Picture Book Journey

St. Gertrude and her cats

Five years ago, I came across this St. Patrick’s Day meme, commemorating Gertrude of Nivelles, who is popularly considered to be the patron saint of cats. Her feast day also being March 17, she is always overshadowed by the more famous patron saint of Ireland.

I had never heard of St. Gertrude of Nivelles before, but the meme got me thinking about all the saints who had close connections to animals: St. Jerome, who lived with a lion; St. Anthony, who preached to the fishes; St. John Bosco and his dog, and so on.

“I bet I could write a picture book about saints who loved animals!” I thought. And that’s how A is for Anthony was born. Originally, I simply intended to write a collection of a few stories about saints who had animal friends or famous encounters with animals. As I struggled to figure out how best to organize the stories, I had the idea of arranging them alphabetically and making an alphabet of saints. That made my task harder (it’s not easy to find 26 stories about saints and animals!), but the result was worth the work.

At the time, believe it or not, I could find no alphabet books about saints, apart from a very old one by Robert Hugh Benson. Since then, more than one Catholic small press has come out with an ABC of saints, so readers today have more choices. But so far as I know, A is for Anthony is the only alphabet book focused on both saints and animals!

The funny thing about this origin story is that you won’t find Gertrude of Nivelles in my book. It turns out her connection to cats is actually very tenuous, so she was replaced by other saints who had stronger connections to animals.

Book Announcements, Picture Book Journey


I’ve been watching the mail anxiously, knowing that a box from my publisher should arrive soon. And yesterday, there it was! Inside were my author copies of A is For Anthony.

A is for Anthony, written by Teresa Traver and illustrated by Miguel Lopez.

The book is illlustrated by Miguel Lopez, who drew adorable, child-friendly versions of the saints.

Entry for St. Nicholas.

Right now, the only vendor I know of selling the booklet sells it in packs of twelve, suitable for distribution in Religious Education programs. I’ll update later as other vendors pick up the book.

As you can imagine, we were all very excited about this arrival at the Traver house. (My daughter was happy that I had written a book I could actually read to her, unlike my romances.) This is my first traditionally published picture book, and I’m grateful for the many critique partners who helped me get here.

writing tips

The Picture Book Journey: You Can’t Do it Alone

I don’t remember the exact date on which I began writing picture books, but I know it was after the birth of my first child in 2012. We read to him every day, and as I read, I thought: “I bet I could write a picture book, too.”

I wasn’t coming to creative writing completely out of nowhere. I had written novels and short stories as a teenager. I had a handful of poems published in literary journals during my college and early graduate school years. I had taken a college course on writing short fiction as an undergraduate, and I had read a book about writing for children from cover to cover.

So, I thought I had some clue what I was doing. But I could write a whole series about the things I DIDN’T know about creative writing in general and picture book writing in general.

For me, the biggest thing I didn’t know was that I needed a community. You cannot become a writer by yourself. You need critique partners. You need mentors. You need a cheer squad. In short, you need peeps! 

I had read enough about writing to know that everyone says you need a critique group, but I somehow thought that I was different. Like, I was a good enough writer that I could do it without a writing community. 

Ha ha ha ha ha! 

I sent my first query to an agent a little over five years ago, in November of 2013.  It’s only in the last year that I’ve ever had encouraging responses or revise-and-resubmit requests from agents or editors.  What changed? While I’ve grown in a lot, probably the biggest and most important change is that in the last year, I became part of a community of picture book writers.

So that’s my tip to anyone reading this blog who thinks “I’d like to write for children.” I bet you can! But it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take hard work. You’re going to have to learn  your craft. And you’re going to need to find your peeps.