Poet and author Carole Gerber has written nearly two dozen picture books, early readers, and chapter books as well as more than one hundred elementary science and reading texts for major publishers. She has also worked as a high school and middle school English teacher, an adjunct professor of journalism at Ohio State, a marketing director, editor of a company magazine, a member of creative teams at an ad agency and a hospital, a contributing editor to a computer magazine, and – finally! – as a freelance writer of elementary textbooks, magazine articles, speeches, annual reports, and patient education materials. She holds a BS in English education and an MA in journalism from Ohio State, and has taught middle school and high school English as well as college news writing and factual writing at OSU. Some of her picture books include When You’re Scary and You Know It, The Gifts of the Animals, A Band of Babies, and 10 Busy Brooms. You can learn more about Carole Gerber, her books, and her work on her website.
Thank you for helping me celebrate Book Lover’s Day, Carole! You have such a beautiful way with words, and your books always reflect your love for children and the way they play, learn, and celebrate all the changes and fun a year brings. You’ve really followed your love of writing throughout your career. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? What was your journey to publication?
My high school English teacher, John Engle, inspired me to be a writer. He invited me to join his creative writing class when I was a senior and did his best to help me whip my writing into publishable shape. John was a widely published poet and short story writer and he was what was known back in the day as a stern taskmaster. His favorite comments were: “Your first thought is not your best thought” and “Revise, revise, revise.”
I—and some others in his class—got their poems and stories published (and paid for!) in some magazines for high school students. However, as far as I know, I am the only student he ever had who became a professional writer.
I majored in English in college and followed in his footsteps by becoming an English teacher. I lasted a year in a tough Columbus, Ohio high school. I transferred the following year to an equally tough middle school. Although I liked my students, I found the discipline issues exhausting. I applied to the master’s in journalism program at Ohio State and enrolled the following year. Luckily, I received an assistantship that paid my full tuition and a small salary in return for writing two feature articles a week for their hometown papers about students enrolled in the OSU honors program. I was thrilled to have my first by-lines and got valuable experience in conducting interviews.
Before beginning a career as a freelancer, I worked as an in-house magazine editor, a marketing director, an adjunct professor of journalism at OSU, and as a copywriter for an advertising agency. As a freelancer, I was a contributing editor to a computer magazine, wrote ad copy for McGraw-Hill texts, and traveled abroad with OSU faculty to cover conferences and write publications. I also wrote dozens of short work-for-hire elementary reading and science books for McGraw-Hill and other publishers.
This spurred me, about 15 years ago, to begin writing picture books that were not done by assignment. Although I have had a couple of dozen manuscripts published, I have dozens more that were not. Here’s the difference: When I did “work for hire” textbooks, I was paid a flat fee to write on a well-defined topic with frequent feedback to help me produce exactly what was wanted.
No such guidance is given when you choose to write and then submit —or have an agent submit —your manuscript. And it can sometimes take years to get accepted, even for experienced authors. Many of those were sold by agents to “big name publishers” who never accepted another. It is definitely a “buyers’ market.”
I have three bits of advice for writers eager to break into the picture book market: 1. Research publishers to learn what types of picture books they seek; 2. Read dozens, even hundreds, of picture books to figure out pace, plot, and structure; and 3. Revise, revise, revise!
I understand you also have two more picture books coming out in 2022. Can you tell readers a little about them?
How You Came to Be, beautifully illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi, is scheduled for April 2022 from Penguin Random House. It’s about a mother’s love for her unborn child and how the baby develops month-by-month in the womb. It’s a love letter, really, for mothers to share with their young children.
In November, 2022, I have P Is for Purr, A Cat Alphabet coming from Familius. This gorgeous book, illustrated by Susanna Covelli, is filled with little-known facts about cats – some I didn’t know myself! I dedicated it to my own cat, Simon – a sweet boy who has definitely purred his way into my heart.
What a varied and fascinating career you’ve had! I love the support and inspiration you received from your high school English teacher. That must have been an amazing class and experience. I’m sure readers will agree when I say I’m so glad your writing journey has brought you to picture books and other books for children!
Two Holiday Picture Books by Carole Gerber
Little book lovers can’t wait to celebrate all the special occasions during the year with stories. Here are two books by Carole Gerber that will get your kids excited about upcoming holidays.
If You’re Scary and You Know It!
Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Noël Ill
As the warm days of summer cool into the crisp days of fall, can Halloween be far behind? Kids will have a blast preparing for the big night of chills and thrills while they decide on the most pressing question: What will I be? Carole Gerber and Noël Ill know exactly how that feels and their book, a rollicking adaptation of the participatory favorite “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” will keep readers moving and giggling all month long—and beyond.
Kids and adults alike will fully get into the spirit of Halloween with Carole Gerber’s clever and enticingly impish rhymes that will have them moving their feet, yowling ghoulishly, and laughing together. Gerber’s rich language and detailed action-packed storytelling are a joy to sing or read aloud and give kids plenty to imitate as they listen. Children will love joining in on the repeated phrases, and older kids will learn the jaunty verses in no time.
In her delightful, spritely illustrations, Noël Ill replicates the eerie autumn atmosphere that adds to the thrill of Halloween while also clearly depicting motions that children can perform with each verse. Ill’s diverse kids float, dance, growl, screech, and shake with the same enthusiasm as little readers. The final two-page spreads invite children to that nighttime world of magic and treats.
Ages 3 – 6
Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701464
You can buy If You’re Scary and You Know It! on the Familius website.
You can also find If You’re Scary and You Know It! at these booksellers
The Gifts of the Animals
Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara
The wonder of that first Christmas night glows in Carole Gerber’s beautiful story that follows the animals in the stable as they make a warm and soft bed for Jesus to sleep in. Young readers will be mesmerized by the gentle generosity of the ox, cow, sheep, birds, and mice as they all work together to provide for the baby to come. As the shepherds are visited by the angels and go to worship Jesus, Gerber uses the lyrical language and flowing cadence of the King James version of the biblical story to create a tender and glorious read aloud for the whole family.
Yumi Shimokawara’s gorgeous, soft-hued illustrations are breathtaking in their detail and inspiration. Pride, fellowship, and diligence shine on the animals’ faces as they create a manger bed worthy of the baby Jesus. Realistic and traditional images of the stone stable, the shepherds and their flock blend poignantly with the depiction of the singing angels that could come from any diverse modern choir. The final illustration in which the animals and the shepherds gather around Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in adoration reveals the promise and hope of the true meaning of Christmas.
Ages 3 – 8
Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701594
You can buy The Gifts of the Animals on the Familius website.
You can also find The Gifts of the Animals at these booksellers
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