Becky reads to some cowpokes

You’re in for a treat this Monday morning folks: author Rebecca Janni has returned to The Writing Cave to talk about her new picture book EVERY COWGIRL NEEDS DANCING BOOTS.

How did the experience differ with your second book? Anything surprise you?

Well, just like the first book, I was a wreck handing over that manuscript . . . what would my agent and editor think? Would Nellie Sue’s adventures continue? I held my breath, crossed my fingers, and said a prayer.

And again, when that yes came, there was still plenty of revising and editing to do. This time around, there was a little more interaction with illustrator Lynne Avril during the process. I adore her. She has a great sense of humor, amazing creativity, and a lovely spirit.

I guess what surprises me most of all . . . each time . . . is the magic, like artwork that captures the character of my dreams or the mysterious timing of it all. My father was battling brain cancer when I saw Lynne’s final artwork. There is a page where Nellie Sue’s dad scoops her up to dance with him. That image took my breath away, reminded me of twirling in his arms or dancing on his shoes. I knew then and there that the book would be dedicated to my dad, and I had the chance to tell him before he passed away.

I was so sorry to hear about that; I’m glad you got to tell him. What’s next for Nellie Sue and her trusty Beauty?

I’m glad you asked! EVERY COWGIRL LOVES A RODEO is scheduled for release in May of 2012. The story is done, and I’ve already seen first sketches. Lynne might be painting final art right this minute! It’s set at the county fair, and Nellie Sue is hoping for first place at the bicycle rodeo. But competition is tough, and she’ll have to beat the reigning rodeo king, AJ Pickett. My editor calls this story “a love letter to county fairs” – and I just love that!

It is county fair season, which makes me crave a funnel cake! Anyway, now that you’ve done some author events, is there a story or memory that stands out?

Well, I had a blast at the University Book and Supply store in Cedar Falls, IA recently. The event organizers built a campfire out of jumbo blocks and we added flames made of red and orange tissue paper. We roasted marshmallows on pretzel sticks and sang songs around the campfire. The big surprise came at the end, when four girls from the Cedar Falls HS dance team showed up to teach us all a new line dance. So much fun!

That does sound like fun! I’m guessing the fun will continue with your upcoming picture book JAMMY DANCE?

Your timing is perfect, Sarah! Just today, a friend told me that JAMMY DANCE is posted on for pre-order. It’s scheduled to launch on Valentine’s Day, and I predict a pajama party!

I wrote JAMMY DANCE when my oldest two were just toddlers, one and three years old. After baths, they would run around the house all naked and slippery doing what they called “the Di-dee dance!” Well, boy, were they hard to catch. It took parental teamwork to wrestle tangles out of hair and wiggly bodies into jammies. For me, this story is a slice of life. I love Tracy Dockray’s illustrations. I’m amazed at the movement in them. Her pictures dance! Oh, and the dog. I LOVE this dog! Everything he does makes me laugh, from swiping the kids’ dolls to slurping out of the toilet. He’s fantastic!

That sounds delightfully chaotic 🙂 Since we talked cheese last time, do you have a favorite flavor of ice cream?

I LOVE ice cream. Period. Really, pick a favorite? Okay, wait, I know. My all time favorite ice cream is Dad’s homemade. No skimping on vanilla, cream and sugar. Licking it off the ladle and catching a hint of salt. Mmmm, the best!

That sounds delicious! (July is National Ice Cream Month by the way, everyone go eat lots) Thanks so much for stopping by, Becky, and we’re looking forward to more of Nellie Sue’s adventures and dances with jammies. For more information, visit Becky at her website.


Rebecca Janni is the author of EVERY COWGIRL NEEDS A HORSE, the adorable picture book released today from Dutton Children’s Books!

Becky, thank you so much for visiting The Writing Cave. How excited is everyone in your family that release day is finally here?

May I answer with a photo?

Oh, and those aren’t all my kids . . . though I would claim them!

I would say there’s some definite excitement there 🙂 Were you a cowgirl growing up?

I wasn’t a true cowgirl like my amazing illustrator, Lynne Avril, but a girl can always pretend. Growing up, I loved to ride in the back of Dad’s pick-up truck with braids in my hair and his cowboy hat on, snapping my fingers to Elvira or whatever eight-track tune floated out the back window. Dad’s wildest cowboy hat even had a rattlesnake skin band. He’d gone to Wyoming with some buddies, and they decided to try rattlesnake hunting. He served up rattlesnake stew and had the skin made into a band — rattle and all!

And I loved to go horse-riding Nellie Sue style. We lived close to Saylorville Lake, and I would often saddle up my bike and hit the trails.

Your dad sounds like he has some good stories as well! How does your writing process work?

Is there a process? No, I’m kidding. There is a process, but I’m not very disciplined right now. I use the back few pages of my journal as an idea pot. I jot down a few words or sentences about anything with story potential. When I have time to write, I use those ideas to get started. After that, the process is pretty textbook. Rough draft. Revise. Revise. Revise. I’m fortunate to have some gifted writer friends who are willing to offer their “compliments and suggestions” (as my daughter’s kindergarten teacher likes to call them).

What things are you doing to promote your book?

I have a couple of interviews lined up with local media and friendly bloggers (like you!), a handful of book signings, and a few school visits. Our family will soon be traveling to Asia to adopt a little deaf boy, so I have to be careful not to fill the calendar.

Oh wow, that’s awesome. It really is an exciting time for your family! Looking back on 2009, what were your three favorite reads last year?

Fairest of Them All by Jan Blazanin, Mia the Magnificent by Eileen Boggess, and The Snows by Sharelle Byars Moranville

Do you own an electronic reader? Do you have an opinion on ebooks?

I confess — I’m pretty attached to paper. Friends with ebooks tout their transportability — so many novels in one small carry-all — and that is tempting. But especially where picture books are concerned, it’s hard to let go of the whole experience . . . sitting in an easy chair, child in lap, paging through a beautifully bound book. Ahhh. Heaven. 

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Read. Read. Read.
Write. Write. Write.
Join SCBWI and plug into a local writers’ group.
And most of all, love the journey.
Savor what you read. Treasure what you write. Cherish the friendships made in those writers’ groups . . . I know I do.


Super good advice! There’s nothing like having a group of people going through the same thing. What are you working on next?

I have two picture books under contract. One’s the sequel to this first book, called Every Cowgirl Needs Dancing Boots. The second book, Jammy Dance, comes out with FSG. I just saw first sketches from illustrator Tracy Dockray, and they are darling!

Other works-in-progress, but not under contract, range from picture books (fiction and nonfiction) to middle grade to one ya novel. My oldest son keeps asking for a “boy” book, because I think he wants the next dedication.

I’m a cheese freak, so I have to ask: what’s your favorite cheese and why?

Oh wow. Well, I studied in France during college, so any good French cheese takes me back to a special time and place . . . Gruyere, Brie, Cambembert . . . c’est magnifique!

Thanks so much for taking time out of your unbelievably busy life, Becky! Congratulations on your debut picture book, EVERY COWGIRL NEEDS A HORSE and good luck with everything else. Learn more about Becky at her website.