Kim Chaffee on Surviving and Thriving in Your Debut Year

Kim Chaffee has been an invigorating presence in our Writers’ Rumpus group since she joined in 2016. Her debut year has included two picture books: the nonfiction PB biography HER FEARLESS RUN: Kathrine Switzer’s Historic Boston Marathon illustrated by Ellen Rooney that came out in April, and a fiction PB out today, NOTHING WEE ABOUT ME! illustrated by Laura Bobbiesi. Carol covered Kim’s “author origin story” in the April interview. Let’s catch up with Kim’s year.

Marianne P Knowles: What three words would you use to describe your debut year?

Kim Chaffee: I absolutely love this question. It’s hard to pick three! Let’s go with momentous, exhausting, and exhilarating.

MPK: I look forward to your monthly “New in 19” updates on the blog. Tell us about your experience with New in 19. How did you find the New in 19 group?

Quick background: groups such as “New in 19” come together for mutual support and promotion during the year that those authors and illustrators have debut books. “Notable 19s” is another group with the same mission.

KC: Being in a debut group was everything for me! In February 2018, Lindsay Leslie, fellow Page Street Kids author, asked me if I wanted to help pull together some authors and illustrators who were debuting in 2019. It didn’t take long to reach the 40-member mark and we decided to cap the group at that point. Part of being in the debut group is reading and writing reviews for the each other’s books and we felt like it would get a little overwhelming if the group got too large. For me, the best part of being in the debut group was the community we formed in a private group on Facebook. It’s been an amazing place to ask questions, share book launch ideas and good news, and get opinions on anything writing related. I feel like we are a little writing family! A bunch of us are even presenting together at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference in Baltimore later this month. I’m excited to be on a nonfiction panel with fellow New in 19 members Lisa Rogers, Debbie Gonzales, and Adrienne Wright!

MPK: Tell us about your experience on the Nonfiction Picture Book Panel at our local SLJ Day of Dialog for librarians.

KC: I was so honored to be on the Nonfiction Picture Book Panel at the SLJ Day of Dialog with Melissa Stewart, Carole Boston Weatherford, and Marge Pellegrino. I felt a little out of my league with those powerhouse names, but it was so interesting to hear how different the process is for each of us and the book journey that each title has taken. I always love listening to authors and illustrators talk about their books from story idea to publication and it was exciting to actually be one of those authors.

Kim on a Boston Marathon panel

MPK: You’ve been keeping a busy schedule of talks, appearances, and presentations. How much time should a debut author plan to spend on promotion and professional appearances?

Kim’s launch of HER FEARLESS RUN was running a marathon–literally!

KC: Promoting any book can be overwhelming and a debut book even more so. I think authors feel like they have to say yes to every opportunity that comes their way but I would caution against this. It is easy to burn yourself out if you don’t schedule in some self-care or downtime. I learned this the hard way. While I don’t think many authors will be choosing to run their first marathon to help promote their debut like I did, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all and want to schedule lots of appearances around the release date. There certainly isn’t anything wrong with this, but I would suggest spreading those appearances out even just a little bit to give yourself a breather. I consider myself an extroverted introvert—so while I love being with people, especially people who want to share the love for my book, I also need my alone time to recharge and be at my best for the next appearance.

MPK: As a former elementary school teacher, you must enjoy school visits. Do you have any tips?

KC: I absolutely love visiting schools and talking with kids about writing! And it really is the best of both worlds for me, since I don’t have my own classroom anymore. For authors who are looking to start school visits I would suggest having a dedicated tab on your website where educators/librarians/PTA folks can find it easily. Also, I know there is some debate about this, but I suggest listing your honorarium right on your website. This makes it easy for a school to see if they can afford you. Also, it’s nice when someone says they would love to have you visit their school and you can direct them right to your site for any and all info. You won’t have to have any conversation about how much it will cost because it will already be listed. Most of my school visits have been in-person but I have done some Skype sessions for World Read Aloud Day.

MPK: What do you do to relax and recharge?

KC: These days I’m working as a fifth-grade teacher in a long-term substitute position so I’m not getting much relaxing time, but normally a three-mile run with friends is a great way for me to recharge and clear my head. I also love TV so laying on the couch and catching up on a show is the perfect way to end the day for me. Taking time to rest your mind is so important to your emotional health and it will make you more productive in the long run. Stepping away from a work-in-progress allows you to see it with fresh eyes, making revision easier.

MPK: What advice would you give yourself if you could pop back to November of last year?

KC: Buckle-up. The debut year, like the creative process, is a rollercoaster. The ups are amazing and the downs will leave you wondering if you are cut out for this business. Spoiler alert: You are. We all are.

MPK: One book out this spring, a second launching today. What’s next?

KC: I’ve recently finished a new picture book biography that I am very passionate about and am hoping to go out on sub with it soon. Also, I’ve been dabbling in the world of chapter books and I’m excited to see where that may lead.

© 2019 by Kim Chaffee, illustrated by Laura Bobbiesi
Page Street Kids





© 2019 by Kim Chaffee, illustrated by Ellen Rooney
Page Street Kids





Connect with Kim:

  • Click Kim’s name in her author profile to the right to see all her posts on Writers’ Rumpus.
  • Click the tag “New in 19” below to see all of Kim’s posts about members’ debut books.

Related Posts:
Meet #kidlit debut picture book author, Kim Chaffee
Interview by Carol Gordan Ekster
Debut Author/Illustrator Support Resources by Sarah Lynne Reul


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