Ron Rauss joins me today to talk about his picture book, Can I Just Take A Nap?, his experience as winner of the coveted Cheerios® New Author Contest, and what it’s like to have his book in six million cereal boxes!
Hi Ron, I’m excited to have you join the spotlight today to talk about your debut picture book, Can I Just Take A Nap?
Q) As this year’s champion of the Cheerios® Spoonfuls of Stories New Author Contest, my first question is about the book: how did you come up with the story, why did you enter the contest, and what’s this whole whirlwind experience as winner been like for you? *Laughing, I know, that’s not really one question, is it?*
A) Thanks for having me and giving me the opportunity to share a little bit about my book and the Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories Program with your readers.
I started working on Can I Just Take A Nap? after seeing an ad for the Cheerios New Author Contest in a parenting magazine. My son was a newborn and I was a stay at home dad so I didn’t have to look far for ideas for the story. While brainstorming the one thing that kept popping up in my head was naptime and how both parents and children could relate to a main character seeking a quiet place to catch a few zzz’s. That started Aiden McDoodle on his journey.
When I read about the contest I did some research to find out a little more about it and was really excited to find out what a wonderful opportunity it was. I started writing children’s stories to share with my son and had never really considered trying to publish them, but the contest seemed like a great way to share my work with even more kids. I submitted Can I Just Take A Nap? on July 14, 2010 the day before the contests deadline and looked forward to reading about the winner in the fall. In late November I received a call from General Mills informing me that I was the grand prize winner and another call soon after from Simon & Schuster, Can I Just Take A Nap? was going to be published!
The journey that followed winning the contest has been really amazing. I have learned so much about the publishing industry, worked with great people from General Mills, Simon & Schuster and First Book and had the chance to share my story with kids all over the country. In late March I read my book to a large group of kids at the Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories 10th Anniversary Celebration in Washington D.C., seeing my book in their little hands and the smiles that followed as I read the story aloud was fantastic and something I will always remember. I am anxiously awaiting the release of the paperback in millions of boxes of Cheerios any day now and the hardcover release on June 5th.
Q) The tour has begun, readings and signings are scheduled. Has working with Cheerios® changed the way you look at books, breakfast cereal and literacy in America?
A) Yes. Participating in the Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories Program has taught me so much about children’s literacy and the need for books in this country. Books are the foundation for our children’s reading and writing education and it’s shocking that so many children do not have access to them. The Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories program helps get free books into the hands of kids all over the country at an early age and provides a healthy breakfast at the same time. The program has given away more than 60 million books over the past 10 years and I am so proud to have my book be a part of the program. I hope Can I Just Take A Nap? will start many children on the path to reading and a lifelong love of books.
Q) Thinking along this theme, how can people get involved in supporting the Cheerios® Spoonfuls of Stories program, what would you offer as a suggestion to those hesitant authors seeking to enter the competition, and what’s next for you?
A) People can start by spreading the word about the need for books and how the Spoonfuls of Stories Program is helping. Learn more about First Book, an organization dedicated to children’s literacy and providing low-income children across the country with free books.
For you authors out there wondering if the Cheerios New Author Contest is for you I have one question. Do you think you can write a children’s picture book….and get it published? That was the question that was on that ad I read that started me on my journey to publication and I thank my lucky stars every day that my answer was yes.
I’m writing more stories all the time and hopeful that more of them will make it into the hands of children around the world, but no matter where my writing career takes me not much will change about the reason I started writing for children in the first place. I will always write stories for my son and I to share.
Thanks so much for your time, Ron! We’re so thrilled that your picture book will be in the hands of children inside six million specially marked cereal boxes. Congratulations again on winning, and may you write many more picture books!