Award-winning author Nancy Gee is an entrepreneur and business owner. For more than 30 years, she has owned and operated Maywood Industries, Inc., a certified woman-owned wood fabrication and building materials supplier. Her books have earned the prestigious Mom’s Choice Awards, and are distributed throughout Europe.
For generations, her family has called Orland Park, IL, home. Nancy’s two main characters (Al and Sal the flying squirrels) frequent the woods in her backyard, and give her lots of story ideas. She loves writing rhyming picture books that open children’s worlds to unique information and the joys of reading and storytelling.
Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Nancy. Your first book, The Secret Drawer, is based on a true event. Would you like to tell us a little about that?
Nancy Gee: The Secret Drawer began when an unknown animal got into my sock drawer. We didn’t notice, but our family cat did! Odis guarded that drawer for two days until the drawer was opened! We didn’t know what it was. Later, we learned this amazing creature was a flying squirrel.
As you might guess, this was a favorite story of my grand boys, who were nine and 10 at the time. They loved having me tell and retell the events and asked me to write a book for all children to enjoy. I was thinking I already have a full time job, so my initial response “I don’t have time to write a book.” They promptly reminded me that I always tell them “You can do anything! We challenge you to write a children’s book!” And the rest is history.
Ferrante: What was the inspiration for your second picture book, The Secret Path?
Ferrante: What is the most interesting fact you have learned about flying squirrels?
Gee: Just one? There are so many fascinating facts about the flying squirrels, starting with I don’t know they lived in the Chicago area. As for most interesting, I would have to say it goes to their babies. Flying squirrel babies are born with only one tooth and in one week they have four.
Ferrante: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? How do you manage it?
Gee: My greatest challenge is pacing myself. My creative ideas are limitless, and I am always thinking about new ideas. I laugh that I have two full time jobs. My daytime job is running my company and my full-time night job is writing my books.
I manage by simply putting in a lot of hours and sleeping a little less . With a strong desire, drive, and high energy level it just happens.
Ferrante: Who is your favourite picture book author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Gee: I have a passion for rhyme, so it is probably no surprise that my favorite children’s author is Dr. Seuss. I find his writings absolutely amazing, magical, and still capturing the hearts of children. His books are simply ageless.
Ferrante: You are quite a determined and inventive marketer. Can you tell us a little about your most successful strategies?
Gee: Being a business owner, I know how important marketing is; and being an author is a business. Those books don’t just appear in the hands of children and families. The only way to get them there is through tireless hours of marketing. I have worked on marketing every hour of every day since the day The Secret Drawer was published in October 2014. My enthusiasm is relentless and never tires.
Believe me, marketing has a lot of closed doors and disappointments but those things only encourage me and energize my enthusiasm. Failure is only success turned inside out. My most successful strategies is listening to my child readers, as they have directed my journey.
Ferrante: Out of all the awards contest out there, why did you choose to enter the competition for The Mom’s Choice Award? Do you feel it is helped your sales or brand recognition?
Gee: Being a Mom’s Choice Awards Honoree was very important to me. The Mom’s Choice Awards is not a competition. It is a product evaluation company, where books and other products are measured against a very strict metric, not compared with peer products. The company’s commitment to identifying the best in family-friendly products speaks for itself, and awarded products provide families, educators, librarians, and even booksellers a guideline for making good, healthy family choices.
Children think it is fun to have an award sticker on their book. For parents it is meaningful to know that what they are looking for in reading material for their children is what Mom’s Choice awards represent. As an independently published author, having that sticker on my books helps it stand out on the bookstore shelves. So to answer your question, yes, I believe having the Mom’s Choice Award gives parents a comfort, makes the book even more special, and makes my books stand out for my buying audience!
What stood out for me was their commitment to its award winners. The MCA team stands by its commitment of building a relationship by providing Honorees lifetime marketing support. The company offers a lot to its Honorees and helps me, as an award-winning author, in any area I might need help. I cannot say enough positive things about the Mom’s Choice Awards.
I would add, though, that the recognition that comes with awards is great, but the greatest awards have come from the children with whom I share my books.
Ferrante: What methods/routines/steps do you use to create a picture book?
Gee: When I begin my books, I rehearse the story over and over, first. That repetition helps me formulate the pages and flow. I start with an outline of what I want to have on the page conceptually. Then sketch the visual for the page; after that, I add the words. I repeat the same process for every page and go back over it again and again until I am satisfied that I have capture the magic of where the story is going.
Ferrante: Are you working on a third book? Tell us about it.
Gee: My third book is completed and in the hands of the illustrator! Our release date is Spring 2017, so winter is going to feel long to me. Like The Secret Drawer and The Secret Path, the next book is also based on a true event!
When I was doing an author event at a local library this spring, I noticed a dog and a handler in a room next to where I was reading. My curiosity got the best of me, and after the event, I just had to know what was going on. When I went in, I discovered a dog laying while a child read to him. I had no idea about this pet therapy program in our library, and learned that many other people didn’t either!
One of those “creative ideas” I talked about popped into my head! That day I decided to write The SECRET ROOM. I want to celebrate reading and also bring awareness to this amazing program.
There is no shortage of ideas. Books four, five, and six are all well underway.
Ferrante: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
Gee: Always remember you are not writing for yourself but for your audience. In my case, children. Listen and observe what your listeners say. They bring me endless ideas and directions for my writing and similar projects.
Ferrante: What is the longest line you have ever stood in?
Gee: March 2016 at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France. I was trying to get home after my international book signing. We stood in line for well over five hours trying to get to the counter to confirm our tickets. This was right after the Terrorist attack in Paris.
Ferrante: What is the one item you own that you really should throw away but probably never will?
Gee: I was going through one of life’s moments, and my daughter gave me Go Dog Go! by Dr. Seuss, with a note that read “You always made me happy when you read this book to me when I was a kid. So I thought it might brighten your day!!”
Ferrante: If you could stand at the pinnacle of any natural object or man-made structure, what would it be?
Gee: Man-made structure would be standing in the Sistine Chapel looking up at the wonders of Michelangelo’s work on the ceiling.
For a natural wonder, it wouldn’t be the pinnacle, but immersed in it. Standing in the Redwood Forest, surrounded by those majestic trees. The smells and silence of nature. Breathtaking, peaceful, inspirational, and restorative.
Social media links:
Website – .www.anancygeebook.com
Facebook – http://facebook.com/anancygeebook
Twitter – http://twitter.com/anancygeebook
Email / Newsletter List: http://bit.ly/NancysNews
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March 24, 2017 Helping Out a Friend – The Secret Path by Nancy Gee. Illustrated by Kathleen Newman. Book Review on this blog.
February 27, 2017. Trapped! – The Secret Drawer written by Nancy Gee. Illustrated by Raye Ann Saunoris. Book Review on this blog.
Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.