the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Terry Pierce and MAMA LOVES YOU SO!

Posted by Adi Rule on Mon, Apr 10, 2017 @ 14:04 PM

It's never too early to start loving books! Today we're celebrating Terry Pierce's new board book, Mama Loves You So, illustrated by Simone Shin. Perfect for the youngest book lovers and the grown-ups who love them, Mama Loves You So is out now from Little Simon. Terry was kind enough to stop by for a chat!

MamaLovesYouSo.jpgWith lilting lullaby text and lovely illustrations, the New Books for Newborns stories are the perfect first books for new parents to share with their little ones right from the start!

This book celebrates a mother’s love trumping even majestic mother nature…a mama’s love is higher than a mountain and deeper than any stream.

Welcome, Terry! So, tell us . . .

What was the spark that ignited this book?

My son Greg, and a song, were the inspiration. I got the idea when he was a baby (he's now 32!). That was when I was a Montessori teacher, long before I'd even considered writing children's books. But after hearing the song "Longer," by singer Dan Fogelberg, I thought that someone should write a children's book using nature as a metaphor to show a mother’s love for her baby.

That idea hung in the recesses of my mind all those years. Then two years ago, while hiking in the Sierras, the idea struck me again, as if my infant son was there with me, bobbing along in his Gerrypack. I sat down and wrote the first draft right then and there (I always carry a small notepad and pencil with me when I hike). I tinkered with it for about a month, showed it to my writing group (who suggested two word changes) and then sent it to my agent. She submitted it as a picture book and but Little Simon made an offer to publish it as a board book.

When I first held the book in my hands, it struck an emotional chord like no other book I'd written. It speaks to the power of love. I just adore it and hope outdoorsy moms everywhere will love reading it to their little ones.

Tell us about how you sold this book. What was it like when you found out? Do you have an agent? Were there a lot of revisions along the way?

I’m represented by Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I had sent the manuscript to her in April 2015. She sent it out in July but started hearing “nibbles of interest” in the early fall. The day before Thanksgiving, my husband and I were on vacation, having a cozy afternoon reading near the fire with snow lightly falling, when my phone rang. My agent’s ringtone is Pharrell William’s “Happy” so I knew immediately it was her but couldn’t believe she’d be calling me over the Thanksgiving break (doesn’t everyone take that week off now?). I was ecstatic when I heard the offer! I’ve always wanted to publish a board book so I was absolutely thrilled!

She told me that my editor said it was the perfect book Little Simon was seeking for a brand new line of books they were launching in spring 2017, New Books for Newborns. I guess she really did think it was perfect because they didn’t want any revisions. They loved it just the way it was—I suppose, the way a mother would love her baby.

Wow! What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?

The fabulous Erin Murphy once said that every picture book must have a “moment of emotional truth.” This is something I’ve taken to heart with my writing. Anytime I’m revising a manuscript, I always do a check to make to make sure I have some kind of emotional truth, some universal emotion with which all readers can connect.

With Mama, I think it’s the final line, “Mama’s love is like the air, everywhere you go, it wraps around and hugs you close, ‘cause Mama loves you so.” Isn’t that what all mothers feel and want their children to feel? That no matter where their babies are in life (even their grown babies!), they want them to know they’re loved.

What was it like watching the illustrations/cover come together?

Being the author, as is common practice, I didn’t get to see much of the art as it was being created. I knew the team at Little Simon was looking for an illustrator with special talents, particularly being able to illustrate broad landscapes but in a child-friendly style. They made the perfect choice in Simone Shin.

When my agent sent me the cover image, we were both giddy. It is GORGEOUS and brought tears to my eyes. The color palette is breathtaking. And it was so fun showing it to other people because so many women would say, “Oh my gosh! She looks like ME!” referring to the mom on the cover in her leggings, hiking boots and baby in the carrier.

Later, when I saw some of the interiors, I was once again amazed at the brilliance of the art. Again, the color palette throughout the book is stunning. And I loved how Simone drew animal moms and their babies throughout (even a mama and baby cricket!). I just about flipped when I saw the page with bears, because I have an affinity for black bears. I still can’t believe how fortunate I am to have had Simone and the Little Simon team collaborate on this stunning book.


Who were your advisors at VCFA?

Kathi Appelt was my advisor for the Picture Book Certification semester (my first semester in the program), followed by Laura Kvasnosky, Julie Larios, and Leda Schubert. I called them my “picture book dream team” because they each taught me something unique about writing for the very young.

What was special about your VCFA graduating class?

Ahh, The League of Extraordinary Cheese Sandwiches! I’m looking at our class photo on the wall above my computer, as I write. What was special about us? When I think back to the residencies and our class gatherings, I can’t help but think about how goofy and fun we were (I mean, c’mon—just look at our class name!). We had some people with great senses of humor who still make me laugh.

Also, many of the Cheese Sandwiches are already successful authors with published books. Caroline Carlson, Melanie Crowder, Meg Wiviott, just to name a few. And I know others have book deals in hand so it’s just a matter of time before I’ll get to read their books, as well. They really are an amazing group of writers!

Yes! Hoorays all around to all the wonderfully talented Cheese Sandwiches!

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

If at all possible, take a sabbatical from your job so you can completely immerse yourself in the program (I know, that’s hard to do but if you can, do it!). Allow yourself the time to delve into the craft of writing. Embrace everything the program offers. Don’t worry about submissions, getting an agent, what to do after you graduate, just focus on the craft. Savor the experience. Be Zen-like. You’ll never have the same kind of experience with any other writing venture, so take advantage of all it offers.

And be open to the kind of learning experience the program provides, what I always called “learning through osmosis.” I know some folks who came to the program thinking it would be more of a traditional educational experience, but the VCFA program is all about exploration, experimentation and self-discovery (PLAY!), through the guidance of master writers we call “advisors.”

Great advice. Thank you so much for stopping by, Terry. Welcome to the world, Mama Loves You So!

After graduating from VCFA, Terry went on to teaching Youth Market courses for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. She is represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency and has four children’s books coming out in 2017 and 2018.

Terry is a member of The League of Extraordinary Cheese Sandwiches (July 2011). Visit her online at



Topics: picture book, board book, 2017 release, Terry Pierce, Simone Shin, Little Simon


Posted by Sarah Johnson on Tue, Jan 31, 2017 @ 05:01 AM

Terry Pierce joins us in the Launchpad to talk about her new rhyming picture book, My Busy Green Garden. Kirkus Reviews says this "action-filled" book has a "lovely literary and artistic rendering." Terry is a member of The League of Extraordinary Cheese Sandwiches, a July 2011 graduate. After graduating from Vermont College of Fine Arts, Terry went on to teach Youth Market courses for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Welcome, Terry!


This is my busy green garden.

There’s a surprise

In clever disguise,

That hangs in my busy green garden.

Bugs, birds, and other creatures make this garden a busy place. From the shimmering dew of early morning to the lengthening shadows of late afternoon, there is one small miracle after another for anyone who stops to see, and the last one is the most surprising of all.

Hello Terry. What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?

The most challenging aspect of this story was finding the final “spark” that made it sell. I wrote it in 2006, subbed it to a few editors but only received “declines.” At a 2007 SCBWI retreat, I read the first page to an editor who asked to see the full story. She wrote me back while I was in middle of the MFA program, telling me that she liked the concept and the language, but that it was missing something, a spark. I set her note aside and didn’t get back to it until 2014! It was then that I thought to add a repeating line of three words, “In clever disguise.” Kids love disguises and mysteries, so why not add a mystery element to the story to spark reader interest? I subbed it to Tilbury House and within two hours, they wrote me back saying they loved it and were very interested in acquiring it! (and I only had to revise one word for them)

What authors do you love for their sentences? How about plot? Character?

I adore Phyllis Root’s picture books. Her playful and engaging language coupled with plots and characters with young reader appeal make her books a joy to read for any age. Also on my bookshelf are the works of Eve Bunting and Lisa Wheeler. They too are wonderful writers of rhyme and playful language. As far as characters go, Kevin Henkes is the king of picture book characters, at least in my book.

Tell us about your writing community. Are you in a critique group? Does a family member read your early drafts? Is Twitter your bastion of support?

I’m fortunate to be in two wonderful writing groups. One is comprised of VCFA picture book writers and the other is formed from clients of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency who write picture books. Both groups have highly talented writers who give me incredibly useful feedback on my work.

The only time I ask my husband to read a manuscript for me is if the story rhymes. Because he doesn’t typically read rhyming stories aloud anymore (our son is grown now), he’s a great representation of a potential read-aloud reader. Whenever he “stumbles” over a word or phrasing, I note in on my own copy and know it needs more work. 

Twitter? Ha! Because I’m part of a group blog called EMU’s Debuts, I’ve had to learn how to navigate Twitter. I can’t say that I’m 100% comfortable with it, but I’m learning!

Tell us about something special you keep on your desk/wall as you work.

I keep a small pile of three flat stones (descending in size) near my desk. I have it there as a reminder to keep my life balanced. For good health, I need to balance work and play, social and solitude, writing and exploring, my physical and mental being.

What was it like watching the illustrations/cover come together?

A-mazing! Carol Schwartz is an incredible illustrator. She uses bold colors with astonishing detail, which works perfectly in MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN. When I saw the opening double-page spread, I cried because it’s incredibly beautiful. Imagine one of those “hidden pictures” you’d see in Highlights magazine, but in color and on steroids! Everyone who I’ve shown the book to stays on that page pouring over the details, trying to find all the animals.

Months later, I saw the cover image and the interiors, and they brought a similar response. All I could think was how fortunate I am to have Carol create the art for my words. Her illustrations lift the text to a new level. If you’d like to see a treat, visit her website!

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

Kathi Appelt was my advisor for the Picture Book Certification semester (my first semester in the program), followed by Laura Kvasnosky, Julie Larios, and Leda Schubert. If you see a common thread, it’s because I chose advisors with a strong background in picture book writing (although I learned much about novel writing too). I affectionately called them my “Picture Book Dream Team.”

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

I’m probably saying what others before me hPierceHeadshotUCLA (2).jpgave said but VCFA took my writing to whole new level. The individual work with advisors and the insightful lectures at the residencies revealed aspects of writing that I had never thought about or been exposed to through the other means of my writing education. It was as if the VCFA experience peeled back the layers of high-quality writing, allowing me to soak them in and apply them to my own work.

The other way it affected my life was by opening doors of opportunity. Having an MFA from Vermont College was a factor in my being hired by the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program (the program director knew of VCFA, having already hired a few of its alums). I’ve also had other writing opportunities since I’ve graduated that were because of networking through VCFA. I still recall at
 my very first workshop, Kathi Appelt and I were the first to arrive, and while chatting, she said, “The Vermont College experience will open doors to you that you can’t even imagine yet.” She was right! (as always ;-)).

What is your favorite VCFA memory?

My Picture Book Certification semester was the best writing experience I’ve ever had. I was fortunate to have Meredith Davis, Mary Cronin, Abby Aguirre and Barbara Bishop in my group (dubbed “Everything Under the Moon”) with Kathi Appelt at the helm. We bonded over picture books in a way I hadn’t thought possible. We loved reading each other’s work and having lively discussions. I still remember while visiting my son for the Thanksgiving holidays, that rather than sitting around chatting with family, I wanted to get on our forum to discuss Maurice Sendak and his philosophy on writing children’s books. The Picture Book semester was a tremendous experience, one which I strive to replicate for my own students.

Terry is represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency and has four children’s books coming out in 2017 and 2018, including MAMA LOVES YOU SO (Little Simon March, 2017). You can visit Terry at her Website.


Topics: picture book, Kirkus, WCYA, 2017 release, Terry Pierce, Tilbury House, garden, rhyme, Carol Schwartz

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