Posted by: nancyisanders | December 10, 2010

Author Interview: Toni Buzzeo

Meet Author Toni Buzzeo!
Website: Toni Buzzeo, Author, Library Media Specialist
YouTube Video: Writing Cottage

Toni Buzzeo has a lifelong history with books. It all started in her hometown library in Dearborn, Michigan where she began as a young patron and ended working her way through college. It’s no wonder that after teaching writing at the high school and college level for years, she returned to school for a second masters degree in library science and worked as a school librarian for sixteen years while launching her children’s writing career. She has published twelve picture books and has six more forthcoming. She has also published eleven professional books for teachers and librarians. She travels extensively, both nationally and internationally, to speak in schools and libraries and at state, national, and international library, reading, and education conferences.

Featured Book:
Adventure Annie Goes to Kindergarten
By Toni Buzzeo
Illustrated by Amy Wummer
Dial Books, 2010

There won’t be a zoo escapade or a high-flying circus exploit today for Adventure Annie. Instead it is her FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN ADVENTURE! Luckily with her zookeeper hat, her high-wire slippers, and her walkie-talkies tucked into her backpack, Adventure Annie is ready for anything–even Kindergarten! Her teacher isn’t pleased when Annie tries to turn every activity into an adventure, but when the milk for snack time goes missing, it’s ADVENTURE ANNIE TO THE RESCUE! This energetic and laugh-out-loud story is sure to get every kid excited about their own Kindergarten Adventure.

Q: Describe a highlight for you personally while you were writing this book.

A: As a young child, I was exceedingly shy—so shy that if my best friend Linda Benko were not at school, I would go through the entire day without talking to even one other person (my teacher included)! I was amazingly good at sitting quietly and reading a book, the model of the old saw “Children should be seen and not heard.” However, I can only imagine that inside that quiet little girl was an adventurous spirit, for when the main character of my book Adventure Annie Goes to Work, Annie Grace, decided it was time to go to kindergarten in Adventure Annie Goes to Kindergarten, she went in her usual noisy, rambunctious style, with plenty of energy (just ask her teacher, Mr. Todd!) and a fun-loving approach to school. I just loved returning to kindergarten with Adventure Annie and seeing how much fun it could be to save the day and be named Mr. Todd’s Gold Star Deputy. It was a chance to hit the rewind button and do the first day of kindergarten right!

Q: How did you experience breakthrough to work with the big publishing houses?
Right from the start, I had publication with a large publishing house as my goal. As a librarian, I was well acquainted with the quality of books published by the large trade houses and the review attention they commanded. I believe that the key to landing any publishing contract is twofold. First, it requires diligence and perseverance (producing the best work you can produce and continuing to submit through the years of rejection). And second, as in most human endeavors, it requires building relationships over time. I did not approach submissions in a random fashion, but rather took the opportunity to build relationships with editors who encouraged me to continue to submit more of my work over the years. It took almost exactly five years of submitting for me to sell my first manuscript, The Sea Chest, to Dial Books for Young Readers.

To view a YouTube video about Toni’s delightful Writing Cottage, click on the link.

Q: Describe your typical writing schedule.
There is nothing typical or predictable in my writing schedule! That’s because I travel so much for speaking and spend much of my time on planes. When I (rarely) have a stretch of time off the road, I retreat to my writing cottage (see photo) for several hours each afternoon. But during my busy speaking seasons, I’m likely to work on revisions in a hotel room or scratch out a bit of a first draft on an airplane. I also do quite a bit of publishing in the library journals and write curriculum for other published books, so on the road I’m also likely to be dreaming up teaching activities or giving advice to school librarians in a monthly column.

Q: Please share one word of advice you’d like say to encourage other aspiring picture book writers.
As we all know, it’s a tough time for picture books right now as publishers have cut back the numbers of picture books they are publishing. However, if your most beloved genre is picture books, I wouldn’t discourage you from pursuing your dream of publishing them. To succeed, the most important thing you can do is to read hundreds of newly published picture books each year. Read each one several times—ALOUD! Make friends with your local independent bookseller and your local children’s librarian. Ask each of them to recommend the best selling and the best reviewed picture books of the current season. Watch for the year-end best-reviewed books of the year lists from the major review journals and read all of those—again, ALOUD. Read until the lyricism of language, the variety of structures, the nuances of plot begin to take hold in your bones and your brain and then write, write, write.


  1. Thank you for your words of wisdom, Toni. I love reading about other writer’s journeys. And I really appreciate your exhortation to PERSEVERE. I’m just beginning my journey so I will keep that as a “note to self” for all the future rejections and detours. I could identify with your childhood shyness, I was also a wallflower. Adventure Annie could easily be the alter ego of many a shy child and even encourage them to venture out more. I can see her being a well loved character and “imaginary friend”. Thanks for sharing! I look forward to reading about her adventures.

    • Valerie, just keep my 150 rejection letters in mind when you feel tempted to give up. There’s a yes at the end of all those no’s if you keep growing in your craft, work diligently with your critique group, and keep your savvy marketing hat ON!

      • Wow, Toni, that’s very inspiring to know, too. And I love your writing cottage! What a precious retreat. -Nancy

  2. Be sure to visit my website at and watch the writing cottage movie!

  3. Hi Nancy,

    What a great interview Nancy! Thank you so much for sharing it with us! I would love to have a writing cottage like this without a phone and other distractions. What an absolute blessing.

    Thanks so much Toni for sharing all of your wonderful writing tips! I really appreciate reading them. I will apply some of them to my writing life too!

    ~ Irene

  4. Irene, you’re so welcome! So many people have shared so much of their wisdom with me as I’ve walked the road to (and through) publication that I love to help others by sharing too!

  5. Toni,

    Oh! 150! Well, in the words of author Donna Clark Goodrich, those are not rejection letters, they are “pre-acceptance” letters, haha! Sounds a lot more hopeful, doesn’t it! I like to think so.

  6. LOL! Well, actually, I think some of them WERE pre-acceptance letters–those were the ones from editors with whom a cultivated a relationship over time or from editors offering specific ways to improve the manuscript (which I put to good use). The ones that said DEAR AUTHOR, well, that’s another story :>

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