Sandy Wardman is the Author of the Three Southwest Folktale Children's Books Shown Here.
These books are so unique that I’ve asked Sandy to give Philosophy of Romance this interview.
1. How did this series come about? Whose idea was it? Were you filling a gap in the market or was this just something you wanted to do…like a labor of love.
When I retired from teaching I wanted to write. I had twenty years experience with kindergarten and since they say write what you know, I thought it would be fun to write children’s picture books.
I live in the Southwest and love the animals of the Southwest so I targeted them for my characters. My husband is a biologist, so we have always been interested in wildlife and enjoy observing them while out camping. It seemed natural to focus my stories on them.
One thing I discovered is that writing children’s picture books is not as easy as it would seem. In fact, I think they are more difficult than a novel. You only have 500-1,000 words to develop plot, character arc and action. So each word has to count.
I noticed this right away. These are full stories with a plot, a beginning, a middle, and an end. Each also offers an essential lesson or moral. You have used a vocabulary, images, and situations children can understand and find interesting.
2. Tell us about the artwork. It’s all full color and of the highest quality. Many of the full page pictures are suitable for framing. Can you tell us something about the artist?
The artist, Jeff West, was hired by the publisher to illustrate the manuscripts. I’m just going to quote now from Jeff’s website.
Jeff West is a visual effects artist and a formally trained artist. He started designing T-shirts and drawing caricatures at theme parks and went on to serve as the lead visual effects artist on the POWER RANGERS television series, and contributed to ANGEL, MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE, SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH, WEIRD SCIENCE, FRIENDS, THE TWILIGHT ZONE,and CARNIVALE. West worked on the smash hit TV series BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, and recently contributed visual effects work to the series FRINGE, KINGS, VALENTINE, CHARMED, CSI , and OVER THERE.
He was recently nominated for an Emmy for his work on The TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES. Movie credits:VAN HELSING, MAN ON FIRE, THE PUNISHER, SIMON BIRCH, and KNOCKOFF. Storyboard artist on SMALLVILLE, BIRDS OF PREY,VAMPIRE BATS. He also did boards for Rolland Emmerich's "2012" and VACANCY 2. Commercials list:Mazda, Vibe.Music videos DMX, Sheryl Crow, In Sync. Companies: Modern VideoFilm, Encore Hollywood, CBS Digital, Pixomondo,Zoic Studios. He currently freelances as a graphic artist and illustrator, doing storyboards, conceptual designs, and other work for films, bands, and kids books.
I can sure pick out talent, can’t I? When I first saw the artwork in these books, I had to have them all. I have a good and dear friend who is an accomplished artist and I’ve already sent him “Cody the Coyote” .
3. Are these books designed for classroom use? Home schooling? Who did you have in mind as readers when you wrote these books?
My husband and I travel to all of the National Parks and in their gift shops they have animal books. I targeted that market, but have yet to break into it.
I do know that teachers and home school moms use my books. The stories are fiction but in the back there are non-fiction fun facts about each animal.
4. What gave you the idea to improve on “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”? It would not have occurred to me to even try to update that classic tale and yet your version is improved in many different ways. I mentioned these improvements in my review of the book.
We were traveling in Southwestern Utah and there were many educational displays in the National Forest about the prairie dogs. I thought they would be a fun animal to write about. When I did the research on them I discovered they actually have a different bark for each predator. From that came the idea of using The Boy Who Cried Wolf theme and Percival became the naughty prairie dog.
I also learned that when you fictionalize an animal, you have to give them the same behavior and characteristics they would have naturally. So when Percival was punished, he had to do what prairie dogs do—like pick fleas off his cousins, bring grass for the baby prairie dog’s nest, etc.
I’ve also learned in my writing association (Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) that you can use the themes from fairy tales. Many authors have done so. It was fun to do. I had no intention of improving on the fairy tale. I was simply trying to adapt the story to the behavior of a prairie dog.
5. Do you have any plans for additional books to the series?
I do have two other stories written, Annie the Antelop and Alphie the Albino Squirrel. They haven’t been picked up yet by a publisher. My publisher for these books is looking at Annie the Antelop so hopefully it will be coming out in the future.
6. Have you thought of doing a version of Native American folktales? Perhaps a Southwestern tribe. I’m thinking here in terms of tales about how animals became the way they are. For example, how the raccoon got the rings on his tail. There are many such tales that try to explain the world to both children and adults.
I thought about it, but to be honest, I would have a difficult time marketing them since I’m not Native American. Another deciding factor is that there are several already out there written by Native Americans.
7. Tell us about the marketing? These books must be expensive to produce and yet they are not expensive; however, they are also not for sale on Amazon. How are they sold?
The marketing of these books has been a learning experience. My publisher does not work with distributors which makes it difficult for in store placement. Most stores want to buy their books from one source rather than setting up accounts with each publisher. I have had many store owners tell me they would stock the books until they discover they can’t be purchased from a distributor.
My publisher did have them on Amazon, but took them off when he put them on I-Tunes. They are really great on I-Tunes. I’m not sure why he took them off Amazon.
To buy them online, you can purchase them from my webpage.
|Sandy Playing Pickleball|
We made the books paperback to keep the price down. I purposely kept the price down because people will buy more books if the prices are low.
8. Who do you see as your primary market? I think they are ideal books for a parent or grandparent to read to a child. I’m in my sixties yet each story held my interest.
are my best customers. I have discovered that parents rarely buy books as they
need their funds for more pressing matters.
But grandparents know the importance of books in the home and they have
the money to buy them. They also get a kick out of having the books autographed
for their grandchildren.
|Sandy and Fan |
on the Road.
9. I love the Southwest which actually has it own literary genre. Is there a reason these books are set in the Southwest? Is it your love of the Southwest?
As mentioned above, I do love the Southwest. I have lived in the desert for the last forty plus years. I have probably hiked through most of it over the years and love to simply sit and observe the wildlife around me.
10. You’ve got a lot of different animals in these books. You even had two creatures that I did not even know existed…at least by their names. Is this why you have pictures of every animal that is mentioned? It seems a child would learn a lot more different things with these books than by hearing the normal moral fables.
The artist decided what animals to illustrate. They try to illustrate what is in the text. I mentioned several animals because they are indigenous to the area. If anyone learns from these books, that is a bonus. I wrote to entertain, but I am a retired teacher so I’m sure educational elements creep in.
11. I am assuming there is a right way or a preferred way to use these books. As the author, how do you see their highest and best use?
I wrote them to entertain children. I pictured them selling in the National Parks bookstores. Often families buy the books in the stores there to provide entertainment for their children while they camp. That was my intent when writing them. I’ve yet to break into that market and that has a lot to do with my publisher. However with the paradigm shift in the publishing world, that will change. I think the fact these books are on I-Tunes at a low price will bring lots of entertainment to the children. Today’s children are electronically oriented so they will enjoy the I-Tunes versions.
12. Some of the animals are very cute like Percival the prairie dog but some like the coyote are pretty scary–especially the coyote with his teeth bared. How do young kids react to that picture?
Girls love the cute pictures. Boys love the scary pictures. For that reason it is good that each book has both.
13. Can you tell us about your actual experiences in reading these books to children. I’d love to hear how the children have reacted. Was it what you expected as an author or have the children surprised you?
My most popular book is "Hector Wants To Play". I think the fact it is in rhyme is the reason. Children love rhyme. They love to look at the pictures and point to the animals. Its almost like they see something different each time the stories are read.
Rhyme is easy to remember and if you read the story often, soon they are reading with you even when they haven’t learned to read yet. I love that.
14. Is there anything you’d like to add that I have not asked you?
Can’t think of anything Vince. You were pretty thorough. Smile! But if you think of something else later, fire away.
Thank you Sandy. I know I ask a lot of questions. Thankfully, you had the answers for us.
You Can Purchase These Books Direct From The Author's Website here.