Don’t let rejections stop you. I have received HUNDREDS of rejections for my writing. There were many times I thought I should just give up. But I didn’t, and now I have two books coming out. I know they will be the first of many. The “Yesses” might be fewer than the “nos” but they matter more.
As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy C. Gold, author of two picture books coming out in 2021, “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby,” which will be published by Familius in March, and “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat,” which will be published by Sourcebooks in August.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Absolutely! I’ve loved writing ever since I was a kid. I was born and raised in suburban Baltimore, and now I live right inside the city line. I used to write books about talking fish and trees…and now I have a book coming out about a bat on Halloween, so I suppose I haven’t changed much.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?
I adored “The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister. I hadn’t realized it before, but it must have influenced my own childhood writing about talking fish! Now, I love reading that book to my daughter, who’s almost three. The message about finding happiness through sharing your most prized possessions instead of hoarding them has always stuck with me. Of course, my parents and community played a huge role in shaping my attitude toward giving as well, but I’m sure reading that book over and over again helped the message sink in.
We definitely lived that message in my family. My brother and I heard about a factory closing in a town where we vacationed and asked if we could give all the money in our piggy banks to the people losing their jobs. My parents helped us send it along. The workers mailed us a giant thank you card that they had all signed. I’m sure mailing the card cost more than whatever change we sent, but I think the important thing was that two little kids cared. From that experience, I learned that doing whatever I could, even if was just a little, mattered.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Oh goodness! I am a people pleaser and a perfectionist so even really small mistakes seem like huge deals to me. I think one of biggest mistakes I ever made was back when I worked in marketing. I accidentally spent tens of thousands of advertising dollars on the wrong client’s credit card. I was lucky I didn’t lose my job, but in 2011, Facebook ads were new and no one at the marketing agency where I worked knew how to run them. It was an honest mistake from a 23-year-old learning as she went. Honestly my blood pressure rises as I think about it even all these years later. One lesson there is that if you are learning new things you are going to make mistakes, and sometimes all you can do is beg for forgiveness.
Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?
With two different books coming out in 2021, I have two slightly different goals.
My first book, “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby,” is targeted toward kids from 0 to 3 years old. When I was a new mom, a nurse from a nonprofit called Family Connects Maryland came to visit my house for free to help me learn to care for my baby. I was struggling mightily and she literally wiped some of my tears away. She also brought some diapers, clothes, and baby books from ShareBaby, a nonprofit that helps secure baby goods for families in need. Ever since then, I’ve taken all our extra diapers to ShareBaby, and I’m excited to give them hundreds of copies of this board book as well. I am giving them a copy for every preorder receipt I receive at [email protected] before the book launches on March 2. I am hoping that this campaign results in not only free books going to babies in need but also raising awareness about ShareBaby. As I write this in early February, I am up to 105 donated copies, and I am hopeful that I will be donating several hundred — which also means that several hundred new people will know about ShareBaby.
On a broader level, I hope the book provides some solace to new parents who struggled as much as I did. I mean, my baby would really not sleep. Unless she was supposed to be eating, and then I couldn’t wake her up. Hopefully the book will bring smiles when we can safely have in-person baby showers again. I also hope sharing my stories about struggles with new motherhood in interviews like this will help other new parents who are struggling feel a little less alone.
For my second book, “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat,” I am continuing my mission of helping get books in the hands of kids in need. Because this book doesn’t come out until August, I don’t have all the details figured out yet. The book is about a bat searching for yummy bugs on Halloween, so for starters, I’m going to get a couple dozen books to give out at my house on Halloween. My neighborhood tends to draw families from all over Baltimore. I’m also hoping to give away “Halloween sets” to people who live in neighborhoods where kids might not have many books on the shelf — details pending!
The other layer of social impact I am hoping to make with “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat” is spreading the word about how important bats are to the ecosystem. They’re particularly vilified at the moment because the Covid-19 virus may have originated in bats. Trust me, you want bats around! Bats eat insects, including mosquitos!
Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
Well, they’re very short books! “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” includes something very special to me — my dog passed away when I was editing the book, and the publisher asked the illustrator to make the dog in the book look like him. My favorite page of the book is the image of the dog and the baby in the tub!
For “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat,” the main story is about bats all flying out from a cave in a wave. This is directly inspired by the bats of Congress Bridge in Austin, Texas, where hundreds of thousands of bats fly out at sunset. If you’re ever in Austin at the right time of year, make sure to see this!
What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
I wrote “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” when I was really struggling as a mother. My daughter just would. Not. Sleep! I was questioning my identity, my intelligence, my sanity. I hope this sweet little story will help other new parents or caregivers feel less alone in the struggle. The “a ha” moment for giving back to ShareBaby was when that nurse came to my house with diapers and clothes. I was so grateful for her help and I wanted to help other moms, too.
Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Well, I am case study number one: because of a community program designed to help new parents, my transition to new motherhood was a little less hard. Even though the book isn’t out yet, I’ve published several essays about the difficulties of being a new mom. Each time I share those struggles, other new moms reach out to me to tell me it is great to know they aren’t alone in struggling to breastfeed, get their baby to sleep, or whatever the issue is. There is definitely a taboo that if you don’t “love every minute” as a mom, you’re a “bad mom.” That’s not true. Motherhood is hard. Getting help and being honest about your struggles makes you a better mom.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Ahem, let me draw up my soapbox.
One: Give parents money to help with the cost of raising children. The week I am writing this, Mitt Romney suggested giving families with children under a certain income level a credit of either 350 dollars or 250 dollars a MONTH, depending on the age of the child. 350 dollars a month buys a LOT of diapers. It buys a lot of books. It can pay rent or childcare or put gas in the car so a parent can get to work more easily. In a country with as many rich people as the US, there is no reason why parents should be reusing dirty diapers or unable to provide books for their children.
Two: Subsidize childcare costs. Elizabeth Warren proposed subsidizing childcare costs over 7% of a family’s income. Childcare for infants in my area is extremely expensive — most of the local daycares are in the range of 16–22,000 dollars a year for an infant under a year old. Many moms I know dropped out of the workforce because they wouldn’t be bringing home any money after childcare and taxes. A subsidy like this would make a huge impact for families in need. (Can you believe I’m including ideas from Mitt Romney and Elizabeth Warren in the same answer? Maybe we’re less divided than we thought!)
Three: Expand programs like Family Connects Maryland to provide home visits post-partum. I never knew it was an option to have a nurse visit my home after I gave birth until I found out about Family Connects at the hospital. With financial stress from buying lots of baby gear — not to mention health care costs from a C-section — I don’t think I would have paid for something like this on my own. I also would have felt shame and guilt for admitting that I needed help taking care of my baby, when the truth was I’d never even changed a diaper before having my own child (except for on a doll at baby class). At the time of the home visit, I was still in pain from my C-section and it would have been difficult for me to get my baby to a doctor’s office on my own. Additionally, home visits allow the nurse to check health and safety conditions in the home and keep an eye out for signs of domestic abuse. If we normalize free home visits from medical professionals after birth, our families will be much happier and healthier.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
“Leadership” is not only seeing a problem but doing something about it instead of waiting for someone else to act. There are many ways to do something and they don’t all look like traditional leadership. One of my neighbors recently organized a “toy swap” for our block, for example. We all brought over our extra toys and kid gear, and whatever we didn’t want to swap, she donated. It only took a few hours of her time to organize that, but she needed to be a leader to make it happen.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
5 things I wish someone told me when I first started writing are:
- Don’t put yourself in a box. I never thought I could write a picture book. I wrote novels for EIGHT years before switching to picture books, without getting any published. Now I’m publishing two picture books this year! Who knows what I could have done if I had started writing picture books earlier!
- Do good things for the universe and the universe will do good for you. I found out about one of my publishers because I volunteered for a writing group in my area. I met an author there who told me she loved her publisher. Now they’re publishing my book! I never would have known about that publisher if I hadn’t volunteered. And I’m giving many copies of those books to babies in need. Keep the circle going.
- Don’t let rejections stop you. I have received HUNDREDS of rejections for my writing. There were many times I thought I should just give up. But I didn’t, and now I have two books coming out. I know they will be the first of many. The “Yesses” might be fewer than the “nos” but they matter more.
- Sleep more! Yep. I am a night owl and a perfectionist. I have given myself so much stress! Everything doesn’t have to be done ASAP. I recently stayed up until midnight learning about advertising on Pinterest, and then I felt awful the next day. Could I have gone to bed earlier? YES!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You don’t have to do everything by yourself, either! I am fiercely individualistic! However, I have learned that if you ask for help, you will get it. Just this week I wrote to two amazing authors to ask them for help promoting my books and they BOTH AGREED! You don’t know what can happen unless you ask.
Here is a link to a video of me chatting about these 5 things: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ-lV5tGPAI
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Perfect is the enemy of good.” This goes along with my message to sleep, ha. If you spend too much time trying to get any one thing perfect, you will run out time to get other important things done at all. That’s something I have to tell myself all the time, especially when I think about whether a book is ready to send to an agent or publisher, or even crafting a message to reach out to a non-profit I am interested in partnering with. If I tried to make everything perfect, I would never send it out.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Ooh, I got to host a panel that included author Linda Sue Park and I would love to have lunch with her (I am not a morning person but would do breakfast if it meant I got to know her more!). She’s an award-winning author for kids whose books have a huge social impact. Her book for middle school kids, “A Long Walk to Water,” is novel based on a true story about the Lost Boys of Sudan and is a heart-wrenching way to introduce the concept of refugees to kids. I’ve read the companion book, “Nya’s Long Walk,” to my toddler, which has helped me teach her about the challenges of getting clean water in South Sudan. Not only does that increase her empathy for people all over the world, but I hope it will help her learn to conserve water where we live, too, and see it as the precious resource it is.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!