Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Meet Erin Cabatingan, author of A IS FOR MUSK OX

First of all, you've got to check out the cute trailer for this picture book!

Hi Erin! Thank you for answering some questions for us. 

When and where do you write?

My youngest child just started kindergarten this year, so I've been able to write in the mornings when I don't have something else going on. But every once in a while my kids will be playing well together and I'll get some time to write in the evenings. As to where I write, I have a desk at my treadmill and I like to walk while I write. I can walk 2 mph and on a good day I'll get over 4 miles in. I also write a lot while sitting on my couch.

How did you find the inspiration for A IS FOR MUSK OX?

A IS FOR MUSK OX started as an exercise. I was thinking of ways that I could write a picture book and make it stand out. As I was thinking, I realized that most picture books are written so that A is for something that starts with A, B is for something that starts with B, and so on. So I thought, what if A started with something that didn't start with A? And then I had to figure out why that would be. I imagined a zebra who was tired of being stuck at the end of the book and wanted to be first. I pictured him eating the apple and taking over the picture book. But after a quick Google search, I found another book called A IS FOR ZEBRA (where the last letter of each word corresponds to the alphabet) so I changed the zebra to a musk ox and the idea grew from there. I later put the zebra back in, but in a different role. Originally this whole though process was just an exercise and I wasn't planning on writing the book, but I fell in love with the idea and decided I had to write it.

How long did it take you to write A IS FOR MUSK OX?

It actually didn't take me long at all. I came up with the idea while I was driving and by the time I got home I had the basic idea of what I wanted to write. I spent a little time researching musk oxen and then after a couple hours I had the manuscript written.

How many revisions?

Not very many, actually. I wrote the book and showed it to my husband. He suggested I add more musk oxen facts so I did that and then I sent it out to agents pretty much like that. I found an agent with that manuscript and they took it to Neal Porter (editor of Roaring Brook Press) as it was. I did make some changes with Neal, but there wasn't really anything too big. It actually scared me a little with how easy this book was to write. I worried that I wouldn't be able to write a good book unless I was inspired with an idea and writing it came easily to me. Most of my books take a lot more hard work to write.

Do you have an agent?

I work with the amazing Nacy Gallt and Marietta Zacker. And I'm so glad I do. They've made the whole getting published process so much easier.

How did you receive the good news?

I received a phone call--that I missed--from Nancy Gallt. In the message she mentioned that she already had an editor interested in the manuscript. And then she said that she wanted to represent me. It was a very exciting message.

Was there anything that surprised you about the editorial/publishing process?

Just how long it took for everything to happen. I knew it would be a long time, but I didn't realize just how long. It took 3 years from the time I had an offer on my book until it was actually published.

Any additional comments or thoughts?

I have two other books under contract with Roaring Brook Press. They're both about Musk Ox and Zebra. The second one should come out next year. It's a counting book called MUSK OX COUNTS. The third is a geography book.

Erin, you are a sweetheart, I love your book (genius idea), and your last name is really fun to say).  Readers . . . pick up your copy of A IS FOR MUSK OX, today!


  1. I love reading the story behind stories. Thanks for sharing this!