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Sky High Tomatoes

My new picture book about gardening, friendship, finding home, and much more in 200 words is ready for subbing! I have a dummy book with two finished illustrations, and I have started to plant the seeds out there in the publishing world, mostly with agents, but a few editors. And today #Pitmad on twitter.

written and illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner, ©2017 Traci Van Wagoner
Cover color sketch for Sky High Tomatoes
Query pitch: After a sad farewell with her grandma on the farm, Maggie finds the magic of gardening on her roof in the BIG city, and through the seasons as she cares for her seeds and seedlings, she finds she has grown roots in her new home as well. To top it off, at summer’s end, she shares the fruits of her labors with her neighbors and makes a new friend at a sky high tomato feast. Sprinkled with fun facts, this book will encourage children to get their hands dirty and make their own garden feast. 

Fun fact: I was never a big tomato fan until I grew my own on my roof in New York City. I'm a farm bred girl who never really had an appreciation for how delicious home grown and sun ripened tomatoes are. Sweet and juicy. And in my book you'll find out why with additional fun facts sprinkled throughout.

For years I've wanted to share the magic I've found with roof gardening, and finally this idea clicked. This book started differently than other books I’ve created with the color sketches coming first, and it evolved into something I really love.

written and illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner, ©2018
Interior illustration for Sky High Tomatoes

written and illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner
Color sketch

The above image is a final painting of the initial color sketch I did that started this whole thing (left). It was the winter of 2017, snowing heavily in New York. I was depressed, as was many people in our country, and our country was in a state of turmoil and great distress. I saw a picture on Facebook posted by a fellow roof gardener of him planting tomato seeds inside while it was snowing outside. That was a seed of hope and the fertilizer I needed for an idea I had germinating for a long time -- too much -- okay -- an idea was sparked that lead to the first illustration of something. I didn't know where it was going, but I knew there was something there. I added another illustration, another and more until a story began to form and I had a full book. It was rough, simple, and not there yet. I did more illustrations, and several revisions of the text and illustrations. Researched more fun facts. Painted more, until more of a story formed. I was pretty happy. Several crit buddies liked it. I really wanted to send it out, but in my heart of hearts I knew it wasn't ready.

Fun Fact: I really like to procrastinate. I'm a firm believer since it has proven useful many times in my life.

For many months I sat on it, pondering, thinking, paint playing with more images. More thinking while staring at the thumbnails, more color sketching in the iPad with Procreate. Many critiques from critique partners and willing participants to give me their opinions. And finally the idea of Gran's note pulled everything together. It sort of just appeared on the above illustration one day while I was playing around with this page again trying to pull several concepts together. Bingo, bango, bongo! That was the missing puzzle piece to Sky High Tomatoes.

©2018 Traci Van Wagoner
Interior spread final illustration for Sky High Tomatoes

So, that is the long and short of it. If you haven't experienced the magic of gardening yet, please find a way to do so, even a small flower, an herb in your kitchen window, let a dandylion live in the crack in the sidewalk. It is rewarding and fruitful. Ha! Yeah, I'm punny.

Fun Fact: I'm a New York City roof gardener. Anyone who follows me on FB has seen my #RoofGarden photos. It's my oasis in the city. If you'd like to see photos, find me on Facebook where you'll see plenty of inspiration for my story. Including heirloom tomatoes from seeds I saved -- something Maggie learns to do as well.

I hope very soon everyone will be able to enjoy Maggie’s emotional and magical journey as she learns to garden and makes friends in the BIG city.

If you're an agent or a publisher, and are interested in see more, I have a dummy book available upon request.

Please feel free to share your ideas on helping encourage children, or anyone for that matter, to get their hands dirty and plant a flower or a vegetable or fruit, tomatoes are a fruit! Fun fact.

The bees thank you.

Bee art by Traci Van Wagoner
@2018 Traci Van Wagoner

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1 Comment

Mirka Breen
Mirka Breen
Jun 08, 2018

I'll be thinking about tomatoes in a different way from now on <3

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