like this one did.
My advice is that working on new projects and holding onto excitement about a manuscript you believe in are not mutually exclusive. In my particular case, it was the very act of working on new projects (e.g. a story for Oregon Reads Aloud and a complete reimagining of my Pirate manuscript resulting in the emergence of my Cowgirl story) that paved the path for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? and Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? to be published.
You’ve said that the first draft of Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty spilled out as soon as you got the spark for an idea. What was the editing process like after that first draft? Did that initial “spark” make the editing process any more difficult, or any more emotional?
That’s such a great question. Although I was definitely emotionally attached to the story, I welcomed the opportunity for editorial direction. I worked closely with Editor, Michelle McCann, on several rounds of revision. She is brilliant, and I am so grateful for her editorial contributions. Michelle especially helped me with character voice, nudging me to lean more fully into my sense of humor. She also helped me address some structural aspects of the story that weren’t working as well as they could. After Jacob Souva brought his marvelous illustrations into the mix, I participated in some additional collaborative back-and-forths with the full project team, which included West Margin Press Editor, Olivia Ngai, and Designer, Rachel Lopez Metzger. This process led to a few more refinements before going to print. The main emotion I’ve experienced is gratitude. I couldn’t be happier with how Cowgirl (and Pirate) turned out and how well the books have been received by booksellers, librarians, and young readers. Yee-Haw!
Originally, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty was not written to be a “boys'” book. Did that change at all after the creation of Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? And if so, how?
My view on this really hasn’t changed. It’s my observation that labels like “boy books” and “girl books” are imposed on young readers by adult gatekeepers. Kids enjoy all kinds of good books. Case in point: This past summer, my daughter nannied for 4 1/2 year-old, twin boys. Occasionally, she would bring the boys to our house for a visit. On one of those visits, I took the opportunity to read my recently received ARCs to this live audience. The boys loved both books. They didn’t see one of the books as being “for them,” and the other one being “for someone else.” They simply giggled and hollered, “Read them again! Read them again!” A few weeks later, the boys returned to our house and spied the cowgirl character on the side of a coffee mug that is decorated with images of my book covers. Their reaction? More giggles and an emphatic, “Let’s read the cowgirl book again!” They didn’t see it as a “girl book.” They saw it as a silly story that made them laugh.
That said, I suspect there will be a disproportionate number of boys that will have Pirate put into their hands, and likewise, a disproportionate number of girls that will have Cowgirl put into their hands. My hope is that young readers with a penchant for potty humor will eventually find their way to both books.
What other advice do you have to SCBWI members?
Follow your creative interests, whatever they may be.
This past January, as I was setting goals for the coming year, I noticed some music-related creative murmurs simmering inside of me. With actionable steps, these murmurs morphed into collaborations with two talented musicians, Marshall Mitchell and Annie Lynn/AnnieBirdd Music, LLC. I now have a theme song for each of my new books. The songs provide a soundtrack for the animated book trailers that illustrator, Jacob Souva, created for our books, and they provide a unique way for me to connect with young readers before and during school/library visits and other appearances.
I’m so glad I pursued this new creative interest. The opportunity to work with the musicians was creatively satisfying and resulted in new friendships, and the experience expanded my thinking about what it means to write for children.
Pirate Song/Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/ADvqDGvMDds