the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

JoAnn Early Macken and Baby Says “Moo!”

Posted by Sarah Johnson on Sat, Jun 06, 2015 @ 11:06 AM

Today we welcome JoAnn Early Macken to the Launchpad.


She is the author of five picture books, the poetry instruction guide, Write a Poem Step by Step, and more than 130 educational books for young readers. She contributes to the Teaching Authors blog, and she speaks to writers of all ages at schools, libraries, and conferences.


Ask Baby what birds say, what horses say, or what dogs say, and Babhas only one answer: "Moo!" Ride along with Baby and family from the busy, dizzy city to the quiet countryside. They just might spot the animal that actually makes Baby's favorite sound!


What was the spark that ignited this book?

I’m one of seven sisters. While we were growing up, we Big Kids took it upon ourselves to teach the Little Kids. One of our lessons taught the sounds that different animals made by asking questions like “What does the birdie say?” When my husband and I had our own sons, we played the game with them. One day as I walked the dog, I thought about a baby who answered all the questions wrong. Then I decided it would be funnier if the baby gave the same wrong answer to every question. I wanted Baby to be right at least once, so I knew that a cow would have to be part of the story.

What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?
Baby Says “Moo!” was a cumulative rhyming picture book first. Before she accepted the manuscript, the editor asked me to rearrange the stanzas in a more logical order. Because of the cumulative structure, I had to toss whole stanzas and replace them, but the story was much stronger afterwards.

After the book was published, the editor left the company. I was pleasantly surprised when a different editor asked me to revise the manuscript for a padded board book format. We cut all the cumulative stanzas and added some food-themed terms of endearment.

I hope younger kids will enjoy the new format as a read-aloud and chime in when Baby says “Moo!”

Do you write in silence? If not, what’s your soundtrack?
Silence, if possible, except for the sounds of kids playing outside at recess on the school playground down the block. Most days, I take a break and walk to Lake Michigan, where I can listen to bird songs and waves on the beach.

Tell us about your writing community. Are you in a critique group? Does your son or mom read your early drafts? Is Twitter your bastion of support?
I’m a member of a wonderfully supportive writing group with two other VCFA grads (Ann Angel and Gretchen Will Mayo) and five other children’s book authors. I contribute to the Teaching Authors blog, along with three other VCFA grads (Carmela Martino, Mary Ann Rodman, and Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford). I also rely on SCBWI-Wisconsin and all my VCFA classmates in The Hive. I'm fairly active on Facebook and barely so on Twitter. My family is a huge help, although I no longer bribe the kids to read my manuscripts.

Who were your advisors at VCFA?
I worked with four brilliant and generous advisors: Ellen Howard, Norma Fox Mazer, Phyllis Root, and Amy Ehrlich. I learned valuable lessons I’ll never forget from all of them.

What is your favorite VCFA memory?
JoAnn_Early_Macken I couldn’t choose just one! Here are five I can't forget:
•    Brock Cole naming our class “The Hive” when he saw us buzzing around campus
•    Poetry Nights•    calling home from the phone booth outside the lecture hall
•    Ron Koertge giving away his poems
•    our graduation, when my family came to campus and our class read a poem I wrote for the ceremony

Thank you for visiting the Launchpad today. 

You can visit Joann at her website, and at the Teaching Authors group blog,


Topics: 2015 release, picture book, Disney-Hyperion, board book, JoAnn Early Macken

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