Monday, April 2, 2012

The Mother Hen: Meet Tammi Sauer

Week of April 1, 2012—BAWK & ROLL WITH TAMMI & DAN
Monday, April 2, 2012—The Mother Hen: Meet Tammi Sauer

This is the first installment in a five-part series with author, Tammi Sauer, and illustrator/author, Dan Santat, in celebration of the release of BAWK & ROLL.
Today we’re visiting with Tammi and learning how she got her start in the picture book writing biz, where she gets her ideas, and a bit about her writing process.

Rob: Hey, Tammi! Welcome back to Picture This! We are thrilled to spend time with you and Dan this week. To begin, tell us about your journey to becoming a world-famous picture book author. How did you get started? When and how did your career take off?

Tammi: I never planned to be a children’s book author. The Plan was to be a third grade teacher. During my senior year of college at Kansas State University, however, Dr. Marjorie Hancock, my favorite teacher ever/language arts professor pulled me aside after class. She said, “Tammi, you have a gift with words. You should pursue publication.”
Now if Dr. Hancock had told me I would have made a great international spy, I’d probably be doing top-secret things in Europe right now. Knowing she believed in me, made me believe in myself. Oh. And years later, I thanked her in a special way. I named a chicken after her.

But I didn’t get serious about writing right away. Years went by. I became a library media specialist. Then a pre-k teacher. Then a mom. It wasn’t until an illustrator visited my daughter’s preschool class that I decided to make a commitment to writing. That day I went straight to the bookstore, picked up the latest copy of The Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market Guide, and made a promise to myself. Instead of watching Oprah, reading US Weekly, or talking to my mom on the phone, I would devote my kids’ naptime to studying picture books and doing my very best to figure out how to write one. I proceeded to write some very terrible stories . . . and received more than a hundred rejections. But, a year later, I had an offer. Cowboy Camp was pulled from the slush pile. Yeehaw! 

Rob: Tammi, your picture books are so fresh and original. Where do you get your ideas?

Tammi: Most of my ideas are sparked from some tiny thing that I have encountered in real life. When I visit schools, I always encourage kids to celebrate the weird stuff in life because the weird stuff is good material for stories.

The idea for Cowboy Camp, for example, came to me when an un-cowboy-like kid knocked on my door one night. He was trying to raise money so that he could go to Cowboy Camp. Mr. Duck in Mr. Duck Means Business was modeled after my Great Aunt Florence. (This is not exactly a great compliment to Great Aunt Florence.)

Rob:  Do you ever have stories that don’t work? How do you know when to abandon a project (or at least put it away)?

Tammi: Ha! All the time! It’s time for me to abandon the story when I lose the necessary thrill for writing it. If I’m not in love with the story, how can I expect readers to fall for it?

Rob:  What are your biggest strengths as a writer? And what are you still trying to learn or master?

Tammi: I think my biggest strengths are that I have a knack for finding the funny in a situation and I can zone into my inner six-year-old.

Other things are much harder for me. I am constantly trying to find a good balance of heart and humor in my manuscripts. My biggest struggle, however, is finding good ideas. I know people who can come up with 2,412,474 ideas in five minutes. I am not one of those people. Sometimes it can take MONTHS for me to come up with an idea that is fresh, funny, and worth pursuing.

Rob: What else do you want to confess, Tammi?

Tammi: I eat way too many chicken enchiladas. My apologies to Marge and Lola.

Visit Tammi’s website at:

Bawk & Roll by Tammi Sauer and Dan Stanta is now available! Flap on over to or your favorite book store and scratch up your copy today!

Coming tomorrow: The Rooster: Meet Dan Santat!


Joanna said...

I'm a Tammi and Dan fan, so will look forward to this whole series, Rob!

I am SO encouraged, that Tammi also struggles to come up with really GOOD ideas! Yes, I don't feel so bad now.

Penny Parker Klostermann said...

Great interview! Tammi is such a skillful writer that I am interested in all she has to say about picture books.

Tina Cho said...

Fun interview. Looking forward to more! I'm going to share this with our 12x12 in 2012 group. Thanks!

Susan said...

I'm enjoying the interview And your chicken humor, Rob! Can't wait for the rest.

tammi sauer said...

You bawk, Rob Sanders. :)

To everyone who took a peek at this, I have one thing to say:

Kim Murray said...

I really love Cowboy Camp. I'm glad it came out of the slush pile! Great book. Thanks for sharing this fun interview. I'm looking forward to Tammi's new book.

Rob Sanders said...

Tammi Sauer, you are loved and admired! ;-)

Julie Hedlund said...

Great interview with Tammi! Wow - 100 rejections! Since we own most of your books and know how wonderful they are, that is very hard to believe. But it's also good to know that passion and persistence pays off. Congrats on this latest release!