Cheryl Johnson has developed quite a following as a wildlife photographer working under the pseudonym “Backyard Bird Nerd.” Her photos have been featured in magazines, websites, and art galleries. As the owner of an advertising agency, writing has always been a part of her life and career. Her literary work has included producing text for websites, brochures, television and radio commercials, and a variety of magazines articles. Delving into the world of children's literature has been an exciting and challenging adventure, and pairing these books with her love of photography has proven to be the perfect outlet for her passions and talents. When not prowling around in nature looking for something to “fly” by her lens, she lives in South Texas with her husband, two daughters, and dog.
When the Creative Muse Speaks, You’d Better Listen!
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Anthony, the new submissions manager at my publishing company. “Can you call me when you have a minute? Here’s my cell phone number…”
Okay, so first, let me say that I signed my publishing contract with Puppy Dogs and Ice Cream in September of 2020. Several months later I still don’t know any phone numbers for them. Granted, I haven’t looked that hard, but still! Over the course of our relationship, I have had communications with people throughout the organization, from the president on down, exclusively via email. I get it, no one would get anything done if they were continually being called and pestered by impatient authors. Heaven knows I pester them enough with my daily email questions! So, needless to say, I was a little surprised to be given a cell phone number and a request for an audience. With a little trepidation, I dialed the number…
Let me back up a little bit. When Puppy Dogs and Ice Cream decided to publish my book, My Backyard Bird Book, they did it with a little hesitation. Obviously, they loved it, but it’s unlike anything in their current catalog and they weren’t quite sure how well it would do. But, happily enough, it hit the ground running, selling over 5,000 copies in its first month! With the success of this first book, they immediately decided to publish two of my other titles, Plumology and Birding Scavenger Hunt. Somewhere along the line, I had shared with them my concept for a new series of nature books to see if it was something they would be interested in. Hence the phone call to discuss my concept and make sure we were all on the same page, so to speak. My new series, “Critters and Creatures”, will explore the different, well, critters and creatures, that can be discovered in different locations. The first book in the series will be Backyard Critters and Creatures. The long and the short of it is that PDIC is very excited about the new series.
I’m not sure how my creative process compares to other authors, but, essentially, it’s all over the board. I attribute my process to my extremely short attention span. When I started down the road of this crazy adventure, I was working on two books (Backyard Bird Book and Birding Scavenger Hunt) simultaneously. During the writing process my sister sent me a podcast which led to the idea for Plumology. So, then I was writing three books at the same time. And somewhere in the middle of all that, I came up with the idea for My Texas Bird Book and added it to the creative mix. Consequently, I self-published all four books at the same time.
For the past six months or so, I’ve been fiddling around with the concept, text, and layout for Backyard Critters and Creatures working on it as The Creative Muse strikes. Then, one weekend last month, an idea I had been making notes on for a year or so decided to bubble to the surface and grab my attention, so, I sat down at my computer and started writing. I have an exceedingly long list of ideas for future books, but, honestly, I had pretty much decided to toss this particular concept to the side and not pursue it. My thought was that I had done enough books on birds, and it was time to move on to something else. But, when the Writing Muse demands my attention, I’ve learned that I’m not going to win the battle if I try to ignore her, so I sat down and got the book out of my brain and onto my computer, and by the end of the weekend, I had the first draft for My Book of Amazing Birds done.
With a mostly completed manuscript in hand, I dropped a note to Anthony with a few sample pages.
Me: “Hey, I got a wild hair to write a new book over the weekend and I thought I’d send it in and see if you were interested.”
Anthony: “Hmmm, I’m not sure how we would differentiate this from My Backyard Bird Book, but go ahead and send it in and the new titles team will take a look.
A few days later…
Anthony: “WE LOVE THIS BOOK!! Contract coming your way!”
So there you have it. A concept I had tossed aside is going to become my fourth(!) published book. During my phone conversation with Anthony he commented, “You’re not like any of our other authors.” I’m not sure if he meant it as a compliment (although it certainly wasn’t an insult as he was laughing when he said it), but that’s the way I’m taking it. I like being quirky and different… heck, my favorite shoes are a pair of tie-died sketchers and I’m a middle-aged Swifty!
So what’s the moral of the tale? For me, it’s important to always remember that a) sometimes, rather than throwing it out, you should throw it against the wall and see if it sticks; b) you don’t have to do things like everyone else to be successful; and c) when The Muse speaks, ya better listen!
Share the Beauty of Nature with Your Child!
Nature is Amazing
These beautiful books by writer and photographer Cheryl Johnson, are designed to not only engage your child but to encourage their imagination, exploration, and discovery of the world around us.