Hi Math is Everywhere readers,
I’m excited to have picture book author, Heather Macht with us today to talk books and STEM and all about her newest book Rex the…We-Don’t-Know that just came out in March!
Kaitlyn: Hi Heather, thanks for joining us today!
Heather: Thanks for having me, Kaitlyn!
Kaitlyn: It’s my pleasure. To start off, you got your education in fine arts and also write creative books, often with great STEM facts woven in. Why do you think the arts and the sciences vibe together so well?
Heather: That’s a great question. I think art and science both require creative processes and out-of-the-box thinking. Both involve study and research, trial and error, and require the creator to come up with formulas for success. Mixed together, they complement each other perfectly.
Kaitlyn: YES! I totally agree, what a beautiful way to look at how the sciences and arts relate. What was your inspiration for your newest picture book Rex the…We-Don’t-Know?
Heather: So, when I first started writing picture books (20 years ago) I desperately attempted to write books about my favorite pets I had growing up. And after I received piles of rejections, I came to a sad realization: so was everyone else. The market was flooded with pet stories. I needed to find a way to make mine stand out. After much reflection, I had the perfect idea and got to work. Like a mad scientist, I mixed all the animals I loved growing up into one creature (and an adorable one at that!). Rex the…We-Don’t-Know is a blend between a dog, cat, lizard, dragon, and unicorn. I’m still so excited to flip through the pages of this colorful book and reminisce about my childhood pets.
Kaitlyn: Haha, I bet we have all had some sad realizations like that; I love how you never gave up on it and used your creativity to come back to it later. Can you share your journey to publication?
Heather: Absolutely! I’m not going to lie, it was a long journey. When I graduated high school in the year 2000, I knew right away that I wanted to be a published picture book author. I was always told I was great at creative writing, it was something I actually enjoyed doing, so naturally the next step was to become an author… right? 😉
Heather: I spent so much of my free time over the next several years researching how to become published and learned all about word counts, formatting manuscripts, and querying publishers open to non-agented authors (at the time, I didn’t feel I needed an agent – yikes, lol). Then, I decided to study published books (classics and recent publications). THEN I went to it: I wrote and started querying my very first picture book manuscript thinking I was going to get so much positive feedback, be an author, and my dream was going to come true, like…instantly come true!… Then after receiving so, so many rejections I realized there was more to it than I ever could’ve imagined.
Years later, I learned to look for trends, how to put different angles and hooks into stories, and came up with a creative STEM story about dinosaurs. I queried Pelican Publishing in 2013 with my manuscript and three months later I received an email stating they wanted to publish my book, You May Just Be a Dinosaur. The rest is history.
Kaitlyn: I love this story, so much persistence and wonderful research. Can you share your journey to finding an agent?
Heather: The agent question is always funny to me. I never thought I needed an agent when I first started my writing journey, so I started querying publishers right away. I still laugh at that. Boy did I need an agent! Agents have great connections, great ideas, and can really help develop your career.
At the beginning of this year, when I started looking for agents, I came across Lynnette Novak’s MSWL requests a few times. I thoroughly researched her, saw her super-impressive background, and saw she had a love for quirky animals like I did (jackpot!). I wrote her a query, hit the send button on one of my favorites manuscripts I was working on, and kept my fingers crossed. Within three days I heard back from her asking for more work, and within the next week I had a phone call offering representation! What’s great is one of my local critique buddies is also her client, and when I asked her other clients (on top of that) about her agenting style, and what it was like to work with her, everyone only had the most positive things to say. Needless to say, I accepted with a huge YES and we got to work almost immediately. We have a lot of fun projects in the works so stay tuned. 🙂
Kaitlyn: Super jackpot! What advice would you give to other authors and illustrators on this journey?
Heather: Don’t give up. I know that’s so cliche, but seriously…just don’t. If you have the drive and the passion, keep to it! Don’t let bad news along the way keep you from moving forward. This journey is filled with rejections and heartache. BUT it’s also filled with so many rewarding moments, too, that overshadow the bad. When I think back of every rejection I’ve experienced, every tear I’ve shed, and every dream that was (temporarily) crushed from the beginning of my writing journey to now (even as a published author almost 20 years later) I can only smile and say it was worth sticking in there and not giving up.
Kaitlyn: Beautiful advice! Finally, if you were able to spend the day with your favorite author or illustrator, would you rather drink tea by the fireside or go fly a kite?
Heather: AH! What an amazing question!! I would love to drink coffee by a warm fire with Shel Silverstein in the hopes he might recite poetry for me.
Kaitlyn: What a dream. If it happens, let me know, and I’ll come running! Thank you so much for this delightful interview!
Heather: Thanks SO much for having me! It was a pleasure.
Kaitlyn: The pleasure was all mine. I loved learning about your adorable new book and your journey.
Book info for Rex the…We-Don’t-Know
When Max and Raven went to the pound to adopt a new animal, they certainly didn’t expect to find Rex, a . . . well, we don’t know. With his fluffy green hair, a long curly tail, and a sparkly-white horn on his forehead, they fell in love with him instantly and decided they’d give him a chance. They are soon in for the time of their lives!
Heather Macht, is the author of REX THE…WE-DON’T-KNOW (Pelican, 2020), THE ANT FARM ESCAPE! (Pelican, 2019), and YOU MAY JUST BE A DINOSAUR (Pelican, 2015). She is an active children’s author who has been creating stories to share since the third grade! Macht is most passionate about creating fun, science-themed books for kids.
She earned her degree in fine arts from Florida State College at Jacksonville and currently holds a career as an I.T. professional and a full-time mom. Macht’s an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, is a volunteer judge for Rate Your Story, and lives with her family in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. In her spare time, she dwells in poetry and picture books, and enjoys painting. For more, visit http://www.heathermacht.com.
Kaitlyn’s Review of Rex the…We-Don’t Know
This book is so adorable. It’s a great family book filled with compassion for something that is different. The family adopts a pet that no one is sure what it really is because it has qualities they all want. When things get difficult (it’s hard to handle a creature when you don’t know its needs and it has some…quirks, like breathing fire), the family almost gives up, but when one of the children shows the We-Don’t-Know compassion, things take a turn for the better, and they live happily ever after. The illustrations are spot on and so fun and entertaining, too!
Would you like to win one of TWO picture book manuscript critiques by author Heather Macht?
You have three ways to enter (each one will get you one entry into the drawing, so feel free to do all three!):
- Comment on this post
- Share in the comments below that you did a purchase request for Rex the…We-Don’t-Know at your library
- Retweet my tweet about this blog post on Twitter (gold star if you tag
@AuthorHMacht in the comments of the original post and share why you’re excited about the book or what jewels you’ve mined from her about writing in this interview)
Thanks so much for reading, sharing, and supporting authors in any way you can. Buy their books, read, review, and share, share, share!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez
PS if you’re looking for some things to get your creative juices flowing, make sure to check out Spring Into Writing by Dani Duck and The Eenie Meeney Mini Writing Contest by Susanna Hill both happening NOW! and if you missed the interview last week, you still have a bit of time to get in on the giveaway there too.