Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
I’m so excited to feature one of my favorite kidlit people who helped me become an agent in fact (though she doesn’t know it! – surprise!) We’re here to chat with the wonderful Jocelyn Rish about her first picture book (of many to come) Battle of the Butts: The Science Behind Animal Behinds by Jocelyn Rish, illustrated by David Creighton-Pester.
Book description from the publisher (Hachette Book Group / Running Press Kids ):
Did you know manatees swim using farts? Or that herrings communicate by passing gas?
Butts are used for breathing, eating, swimming, talking, and even killing in the animal kingdom. Focusing on ten different animals and their derrières, and offering fun facts about their origin, habitat, and “posterior power,” this hilarious book captures the wonder of our ecosystem. Which animal has the coolest butt power? That’s up to you to decide!
Kaitlyn: Hi, Jocelyn, thank you so much for joining us and for teaching me how to pitch stories! Without you, I don’t think I could have ever become an agent, and now I get to help celebrate your amazing debut book!
Jocelyn: Thank you so much for asking me to visit! I’ve loved seeing your journey since you joined the Transmedia Mutts Facebook group. Although I didn’t realize what an impact I had on you becoming an agent. That makes my heart all warm and fuzzy because I know you’re doing great things in the kidlit world!
Kaitlyn: Aw, I’m so glad, and I can’t thank you enough for helping me learn how to pitch! To start, you have to share the awesome journey of how this book came into the world? (Readers, you’re going to love this and be so inspired to go to workshops!)
Jocelyn: Late one night I was doom-scrolling Twitter when I saw an adorable picture of a manatee with the words “Manatees can control their buoyancy through an endless cycle of farting. There. That’s a thing you know now.”
I snort-laughed and thought that can’t possibly be true, so I googled it. And it is true! The best part is the google search also brought up articles about other animals that do weird things with their booties. So I started reading all these cool facts, and I just knew they would make a hilarious book.
But I’m a terrible procrastinator, so I didn’t actually start writing anything, especially because I knew nothing about writing nonfiction. Then I saw the Highlights Foundation was offering a workshop called The Nuts & Bolts of Science Writing, so I signed up. Since I had to submit pages for review, I scrambled to write the first three animal sections. The faculty (two authors and an editor) loved it and told me to finish it ASAP and start submitting, and my fellow attendees were super enthusiastic about it.
So buoyed by all their support and encouragement, plus everything I’d learned, I came home and finished writing the book in a frenzy. Then I queried and got an offer in less than a month. I signed with my agent, she immediately sent it on submission, and we had the offer from Running Press Kids in about three months. It was all such a whirlwind after my years and years of unsuccessfully trying to get my novels published.
Kaitlyn: This is so inspiring! For those of you who have been considering in person events, definitely consider it! Now, Jocelyn, you have another Battle book coming soon, too. Can you share why you think stories like these are so important for our little ones and can you share a bit about working on a series of books?
Jocelyn: BATTLE OF THE BRAINS is the next one in the series, so we’re heading to the opposite end of the animals! It’s scheduled for release in Nov. 2022.
It’s important to make science fun and accessible for kids. I think science is sometimes seen as boring and something only “nerds” enjoy, and unfortunately we’re currently seeing the risk of people not understanding scientific processes. We need to show kids that science is interesting, with all kinds of weird and wacky (and funny!) things happening in nature. For both BUTTS and BRAINS, I tried to unearth facts that made me say, “Wow!” or “Really???” and then present them in a way that would fill kids with wonder.
Working on the second book in the series was a challenge. On the one hand, the format was already established, so that part was easy. However, brains are not as inherently funny as butts, so I had to work extra hard to keep the text chatty and (hopefully!) entertaining. Also, with brains, a lot of the facts are known because of experiments rather than just observation, so I had to figure out how to describe the experiments without getting bogged down in technical terms and boring “they did this, then they did this, then they did this.” I’m nervous about BRAINS because I know it’s not as funny as BUTTS, but I think the facts are fascinating, so I hope kids do, too.
Kaitlyn: Haha, ” the opposite end”! If your interviews are this funny (as well as BATTLE OF THE BUTTS, which I know is funny) I bet you helped make brains just as entertaining. And I agree, you are one of the people helping to make science cool, and I appreciate you for that! Onto the next question: If you had to pick, what’s your favorite spread and why?
Jocelyn: Gah, this is so hard because I love all of them! David Creighton-Pester did such an amazing job with the illustrations. But if I have to pick one, it’s the manatees spread. I loved manatees as a kid, plus manatees were the inspiration for the book, and they’re just so freakin’ adorable as they fart.
Kaitlyn: Haha, “adorable as they fart” so many great quotes in this interview already! Can you share who your editor was for this book, and what you enjoyed about working with this editor?
Jocelyn: My editor is Allison Cohen from Running Press Kids, and she is delightful to work with. She seems to have as much fun with these silly and mind-blowing animal facts as I do. Also, I tend to be a bit, uh, wordy, and she has a knack for suggesting ways to say what I intended with a lot less words, while maintaining my voice, which is great.
Kaitlyn: Allison is such a delight, and she sounds like the perfect editor for you. Now you already shared your agent sent this on submission, and we know she helped you find the perfect editor, so can you remind the readers who your agent is and why you enjoy working with this agent so much?
Jocelyn: My agent is Tracy Marchini with BookEnds Literary, and she also writes STEM picture books, so we both passionately believe in making science and math something kids enjoy. And she’s actually the one who suggested brains as the topic for the next book! I’d been keeping a running list of cool animal-part facts (tongues, eyes, ears), but I hadn’t considered brains. Although now I realize it makes perfect sense to go from the back end to the front end!
Kaitlyn: Wow, that’s the best relationship when someone not only gets your writing but can be the best at suggesting where to go next! You’re the one who helped me, and countless others, learn how to pitch. Can you talk a bit about how you and your brother got the grant and about any other cool opportunities that my readers might want to pursue and how to find those opportunities? (And maybe about how your group got its name so we can put in a great dog photo?)
Jocelyn: The South Carolina Arts Commission offers a grant called the Artists’ Ventures Initiative to help SC creatives earn a living from their art. My brother and I both applied a few years ago, and we each won a grant. His was to make our horror film GRAVE INTENTIONS (which you can watch on Amazon!), and mine was to create courses to help writers with their craft. Even though we applied individually, they were both team efforts, so we’ve been busy!
It took us forever to come up with the name for the course creation stuff. Since the plan was for me to create courses about book writing, for him to create courses about marketing, and for both of us to create courses about filmmaking, we wanted something to show we were covering lots of different types of media. And the Rish family LOVES our dogs, so we wanted to incorporate them somehow. So after many brainstorming sessions with the thesaurus, we finally came up with Transmedia Mutts. For those not familiar with the term, transmedia is a story or experience that happens across multiple platforms, so we thought it represented the multiple formats we were planning to cover.
We had fun making the pitching lessons that are currently available for free in the Transmedia Mutts Facebook group (join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/transmediamutts). But we kind of got sidetracked by making our movie, and then me writing BUTTS and BRAINS, so we have not yet circled back to all the other courses we wanted to make. Maybe 2022 is our year for teaching?
I’ve won several different types of grants over the years for my writing and filmmaking projects, so I recommend that your readers google different types of grants. They should definitely check out the arts organizations in their states as a starting point (less competition!) and then start branching out to national writing organizations to see what they offer.
Kaitlyn: As always, you’re such an amazing wealth of information. Readers, if you can, please read and review or even buy Jocelyn’s amazing book to give back to her for all this knowledge! Jocelyn, can you share some advice you like to give to aspiring authors (beyond this awesome pitch thread from Kidlit Zombie Week, which, readers, you definitely should check out)?
Jocelyn: My big piece of advice is TRY SOMETHING NEW!!! I always thought I was a fiction writer and a novel writer. I’d maybe thought once or twice about writing a picture book. I’d NEVER thought about writing nonfiction. But after years in the query trenches, my debut was a nonfiction picture book! Being willing to step outside my writing comfort zone is what finally led to my publishing dream coming true. So experiment with your writing!
Kaitlyn: You are so inspiring, my friend, and readers, it’s true, she is just as funny and kind as she seems in this interview. Can you please share with us what’s next for you or what you’re working on now?
Jocelyn: I actually just got the first pass pages for BRAINS today, so that’s what I’m currently working on. As for new projects, I’m kind of all over the place right now. I have about thirty ideas for nonfiction animal books that are itching at my brain. And I have an idea for a screenplay that is literally screaming at me to write it. And my novels all need another round of revisions for my agent. Soooo, basically I’m paralyzed by indecision about what to do next!
Kaitlyn: Well, it sounds like you won’t be bored after your edits on BRAINS. I can’t wait to hear which project you choose to work on next! Finally, if you could meet your favorite author, illustrator, scientist, or mathematician would you chat by a fireside or go on an adventure?
Jocelyn: Totally a fireside chat! And I kind of already got to do this! One of my favorite authors is Jonathan Stroud, and a few years ago I got to interview him at YALLFest. We were in a hotel lobby on a giant couch near a fireplace (it was not burning though), and I got to pick his brain about stories and writing. He was so knowledgeable and kind.
Kaitlyn: Whaaat? That’s AMAZING! I’m so happy for you and can’t wait for the day you and I get to chat by a fire! Thank you so much for sharing and for joining us today, Jocelyn!
Jocelyn: Thank you for having me! It’s always a pleasure to be on your blog!
Kaitlyn: You’re too sweet. I can’t thank you enough for all the wonderful knowledge you’ve shared with my readers and I as well as the beautiful books you’re bringing into the world to teach everyone in the world about awesome animal facts!
Bookshop – https://bookshop.org/a/21801/9780762497775
Amazon – https://amzn.to/2O8Vxh7
Author Bio and links
Jocelyn Rish is a writer and filmmaker who never imagined her cheeky sense of humor would lead to a book about animal butts. When she’s not researching fanny facts, she tutors kids to help them discover the magic of reading. Jocelyn has won numerous awards for her short stories, screenplays, short films, and novels and lives in South Carolina with her booty-ful dogs.
Website – www.jocelynrish.com
Twitter – https://twitter.com/JocelynRish
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/jocelynrish/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/JocelynRish.Author
For one of the most fun nonfiction picture books of all time, you definitely need BATTLE OF THE BUTTS! The butt battles, fun interactions, and fantastic puns – “terrific tushie” or a “boring backside” – complimented by adorable pictures makes this one of the top books for kids. They’ll be learning tons of science facts and be having so much fun that they’ll ask for it again and again!
A signed copy of BATTLE OF THE BUTTS (US only please) or an unsigned copy via (anywhere the Book Depository delivers)
To enter the random drawing, do any/all of the following options, then come back and write all of the things you did in ONE blog comment. (If you forget something, feel free to reply to your first comment ;))
- Share that you added BATTLE OF THE BUTTS to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share that you ordered a copy of BATTLE OF THE BUTTS
- Share that you did a purchase request for BATTLE OF THE BUTTS at your library
- Share that you left a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble
- Share that you retweeted or quote retweeted my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tagged some friends.
Thank you, dear readers, for supporting another amazing kidlit creator, and remember, there’s still time to pre-order the first Team Sanchez books that are coming out in 2022: MUSHROOM RAIN, HATTIE HATES HUGS, and OLD FRIENDS!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez