Interview with author Tammi Sauer

By Gloria Reichert

Last September, when I attended the SCBWI: Ohio North Conference, I had the honor of being a hostess to children’s book author Tammi Sauer. Getting to know her was a delightful experience!  Both her energetic intensive and closing address provided a bounty of helpful information to help writers improve their manuscripts. We welcome Tammi to the Song of Six Pens blog and thank her for sharing her thoughts.    

1. What inspired you to write your first book?

One night, after my husband and I had tucked our kids in bed, we heard an unexpected knock at the door. I opened it and discovered a kid standing on my front porch. He was selling newspaper subscriptions in an effort to raise money to go to…Cowboy Camp. I looked at this kid with his everywhere hair, thick glasses, and un-cowboy-like everything and knew I had a story.

Cowboy Camp, illustrated by Mike Reed, debuted in 2005, and it's still in print. Yeehaw.

2. Are there any children’s book authors who have influenced you?

Many authors have influenced me! I think the first book that I read that really made me want to become a children's book author is Jules Feiffer's Bark, George! The book is so funny, and it offers the unexpected. Plus, it's a joy to read aloud.

3. What kinds of books do you like to read?

My favorite picture books are filled with humor and heart.

4. Does one of your main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, which one? Why?

Each of my main characters holds a special place in my heart, but Mary from Mary Had a Little Glam is extra special to me because, over the years, so many moms have reached out to me and shared stories and pictures of how their daughters have really found a connection with Mary.

I have two new Mary books coming out with Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Mary Had a Little Plan debuts in the fall of 2021, and Mary Had a Little Jam comes out in the fall of 2022.

5. What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your books?

Oh, I am a revision nerd! Getting a manuscript juuuuust riiiiiiight is my favorite part of the process. It feels like a game to me. I strive to use only the best words. I remind myself to tell as much as possible in as little as possible. Reading my manuscript aloud is another must—it helps to ensure that the rhythm is there. I also step away from my manuscript and grab lunch or run an errand. Getting away from it for an hour or so helps me to return refreshed. OH. The revision process ALWAYS involves tea. I am currently hooked on Pie Five Pizza's peach ginger tea. I buy it--and pretty much drink it--by the gallon.

6. What is your writing process? (Outline, start in the middle, scenes, etc.)

Process? Ha! I really don't have a specific process. Each book is different. I simply write the best story I can and hope for good.

7. What was your most unusual/funny/heartwarming experience as a writer?
I really get the best fan mail. This is one of my all time favorites (I did not correct the spelling):

Dear Ms. Sauer,
Your the best. Your my hero and roll modle.
My dream is to write a book.
Do not tell her this but I like you more than Kelly Clarkson.
Elizabeth Cloe

8. What is one piece of advice that you would give to writers?
My best advice comes from a quote I once read in a Cynsations blog post. This quote shares just about everything that needs to go into creating a successful picture book manuscript. 
My main considerations for any picture book are humor, emotion, just the right details, read-aloud-ability, pacing, page turns, and of course, plot. Something has to happen to your characters that young readers will care about and relate to. Oh, and you have to accomplish all that in as few words as possible, while creating plenty of illustration possibilities. No easy task.”—Lynn E. Hazen.

Short and Sweet:

·     * Pantser or Plotter? Typically, I know the beginning and the end and pants my way through the middle.
       * Guilty Food Pleasure? There are so many! My newest Guilty Food Pleasure is Dot's Homestyle Pretzels. They aren't sold everywhere. The other day, I drove seven miles just to get a new bag.
       * Favorite Hobby? Reading!
       * Dog or Cat person? DOG
      * Whom would you like to have dinner with (living or dead)? I'd love to be able to have one more dinner with my parents and siblings.
      * Do you do your best work in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Oh, man. I am having a hard time giving short and sweet answers! My muse doesn't follow any kind of schedule. She's rather ridiculous. Occasionally, my best work happens at 3 am.

Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is a full-time children's book author who presents at schools and conferences across the country. Getting kids excited about reading and writing is Tammi's passion.

In addition to winning awards and garnering starred reviews, Tammi's books have gone on to do great things. Nugget & Fang was made into a musical that toured the nation. To date, the show has been performed more than 150 times and will tour again in 2021. Wordy Birdy was named a Spring Kids' Indie Next pick, a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, and a Barnes & Noble Best Book of the Month. Your Alien, an NPR Best Book of the Year, was released in Italian, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and French, which makes her feel extra fancy. To learn more about Tammi and her many books, visit her website at and find her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.

1 comment:

  1. So insightful! thanks, Gloria, and thanks for sharing with us, Tammi.