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Meet Mentor Tammi Sauer

Tammi Sauer is the prolific author of 25 published picture books (with many more in the pipeline). Tammi is finishing an epic year in which she released six books (her six-pack, as she refers to it). I had the pleasure of meeting Tammi in person this year, and I’m convinced that if there were a Miss Congeniality award in kidlit, this woman would win, hands down. I am thrilled to welcome Tammi to Writing with the Stars!

With 25 published books and more under contract, how is it possible that you’ve never had coffee? 

This is one of life’s great mysteries. While I don’t drink coffee, I am, however, a dedicated iced tea drinker. I guzzle that stuff by the 32 oz. cup.

Here’s a little secret. I’m a weirdo about my tea at restaurants. I always order an extra glass of ice because most waiters don’t add extra ice when pouring refills. I like to have my extra ice at the ready! I also ask for an orange slice. I squeeze it into my tea to give it a little extra something-something.

Can you even imagine how high-maintenance I would be with COFFEE?!

What’s been the most unexpected source of inspiration for one of your books?

One night, when my kids were really little, my husband and I tucked them into bed. We were getting ready to sit down and watch a movie when we heard a knock at the door. We opened the door and saw a kid standing there. He looked like he was probably a fifth grader. He said, “Hi! I’m selling newspaper subscriptions. I’m trying to raise some money. I want to go to Cowboy Camp.” Well, this kid didn’t look like a cowboy or act like a cowboy or talk like a cowboy, and at first I thought, “Ooh. I hope he’ll be okay at Cowboy Camp.” Then I thought, “Ooh! That’s a great idea for a book!” So I wrote Cowboy Camp. It’s about a kid named Avery who goes to Cowboy Camp. He doesn’t fit in, he can’t do anything right, but he ends up saving the day anyway. The book debuted in 2005, and it’s still in print. YEEHAW!

If only more ideas would just knock on my door after the kids go to sleep…

You’ve written a few books about caring for pets (or aliens)—what is the most unusual pet you’ve ever had? 

That would be Lightning, the giant Madagascar hissing cockroach. When my daughter, Julia, was little, she attended a camp called Bugmania. At the end of camp, the camp counselor asked me if it was okay if my daughter came home with a bug. I said sure because I thought Julia would choose one of the ladybugs or one of the butterflies. Did Julia do that? Nooo. She came home with Lightning, the giant Madagascar hissing cockroach, who ended up living in my house for five long years.

If you weren’t a writer, what would your job be?

Can it be watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? I’m REALLY good at that.

You’ve done a lot of school visits—what’s the best question a kid has ever asked you? 

Will you marry me?

What is the thing you know now that you wish you had known earlier in your career?

I wish I had known how important it is to have a critique partner and/or group. Early on, I didn’t think I’d have time for this. Getting feedback from others, however, has pushed me to work harder and write better. Plus, it’s good to have people to celebrate and commiserate with.

What books are coming out next and can you tell us a bit about them?

In February 2018, Wordy Birdy (Doubleday), illustrated by Dave Mottram, was released. Wordy Birdy loves to talk, talk, talk. But she never listens. In fact, Wordy Birdy had so much to say, she has another book due out February 5, 2019. It’s called Wordy Birdy Meets Mr. Cougarpants. In the first book, Wordy Birdy’s talking gets her into some big trouble. In the second book, Wordy Birdy’s constant chatter saves the day.

Next on the scene is A Little Chicken (Sterling), illustrated by Dan Taylor. This book has one of my all-time favorite first lines: “Dot was a little chicken who, let’s face it, was a little chicken.” This book proves that sometimes a big hero…is just a little chicken.

In June, two of my old pals, Nugget and Fang, return for the long-awaited SEA-quel. It’s called Nugget & Fang Go to School (Clarion), illustrated by Michael Slack. In this book, Fang gets invited to be a student at Mini Minnows Elementary. Fang loves this idea…until his first day of school. It turns out that even a big shark can sometimes feel like a fish out of water. With Nugget’s help, however, Fang realizes that school is better than fine. It’s FANG-tastic!

Thank you, Tammi, for your time and for mentoring one lucky writer in 2019. All information about how to apply to Writing with the Stars is on the WWTS Contest tab. Applicants, please remember to support these mentor authors. Buy their books, review them online, and tell your local librarians how awesome they are.