Hello Readers! Welcome to Kid Lit Village. This week, I have the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Davis, author of 30,000 STITCHES: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag. The book is illustrated by Sally Wern Comport and published by Worthy Kids, May 2021.
30,000 STITCHES tell the true story of the 30-foot American flag that was put up at Ground Zero in the days after 9/11. The flag became torn, tattered, and covered in dust and ash so it was taken down a few weeks later by a construction crew and tucked away in storage, where it stayed for nearly seven years. The flag was brought out of storage in 2008 when the New York Says Thank You Foundation headed to Greensburg, Kansas, a town nearly destroyed by a tornado. NYSTY brought the flag with them, sparking a grassroots restoration effort that traveled over 120,000 miles across all fifty states, bringing together thousands of people, and helping America heal and rebuild . . . hand by hand, thread by thread, one stitch at a time. The book is the story of that journey, a journey that ended at the opening of the National September 11 Museum, where the flag remains today. Along the way, the flag was restored using pieces of retired flags from every state—including a piece of the flag that Abraham Lincoln was laid on after he was shot at Ford’s Theater and threads from the original Star-Spangled Banner flag, which flew at Fort McHenry in the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem. The pieces and threads were stitched in by military veterans, first responders, educators, students, community-service heroes, and family members of 9/11 victims, among others. At each stop, communities came together to remember, to heal, and to unite.
Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness. Amanda is the author of 30,000 STITCHES: THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE NATIONAL 9/11 FLAG and has poetry and illustrations featured in The Writers’ Loft Anthology, FRIENDS AND ANEMONES: OCEAN POEMS FOR CHILDREN. When she’s not busy creating, you can find her sipping tea, petting dogs, and exploring the natural wonders of The Bay State with her partner and her rescue pup, Cora. You can learn more about Amanda at www.amandadavisart.com and on Twitter @amandadavisart and Instagram @amandadavis_art.
Hello Amanda, and welcome to the Kid Lit Village blog!
Please start by telling us why you write books for children.
As children’s book creators, we have an opportunity to empower children to learn more about themselves, others, and the world around them. This is my philosophy as an art educator as well. This is a huge responsibility and a very important job. With nonfiction for kids, I love the idea that we can make little known topics accessible to children. I hope that my debut, 30,000 STITCHES, empowers parents and educators to talk to children about difficult events in our history and current day society. We can’t shield children from all the bad in the world, but we can help them understand it and show them how to work through it. We can teach them how to cope…how to move forward…and how to unite. We can remind them of the bright spots within the darkness and of the good in humanity. The fact we, as creators, can provide readers with the opportunity to explore these ideas through our stories is something truly special.
Amanda, your book is a great example of looking at how human beings can come together and respond to tragic or difficult events in inspiring ways. As you say, books give that opportunity for learning how to work through and cope with difficulties.
Tell us about your path to publication.
It was a long process! From the moment, I read and taught about the true story of the flag in 2011, I was intrigued and knew it was a special story. It stuck with me and lingered in my head, but needed time to flourish. After visiting the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in 2014, and being overcome with emotion at the artifacts and the stories, it was another reminder of the importance of telling this story. Once I decided to write a children’s book on the topic of the National 9/11 Flag, I enacted my three ‘r’’s: a lot of research, countless revisions, and creating a refrain that helped me tie the narrative together. Once I had a polished draft, I sent the story off to agents and a few publishers-WorthyKids being one of them. I ended up getting an agent for the story and seven months after I sent the manuscript to WorthyKids, they emailed me with interest. I connected them with my agent, and the rest is history! A true slush pile (snail mail) submission success story!!
That’s so inspiring, Amanda! It shows that manuscripts really do get chosen from the slush pile. And you clearly put the work into the story that’s needed to get it polished and ready to submit.
Tell us how you build yourself up in the face of rejection.
When I first began putting my work out there, I took everything very personally. I can remember my very first writer’s conference. I went big and attended the SCBWI Winter Conference! I participated in the portfolio showcase and a round table critique. I remember crying after the feedback I received from the editor at my round table. Looking back, I can laugh but it reminds me how much I’ve grown. My skin has definitely thickened, and I don’t take things as personally anymore. This is a subjective business and not everyone is going to like your work. But, if you want to get published, you must continue to claw your way back. Continue to put yourself and your work out there. There may be tears or disappointment along the way but there will also be joy and smiles once you fulfill your dreams. The world needs your stories. Don’t give up!
It really takes practice to learn to accept criticism. And growing to that place of being able to hear the feedback and not take it personally is worth celebrating!
Do you have any tips for querying editors and agents?
I found Publisher’s Marketplace a wonderful tool when researching agents and editors. It’s a paid monthly membership but I use it frequently to see deals and figure out what types of stories editors and agents are selling and acquiring and who represents who. When I was querying agents, I used this information to help customize the first paragraph of my queries to give it a personal touch. It was super helpful! I still use it now to suggest names of editors to my agent when I see a deal that might be similar to something we have out on sub. If you don’t have access to Publisher’s Marketplace, you can research agents and editors through Twitter, or Manuscript Wish List. I also look for interviews agents or editors have done online so I can learn more about them. Another piece of advice is that when you’re querying agents, it’s alright to gently nudge if you haven’t heard back. We are our own best advocates and agents and editors are swamped with submissions. A friendly reminder can go a long way in getting a response. Make sure to check their guidelines on their website to see what their timeframe for responding is. If that timeline has passed, follow-up.
The follow-ups can be hard to do, but as you say, sometimes they are needed if done in a friendly manner. Lots of good advice here, Amanda. Thank you!
What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
The story of the flag is really a story about human connection. With that in mind, I hope that readers walk away from the book feeling inspired by the themes of strength, unity, hope, and healing that are woven throughout the story. I hope they feel more connected to their fellow humans through our shared emotions, experiences, and stories. I also hope that the book acts as an entry point for educators and parents to talk about difficult topics in history and present day. With the 20th remembrance of 9/11 approaching, I hope the book will be a great resource for all to honor and remember.
Human connection is really what we all crave and need more than ever after the past year of being apart from one another. It sounds like your book will be a wonderful resource for educators and parents. Thank you for sharing it with us!
Readers: Thanks for stopping by Kid Lit Village blog; I hope you’ll be back next week to discover another new book release from the amazing Kid Lit Community!
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