Tammi Sauer Sept 15

12 x 12 Featured Author - Tammi Sauer

She’s a singing chicken! She’s a monster! She’s a cave kid! She’s an alien! 

No, those are characters from among her many outstanding picture books (MR. DUCK MEANS BUSINESS is a favorite at our house). In truth, she is really a ROCK STAR picture book author who is unstoppable! With legions of fans, myself included, she delights her readers with each new book. Her latest, ROAR! is no exception.

Meet Tammi Sauer, our featured 12 x 12 author for September. Read on if you want to know the ONE thing your book must achieve in order to be a success.

Tammi is graciously giving one lucky 12 x 12 member an autographed copy of ROAR! So get to work on your drafts and revisions for September. 

With ROAR!, I set out to write a book entirely in dialogue that was filled with heart, humor, energy–and dragons.

This story went through A LOT of drafts and A LOT of different versions.

First, it was about a princess searching for a pet, and a dragon is trying to get her to notice him.

Then it was about a little dragon trying to get noticed by two bigger dragons.

Then it was about a little dragon trying to prove to his mom he’s big.

Then it was about a little dragon trying to prove to his siblings he’s big.ROAR by Tammi Sauer

Then it was back to a little dragon trying to get noticed by two bigger dragons.

Those versions were nice, but something always seemed missing.

***NOTE:  When your inner voice is telling you something is missing from your manuscript, 99.9% of the time, something is missing from your manuscript.***

Soooo…I wrote ANOTHER version.

It was about a little boy trying to convince two dragons that he’s a dragon, too.

This version felt like The One.

Why did I settle on this version?

Was I just too tired to write draft #75432?

Nope.

ROAR Inside by Tammi SauerThis version had what the others were lacking–a fresh, emotional hook that was just right for my young audience.

On the outside, ROAR! is about dragons. But at its core? At its heart? It’s about wanting to find a connection.

I do lots of school visits. After my presentations, I often get swarmed by kids who want one thing–they want to connect.

When I visited my hometown elementary school, I heard comments like these:

“You went to school with my mom!”

“You’re my third cousin!”

“You used to date my dad!!!”

Once, after sharing a picture of my 7 pound dog Snowball, a kindergartner said, “My dog is EXACTLY like your dog! Except he’s big! And black!”

There are beautiful, quiet moments of connection, too.

Following a recent presentation for a large group of fourth and fifth graders, a girl waited for the room to clear. Then she came up to me, gave a shy smile, and said, “I’m a writer, too.”

The desire to find a connection is something that readers/listeners can relate to and appreciate. We’ve all been there, and we all understand that feeling. This tug at our emotions gives the story some depth and makes it feel more complete.

So don’t just write about a topic. Make sure you include that emotional core. A great combination of the two is worth ROAR!-ing about.

Ginny & Louise by Tammi SauerTammi Sauer is a former teacher and library media specialist. She is a full-time picture book author who has visited hundreds of schools and spoken at various conferences across the nation. To date, Tammi has sold 23 picture books to major publishing houses, including the recently released Ginny Louise and the School Showdown (Disney*Hyperion) and Your Alien (Sterling). She occasionally likes to ROAR!

Check out the trailer for ROAR!

This Post Has 164 Comments

  1. I looooove this post, Tammi! You have so much to offer the kidlit world– thank you for all you do! I loved hearing about the different versions of ROAR! That’s truly what it takes…experimenting and revising until you get it just right. I also loved hearing about the special connections you made with children. And of course, your books continue to do that time after time. 🙂 You amaze me.

  2. Hey, I have a book just like that except it’s not about a dragon. :). Your post was helpful. I’m rethinking a story that’s got something missing myself and reading this gave me an idea. Thank you.

  3. Tammi, I love your dog’s exact twin! Your books are delightful and I can’t wait to get this one for my nephew. I greatly appreciate your willingness to share a bit of the process of getting to ROAR. It definitely shows the value of tenacity when you know there is a story there and the value of prospecting through revisions. Thank you.

  4. Tammi, I love your dog’s exact twin! Your books are delightful and I can’t wait to get this one for my nephew. I greatly appreciate your willingness to share a bit of the process of getting to ROAR. It definitely shows the value of tenacity when you know there is a story there and the value of prospecting through revisions. Thank you.

  5. Thanks for this great post, Tammi! It’s so encouraging to hear the different versions of what didn’t work before you knew what did work. And the emotional core is SO important!! Thank you for teaching us that 🙂 I absolutely adore your books, especially YOUR ALIEN. I can’t wait to read ROAR!

  6. You said it best, Tammi. My story seemed like “the one,” yet there was another version. Maybe I got side tracked; someone interrupted me; I changed my character’s trait. But when the CONNECTION is there, I feel it and breathe.

  7. Great post Tammi! Thanks for sharing the revisions your story went through. I really needed to see that as I have a MS that has been worked and re-worked over again and again. I’m pretty happy with it but there is still something missing. Hearing your process gives me hope that I will find that missing .1% or in my case 10%. Congrats on your books!

  8. Tammy, it was great to read the many versions of ROAR. I have mss which have been revised and then some-LOL Thank you for sharing and making that connection with us. I look forward to the new PB.

  9. Simply beautiful post. Growing up, I was totally the little girl who waited for the room to clear. Thank you for noticing her and for connecting with us.

  10. It sounds like you chose the perfect version! It is original and very sweet, and I love the piece of advice provided here. It seems so simple, but often overlooked. We all want a “connection”! Thanks for the post!

  11. Thank you for admitting that your drafts change so drastically. I have a block that doesn’t let me change too much of the story itself after the first draft. I tend to tighten words and call it a day. This post is what I needed to hear!

  12. Thanks for sharing your many revisions of ROAR and teaching us how important persistence, making a connection, and finding the emotional core really is.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing this simple but profound peek into your process, Tammi. I haven’t yet done a revision quite as thorough as this… I’ve changed all the words in a story, cut scenes and sentences, but I’ve never changed the plot or core significantly after a draft has been written. And how silly is that? This has given me the push to do two things: to write drafts before I think a story is fully baked, knowing major changes can happen later, and to look at my existing drafts with truly fresh eyes, not just an eye toward minor revision.

    Also, I can’t wait to read ROAR. This story looks like it’s straight up my alley.

  14. I recently read another article about Tammi Sauer and promtly bought any of her books I could get my hands on! I ended up with 5! I giggled through all of them- so stinking cute! Lots of puns and funny references throughout. Needless to say, I can’t wait to read Roar! Oh, and I enjoyed reading about her process in this piece?

  15. Tammi,

    I loved hearing about your many drafts of ROAR before you found the right combination. I just bought 4 new picture books, read them all to my kids and their favorite was Your Alien! We love you books at our house. Thanks for the insights about emotional core!

  16. Thanks for the post! I’m glad I’m not the only one who sometimes goes through 75,000 or so drafts and it still doesn’t feel like “the one.” I want my stories to have that emotional connection with readers, so I keep working at it! I look forward to reading ROAR.

  17. Great post! It’s so true. That little twist sends the manuscript into the read again and again and again zone. Terrific work!

  18. Thanks, Tammi, for your tips and sharing how ROAR came to be! That IS a great piece of advice, because I have 1 ms that just doesn’t quite feel right yet. I can’t put my finger on how to solve it, but hopefully soon!

  19. Loved reading this post- one of my favourites. I think hearing about the different drafts and learning what different angles you had to try from is so interesting.
    Sometimes you think the first draft is the best but it’s not until you keep trying you realise you find a better version!
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  20. A fantastic peek into the many directions a tale can go before being just “right”. I’m up before the house so I can work on re-directing one right now! Thanks for the inspiration to find that special connection.

  21. I’m looking forward to reading ROAR!, Tammi. It looks like so much fun. And like a perfect example of a ms that leaves plenty of room for the illustrator. Can’t wait to read it and study it. Thanks for the post!

  22. Tammi, I love your books and appreciate your writing wisdom.
    The description of your willingness to do a major rewrite when the inner voice is saying ‘not yet’ was particularly good for me to hear.
    Congrats and best wishes for continued success.

  23. This makes so much sense, Tammi! And I can see how it makes all the difference between a good story and one that resonates with you and becomes a favorite. It also inspires me to take my manuscript that just isn’t speaking to me and taking it a different direction. Thanks so much for this post!

  24. Connection. Yes. Exactly. What all of us are searching for.
    Thank you so much, Tammi – I, too, have a story that is missing…something…couldn’t quite put my finger on it…till a crit buddy read this post and gave me the most fantastic direction for the story. I am so excited to revise…and grateful for your (and her) getting to the heart of the matter. 😉

  25. Great interview! Thanks for the reminder about “connecting”, that’s a big one! Looking forward to grabbing a copy of Roar…

  26. Thanks for this fantastic advice, Tammi. Sometimes, after multiple revisions, it’s hard to listen to that little voice saying the story still feels like it’s missing something! And finding that emotional core feels vital and oh so satisfying when it happens!

  27. Thank you, Tammi, for sharing the journey to Roar. The insight to step back, re-envision, and rewrite, rewrite and rewrite again is invaluable for one, like me, still struggling for that first publication. And the reminder to think about connections is terrific. I look forward to reading Roar!

  28. So interesting to see the way the story developed through your different versions and how the little truth-telling voice we all have helped make it possible. Thanks for connecting with us, Tammi.

  29. I love how you spoke about the importance of (a) trusting your “inner voice,” (b) having the courage to completely change the core of a manuscript, and (c) making an emotional connection with your readers. These three points are so important for us all to remember. I’m looking forward to reading ROAR!

  30. Thanks for taking us through your revisions. It’s helpful to see how you tweak stories and why you settled on the version that we get to read. I have one story that just isn’t right, and this gave me the probable reason. I’m missing that emotional tug for the reader. I’m not sure how to fix it yet, but I’m relieved to have the problem identified. 🙂

  31. Tammi,
    I am glad to know that I am not the only one on the tenth or eleventh or seventieth revision of my manuscripts and I think it is because I focus on one and another one calls to me and so on and so forth until I am revising every one of them over and over. I change the main characters, I change the setbacks, I try to make the endings better or a surprise. I never get to the point I submit and feel confident about one. When do you make yourself stop revising and send something to someone?

  32. Wonderful post, Tammi! Thank you for sharing the process you went through with ROAR! and for reminding us of the importance to connect with your readers emotionally. I’m looking forward to reading ROAR!

  33. Your reminder for us to dig deeper to reach the emotional core of our story is so appreciated and quite timely for me – thanks for sharing your process.

  34. Great post, Tammi. I really appreciated the side note about listening to your inner voice, and you’re right, what ever it’s saying is often true. Thanks!

  35. I enjoyed meeting you at the June 2015 NJ SCBWI conference. And I love your focus on connection in this segment. The emotional impact of a PB is always what I strive to achieve 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  36. I’m a big fan of your work. I even had the honor of learning from you at SCBWI Orlando a few years ago. I’m currently on version #75431 so maybe I’m close. Lol
    You’re connection idea really hits home. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  37. Tammi, thanks for sharing the different concepts for ROAR and for reminding us that writing picturebooks is about connection; to each other and to readers. This has inspired me to revise my MS that has been sitting on the shelve.

  38. I love how you share all the ideas you had before finding THE ONE. (And I may just be a LITTLE drawn to the dragon theme…lol!) Seriously, you are an inspiration to all…and a tremendous connecting FORCE! Thanks for all you do for all of us…and for book lovers everywhere. <3

  39. I love this post. I’ve done the same thing, but not so many times, yet. I’m on version #8 and it’s real close, but no cigarette. Oops, wrong word. Cigar, I think is the right word. This is proof there is hope. Thank you.

  40. I love the advice to pay attention to that inner voice. That if you are not in LOVE with your manuscript to keep playing with it. Love the stories of connection you shared. Kids are the best. Thanks for connecting so well with their inner dragons.

  41. I love your books and really enjoyed this post. You’re so right about that inner voice that tells us when something is not quite right! It was fun to read all the ideas you came up with before choosing THE ONE for ROAR! I can’t wait to read it 🙂

  42. Tammi:

    Great post. I especially love the variations your story went through before you found the one that shined. Very encouraging advice for both new and established authors. 🙂 Oh, and by the way, I LOVE dragons.

  43. Great post. Its great to see how kids connect with you! Plus it’s nice to know other authors are working through 7823 versions of their picture books too.

  44. A wonderful post, Tammi – thanks for sharing! I especially love that there isn’t a mention of “word count” or “trend” or “marketability” anywhere in the piece. I’m sure kids and adults alike will have a ROAR-ing good time reading it! Coincidentally, “Me Want Pet” is currently in our bedtime reading stack… my daughter loves it!

  45. I really enjoyed your post. Such good advice ….. you have left me incredibly inspired.

    Thanks so much, Tammi.

  46. Love this post, too, Tammi! I have a draft right now that just isn’t working, and I’m trying to pinpoint why. I think I’ve read your post at just the right time. I’m wavering on what the emotional core *really* is for this story. So, I’m backing up and retrying with this in mind. Thank you so much for sharing!

  47. Tammi- thank you for sharing your writing experience. Bet you had something to “roar” about when that storyline clicked. I have a draft since college days that seems to have a never ending metamorphosis. Your story makes me think that I have not discovered the right connection and encouraged me to not give up on it.

  48. Thank you, Tammi. Writing for children is a challenging endeavor for sure. Oh, but what a thrill it must be to push through those 75,432 revisions and realize the connections made with so many children. You are an inspiration and what a great morsel of advice to tuck away for my muse : )

  49. Thanks for sharing! What a great message! And glad to know I’m not the only one with 7,000 versions of a story!…. we have a connection too 🙂

  50. Wonderful Advice. I think we all get attached to stories but deep in our hearts we feel that something “just isn’t right”

  51. Thank you for this terrific post Tammi. I enjoyed reading about your revision process, and look forward to reading “Roar”.

  52. Thank you, Tammi for admitting that you revised many times, and that when something was missing, you kept editing until it seemed right. I like the girl who shyly told you she was a writer.

  53. Such fun to hear of the varied versions that led to ROAR, Tammi! Great inspiration to fall back upon when the “rut” seems too deep to maneuver. The connections with kids really resonated with me, as a retired elementary teacher, turned pre-published children’s writer. Thanks for sharing your ROARing journey…The experience speaks volumes!

  54. I ALWAYS read this post in the first couple days of the month – but this time, I was CRAZY busy – but so very, very glad I got back to it now. Absolutely a gem – and something I need to consider/ponder for the MS I am working on. THANKS, Tammi!

  55. I love that feeling when you push through revision after revision and then finally something clicks and you know this is THE ONE. I can’t wait to see ROAR!

  56. Thanks for sharing a bit about the creative process you went through with ‘Roar’. It was very interesting. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  57. As a former teacher, I recognize that “desire for connection” you write about. It’s so true. Your empathy for your young readers makes your books shine. I’ll bet kids love having you as a guest at their school.

  58. That’s what’s missing from the first draft I just finished–I felt it wasn’t “right” and now I know why–it doesn’t grab you emotionally. Thanks for the great post! (Back to writing for me!)

  59. Hearing about the many iterations your story went through give me hope! I have a story I’ve been trying to write for months now. It keeps morphing, so much that I haven’t finished a single version yet. But I know the story is in there. Thanks for inspiring me to keep at it.

  60. Tammi, thank you. I spent all of September revising and I really needed to hear your words today. Such a supportive letter to fellow writers about that voice within and the need to keep revising and revising. Love it!

  61. Thank you for sharing your process Tammi. Revision is something I have fully embraced with 12×12 and I love learning about the previous versions that weren’t quite right.

  62. Thanks for the great post Tammi – I am a huge fan of all your books and am very much looking forward to reading ROAR! as well. Congratulations on the release of yet another success! 🙂

  63. Thank you so much for sharing your process with ROAR! And congratulations on finally finding the perfect story line.

  64. Tammi:
    Thanks for sharing–and for reminding us about the importance of connecting with your audience. Still thinking about it….

  65. Tammi, those comments and connections with kids are awesome! They’re one of the reasons I love teaching 2nd grade- I could write a book (for adults) about some comments I’ve heard (“Mr. Ammon, can I flash you?” was said the other day when a girl wanted to do flash cards with me…). Roar looks awesome! I’ll be adding it to my list of books to buy for my room 🙂

  66. Tammi, thanks for such a fantastic post. We learn so much from you and your books. I admire your enthusiasm, your humor, and your great sense of story telling.

  67. I love this write up by Tammi. It has such a clarity about finding the emotional hook. It is also comforting to know that a good story is only a start. The revisions seem endless to me and sometimes I assume I just have to throw it all out and go onto something else, and this write-up helps me understand more about turning the story over and over and over again until something just seems to jump out and be THE hook the story was looking for. Thank you so much for sharing your insights, Tammi.

  68. Loved this post! I’m a big fan of all of your books and your path to finding the best way to tell your story was great to hear. Thank you.

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