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First-time author makes her mark in picture books

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Sarah Hoppe

Sarah Hoppe has always loved children's picture books. The Rochester author has a pile of rejected manuscripts to prove it.

So there's something special that happens when a publisher emails back and offers a contract for your first book. Now Hoppe is a first-time author. On Aug. 1, her debut book, "Who Will? Will You?," will be released by Blue Whale Press. 

Hoppe, 40, figures her manuscripts have generated about 70 rejections over the last five years. Yet she kept going back to the drawing board, writing and submitting stories.

She said an invaluable part of the writing process was soliciting feedback from others, whether it was the "brutal" critiques of her two young children or an online writing forum. 

"You have to develop a thick skin," Hoppe said.

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Hoppe's breakthrough book is about a young girl named Lottie who finds a pup while combing the beach. But it's not the kind of pup you might think. And it's that bit of misdirection that grabbed the editors of Blue Whale Press.

"We get a lot of books about puppies and they're not very exciting books," said Alayne Kay Chrisitian, Blue Whale's content and developmental editor. "So her initial title was "Little Lost Pup," and I kind of rolled my eyes. I read all our submissions, and I was like, 'This is not your ordinary puppy story. This is interesting.'"

Blue Whale Press is a small publisher that releases about five books a year. Christian said out of the 150 submissions Blue Whale received in June, she is considering publishing one of them. 

"It's not easy to write a picture book, so it's hard to find good manuscripts," Christian said.

A one-time grade school teacher, Hoppe said she has always loved picture books. The spareness of the language. The way every word counts, like in a poem. How the words and pictures, when combined in the right way, create a world that would not exist with words and pictures alone.

"It's just like euphoric (when it works)," Hoppe said. "I thought if I could give that feeling to somebody else, that would be the coolest thing." 

The book is illustrated by Milanka Reardon. It is available on a pre-sale basis through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble for $16.99.

Christian said the book is both fun and educational, and its subject matter about shore life and finding a home for stray animal make it a natural for beachside gift shops, schools and libraries. The book has garnered good reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Midwest Book Review.

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"You learn the process and you submit and you hopefully get somebody that likes what you're doing," Hoppe said. "That's what's happened to me, luckily enough."

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