A Troop of Monkeys

ETA: Although the contest is now over, I’ve kept this post as I originally wrote it with one exception: MeeGenius took down the link to my story on their website, so I have removed the links that were in the original post. 3/3/12

Many of you know by now that I recently submitted one of my stories to a contest with MeeGenius – an e-publisher.  For the past week, I’ve been emailing contacts and posting it on Twitter and Facebook – getting my first real taste of promoting a book.  Hands off to published authors – it’s very time-consuming, difficult, and if you are like me and not used to self-promotion, pretty uncomfortable.  It just feels strange to contact people and say, “Hey, look at me! Vote for me! Please!”

I decided I’d feel better about it if I shared a little background behind the story.  Because every story has a story!

This book, A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, was one of the first I wrote once I decided to try my hand at children’s picture books.  My husband came up with the original idea after he found a website with a list of some of the collective nouns for animals.  He thought I should write a simple book with just the group name.  A group of monkeys is called a TROOP.  And so on.

When I looked over the list, I was surprised to see how few of the group names I actually knew.  I’d heard of a pack of wolves, a herd of buffalo and a pride of lions.  But a float of crocodiles? An ostentation of peacocks?  Those were entirely new and fun to discover.  I also enjoyed the fact that the group names tended to describe either the animal’s appearance or behavior.  So I decided to write the story as a concept book (rather than one with a plot), and use rhyming couplets to teach both the collective nouns and one fact about each of the animals.

A couple of years ago, after putting TROOP through a few rounds of critiques, I submitted it to a few editors.  I got a couple of “helpful” rejections with the message that the story wasn’t “big” enough to be a trade picture book and that there were other, similar books on the market.  In my own research, I had found a board book with a few collective nouns and a book of the type my husband had suggested I write, but none just like mine.  Nevertheless, I moved on and kept TROOP in a virtual drawer.

I never stopped loving it though, and two years later, with the world of publishing turned upside down as a result of e-books, e-readers, and apps, I started

An "ostentatious" peacock

thinking about bringing TROOP back from the dead.  I think the book would translate very well to the enhanced e-book format.  I envision kids pressing on the owls and hearing them hoot, or tapping the peacocks and seeing them shake their tail feathers.  And although it’s a dirty word when submitting, I gathered so many of these collective nouns in my research, I have enough for a series based on different types of animals – birds (a convocation of eagles), aquatic (a smack of jellyfish), insects/reptiles (a rhumba of rattlesnakes).

Finally, there are many ways to use a book like this in the classroom, the least of which being the difference between collective and singular nouns.  It’s an opportunity to teach interesting vocabulary and tie it back to the animals.  What does ostentatious or shrewd mean, and why do we use those words to describe peacocks and apes, respectively?  There’s a “green” element to the book with its final plea to take care of the earth and share it with animals.  There’s also a science and geography component – where do these animals live?  What do they eat?  How do they behave?  I look forward to doing these presentations in classrooms myself!  In fact, if I win, my kids’ school library gets a complete library of MeeGenius books for free!

While I don’t love the promotion aspect of this contest, I do believe in this story and want to see it published.  Furthermore, I am set on publishing it in an e-book format.  The MeeGenius contest is a good opportunity to try to make that happen.  I wish the winner was chosen entirely on editorial judgement so I could hide behind my laptop, but I have to admit I’ve learned a lot from putting a tiny toe into the waters of promotion.  So here it is once again.  If you haven’t already, please take a look at A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, and if you have a Facebook account, vote for it if it speaks to you.

I know there are other picture book writers who follow my blog who have also entered this contest.  I invite you to include links to your stories in the comments.  I know I’ve “liked” several from the PiBoIdMo group, but there may be more.  Feel free to share the “story” behind your stories if you are so inclined.  🙂

Thanks for reading! I feel better having provided some background on this story, how it came to life, and what it means to me.

Categories: Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Picture Books, Poetry, Publishing, Queries, Rhyming, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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41 Comments

  1. Very cool. I always enjoy hearing the story behind the story. Well done.

  2. Ellen L. Ramsey

    I like your story even better now that I know the story behind the story!

  3. That was so fun, hearing the story behind the story! Thanks for sharing. You’ll be amused to know that I’ve written this book, too. Not in rhyme, and with a plot, but with the collective animal groups. It has been out 4 or 5 times and turned down every time, but I still love the idea for all the reasons you mentioned loving yours. Perhaps not surprisingly, my rejections have been very similarly worded to yours. There must be something we’re missing! 🙂 I hope TROOP wins the contest!

    • Huh. Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s gotten that feedback. It’s strange though isn’t it, given that I’ve never really seen one in the stores or library?

  4. What a great story. I haven’t heard of most of those group names, aren’t they wonderful? And you were great at promoting, don’t feel silly, we all need promoting at some point. I’m about to create a chapbook of 24 silly zoo poems, and chapbooks certainly don’t sell themselves. When you do get it published, we’ll cheer you along for sure.

  5. I love your ideas for the inter-activity of your book, Julie. And with today’s ereaders — and the ereaders of the future — there are so many possibilities. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. I like the Quiver of Cobras!

  7. Thanks for sharing the story behind the story! I enjoyed your story so much, and definitely cast my vote!

  8. I already voted for you last week, but I really enjoyed hearing more of the story behind the book. A rhumba of rattlesnakes– you could write a book about each animal. It’s hard to promote yourself, but you have the support of a community to help you. Hope you win and your school wins books!

    • It’s true – you really could write a book about each one. Did I just give you some more ideas to add to your PiBoIdMo list? 🙂

  9. I voted for your manuscript. I liked it very much. Even more — I liked the blog post explaining how the story came to be. Good Luck!

  10. I loved your story, Julie! I agree it needs to be published. I would have loved having it in my classroom when I was a teacher. 😀

  11. Ooh, you and Lena Corazon have the most beautiful pictures of peacocks!

    And btw, I voted for you! I hope your week goes as well as you planned! 🙂

  12. Thank you so much Julie for sharing the story behind your story. I truly enjoyed reading your work. I also thank you for for inviting those of us who are in the contest to include our links. It is difficult to promote yourself, and I appreciate you giving another outlet. I have 2 stories in the contest. DEAR TOOTH FAIRY, is based upon snippets of the actual tooth fairy letters that I wrote to my own children. As a young girl, my dad always wrote to me very elaborate letters every time that I lost a tooth. I enjoyed it so much that I had to do the same for my kids. Years ago I showed it to some people in the entertainment industry who were at my house for dinner–they saw the mass market appear. I put it in a drawer because I didn’t want the lunch boxes, stationary, and t-shirts. I wanted a book. After a while I took it to an SCBWI retreat and good great feedback from my group, and got to editing. I saw this contest as a way to bring it back. I hope that others enjoy it too!

    http://www.meegenius.com/challenge/dear-tooth-fairy-by-sandi-hershenson

    • Sandi, I saw and voted for your stories too! I especially liked DEAR TOOTH FAIRY because the tooth fairy has exchanged letters with my daughter too. 🙂

  13. The idea of the book is fantastic, and it could lead to a series. As for the promotion, I think you’re doing a fine job of letting people know about the contest and let them decide if they’re going to vote for your work. I wish I could strike the balance you already achieved.

  14. Awesome story, Julie! BFF and I both loved it.

    It’s rare that adults learn new words while reading childrens books ~ they would with this one. I can definitely see opportunity for an interactive e-book with Jungle Sounds and Bird Calls.

  15. Jarm Del Boccio

    I voted, Julie! I like the concept and the story. Maybe it’s because I love animals too. Thanks for sharing…

  16. I enjoyed it when I voted the other day. When I was on safari, some of the guides called a “herd” of Zebra a dazzle? Do you know if that’s true, I haven’t been able to confirm that and well, no time like the present to ask … Good luck with it.

    • Zebras are one of those animals groups that have more than one name, but dazzle isn’t one of them. They can be a herd, which is kind of boring. Another name for them is a Zeal of zebras. I actually used that one in a previous version of this story.

  17. Thanks to EVERYONE who’s voted and commented here. I so appreciate your support!!

  18. Love, love, love this book! What an interesting idea to make it interactive ~ technology certainly is making this an exciting time to be a writer. Congrats and I look forward to the rest of them.

  19. I love storytellers as much as I love stories, so I ALWAYS like to hear the story behind the story! I voted last week for you. Your story has as much appeal at home as in a classroom, I believe and am hoping its time has come!

  20. I loved hearing the story behind the story Julie. It gives it a more personal appeal and you have promoted well. Voted last week, would love to see this published. (then hopefully get to interview the author..lol)*winks*

  21. I loved A Troop is a Group of Monkeys and I voted for it! Great vocabulary words for kids, and I really like the message at the end of the story. From my own use with our Smarboard, I can tell you that technological interaction=attention in the classroom! We subscribe to an e-book library called Tumblebooks. Your book would be a great addition to it!

    • I wish we had Smartboards at my kids’ school. I’ve heard how amazing they are, and I take it as a huge compliment that you think my story would work well in that environment. Thanks!

  22. I homeschooled my kids for about 7 years, and now they are in school. I’ve read to my kids every night. My oldest is 22.

    In all those years of reading to my kids, we’ve NEVER come across a book of this idea, Julie.

    Keep on with it! It’ll win for sure!
    love,
    Denise of Ingleside, PEI

    • Denise – thanks for confirming what I thought from my own research! I also love your optimism and I’m trying to channel it for myself! 🙂

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