Thursday, July 27, 2017 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Naughty Nana Touches Hearts

The Write Way Café welcomes Saralyn Richard, who tamed her incorrigible dog Nana's antics into a series of children's books.

When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? 
I’ve wanted to write books since I was around ten years old. I just never dreamed my first book would be a children’s picture book about my incorrigible sheepdog pup. Nana was my second sheepdog. The first was a docile fluffball with perfect manners, essentially a person in a dog suit. When Nana came to live with me, I thought she would be the same, but no! She was a holy terror. I began calling her the Princess of Pandemonium, the Duchess of Destruction, the Countess of Chaos. I started making a list of all her misdeeds, and the list was growing longer than my patience or hopes for relief. One day, while taking her for a “pull,” it occurred to me that Naughty Nana might be an instructive and entertaining book for youngsters.

What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do? 
I began by writing Nana’s story. I took a Writer’s Digest webinar led by a children’s book publisher. From that I learned many important strategies and received a critique on the story. I spoke to another publisher, who discouraged me from seeking a traditional publisher, as the market was flooded with adult fiction authors who had turned to writing kids’ books and whose name recognition made their books bestsellers. So I researched self-publishing options and read a lot of books, articles, and blogs on the subject. I joined a Picture Book Month group (PiBoMo) on social media. It was helpful in giving me a source for answering some of the thorny questions, like whether hardbacks or softcovers sell better. I learned how to distinguish between the quality printing companies and those who just print anything to make money for themselves. I started looking for an illustrator whose style matched my concept for the book, and when I found my printing company, they recommended one whose work I loved. Our collaboration took about a year, during which we communicated weekly. Together we cut the text, laid it out, and worked through rough sketches, tight sketches, and vivid paintings.

Dog in Naughty NanaWhere did the idea for your story come from? 
Nana’s misbehavior was the obvious impetus for the story, but I also task analyzed over a hundred children’s books, identifying qualities I admired in each. I noticed a scarcity in the number of books in which grandparents served as main characters, and I decided Grammy and Papa would be the ideal foils for Nana to play against. I wanted Nana to tell her story from her own point of view, so children could identify with her naivete’ and impulsive behavior.

Why did you pick the setting you did? 
The setting of Naughty Nana is an unnamed city, but it has a beach and a seawall, like the city where we live. Since most of the plot events really happened here, it was logical to place the story here, as well.

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself? 
Nana, the narrator and focus of the story, is very much alive! She has become a celebrity, not just locally, but all over the country and internationally, too. She has a thriving social calendar, as she is invited to schools, libraries, museums, parades, festivals, book stores, birthday parties, and other special events. Fortunately, she is not naughty anymore, and she loves her public as much as they love her. The other characters in Naughty Nana resemble real people, but, of course, they are modeled in the story to bring out certain characteristics and happenings for Nana.

Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret? 
In a 32-page book, one might think there wouldn’t be obstacles, but that was not the case. The original text for Naughty Nana was over 1800 words, way too much for a children’s book. The challenge was to cut the text without losing the spirit of the story. Anyone who has written a children’s book knows that cutting and revising is the hardest part. I must have re-read the story a thousand times.

What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after? 
The biggest surprise has been the whole new world that Naughty Nana’s publication has opened up for Nana and me. We have ventured into new friendships and partnerships, gone places, done things that we never would have done before. There have been lectures and mentoring classes, interviews and magazine articles, road trips, spa days, autographs and pawtographs. The best part is knowing that Nana’s story has touched the hearts of young children. It gives both Nana and me a bit of immortality.

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about sheepdogs and writing for children? 
I learned that the whole world loves a great story, whether it’s written for children or adults. The process for writing a children’s book is not dissimilar from that of an adult book. There is still the movement from concept to written text to revision and editing and finally to publication. After that, the process of distributing and marketing is practically identical.

Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you. 
I share a tiny office with my husband. My desk is cluttered with books and magazines, my calendar, and the detritus of a dozen different projects going on at the same time. I have certain important reminders and bits of information on sticky notes on the bookshelves behind my computer screen. A picture of Nana’s predecessor, Lucy, is framed and on the shelf. Best of all, there is a window to my right, so I have a sense of weather, time of day, season, and nature whenever I glance up. The room is large enough to accommodate my working materials and small enough to allow me to block out the rest of the world and enter the “zone” of the book.

What are some of your favorite books and why? 
Some of my favorite children’s books are Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Giving Tree, Where the Wild Things Are, and Good Night, Moon. I also love Giddy Graegert’s new series starting with Don’t Play with Your Food:  Fufu’s Bistro. The best stories are the ones that have humor, interesting characters, and positive messages.

What are you working on now? 
After Naughty Nana, I wrote an adult mystery novel, Murder in the One Percent, which is coming soon from Black Opal Books. I’m polishing a second mystery, Murder at Lincoln High, and contemplating a women’s novel after that. Many stories are incubating in my brain, growing and flexing, nudging to come out.

If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be? 
Other jobs I’ve held and loved were:  teacher, administrator, school improvement consultant, party consultant, legal secretary, health informatician, library assistant, newsletter editor, curriculum writer, book editor, and babysitter. For me the best job is one where you interact with people and make their lives better.

What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
I wouldn’t call it trouble, but I find ending a novel to be the most challenging task. In the final chapter, I feel pressure to unify all of the book’s elements and bring the plot to its most satisfying conclusion. It’s a huge task, and I find myself over-thinking and over-fretting.

Who is your favorite hero/heroine? 
This may be the most difficult question to answer. I’ve considered naming Atticus Finch, Scarlett O’Hara, Madame Bovary, Jenny Fields, Owen Meany, O-Lan, and many others, but I think I’ll choose Lizbeth Salander from The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson. Despite so many obstacles in her life, such as poverty and misogyny, she uses her intelligence and technology skills to every advantage. Nothing can squash her indomitable spirit and practical nature. Even when she behaves badly, she is a force to be admired.

Written by Saralyn Richard, Illustrated by Rebecca Evans
Nana, the Old English sheepdog pup who  "just wants to have fun," tells how her shenanigans cause bedlam wherever she goes.

Naughty Nana is published by Palm Circle Press, and can be purchased in hardback or softcover at

Sensitively written and vividly illustrated, this book features grandparents, grandchildren, and two lovable, but very different, canine companions.
ISBN: 978-0-9896255-0-0
Juvenile:  ages 2-9, grades pre-K -6, 32 pp., English, hardcover and softcover.

About Saralyn:  Mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard, has been a teacher who wrote on the side. Now she is a writer who teaches on the side. Some of her poems and essays have won awards and contests from the time she was in high school. Her children’s picture book, Naughty Nana, has reached thousands of children in five countries.
     Murder in the One Percent, soon-to-be-published by Black Opal Books, pulls back the curtain on how the privileged and powerful rich live, love, and hate. Set on a gentleman’s farm in Pennsylvania and in the tony areas of New York, the book shows what happens when someone comes to a party with murder in his heart and poison in his pocket.
     When she is not writing, Saralyn likes going to movies and concerts, traveling, and walking on the beach with her husband and two dogs. She is an avid reader and is working on her second mystery.

Website     Facebook       Twitter       Goodreads


Kathy Matteson said...

Saralyn's positivity in her writing and in person make one want to be like her.. Her upcoming mystery is something I really look forward to reading. Saralyn's writing classes are inspiring. Bravo, Saralyn!

Camille Thiel Downes said...

What a wonderful interview. Saralyn is a very talented speaker and writer. Truth was spoken when she yearned to make people's lives better. She is a treasure and loving friend.

Unknown said...

The Grand 1894 Opera House Loves Saralyn and Nana! We are thrilled that she will be sharing he gifts with our Theatre campers this week!

Suellen Brown said...

Saralyn is very generous in sharing the techniques that have been so effective for her, and that generosity informs her classes. Looking forward to the new books!

Anonymous said...

I was thrilled to be able to read the writing and publishing process the author went through! The result was definitely worth the time and efforts! My twin 4 year old grand boys consider Naughty Nana their favorite book and they have every book imaginable! They even Skyped with Saralyn and Nana to tell them that not only is it their favorite, but they read it almost every night because it helps them sleep! Saralyn and Nana have used their talents for so much good in their community and beyond. I have read some of the events they have attended have helped fundraiser, birthdays, community celebrations, and on and on! Saralyn has created a new wonderful story from a wonderful story! I look forward to many more success books from this amazing author!

HiDee said...

I love how you incorporated Nana, who is such a big part of your life, into your writing and that you are doing such wonderful things! Thank you for sharing your story with us!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Kathy, Suellen, Hi Dee and anonymous ones. It takes much more than writing to make for a successful book. It takes READERS like you. I couldn't do any of it without you. --Saralyn

Zari Reede said...

I love the Naughty Nana story! What a great interview and I was glad to hear more about how Saraslyn thinks�� Looking forward to the book signing on August 19th at Murder by the Book in Houston with you!

Zari Reede said...

Sorry, auto correct always gets me ! Saralyn... and the ?? Is a smiley face that didn't translate

Kathleen Kaska said...

Great interview, Saralyn. It was nice reading about you and your path to publishing. Naughty Nana sounds delightful! And congratulations on the release of your new mystery. I look forward to meeting you in Houston next month!

Galveston Bookshop said...

Well done Saralyn! It's great to have a local children's book on the shelf here, and Nana is getting to be a Galveston celebrity.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Zari, Kathleen, and Galveston Bookshop! I wish I could post individually below yours. Grateful for your time and comments! --Saralyn

Susan P Baker said...

Really nice interview, Saralyn. We've known each other a long time, but there is still so much to learned about you and FROM you. You have great energy. You inspire great things in others. If you do write a sequel to Naughty Nana, I'll be the first one in line to buy one. My grandson really enjoyed the book.

Rozanne Rubin said...

WONDERFUL interview; I learned a great deal about you even though I've known you for decades! How Saralyn-esque to analyze more than one hundred children's books - noting admirable qualities of each! You are extremely talented and have accomplished a great deal professionally! I look very forward to all of your future achievements!

Rona Train said...

I'm privileged to know Saralyn and to learn from her. She is a patient, knowledgeable, and caring mentor. I'm eagerly awaiting her mystery novels!

Anonymous said...

Hey, Rozanne and Rona, two brilliant people! Thanks for reading the blog and commenting. You are jewels! --Saralyn

Anonymous said...

Lovely post Saralyn, and I adore Nana. Best of luck with your writing x

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mollie. I know that's you. Glad to share Nana with you! --Saralyn xo

Ronnie. Goldstein said...

Interview was fabulous!!. You have been a great friend for years and I loved reading about everything you did to get Naughty Nana in print!
Looking forward to reading your new adult book!! Love,
Ronnie Goldstein July 27 at 5:45PM

Giddy Gragert said...

Great interview. I am in awe with Saralyn's writing. She has been such an inspiration to me. I wish her all the best and can't wait to read another of her books. As a teacher, Naughty Nana was brought into my class and my students LOVED the story. Saralyn and Nana are FABULOUS!!!

Marilyn Harris said...

Saralyn's a natural-born writer and teacher of writing! Her book is interesting, her teaching so thorough! She makes one think! A relaxing and enjoyable book is always a pleasure for young and old, and that's what 'Naughty Nana' offers! Put me in line for a copy of your next book! This is a most informative interview!

Anonymous said...

Saralyn's a natural-born writer and teacher of writing! Her book is interesting, her teaching so thorough! She makes one think! A relaxing and enjoyable book is always a pleasure for young and old, and that's what 'Naughty Nana' offers! Put me in line for a copy of your next book! This is a most informative interview!

Pat said...

I knew she would write her book. I didn't know her first one would be a children's book. Looking forward to all her future stories. I don't believe that part about a messy desk. That wasn't her desk; it was mine that was messy. Good luck to one of the finest people I know.

Unknown said...

Saralyn and Nana came to our school to share Nana's story. What a delightful book! Our students loved the story and getting to meet Nana in person was an extra special experience.

Anonymous said...

Great interview! Thanks for sharing. "Naughty Nana" sounds delightful. Good luck with your book.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Ronnie, Giddy, Madge, Pat, and Unknown. I appreciate your comments so much. And, Pat, my desk is quite messy. :)

Anonymous said...

Those of you who are trying to leave comments, you can put your name in the message, and when you hit the "Comment as" button, choose anonymous. Then choose "Publish" and prove you are not a robot. Thanks so much!