|Launching Summer 2024!
Why do I love blogging? Part of it is the thrill of featuring friends and their books. Today, I’m featuring my long-time friend, hockey player, cheerleader for those of us still in the query trenches— PAM VAUGHAN and her debut MISSY WANTS A MAMMOTH!
Missy and Mason’s first book in this new picture book series features the pair at the Natural History Museum, a perfect setting to wonder, wander, and… think about mammoths! (A bit of our history: we met 2013-14 on a now defunct online critique group when we were new to children’s writing. Over the years, Pam introduced me to the NE SCBWI conference, The Writers Loft, and Whispering Pines.
|Without Pam, I wouldn't have known about all these great writing events!
Missy Wants a Mammoth Book Review
Idealistic, determined Missy has all sorts of plans for mammoth Malcolm, each idea sillier, and more farther-fetched from the one before. (Swinging from Malcolm's tusks? Yes, please!) However, Missy imagines him more as a friend than a pet. But practical, patient brother Mason can’t seem to reign in her imagination or her hope for a BFF, the extinct kind. Missy eventually gets her way and even manages to gift Mason with his own one-of-a-kind pet.
Illustrator Ariel Landy’s illustrations are bright, engaging, and bring their own energy to Vaughan’s unique telling. Throughout the book, Mason plays hide-and -seek with readers!) Landy’s final illustration makes for the perfect ending with a “mammoth” twist!
Pam Vaughan’s debut picture book re-envisions sibling stories and stories of outrageous pets with out-of-the-box ideas and her trademark wit. Add the whimsy and charm of mammoth Malcolm, and you have a read-aloud-again-please book that will have kids imagining their own over-the-top pet wishes. (LOL, parents be warned!)
MISSY WANTS A MAMMOTH is also more than a pet story, it’s
a sibling series where the siblings get along (in their own way)
a look at de-extinction and a lens into science discovery for fascinated kids and educators
A main character with spunk and imagination.
Readers will root for Missy to get her way. Children’s writers will want to study the voice and dialogue that reveal personality with such skill. Best, of all, new Missy and Mason books are coming!
Kathy: It seems ever since we met, I knew about Missy and Mason. Missy and Mason feel like people I know. Can you tell us the origin story of these stories?
Pam: Yes, I’ve known Missy and Mason for quite a while.
Kathy: It’s amazing to have characters talk to us, right? You wrote what called to you, and these stories are now becoming real! You persevered doing what you enjoyed. Pam, your dry, subtle humor comes through in these stories. Did you think about marketability or series potential as you wrote about these siblings?
Pam: Thank you! I’m happy to hear that you find the story humorous.
At first I didn’t really know if there was anything to Missy and Mason’s stories. The first time I brought one to a critique group meeting everyone liked it. The funny thing was, at the next meeting, I brought a totally different project and people asked, “This story is good, but do you have any more Missy & Mason stories?” Then they started offering up titles of things that Missy & Mason could want! That gave me confidence that maybe they were worth writing more stories about them.
Since then, I’d always thought about Missy and Mason as a series.
Kathy: You bring up an important point for writers, if we’re unclear about our, ideas, our critique partners will let us know! Another topic we’ve debated about Missy and Mason is the choice of dialogue. Did you experiment with first person or third person? Why did dialogue work best?
Pam: For some reason these characters come to me in dialogue. When I first started querying I remember a particular pass from an agent that said dialogue-only books don’t sell. That surprised me. So, I searched my library and took out as many dialogue-only picture books I could find. Turns out there were tons! I realized that the pass wasn’t personal and it was an opinion, not a fact. But even still, I did play around with writing in narrative, and tried changing POV. But Missy’s voice always comes to me in dialogue. It’s an interesting way to write because all of the context of the story must be conveyed through conversation and assisted by the illustrations.
Kathy: Speaking of illustrations, did you have many illustrator notes? How did the characters match with your imagined ones?
Pam: I did have some illustrator notes but not a ton. I immensely respect the talent and expertise of illustrators and want them to have room to do their thing. I did give context that the story takes place in a Natural History Museum and a few other locations throughout. And the end needed some notes for clarity.
I tried not to imagine what the characters would look like so I was thrilled with what Ariel Landy created. My heart melted when I saw that she made Missy with strawberry-blond hair like me! We’ve never met or even spoken so I think she may have looked me up, or maybe it was a mere coincidence. Ariel totally knocked the illustrations out of the park! I love them SO much! The way she captured Missy and Mason’s energy, exuberance, and exasperation is remarkable! And how about the vibrant and vivacious palette she used? She totally made magic in MISSY WANTS A MAMMOTH!.
Kathy: Yes, Missy magically has a Pam Vaughan vibe! Ariel created a color palette that really jumps out and hooks readers' eyes.
Tell us a bit about your writing journey. What was your path to publication like? I know #PBChat Mentorship in 2019 was a big step in your querying process.
Pam: I’ve been on this kidlit writing journey for a while. It doesn’t feel like a long time because it’s been so much fun. I love learning, so that played into the fact that there is a lot to learn especially writing for children.
I pretty much read all sorts of craft books, blogs, & mentor texts. I attended workshops, conferences, retreats. I stopped being afraid to ask questions or be the most clueless one in the room. I inundated myself with trying to learn everything I could about writing.
I went all in and attended conferences and joined online groups and in person communities like The Writers’ Loft. I signed up for a few mentorships. Finally, in 2019 I was picked as a mentee by Anika Denise in #PBChat hosted by Justin Colón. I was so grateful to work with Anika who helped me get Missy/ Mason where it needed to be. In November of 2019, I queried an agent that I was super excited about. He asked to have a call and I signed with him in January of 2020. We sold Missy/Mason in June of 2020.
Coincidentally, I originally met my editor a long time ago at an SCBWI conference and my agent at a Whispering Pines Writers’ Retreat. That’s a whole other story!
|Pam, Co-Director of Whispering Pines, MIT Endicott House, 2022
Kathy: Readers, remember, keep putting yourself out there. Say “yes” like Pam did to all the opportunities you can take on.
Those of us who know Pam, know of her ability to create community in the children’s literature world. She is passionate about helping others and has done so through her leadership roles with SCBWI, The Writers Loft, and the Whispering Pines Writing Retreat.
When I first started it was hard from a community perspective because I didn’t have one. I remember attending a few SCBWI conferences in New England and being super nervous. I ate lunch by myself because I didn’t know anyone. Even though it was hard to sit alone, I kept attending because I knew I had a lot to learn. (Now that’s grit at work!)
My local kidlit writer friend Donna Woelki told me about SCBWI local meetups. I attended a couple hosted by Kris Asselin and got to meet a few people. At one of those meet ups, I met Heather Kelly, the founder of The Writers’ Loft which was a community of local writers. I attended meetings and workshops and joined a critique group at The Writers’ Loft and met more people. Then I joined the board and helped coordinate events. Eventually I became the NESCBWI conference photographer, and guess what? I met more people.
I also had the privilege of attending the Whispering Pines Writers’ Retreat a couple of times run by Lynda Mullaly Hunt – and I met more children’s book authors and illustrators and learned so much. Then, I took over running the retreat.
But no matter what event I’m at, I remember what it felt like to sit alone, so I always make a point to talk with people (especially if they look lost or alone) and introduce people. (Great suggestion!)
Kathy: Pam, I know we both feel it’s important to join and give back to our community? Why is that important?
Pam: It’s wonderful and helpful to be a part of a community of writers, and/or have writer/illustrator friends, who truly understand the ebb and flow of the whole process. Also, it’s a difficult and challenging industry with many ups and downs. My writing friends have been so helpful by sharing insights, experiences, and inspiration. I’m so lucky to have met so many phenomenal people on my journey.
One really big thing about community is that doing anything is so much better when you are having fun and doing it with others!
|Coach Pam motivates on the field with athletes, off field with writers!
Kathy: Yes, that idea of play and camaraderie comes through in our writing.
Anyone who has met you knows that you are a source of encouragement and, like me, see you as “Coach Pam.” Does your background in coaching influence you and your writing career?
Pam: I believe that everyone has unique skills, abilities, and incredible experiences. People forget how special and amazing they are and how important their stories are. Children out there need these stories. Maybe I’m just trying to remind people of that.
Plus, it is such a privilege and honor to write for children and to create beautiful books that reach children physically and emotionally where they are. If we quit, the kids miss out.
Kathy: And now, inquiring minds want to know WHY does Missy want a mammoth?
Pam Vaughan: https://linktr.ee/pamvaughan
Ariel Landy :
Pam Vaughan lives with her family across from a pond on a cul-de-sac in central Massachusetts. She’s director of Whispering Pines Writers’ Retreat and co-ARA of New England’s SCBWI chapter. When she’s not writing books for kids, she loves walking in the woods and playing ice hockey. Missy Wants a Mammoth is her first book.