Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Mentor Text Talk with Shannon Stocker

Today's guest is a model of perseverance and hard work. It wasn't until after I moved to Louisville and attended a Midsouth SCBWI conference that I began to learn more about Shannon Stocker. I admire her never-give-up attitude and perky spirit. From her mentor text testimony below, it's clear that we share the same cross-cross applesauce method of staking out the children's book section, and a passion for music. I am so excited to celebrate her newest book, Can U Save the Day, and thankful to learn from her perspective.

How do you utilize picture books as mentor texts, Shannon?

It’s funny, I think for some people, finding mentor texts comes easily. I can honestly say that I am not one of those people. I wasn’t read to as a child; I didn’t even like to read until I was in my 30’s. So much of what I associated with reading was rote memorization and textbook. I went to college, then grad school, then medical school, so I spent a lot of time processing information that didn’t come easily for me. As a result, the last thing I wanted to do in my spare time was read! But something happened when the Harry Potter series came out: I fell in love with middle grade and young adult novels. Then, when I had children, I fell in love with picture books. As I began focusing on writing them, I began frequenting bookstores and libraries, searching for picture books with beautiful illustrations or interesting titles, plopping down on the floor, and reading them right where I pulled them off the shelves. I always took a notebook and wrote down titles, authors, illustrators, publishing houses, and jotted a few notes about each story that I read. Eventually, when I’d found authors whose work I admired or felt approximated mine, I’d devour everything I could by them. I’d do Google searches for topics about which I wanted to write (or was already writing), then I’d read everything I could find. Once I learned about ReFoReMo, I started checking out every book the library carried (or I’d request an ILL for those they didn’t). I also regularly use the 12x12 Facebook group as a resource. For example, I asked people about picture books with parallel stories—I think I had well over a dozen replies! However you use them, I just know that they must be used. If you want to write, it’s so important that you read, read, read.

Did any particular mentor texts inspire you in the creation of Can U Save the Day?

Oh, CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM, for sure! I used Z IS FOR MOOSE and THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT as my comp titles when querying, but the reality is that I didn’t write CAN U SAVE THE DAY because of those books. CHICKA CHICKA made me fall in love with alphabet books. It was different…musical. It had a story. Neither my kids nor I ever tired of it. I wanted to write THAT kind of book. Once I polished CAN U enough to query, an agent actually wrote back suggesting I use CRAYONS as a comp! She wasn’t accepting new clients, but told me she felt my manuscript was similar to THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT, but using letters instead of crayons. I loved her suggestion and felt it was a perfect one to pair with MOOSE as my comp combination.


How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer?

I always go back to music for questions like this. I’m a singer, but I don’t think I knew what kind of singer I was until I’d listened to a billion songs in every genre. Writing is no different. People are drawn to certain kinds of picture books. When I first started attending conferences and webinars, one message I heard repeatedly was this: write what you love. Musical/lyrical books are a natural draw for me because I’m a musician. But it wasn’t until I started reading a billion picture books that I realized I also like things like nonfiction PB biographies and lyrical prose. That said, musicality is always important to me.

What do you feel is the best way for picture book writers to utilize mentor texts?

I think this is really a personal question that will vary from writer to writer. However, I think the one piece of advice that ties us all together is to read. Butt in chair. Read, write, read, and write some more. Creativity doesn’t often spark on its own, I think. It happens when we engage. Reading and writing forces engagement. Truly, I believe THAT is when the magic happens. 

And if that's not a quote to remember, I don't know what is! 
"Reading and writing forces engagement. THAT is when the magic happens." -Shannon Stocker

Thank you for sharing your perspective with us today, Shannon!

Shannon Stocker is an award-winning author and proud word nerd who lives in Louisville, KY, with her husband, Greg, and their children, Cassidy and Tye. Her debut picture book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press), released on August 15, 2019. Her next picture book, LISTEN: HOW ONE DEAF GIRL CHANGED PERCUSSION, comes out with Dial (Penguin/Random House) in 2022. You'll find her nonfiction essays published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. 

Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville and a judge for Rate Your Story. Her blog series, Pivotal Moments: inHERview, highlights transitional life stories of female picture book authors. She can also be found tweeting positive quotes and mantras @iwriteforkidz. Shannon is represented by Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio.

Cool facts: Currently writing her memoir, Shannon is a medical school graduate, a coma survivor, an RSD/CRPS patient and advocate, and a singer/songwriter who once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. 


  1. Great post! Thanks for sharing! U are awesome ;)

  2. Shannon! Each time I read an interview with you, I'm uplifted by your spark, honesty, and enthusiasm. "Butt in chair" has become my mantra! My copy of your rollicking book rests on my shelf. When I'm stuck for creating the magic and music of words, I reach for your story and READ. Thank you for pursuing your passion and sharing it with all of us. Sending you energy and inspiration for your journey...

  3. Oh, Shannon, your enthusiasm for the world shines through everything you do, say, and write. Cheers to your success!

  4. Wow, what a journey to picture books and beyond.