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Something Wild by Molly Ruttan – A Guest Post + Giveaway

 

 

A GUEST POST

BY AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR MOLLY RUTTAN

FOR

SOMETHING WILD BLOG TOUR 

 

Something Wild cover girl playing violin

 

Author-illustrator Molly Ruttan deftly explores the butterflies of anxiety that come with stage fright as well as the joy and magic that comes with facing our fears in SOMETHING WILD (Nancy Paulsen Books; on sale February 28th, 2023; ISBN: 9780593112342; Ages 3 – 7; $18.99), a delightful picture book that depicts a young girl’s preparation for her first violin recital. —Penguin Young Readers

Praise for Something Wild:

“The denouement is a lovely testament to the best magic of which we are capable… combines sweetness, imagination, and gentle humor. Though this tale will appeal to all readers, it will especially resonate with introverts. Brava!” – Kirkus Reviews, starred reviews

 

INTRO:

What a thrill to have a guest post by Molly Ruttan on GoodReadsWithRonna. I marvel at her constantly evolving creativity, enthusiasm, and tireless support of pre-published (me) and published authors, illustrators, and like her, author-illustrators. I hope you will enjoy this candid recollection of how her childhood experiences helped inform Something Wild. And don’t forget to visit all the other sites on Molly’s blog tour and enter our great giveaway. So, without further ado, HEEEEEEEERE’S MOLLY!

 

GUEST POST:

Hi Ronna!

Before I begin, I would like to take this moment to thank you for inviting me onto your blog, and to acknowledge the hard work you put into it every day. It shows! Your blog has great reviews and amazing roundups. I am truly awed by you, and all the other excellent bloggers out there—you really make a difference in the KidLit community. What would we all do without you?? A big Hats Off to you!

In today’s guest post, I’m going to tell the personal story behind one of the questions I get asked a lot regarding my new picture book, Something Wild: Did the idea for it come from my own experience as a musician? Short answer— Yes, as a matter of fact, it did!

It is often said that, as children’s book writers and illustrators, we should write about what we know. Something Wild is about stage fright, and this is something I have absolutely known from the time I was quite small. I’m not sure why I was so shy, although it might have had something to do with being a twin, and being slightly behind other kids in social skills when I entered school. In any case, one of my earliest memories is freezing up during a class play in kindergarten—I was so scared I couldn’t speak. I even remember the line I was supposed to say: “It’s a hamburger.” One of the other kids had to improvise and say it for me!

When I entered second grade my mom signed me up for violin lessons. I loved playing, but then in third grade, the recital came along. Even though I was hidden in the orchestra, I was terrified. But what really upset me was after it was over. My dad proudly told me I was the only one in the orchestra that was swaying to the music as I played. I guess he thought I would feel special —but I was completely horrified and mortally embarrassed that I had stood out. I quit the orchestra and stopped taking lessons. My poor parents never knew why; if only I had had a book that could have given me a way to talk to them about it! The silver lining to this story is that my mother started playing the viola for herself, (she had played cello as a child.) When I quit, I think she realized she had wanted it for herself the whole time!

 

Molly, Linda & Linda Whitehead playing music circa 1969
Playing violin with my twin sister (on French horn) and our friend, Linda Whitehead.

 

The stage fright did not go away as I got older. In middle school, I was failing French class because when I would get up in front of the class to do the required skits, my mind would go blank and I couldn’t speak. The fails were bringing down my grade-point average, so my art teacher convinced the school and my parents to let me and my sister bypass taking a language. (It was clear by then that we would be going to art school, and art schools didn’t require foreign language credits, at the time.)

When I was a teenager, I started playing drums. I would joke that even though it was loud, the drum kit was my armor (plus I was always in the back!).  Still, stage fright was no fun and no laughing matter. I used to get so nervous before shows that I would be physically sick. But I loved the music and the camaraderie. Once I started playing, the intense physical nature of drumming would channel the nervous adrenaline out of my system, so I was able to keep performing into my adulthood.

 

03 Ruttan Sally-Dick-Jane circa-1980s
Playing drums in my art-punk band Sally Dick & Jane, in the 80s. Photo by JPRKenny.

 

02 Ruttan bands GV&PX2
Here I am (top), a singer/drummer in my eclectic-folk rock band GARDEN VARIETY, circa 1997 (left) and a backup singer & percussionist in the art-rock band PHIDEAUX, circa 2011. Photo by Esa Ahola.

 

Many people have stage fright, and there are many tips and tricks out there that are supposed to help. What helped me was when I realized that I could rely on my body and my discipline to pull me through, in spite of my mind, which was busy spinning out! This awareness gave me a great sense of comfort. It helped the stage fight dissipate, especially once I was on stage. All I had to do was remember to get out of my own way—let my hands and my body take over, focus on feeling love for the music—and something wild would happen!

I also came to realize the truth that any time we have practiced, prepared ourselves, and then truly faced our fears, the resulting feeling of joy and magic, and the promise of coming out the other end more empowered, comes into view. This is the place I aspire to, and the place I wanted my main character, Hannah, to land.

As an adult, I still have stage fright but writing and illustrating Something Wild has helped me process it, and when I feel it coming on, it always helps me to remember my own book! As a kid, I would have also greatly benefitted from a book like this. My biggest desire is that Hannah’s story will provide a comforting and entertaining journey for other anxious kids (and adults) to embrace — and hopefully, something wild will happen for them, too!

 

Ruttan SomethingWild pp6-7 300
Interior art from Something Wild written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House ©2023.

 

Ruttan SomethingWild pp8-9 300
Interior spread from Something Wild written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House ©2023.

 

Ruttan SomethingWild pp10-11 300
Interior art from Something Wild written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House ©2023.

 

Ruttan SomethingWild pp12-13 300
Interior spread from Something Wild written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House ©2023.

 

Molly playing viola 2023 cropped
When it got time to create the final art for Something Wild, I began listening to a lot of violin music to get into the flow, (mostly Irish fiddle & country folk.) I became totally inspired to pick up where I left off in third grade and start playing again! I still had the viola my mother had played when I was a kid, so I started taking lessons! It’s harder than I remember, but I’m enjoying it! I’ve been learning now for about a month.

BUY THE BOOK:

To contact Molly, purchase books, and view her book trailers, go to https://linktr.ee/mollyruttan

 

Molly Ruttan headshot scaledBIO:

Molly Ruttan is an author/illustrator of children’s books. She grew up making art and music in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, and earned a BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art. Molly now lives in the diverse and historic neighborhood of Echo Park in Los Angeles, where her family has recently grown with the joyful addition of a granddaughter. She played violin as a child, and now plays drums, sings in a community choir, and has just started learning the viola. She loves exploring all kinds of fine art and illustration mediums, including making her own animated book trailers. Her life is full of art, music, family, friends, and all kinds of pets and urban animals.

Molly’s titles include her author/illustrator debut, The Stray, (Nancy Paulsen Books); I Am A Thief! by Abigail Rayner, (NorthSouth Books); and Violet and the Crumbs: A Gluten-Free Adventure by Abigail Rayner (NorthSouth Books). Something Wild is Molly’s second author/illustrated book and has received a starred Kirkus review. She has two additional books forthcoming. Molly is represented by Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency, www.prospectagency.com

Find Molly on Social Media:

Facebook:
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Twitter:
@kidlitcollectiv
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IG:

Other websites to visit:

https://hellomulberries.com/
https://picturebookgold.wixsite.com/website

 

Ruttan_SW-GiveAway-Package Ruttan SW GiveAway Package signed print stickers and toteEXCLUSIVE TWITTER ONLY GIVEAWAY

Enter our Twitter giveaway for a chance to win a special Prize Package from Molly Ruttan! This exclusive opp includes a 12×12 art print; a 4×6 sticker sheet; a “2” round sticker & a tote bag! Follow @molly_ruttan & @goodreadsronna on Twitter, comment about what you do to soothe your anxiety, & RT. We’d love to hear from you! The giveaway ends at 11:59pm on 3/9/23. One winner will be chosen at 6pm PST on 3/10/23. Eligible for US & Canada only.

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Creating a Successful Virtual Picture Book Launch by Molly Ruttan

-AN INTERVIEW WITH MOLLY RUTTAN-

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR OF THE STRAY,

ON LAUNCHING A PICTURE BOOK DURING A PANDEMIC

 

06 Molly holding THE STRAY
Molly Ruttan and her book, THE STRAY (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin Randomhouse).

 

The traditional children’s book launch is typically at a bookstore, someone’s home, or occasionally at a venue related to the subject matter. Prior to the pandemic I attended several book birthday parties and launches every month, but since being stuck at home, I’ve begun watching them on Facebook and Instagram or via Zoom. I was so impressed with Molly Ruttan’s Instagram launch in May that I asked her if we could discuss the ins and outs of creating a virtual book launch.  As a special bonus, Molly’s kindly offered to share her Instagram Live launch today so please scroll down to watch. Please note that due to copyright protections Molly’s book reading of The Stray has been edited out. You can also read my review of the picture book here.

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GoodReadsWithRonna: What made you choose to do your virtual launch on Instagram rather than on another platform like Facebook?

Molly Ruttan: First I want to say thank you, Ronna, for having me on your excellent blog. It is truly an honor to be featured here.

As I watched the world closing down because of the pandemic, I realized I needed to start planning a virtual book launch for my debut author/illustrator book THE STRAY, (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin Randomhouse). The idea was extremely intimidating—I struggle with keeping up with social media, and I had no experience with live social media events, at all. On top of that I am terrified of public speaking and don’t feel terribly photogenic! But a good friend from my book critique group, April Zufelt, met with me several times (virtually) and provided such an ongoing and positive pep talk that she convinced me into thinking I might be able to pull it off! We chose Instagram Live because she was most familiar with it and so could teach me how it would work

GRWR: Did you make an outline for the presentation? Tell us about how you came up with the program.

01 Off camera bulletin boards
This was the view from where I sat at my desk, during the filming. Even with all this help I still left things out!!

MR: I tend to get like a deer in headlights when I’m put in front of a camera—winging it would not be a good idea—so I knew I would need an outline of the itinerary posted where I could see it, to help me keep on track. I put it on a bulletin board, and then while I rehearsed I kept adding notes and reminders to the point where I needed a second bulletin board! Then with my nerves rattling I decided to keep the whole display up during the live show. I didn’t end up using it that much, but it was nice to know it was there.

Outlines and lists were also crucial for my preparation. I made lists every step of the way. I had a vision that I wanted the launch to be like a birthday party, and I wanted it to be interesting for kids. I had previously made a hat of my main character Grub, for Halloween, so I knew right away I would wear it, and it also gave me the idea for the craft.

02 IG post
I created a week-long Instagram giveaway to generate interest and to have a fun way of ending my party by announcing all the winners. This IG post was the last day before the event. I gave away sticker sheets, tote bags, pins, art prints and books.

I proceeded by brainstorming other things I might do at a birthday party/live presentation with kids present. Once I got a good idea of what I wanted to include, I wrote out a schedule for myself to keep track of what I needed to make time for each day. In the months before, I had started making swag, but I had stopped when things started to shut down. With April’s encouragement I decided to proceed with ordering it and using it for a week-long Instagram giveaway to generate interest.

I also created several short animations as invitations and reminders. (I had previously animated my own book trailer). It was additionally tricky because at the time, we were in lockdown. But fortunately a few days before the event the lockdown lifted, so my (grown) daughter Sydney offered to come over and help me. That was a godsend. (We were still very careful not to get too close to each other, though!) Sydney helped me adjust the flow of the presentation and organize the props so that everything would be at hand at the right time. She arranged the background and framed the scene. I rehearsed virtually in front of her and April, and we refined. My book launch day happened to fall on my Dad’s birthday, so the day before the event I baked cupcakes and decorated one of them to match the book, so I could light a candle and blow it out, to celebrate both of them.

 

03 Stills from Molly Book Launch.
Two frames from the recording where I am doing a draw-along demo of my main character, Grub, and showing how to make a Grub hat.

 

GRWR: Which type of online launch do you think best highlights an author or author/illustrator’s picture book: Q+A, talking head, combination of both, or something else?

MR: I think this is something that really depends on the type of book you’ve written, and who your audience is. It also depends if you are the writer, the illustrator, or both. I had trouble finding any launches to view in preparation— this was still pretty early on. I viewed one that was done in a Q+A format, and although I found that format interesting, it didn’t have quite the energy I wanted. Since my launch I’ve seen some interesting power-point type presentations, and/or pre-recorded video demos within a Q+A, which I thought worked well. I think it also depends on the tech you have available. I work on a desktop MacPro that doesn’t have a camera on the monitor, so doing a Zoom-type presentation where I could share my screen wasn’t an option. In the end I think any format can work as long as you keep your audience in mind and speak to them. I got through it by imagining that I was talking to kids.

My sister Linda Moldawsky created three beautiful activity sheets to go along with the book. They are available and free to download from my website, www.mollyruttan.com, along with directions for the craft and a coloring sheet.

GRWR: How much time should someone expect to prep for their launch?

MR: Again, I imagine it depends on the type of book you’ve written, and what you plan to do. I gave myself a month, which wasn’t a lot of time, especially since in addition to preparing for the launch activities, I was also ordering the swag & creating the animated announcements. Plus I was busy with work. I would advise giving yourself more than a month! Write out what you want to do way ahead of time and create a schedule. And don’t be afraid to ask for help!

GRWR: How long a program should it be?

MR: Regarding the length of the event, as I mentioned before, I rehearsed and then revised places that went too long or could be expanded. My launch took about 45 minutes because that was how long it took to get through everything. It was longer at first because the craft took forever! I realized I needed to make some of the craft pieces before-hand and have them ready, like in a cooking show, and that worked much better. I’ve seen some launches that are simply an introduction and then a reading; their launches are much shorter than mine was. I think short & sweet is great; longer is great too if you have a presentation that is engaging. (The launch video I’ve posted on You Tube is much shorter because I took out the book reading.) 

GRWR: Do you recommend including a giveaway to viewers during the launch?

MR: I would recommend it! I believe people truly enjoy winning things, and I get a lot of joy giving presents to people. Announcing the winners was a fun way to end the “party” and having a winner to announce the next day (from the giveaway during the event) was a great way to follow up on social media. I also ended the “party” by showing the beautiful activity sheets that my sister had made. It felt a little like handing out party favors– something for everyone!

GRWR: What was the hardest thing you encountered when creating your presentation? For example, looking at camera, not having a live audience to gauge interest, keeping on schedule, figuring out the tech, etc.?

MR: Aside from getting over my stage fright, and trying to remember everything without squinting at my notes that were pinned up everywhere, the hardest thing for me was the social media tech. I had decided early on that I wanted to “film” the event at my table in my studio, so that I could have all my art supplies and craft materials in view. I thought it would be as simple as attaching my phone to an old lamp stand, but it wasn’t. Among other things, like lighting and sound, Sydney figured out how to connect her phone feed to her laptop so I could see what I was doing—something that would have caused me to have a meltdown! She also helped me with Instagram afterwards. Good tech people are invaluable!

GRWR: In terms of feedback from viewers, was there a particular part of your talk that was most popular?

For the giveaway during the event I requested people send in the drawings they did during my draw-along Demo. This is the IG post I created to announce the winner.

MR: Because of the way that I was filming, I was unable to see comments as they came in during the event. When I watched the recording afterwards I was truly awed and touched by the enthusiasm of my audience. It’s hard to pinpoint if any one thing stood out—there was a lot of response all the way through it. One of the things I had done was a draw-along demo, with a giveaway attached to it. I was delighted to see so many pictures flooding in after the event! All in all it was well attended, topping out at about 70 people logging on, with between 30-40 at any one time.

GRWR: Was there a call to action, so to speak, when you do an IG live event so that people watching will buy the book and get it signed like they do at an in person event? How do you and other people launching handle that aspect?

Book Plate photo
This Book Belongs To: Book Plate for The Stray by Molly Ruttan.

MR: In terms of making the book available to buy, I put a message in my Instagram bio, with the link to my page on the Penguiun/Random House site, which has many different choices of venues. At the end of the party I instructed people to the link. Unfortunately there was no way of signing the books, using that method. I did make book plates, some of which I had signed and sent to a local bookstore, but I didn’t mention that; I had only sent a handful. Of course I signed the books that were in my giveaway, but I have been thinking about how to honor the people who bought my book at the launch … maybe I will do another IG “call to action”, so I can send out the rest of my name plates! I am honestly not sure what other people do. Launching a book during a pandemic is definitely a work in progress!

GRWR: What was the one most useful pieces of advice you were given about doing a virtual book launch during the pandemic?

MR: I was pretty stressed out getting all of this together—I almost lost sight of the fun and joy in it. April kept telling me not to worry so much about it, and to enjoy the time and the process. It was really good advice, and it made a huge difference. It kept me in touch with how much I live in eternal gratitude for having a book that I have created, in my hands. I have tried to keep her advice in mind ever since, for my life!

In the end, I really don’t know how my launch compares or if it was even successful!  But I did it. I pushed through fear and stress, I had a great time, and I learned to laugh at myself, to boot. Thank you so much for your time and interest in my book birthday party, Ronna!

And thanks Molly for your honest and helpful insights into putting a virtual launch together. This info is going to come in handy for a lot of authors and illustrators over the next few months.

 

FIND MOLLY RUTTAN ONLINE:

Check out her website! www.mollyruttan.com

Facebook: Molly Ruttan

Instagram: mollyillo

Twitter: @molly_ruttan

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