Friday, March 11, 2011

Author Interview Series -Scotti Cohn

Please welcome Scotti Cohn to So, Write.  Scotti writes for both adults and children.  I highly recommend any and all of her books for her distinctive voice and masterful use of language.  Here's what she says about her latest picture book Big Cat, Little Kitty available now from Sylvan Dell. 


Please tell us a little about yourself and what motivated you to start writing? 
I started writing poetry and stories in elementary school, and was fortunate to be encouraged by my parents and one teacher in particular. As for motivation, I simply love putting words together on paper to create worlds and situations that otherwise exist only in my own mind. All of my published books are (essentially) nonfiction. However, I have completed a Young Adult fantasy novel that I hope to see published someday. I am also considering self-publishing a fantasy for older elementary school children.

The best place to learn about my ten published books is my web site (www.scotticohn.com). The site also has links to my blogs.

What is Big Cat, Little Kitty about?
Big Cat, Little Kitty is a concept book that compares and contrasts the behavior, appearance, and habitat of big cats like lions and tigers with that of the "little kitties" who share our homes and neighborhoods. It also introduces or reinforces the days of the week. 

Big Cat, Little Kitty is nonfiction in that it depicts cats in realistic settings doing what cats naturally do. I also use anthropomorphism to help convey the cats' territorial, predatory nature. I created a book trailer that provides information and can give potential readers a "feel" for the book. You can see it on You Tube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpqWBwZ5iwo).

How did you come up with the idea for Big Cat, Little Kitty?
Except for a few years scattered here and there, I have always shared my home with cats. In the 1960s, our family had a pair of cats named Sonny and Cher. I currently have five cats. I am fascinated by the appearance and behavior of cats. I often think about the fact that no other creature has such a huge range of sizes (well, I suppose you could say lizards do, if you believe in dragons...)

Your illustrations are incredible. How did you find such a talented illustrator? Can you share some tips on collaboration with an illustrator?
Susan Detwiler is a truly amazing artist. I can't take credit for finding her. My editor at Sylvan Dell Publishing, Donna German, hired her to illustrate my first book, One Wolf Howls. That is typically what happens with picture books. Unless the author is also an illustrator, the editor selects an illustrator for the book. Typically, the author and illustrator do not communicate at all. Everything goes through the editor. When Sylvan Dell (www.sylvandellpublishing.com), accepted Big Cat, Donna knew Susan would be perfect for that book as well. Susan is also illustrating my third book for Sylvan Dell: On the Move, which is about mass migrations of animals in North America. That one is scheduled for publication in 2012. I have seen preliminary sketches and they are fabulous!

What makes Big Cat, Little Kitty different or special compared to other picture books out there?
As part of the submission process, I did a bit of research to determine if there were any similar books currently on the market. I found books that were totally whimsical or "cartoony" and books that were straight nonfiction narrative, often with photographs. Big Cat, Little Kitty is different from all of those. 

Also, Sylvan Dell books are unique in that they always include a section in the back of the book called "For Creative Minds." It contains facts, games, and activities related to the subject of the book. Big Cat, Little Kitty contains sections called "What Are Cats and How Are They Related?" and "Cat Senses and Adaptations" as well as "Cats of the World: A Map and Matching Activity" and "Cat True-False Questions." 

Sylvan Dell books are different from most other picture books in another important way: Parents, teachers, and children can access eBook versions of all of the books on line in both English and Spanish. They can not only read the books themselves but listen to the books being read aloud in both languages. 

What type of reader do you feel will enjoy this book the most?
Big Cat, Little Kitty is the perfect read-aloud book to share with very young children. I am a firm believer in reading to babies and toddlers. Children who are just learning to read will enjoy the book, and older children can learn from and enjoy the activities and facts presented in the back of the book. As one reviewer said about my book One Wolf Howls, "This book grows with your child." I am thrilled that Big Cat, Little Kitty has been described by a teacher as "the perfect anchor text for a mini-lesson in choosing more precise vocabulary" (for older elementary and middle-school students). 

What has been the most difficult part of the publishing process for you? The most rewarding?

The most difficult part was the submission-rejection process involved with my first picture book. I submitted One Wolf Howls to 23 publishers before it was picked up by Sylvan Dell. After that, Sylvan Dell rejected three other manuscripts of mine (there is no guarantee that the publisher who published one of your books will publish others!). I was delighted when they accepted Big Cat, Little Kitty. 

The most rewarding part of this process has been to see my vision come to life in gorgeous pictures. It is also rewarding to hear from people whose children love my books.

When and where can we buy your book?
Big Cat, Little Kitty is for sale in hard cover and paperback through the usual channels. Amazon offers a Kindle version. Your local book store may not have this book on the shelf because there are just too many books out there for any store to carry them all. However, stores can easily order any of my books for you. 

6 comments:

  1. I love Scotti's books (and Scott!) so, so much. Great interview and I can't wait to get my hands on Big Cat, Little Kitty. :)

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  2. 23 publishers? Wow. Talk about persistence. I think my two little ones would love that book, as they are in that "animal fascination" stage.

    In fact this morning, my 6 yr old was showing my 4 year old a picture of a pirrahna. Lovely.

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  3. You seem like such a lovely person, Scotti, and your book looks GORGEOUS! Best of luck getting your YA fantasy novel published. Just curious, it sounds like you went through quite a bit to get your first book published and you're thinking of going the self-publishing route with an elementary school novel. I'm curious what you think about the two different ways of getting your stories 'out there?'

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  4. Thanks for the kind comments, everyone.

    Cathy, I haven't self-published anything yet, so I can't really offer any insights on that. It seems that in some cases, self-publishing makes sense. In my situation, with 10 published books, I already have a presence as an author. So I feel that I can add a self-published book to my list and promote it in similar fashion to the way I promote the other books. Time will tell!

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  5. Great interview! Scotti's picture books are wonderful.

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  6. Big Cat, Little Kitty sound like the perfect book for my animal loving boys. Thanks for a great interview!

    Michelle Schaub
    www.littlegreenpen.blogspot.com

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