Ah-CHOO! We're sneezing with joy over Bob, Not Bob, a picture book co-authored by VCFA faculty member Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, out now from Disney/Hyperion!
Little Louie has the worst cold ever. All he wants is his mom, but every time he calls for her, slobbery Bob the dog comes running instead.
Welcome, Liz! So, tell us . . .
How did you and Audrey Vernick become interested in working together?
Audrey and I share an agent -- Erin Murphy -- and she starting musing about what would happen if the two of us had a "book baby" together. So we did!
Which came first — the idea to collaborate, or the idea for the book?
It sort of happened in tandem because Audrey had a bad cold at the exact moment Erin nudged us. Turns out it was contagious!
Bob, Not Bob is a single voice rather than, say, alternating POVs split between authors. What was that process like?
Our collaborative process is THE MOST FUN either of us has. (Kind of not kidding.) We've replicated it many times now (we have a few more upcoming books together) and we kind of can't believe how well it works. We start with an idea and then one of us launches the storytelling. Then, we send a Word doc back and forth, back and forth -- adding as we see fit, deleting as we see fit, with no track changes. We each behave as if the manuscript belongs to us alone -- until that beautiful moment when it doesn't!
What advice would you have for someone who’s interested in collaboration?
Like and trust the person you want to collaborate with, and truly deeply admire their work.
Tell us about how you sold this book.
We were thrilled to sell this book, in part because the co-writing process had been such a lark. It was like we couldn't quite believe we were being paid to have that much fun! (Don't tell the publishers I said that.) Kevin Lewis, who was an editor for Disney/Hyperion back then, made the offer, walked us through some really thoughtful and intuitive revisions, and convinced Matt Cordell to illustrate. Rotem Moscovich took over as editor when Kevin left and brought the whole thing home. We couldn't believe our luck all the way along.
Tell us about your writing community.
Community fits so well in the context of a Bob, Not Bob discussion. As writing makes its way through the publishing process, it necessarily becomes a collaborative art, with editors and book designers putting their creative stamps on the project. This is doubly so for picture books that marry text and illustration. But what I've come to understand and appreciate more and more is how collaborative the writing life is -- beyond the writing process of any single book. Audrey and I met through our agency's annual retreat. Being part of that community led us to become, first, critique partners and then co-authors, but most importantly, friends. I've also got an Austin-based critique group (coincidentally made up entirely of VCFA alums and faculty), not to mention the very vibrant Austin chapter of SCBWI and, now, the larger VCFA community (lucky me). Plus, there's the writing world that is alive and well online -- my poetry group, my facebook friends. It honestly isn't possible anymore for me to imagine what I would do without the inspiration, energy, commiseration, support, education or love all of these people bring to my life and, credit where credit is due, to my work.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?
For this book, I googled "things that sound funny when you have a cold," which of course led me to the world's best "sick memes" as well as YouTube videos of cats with strange meows. Naturally.
Okay, so I couldn't resist . . .
What's your writing superpower?
Apparently choosing good co-authors! :)
What unusual swag do you wish you could make for this book?
I'm not usually much of a swag gal -- mostly I've just printed up bookmarks -- but for Bob we had little tissue packets and hand sanitizers made, with the cover image of the book. Elementary school librarians seemed to find them particularly useful!
Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of numerous beloved books for young people, including the highly acclaimed, Caldecott-honored picture book All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee, and her debut novel for middle grade readers, The Great Good Summer. Other titles include In the Canyon, A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes, The Good-Pie Party, and more. Liz is on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is a frequent and popular presenter at schools, libraries and conferences. She lives with her family in Austin, Texas.