Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
Pssst! Come closer.
Today’s blog is TOP SECRET, so make sure to grab all your spy gear and get ready for tons of fun because we get to chat with the wonderful Kira Bigwood about her debut picture book SECRET, SECRET AGENT GUY, illustrated by Celia Krampien, that’s all about…you guessed it: spies! Get those night vision goggles on and get ready for some fun! It releases this week on May 11th!
Send little spies to sleep with this hilarious, tongue-in-cheek lullaby set to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
Dear Fellow Agents:
Your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to join Secret, Secret Agent Guy on his bedtime assignment, code name: Operation Lollipop. Equipped with night-vision goggles, a jetpack, and grappling hook, he is prepared for every eventuality…or is he?
Will this 007-year-old complete his covert quest, or will he be outsmarted by an adversary he never saw coming?
Kaitlyn: Hi Kira, thanks so much for joining us on the Math is Everywhere blog! If you couldn’t tell by my introduction, I LOOOVE spy fun.
Kira: Haha, thank you for having me, Kaitlyn, AND for that super sneaky intro! I agree, there’s just something irresistible about spies and top secret missions.
Kaitlyn: Definitely irrestible! Now, if my information-gathering spy skills are on par, I believe Alex Borbolla at Atheneum loves spy books. Is Alex your editor? If so can you share how your book got picked up and what you enjoyed about working with this editor?
Kira: Yes, Alex Borbolla is my editor—she is an absolute whiz, and has made our book even better than I could have imagined! We met at the RUCCL conference, and if you’ve never heard of it, you MUST apply! They pair you with an editor/agent mentor, who provides feedback on your work. Such a great opportunity. Anyway, Alex was not my mentor that day, but I met her during the lunch. I was testing a theory, doing everything opposite of what I would normally do. So instead of retreating into my bagel and cream cheese (like any good introvert), I chatted up Alex and discovered…she loved spy stories! When I submitted to her afterwards, she said she was “charmed” by my manuscript, and the next thing I knew, I was signing a book deal (and also completely freaking out)!
Kaitlyn: Ah, that’s such an amazing and inspiring story, and Alex really is such a gem! Can you share how you received this mission? i.e. What was your inspiration for this book?
Kira: I wrote SECRET, SECRET AGENT GUY after being booby-trapped by my own sleuthing children. Kids love spies! Heck, we all love spies! I wanted to come up with a “sticky” concept that I hadn’t seen before, so I put on my advertising copywriter hat (my day job) and landed on this” lullabies for spies” idea. Once I had my concept, the story sort of wrote itself (which does NOT usually happen for me!).
Kaitlyn: It sounds like it was meant to be, such a fun concept! Can you tell us why you think this mission/book is so important to share with our little ones?
Kira: What a great question! In a world filled with screens, remote school and overscheduled, overstructured days, it’s easy to forget what kids are meant to do. Their mission? To play! To use their imagination! To create a whole new world, and get lost in it! I hope this book serves as a fun reminder to do just that.
Kaitlyn: This book definitely doesn that: mission accomplished. Another mission you accomplished was a great ending (which we won’t give away), but can you share a bit about it?
Kira: That’s so nice to hear—thank you! After the playful, vibrant and downright genius illustrations from the masterful Celia Krampien, the ending is my next favorite part. And honestly, it kind of just fell into place (don’t you love when that happens?). This is a story about siblings on a bedtime adventure, but—Aha!—there’s another mission going on behind the scenes. I know I’m being elusive, but I don’t want to spoil it. After all, it wouldn’t be a spy story without a shocking twist ending!
Kaitlyn: I DO love when that happens–it’s actually my favorite when things just fall into place because you just KNOW they were meant to be. And I agree, spy stories definitely need a shocking twist ending! This book is written in rhyme, something that many people are told to stay away from because rhyme is so hard. Did you intend to write this in rhyme?
Kira: Though I typically don’t write in rhyme (for the exact reason you just said), I absolutely had to for this story—it’s a 007-spin on the classic, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Because the content of my lullaby is so different from the original, it was crucial for me to maintain that same rhythm, meter and, yes, rhyme, in order for my readers to understand my concept.
Kaitlyn: That is so awesome! And might I say, one of THE COOLEST Twinkle Twinkle Little Star spin-offs I’ve ever seen! How did you study/practice/learn rhyme and meter to ensure that your rhyme was spot on?
Kira: Confession: I had a cheat sheet! I studied Twinkle and used it as my blueprint. I sang it out loud while I wrote, then sang my lyrics over that same tune, again and again and again and again (forgive me if I never sing TTLS to my kids again). Even with that aid, my early drafts still needed help. My critique partners pointed out some places where I used near-rhymes instead of perfect rhymes (I didn’t even know the difference at the time!), and I binge-watched Renée LaTulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab to get everything just right.
Kaitlyn: Ah! Renee is one of my favorite people ever! And I was so lucky to get to be part of her Peek and Critique series! So much of what I know about rhyme and meter is from Renee and Diana Murray. Speaking of wonderful women in publishing, can you share who your agent is, and why you enjoy working with this agent?
Kira: My agent is Jennie Dunham, of Dunham Literary. Working with her has been like having a coach in my corner every step of the way. Jennie is a straight up BOSS. While I’m over here hemming and hawing and second-guessing (like any good debut author), she’s already handled whatever it was I was worried about. She’s also really great about fostering a personal connection with phone calls and Zoom chats. The publishing world can feel pretty disconnected at times, so I’m thankful to have an agent who can talk kids and dogs with me as much as manuscripts and contracts.
Kaitlyn: That is such a lovely thing to hear! Having a partner is so important when choosing the agent for you, and it sounds like you found the best! Can you offer some advice to up-and-coming authors?
Kira: There are no shortcuts (unfortunately!). You will get out of publishing what you put into it. So put in a lot! Take classes, join critique groups and professional groups, attend conferences, have more than one story ready to go. Do all the things everyone’s been telling you. Write, revise, research. Don’t be in a rush to query. When you do query, expect to get some (lots of) rejections. Don’t take them personal, but do take them, because they are usually right and can teach you something. Be kind. Be appreciative. Support others. And most importantly, keep at it. I firmly believe that if you put in the effort, you will have no choice but to succeed!
Kaitlyn: Yes yes yes to everything you said! Such wonderful advice! Can you each share a bit about your next book(s) and/or projects you’re working on now?
Kira: I can’t share too much (because then the universe will of course smite me—it’s a proven theory!), but I will say I’m putting the finishing touches on a non-fiction science manuscript right now for my agent. Hoping it will be my next picture book (*crosses fingers* *knocks on wood* *avoids every crack in the sidewalk*)!
Kaitlyn: Hahahaha, I’m SO glad I’m not the only superstitious one here, though the knocking on wood is much better than my old “don’t wash the socks during a weekend soccer tournament”–phew, that was a smelly one! Finally, if you could spend a day with your favorite author or illustrator, would you sit by a fireside and chat or go out on an adventure together?
Kira: Definitely go out on an adventure! I’m at my best when I’m moving, and even better if I’ve been fed, so maybe we’d do something outdoorsy (an obstacle course might be fun), then have NBH (Nothing But Hors d’oeuvres) and some wine. Can we make this happen, actually?
Kaitlyn: Yes please, count me in! I love NBH (my favorite new acronym) and wine, and obstacle courses (as long as they’re firmly on the ground–those rope courses look SCARY sometimes with their height!) Thanks so much again for joining us and sharing such wonderful insight today!
Kira: Thank you very much for having me, Kaitlyn. I really, truly appreciate the support you give to kidlit creators.
Kaitlyn: Aw, you’re too kind; I’m so happy to give back in a small way the way my wonderful mentors have!
Links to buy Secret, Secret Agent Guy
Please support Kira’s indie! https://www.bookendsandbeginnings.com/book/9781534469211
Kira Bigwood writes children’s books, TV commercials, and much to her 10-year-old’s dismay, notes for her kids’ lunchboxes. She was once edited out of a My Little Pony ad because she was missing her two front teeth (not that she’s still hanging on to that or anything). Luckily, she has all her teeth now, and a much more positive attitude toward the editing process. Kira is a graduate of the University of North Carolina (go Heels!), and lives in Chicago with her husband and three children. Secret, Secret Agent Guy is her debut picture book. Visit her at kirabigwood.com, and follow her on Twitter @KBigwood, and Instagram @KiraBigwood.
Kaitlyn review of the book
Secret, Secret Agent Guy is such a fun book for all kids and adults! The spy fun, the gadgets, the mission, the fun art, and the PHENOMENAL ending will surely have your little ones asking for this book to read again and again!
Do you want to win a picture book manuscript critique from Kira?
Here are all the ways to get into the giveaway (each one is an extra entry):
- Comment on this post
- Share in the comments below that you added Secret, Secret Agent Guy to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of Secret, Secret Agent Guy
- Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for Secret, Secret Agent Guy at your library
- If you’ve read the book, share that you’ve left a critique on Amazon or Goodreads
- Quote retweet my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tag three friends.
Thank you all for supporting another amazing creator! Spring Fling Kidlit friends, we’re still connecting winners to their prize donors; I can’t wait to connect you all, and make sure to subscribe to this blog so you get in on the analysis coming soon!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez