Book Review + Interview — Pirates Stuck at “C” by Brooke Van Sickle

Hello friends! I’m thrilled you’re here for the kickoff of my new series, Book Review + Interview. Today, I have the pleasure of sharing my conversation with debut picture book author and publisher, Brooke Van Sickle (& if you read down to the end, there’s a giveaway too!)

But first, a book review: Pirate’s Stuck at “C”- an Alphabet Adventure is as clever as the title implies. While Kindergarten students are right in the sweet spot for all this book has to offer, kids age 4-8 will enjoy it’s humor and heart. When a band of pirates (led by none other than Captain Scallywag himself) disembark to search for buried treasure, the shenanigans they find are as different and delightful as the alphabet itself. The colorful illustrations are a treat for the eyes and the text is easy and entertaining, promising to engage readers of all ages.

Now, the interview: Brooke, thank you so much for being here. Our writing journeys started about the same time, and I know you’ve learned a lot in the process. I can’t wait to pick your brain, but first, I start all my interviews the same way: Can I get you something to drink?

Since it’s still early, I’ll take an iced latte. But if we feel up to a real drink, I’m always down for a hard seltzer.

I’m never one to turn down coffee, iced or otherwise! (Truthfully, the weather in my corner of the world often lends itself to cool & refreshing over warm & cozy anyway.) Let’s start at the beginning, who were the people that helped you to start learning the ins-&-outs of the picture book world? 

I had a great mentor in a fellow author who introduced me to my area writing group and got me connected to my first conference. From there I met my core group of SCBWI ladies and found a critique group who’s been with me ever since.  But a lot of my learning came from reading new picture books, and writing tons and tons of manuscripts. It was all that practice and willingness to take critiques seriously that helped me grow as a writer.

Your website, Journey to Kid Lit is a treasure trove of resources! What is your favorite, most underrated piece of publishing advice for aspiring authors? 

Thank you so much! That means a lot. My favorite, most underrated piece of advice is something that I’ve only heard suggested one other time. Everyone knows you should read books in your genre, but, someone once suggested you type out what you read. I’ve done this for both novels and picture books and it’s amazing! You get in the head of the writer, can visually see what a manuscript looks like as a non-illustrating picture book writer, and ultimately learn what it takes to write a good first line, voice, scene, etc. If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend. (I even go as far as to write the back of the book cover to help me with my pitches and blurb copy!)

I’ve actually heard that before! I guess it’s time I try it. With this book, you not only became a published author, you earned your Publisher badge too! Is there anything about the publishing process that surprised you? Can you talk a little about your experience with BiblioKid?

I’m actually surprised at the timing of everything. Since this is my first book, I’ve been coordinating with printers, illustrators, libraries, Congress, reviewers, etc. and the timing has been a learning curve. A lot of publishing happens way in advance but as a smaller house, we don’t want to produce thousands of copies months in advance, nor do we have to wait months for a book to come out. So it’s been a learning curve to make sure everything comes out on time and when I say it will. (Just setting myself up to be an expert by book 2!)

Fun fact: Bibliokids donates a portion of each book’s proceeds to support low income schools! See website for more information. Now, for the real reason we’re here, PIRATES STUCK AT “C”- AN ALPHABET ADVENTURE is a delightful, tale that makes learning the alphabet engaging and fun. I have to ask, what’s your favorite letter?

Awe, thank you so much! I love them all, but I do have 2 favorites. Jughead jumping from a jellyfish sting is my favorite play of words because of all the alliteration and how silly his name is. And, I absolutely love the spread with Marty splashing with Mermaids and Ollie with an octopus on her head. Gaby did a great job with the illustrations on that one.

Yes, she did! To be fair to the other letters, though, she did a great job with ALL of the illustrations. I know you’re really involved with your local chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. How has that organization helped to guide you on your journey? 

Yes! I can’t recommend it enough. SCBWI is an amazing place to meet and connect with other kidlit writers. It’s where I’ve met most of my potential industry contacts, my critique group, and all my writing friends. Plus, it was really beneficial in the beginning to learn about formatting, query writing, and where to send my stories too.

Now, I’m the regional webmaster for my area, so I’ve gotten really involved with local events and conferences. I enjoy being able to give back to the society that’s helped me so much and to be able to help new writers like I once was. Without more experienced writers helping me, I don’t think I would be here talking to you, so I want to be able to do the same for someone else.

For more information or to find info on your region, check here! I’ve been a member of the LA/MS Region for almost three years now! Brooke, do you have anything coming down the pipe in 2020? Where can my readers find & follow you on social media? 

YES! So many awesome new things. I have 3 picture books coming out this year – the first being PIRATES STUCK AT “C” in February then HUMANS IN-TRAINING in June and TOGETHER IN OUR CASTLE in September. I’m very excited for book number two. My illustrator, Stephanie Vanderpol, has been coming up with hilarious spreads that I can’t wait to share.

If you want to learn more about me, I have a new website my future hubby made me at brookevansickle.com. You can find out all about BiblioKid Publishing at their website bibliokidpublishing.com.

And for anyone interested in writing books for kids, as Jen mentioned, I share all my tips at journeytokidlit.com and through Twitter @authorbrookevs.

I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Brooke as much as I did! She’s generously offered to a Rafflecopter giveaway.

Click the link above to enter for a change to win a copy of PIRATES STUCK AT “C”!

I hope you enjoyed our conversation! Come back next week, I have another wonderful Book Review + Interview to share!

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

Published by Jennifer G Prevost

Aspiring picture book author. I blog about mom stuff (The Lafayette Mom) & kid lit (Magnolias & Manuscripts)

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