COVER REVEAL: Dozens of Doughnuts by Carrie Finison

By Carrie Finison

I am thrilled to share the cover of my upcoming picture book, DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS, illustrated by the amazing Brianne Farley, which will be published by Putnam in July 2020.


It’s what my daughter calls a “wrap-around.” I have no idea if that is the proper term, but here’s the cover in its full, honey-dipped glory—front and back.

Jacket design and interior layout by Marikka Tamura.

I can’t tell you how incredible it is to have characters that have lived in your imagination for so long brought to life on the page. Allow me to introduce you!

The big bear with the tiny pink apron is LouAnn. She’s a baker and she has cooked up a doughnut feast as a late fall, pre-hibernation treat for herself. YUM! But just before she takes her first bite, the bell rings—ding-dong! Her friend Woodrow drops by. LouAnn is happy to share her doughnuts, but as soon as they sit down to eat—ding-dong! Clyde is at the door. One by one, LouAnn’s friends come over until it’s one big party. LouAnn makes batch after batch of doughnuts, always dividing them equally among her friends. (Yes, there’s some math involved.) But LouAnn makes one BIG miscalculation: She forgets to save any for herself!

You can imagine how a “hangry” bear might behave.


It’s OK, LouAnn. We’ve all been there.

Presenting this cover is only one of many milestones that this book (like any) has gone through to get the publication. Every story is different, but it’s fun to look back on the twists and turns, and I thought I would share some of the milestones in the DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS journey.

May 28, 2015: An idea!

I recorded the idea for DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS in my Storystorm idea document. Tara Lazar’s Storystorm challenge (which at that time was called PiBoIdMo, and took place in November) was long since over, but I use the same document all year to record my ideas. I even brainstormed a few possible stanzas/rhymes that I thought might work (NONE of which made it into the final manuscript).

June 3, 2015: Draft 3 shared with the Poets’ Garage, my online poetry/rhyming critique group

I don’t usually draft that quickly, especially with a rhyming story, and looking back—it was waaay too early to share with anyone. But I was excited about the idea and the draft maybe wasn’t ALL terrible . . . only MOSTLY terrible.

July 16, 2015: Draft 6 shared in a peer critique group at a writing retreat

This was a huge moment for the manuscript because one of the other writers who was also a teacher (I’m looking at you Marcie Atkins!) suggested that I shift the story slightly so that it could be used for math instruction—showing each batch of 12 doughnuts divided equally, first by 2, then 3, 4, and 6. Brilliant!

July 22, 2015: Draft 12 shared with the Poets’ Garage . . . again

These people are saints!

January 15, 2016: Draft 29 shared with my picture book critique group

Looking back, I am SHOCKED that I did not share the manuscript with my picture book group earlier in the process because I rely on them for everything! At the same time, I was getting critiques from other sources and I’m glad I could preserve my regular group’s “fresh eyes” until later in the process on this story.

February 17, 2016: Draft 40 sent for an editor critique at the New England SCBWI conference

The number of drafts is getting high, isn’t it? When I work on a story, I save a new draft every day that I work on it. Some of these drafts represent substantial new work. Others might involve changing only a line or two.

April 30, 2016: Received editor critique at the conference

This was another vitally important step. The editor was very enthusiastic about the manuscript, had tons of great suggestions for changes, and expressed interest in seeing a revision. Yay!

July 1, 2016: Draft 54 sent to agent for feedback

I signed with my agent, Linda Epstein, in January 2016, and was excited to share this manuscript with her.

July 15, 2016: Draft 56 sent to picture book critique group . . . again

After revising a little based on my agent’s feedback, I sent it through my picture book group again. 

July 13, 2017: Draft 62 sent out on submission by agent

Did you notice a WHOLE YEAR went by? That’s because I had other manuscripts already lined up and going out on submission. Some of those got traction and even “came close” to an offer, but none of them quite made it. In July of 2017, we decided to dust off DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS and give it a chance.

October 30, 2017: Second round of submissions by agent

During the first round of submissions, we had strong interest from a couple of editors. But after being patient and nudging for a few months, my agent got tired of waiting and fired off round 2.

November 15, 2017: An offer is made!

One of the round 2 editors was VERY interested in the story, and suddenly some of the round 1 editors were also very interested and then everything happened really fast. (Yes, fast!) I was thrilled to accept an offer from Putnam.

This seems like the end, but actually it’s only another beginning, because then I got the editorial letter (January 2018), revised multiple times, sharing with my various critique groups each time (they’re still saints!), and through several rounds of edits with my editor until finally Draft 89 was accepted as final. Whew!

Then there was the happy moment on May 3, 2018, when I learned that Brianne Farley would illustrate, and the deal was announced in Publisher’s Weekly on May 10, 2018. Then things were quiet for a long time (on my end!) until I got a peek at some sketches on January 28, 2019. From there it was just a hop and a skip (for me, not Brianne) to final art on July 29, 2019, and a final jacket on September 11, 2019.

And—WHEW—today, October 21, 2019, we get to share that cover far and wide, just 4.5 short years after my initial story idea. And there’s only a teensy bit more waiting before we can finally, FINALLY, share the whole book with you in July 2020!

Carrie Finison headshot 400.png

Carrie Finison writes poetry, stories, and picture books for children. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Highlights, High Five, Ladybug, and Babybug magazines. Her debut picture book, DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS, will be published by Putnam in 2020, with DON’T HUG DOUG following in 2021. She lives outside Boston with her husband, son, and daughter (who all love doughnuts), and two cats who allow her to work in their attic office. She is represented by Linda Epstein at Emerald City Literary.

Follow author Carrie Finison:
Twitter: @CarrieFinison
Instagram: carriefinison
Carrie’s newsletter: Get notified about DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS publication, events, giveaways, and more.

Follow illustrator Brianne Farley:
Twitter: @briannefarley
Instagram: briannehfarley

Reeling from Rejection? We Feel Your Pain.

Illustration by Abi Cushman

Illustration by Abi Cushman


Welcome to our new series, 20 QUESTIONS.

Each blog post in this series will feature our Soaring 20s members answering a picture-book related question.

Today’s is:

“What was your most memorable rejection?”

Abi Cushman

Abi Cushman

The bear you see above is a sneak peek into author/illustrator Abi Cushman’s book SOAKED! According to Abi, it’s also “my face when an editor said my submission was really cute. TOO cute. And passed.”

Sure, rejection can be an opportunity for growth.

Sure, it’s just one editor’s/agent’s opinion.

Sure, every pass from a publisher brings you one step closer to finding the right fit. 

But silver linings aside, the truth is, rejection still stinks. 

We know. We’ve been there. We might all have books on the way in 2020, but our paths to publication have been paved with some pretty cringe-worthy rejections.

File this first one under Reasons to Proofread Your Emails:

Mary Wagley Copp

Mary Wagley Copp

Mary Wagley Copp, author of WHEREVER I GO, says, “After submitting a query that I worked on for weeks, I heard back from an agent with this: ‘Thank you for sharing your manuscript. We are totally in love with this enough to want to represent you. We wish you the best of luck and appreciate your thinking of us.’”

Sounds great, right? “We are totally in love with this” is every author’s dream response from an agent.

That’s what Mary thought too. Until she asked for clarification about the mixed message, and received this response back from the agent: “I am so sorry, but I omitted the word ‘not’ in that first sentence.”

As in, they were NOT totally in love with it.

In fact, Mary says, “it was the second sentence where the agent meant to include the word ‘not,’ which made that her second error in as many emails!”

And then, there are rejections where the agent or editor actually does seem to be in love with the manuscript, but passes anyway. The so-called “champagne rejections.”

NoNieqa Ramos

NoNieqa Ramos

NoNieqa Ramos, author of BEAUTY WOKE, once got a rejection that read: “Her stories have a great beat to them, too, with a rhythm and rhyme scheme that screams for these stories to be read out LOUD. And there’s a spirit that is simply infectious. Her energy (and creative energy) are clear, refreshing, unique.”

With a rejection like that, who needs an acceptance?

“Of course,” NoNiequa says, “I have had the ‘your work is dumpster trash’ rejection. But at least that makes sense to me. With this rejection, I have hope and want to possibly frame it.”

Candy Wellins

Candy Wellins

Candy Wellins, author of SATURDAYS WITH STELLA, will not be framing her most memorable rejection.

“My agent sent a story of mine to an editor who responded by asking if it was a real submission or a joke,” Candy says. “It was a humorous story that I guess she did not find funny.”

Anna Crowley Redding

Anna Crowley Redding

Anna Crowley Redding, author of RESCUING THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, also recalls a wince-worthy question from an editor. This one came at a conference. “I was so excited for the critique,” Anna says, “and to be paired with an editor from a publishing house I admired so much. (Can you tell where this is headed yet?) We sit down and the editor is holding my manuscript in their hands. I’m waiting with bated breath for incredible feedback. The editor said, 'Can you tell me what this story is supposed to be about?’ I wanted to be beamed up immediately to the Starship Enterprise. Thank goodness for my critique group members who found me afterwards and kept me from quitting!”

If you’re reading this, we don’t have to tell you how subjective this business is. One person’s pass is another person’s prize. Editors and agents are aware of this too, right?

Apparently not always. Many of us have had rejections that make more sweeping generalizations about our manuscript’s marketability.

Lindsay H. Metcalf

Lindsay H. Metcalf

Lindsay H. Metcalf, author of TRACTORS ON PARADE and co-editor of NO VOICE TOO SMALL, had an agent who rejected her manuscript and “told me to read more picture books so I could learn how good ones are written.”

TRACTORS ON PARADE is scheduled to be published by Calkins Creek next year.

Vicky Fang

Vicky Fang

Vicky Fang, author of INVENT-A-PET, says, “I had an in-person agent critique where the agent clearly didn’t like the manuscript, and politely told me there wasn’t a market for it. The manuscript ended up getting multiple offers.

Darshana Khiani

Darshana Khiani

An editor told Darshana Khiani, author of HOW TO WEAR A SARI, that her story was “quite unformed and needed more work.” That same version is now her debut.

Elisa Boxer

Elisa Boxer

The above answers remind me of my own most memorable rejection, from an editor who emailed that she “can’t really see this as a picture book.”

She was talking about THE VOICE THAT WON THE VOTE. It comes out in March.

So take it from us: The story that sparked your most painful rejection just might be coming soon to a bookstore near you.

When asked for their most memorable rejections, many of my colleagues included wait times in their responses.

Kelly Carey

Kelly Carey

Kelly Carey, author of HOW LONG IS FOREVER?, once received a rejection from an email submission in seven minutes flat. “Talk about rejection whiplash,” she says. “Authors often complain about lengthy query wait times, but trust me, seven minutes is even more painful.”

And then there are those of us for whom the waiting game is more of a marathon than a seven-minute sprint.

Kjersten Hayes

Kjersten Hayes

Kjersten Hayes, author of THE ELEPHANTS’ GUIDE TO HIDE-AND-SEEK, says, “Over the course of too many years, I had several enthusiastic personal requests that I submit my work—maybe after a critique, or through a recommendation, or someone liked my art and wanted to see my writing too. But then, more often than not, after I’d submit…crickets. I’d never hear from the requester again. Those are the roughest rejections.”

Rob Justus

Rob Justus

Rob Justus, author/illustrator of KID COACH, recalls, “For my first submission, an editor really liked my dummy book, but felt the story was more of a second book in the series. They asked me to come back with an “origin story” for the characters. So I spent the next six months writing and illustrating not one, but two origin story picture books for them to choose from. Only to have them completely drop off the map. My agent followed up numerous times by email and phone, only to be met with silence. Definitely had my hopes up, but definitely learned a lesson there.”

Hope Lim

Hope Lim

Hope Lim, author of I AM A BIRD, says, “An editor’s positive response filled me with hope for many months, but then it was ultimately a rejection.”

Susan Kusel

Susan Kusel

And then there’s Susan Kusel, author of THE PASSOVER GUEST, who was an avid reader of Highlights magazine as a child. “I particularly loved the 'Your Own Pages’ section, with creative writing from other children my age,” Susan says. “I finally got up the nerve to submit a poem at age 10, and got a form letter rejection. I was heartbroken at the time, but got over it. Many, many years later I got an invitation to give a keynote speech at The Highlights Foundation. That showed me if you wait long enough, a rejection can become an acceptance.”

It can also become a teaching tool.

Kirsten W. Larson

Kirsten W. Larson

Kirsten W. Larson, author of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE, says, “An editor called an earlier draft of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS 'didactic,’ and that’s a critique that’s really stuck with me as I’ve grown as a writer. When I first started writing true stories, I was in love with the facts and ‘telling’ readers the story. But now I’ve learned to focus on the emotional arc of the main character and to figure out what can be shown in the pictures and cut from the writing all together.”

Melanie Ellsworth

Melanie Ellsworth

Melanie Ellsworth, author of CLARINET AND TRUMPET, also recalls a helpful rejection. “I guess I expect brief, impersonal rejections,” she says, “so I particularly remember the ones that are really kind. In one rejection, the editor even took time to basically line edit the manuscript, which I think is almost unheard of in a rejection.”

On the flip side, of course, there’s feedback that makes it tough to know where and what to revise.

Rajani LaRocca

Rajani LaRocca

Rajani LaRocca, author of SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS, says her most memorable rejections were ones that “said the exact opposite of each other!”

So take heart: If you’re reeling from rejection, you’re in good company.

And now we turn it over to you…

What was your most memorable rejection?

Let us know in the comments. We promise to accept them all. ;)

Connecting Authors with Kids in the Classroom

Tips for Teachers (and Authors too)

By Kirsten W. Larson 

You’ve stowed your beach towel. Set your alarm clock. Bid summer vacation “bye-bye.” Kids are back in school. As your new year begins, are you looking for fresh ways to inspire reluctant and voracious readers alike? Hoping to find some fellow book champions? This year, let authors and illustrators become your partners in literacy. Just like you, we love books—and our readers too.

The possibilities for partnering with book creators are endless, but here are a few ideas to get you started. If you have other thoughts, we’d love to hear them in the comments. 

Start on social media

Tag us:

Love our books? Let us know. One of the greatest feelings in the world is knowing real kids connect with our work. Many book creators frequent Twitter and/or Instagram, so find us there. Follow us. Post a picture of our book in your TBR pile or during a read-aloud. Let us know if you spot our books in the wild. When you post, tag us (using the @ sign) to share the book love. Or maybe your students just have a question. Ask away (and tag us!). Most of us love to respond to real readers on social media.  

Chat with us:

Many of the Soaring ‘20s members write in other genres, such as  Christina Soontornvat .

Many of the Soaring ‘20s members write in other genres, such as Christina Soontornvat.

Many of us are active in classroom and literacy-focused Twitter chats. Some chats happen in real time. Click here for a schedule. Others are asynchronous and ongoing. If you want to join the conversation, look here to find a hashtag that might fit. Do you have a classroom full of middle-grade readers? Try #MGBookChat. Want to share the latest and greatest books in your collection? See #titletalk. Looking for literacy ideas? Try #NCTEChat or #tcrwp. You’ll find plenty of book creators who want to reach your students and/or community.

Make more personal connections

Virtual visits:

Mark your calendars for Feb. 5, 2020, World Read Aloud Day, and March 2, 2020, NEA’s Read Across America Day. Each year, many schools fling open their doors in celebration, welcoming visitors who read aloud to classrooms of eager readers for free. I typically read to a couple of classes each year as part of Read Across America, and answer questions about bookmaking and working as an author as well.

Don’t have book creators living nearby? Don’t worry! Author Kate Messner wrangles a whole host of authors and illustrators available for brief, virtual visits for World Read Aloud Day. Learn about the 2019 program here. And don’t forget to follow Kate’s blog so you catch the 2020 opportunities.


Soaring ‘20s member  Lindsay H. Metcalf  is sharing her debut-year journey with a #KidsNeedsMentors class in Kansas.

Soaring ‘20s member Lindsay H. Metcalf is sharing her debut-year journey with a #KidsNeedsMentors class in Kansas.

I recently sent this package of my education-market books to a #KidsNeedMentors classroom.

I recently sent this package of my education-market books to a #KidsNeedMentors classroom.

Want to take your partnership with authors and illustrators to the next level? Try #KidsNeedMentors. Pioneered by authors Ann Braden and Jarrett Lerner and organized by educators Kristin Crouch and Kristen Picone, #KidsNeedMentors connects one book creator with the same classroom of students for the whole year. Each relationship is unique, but might include exchanging books and letters, sharing writing, answering questions via FlipGrid videos, conducting writers’ workshops, reading together during a book club, and virtual and/or in-person author visits. It’s magical!

In-person school visits:

Nothing motivates young readers and writers more than meeting their book heroes in person. Many authors and illustrators conduct school visit programs (for a fee). These often are a mix of large-group assemblies, writers’ workshops, book signings and more. To find authors open to school visits, check out sites like Authors by State and StorySeer. Not sure your school can afford a visit? Author Annette Whipple has compiled a list of possible funding sources

One of the best things about writing books for kids is connecting with young readers. Their passion for books is contagious. So make it your goal this year to partner with a book creator sparking a life-long love of reading.

Here I am, “Encouraging Super Curious Kids” in my Wonder Woman T-shirt.

Here I am, “Encouraging Super Curious Kids” in my Wonder Woman T-shirt.


Kirsten W. Larson loves school visits. She’ll do a free 15-minute Skype visit with classes or libraries reading her nonfiction picture book, WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE, illustrated by Tracy Subisak (preorder now, releases February 2020). Kirsten used to work with rocket scientists at NASA. Now she writes books for curious kids. Find her at or on Twitter/Instagram @KirstenWLarson.