CAROL GORDON EKSTER: My writing path crossed with Paul’s when he first joined our local NESCBWI critique group. We continued to share our writing journey when he moved: in an on-line critique group, sharing manuscripts often, and both going to Jane Yolen’s boot camp.
I’ve always loved Paul’s writing and appreciate his talents at rhyming. But this new book coming out, The Book Tree, doesn’t rhyme. It is one of those books that will most certainly make an impression. It’s truly fabulous; one of those 5 star-plus perfect picture books.
Paul, can you tell us how you came to writing and about your path to publication?
PAUL CZAJAK: Hey Carol! First off let me say thank you for the wonderful intro! If there is anything that I like more than talking favorably about myself it’s hearing someone else do it for me.
Any-hoo, I started writing seriously about seven years ago. My daughter gave me the idea for a book and my wife told me to stop talking about it and write it down. So, I did. I had no idea what to do with it. Though I was sure at the time that the story was perfect and should immediately be made into a book. Of course, I was delusional. Realizing I needed some help I did some Google searches and came upon the SCBWI web site (click here if you are serious about getting published) and found your local critique group. Which is where we met!
Now, that original story that I came to the critique group meetings has never been published, but after learning about the writing process through our meetings as well as conferences I wrote MONSTER NEEDS A HAIRCUT, which was picked up as THE MONSTER&ME series by Mighty Media. It’s not the most typical path to publication, your first sale being a rhyming picture book series, but it was for me. I hit the right publisher at the right time with the right story.
CGE: Can you give us the story behind the story for The Book Tree?
PC: I was hosting a book signing at my local library, and unfortunately no one came. In my spare time, I was wandering around the tables and saw a book with a tree embossed into the cover. I said to myself the moment I saw it, “the book tree”. It mulled around inside my head and I decided I wanted to write a story about a tree that grew books like a fruit tree. At first I didn’t imagine the story about a little boy taking a stand against censorship, but after many, many, many revisions that’s what it became. Though I like to think the story is more than that. In the story, it’s really not the trees that grow, but the people and the town. The books produced by the tree are seeds for ideas that allow readers to become more then what they were
This is a heavy lesson for a picture book, but because of the incredible illustrations created by Rashin Kheiriyeh, the book becomes more whimsical then didactic. I have no idea how she did it, but every time I open this book I see something new.
Here’s the book trailer.
CGE: So it was fortunate that no one came to the signing. You might never have had time to come up with the idea. We must remember as writers to trust in the process!
What is your writing schedule like?
PC: I wouldn’t say I have a schedule per say. I write when I have an idea. When I don’t have a fresh idea, I work on revisions. I try to write as much as I can without ignoring everyone in my family. Though when I harp on my kids to clean, mow the lawn or do their homework, I’m sure they wish I would get lost in my writing!
CGE: Tell us some of the highs and lows in your life as a children’s author.
PC: The highs are when I hear the yes’s and the lows are when I hear the no’s. It’s a roller coaster ride. When I first published MONSTER NEEDS A COSTUME, the first book released in the MONSTER&ME SERIES, I was on cloud nine. Especially since my publisher was publishing two a year. I had six books out in no time, I landed an agent, the awesome Uwe Stender with TriadaUS. So, I thought I was the man. Then the rejections started to pile up. Two years go by with nothing being published and I’m thinking I suck as a writer. Then I get two yes’s back to back. One for THE BOOK TREE with Barefoot Books and the other for TREE’S MAKE PERFECT PETS, out in 2020 with Sourcebooks. Now I’m on cloud nine again. This time I’d like to think I have a better perspective on the publishing world and I won’t get down in the dumps when the rejections start piling up again, because they will.
CGE: What kinds of activities do you do to promote your new books as well as back titles? Is there one thing you enjoy doing more than others? Anything you try to avoid?
PC: I try to do as many book fairs, bookstore signings and festivals as I can. Hell, I’ll even come to your house and read your kids to sleep if it means getting my books out there. Though that might come across as a bit creepy, so maybe not the house calls.
I do love doing school visits where I get to talk about the writing process and even do writing workshops with the kids. I haven’t had much luck with SKYPE, not that I’m opposed to it, it’s just people don’t contact me for them.
CGE: What does the future hold for Paul Czajak, in addition to continuing to be my critique buddy?
Before complete and utter world domination I will be promoting THE BOOK TREE, which will be released, according to amazon, September 30th. Then the long awaited, MONSTER NEEDS TO GO TO SCHOOL will be released Fall of 2019. Then in the Spring of 2020 TREES MAKE PERFECT PETS will be out.
In the meantime I am keeping my writing brain challenged by trying to write in a different genre, a YA Graphic Novel. It’s different and it’s fun to write and I hope someday it gets picked up.
After all of that, world domination. Unless I’m nominated for an Oscar or something, then that will have to be put on hold. There’s only so much time in the day.
CGE: I’m sure you can see why I keep Paul as my critique buddy. He keeps me laughing. And in this business of children’s publishing, that is a major bonus.
You can connect with Paul here: