Interview with Tracy Ahrens
What genre do you write and why?
I write children’s fiction, adult non-fiction and poetry.
Tell us about your latest book.
Over 20 years ago artwork for my children’s story, “Sammy Sparrow’s First Flight” came to life. I was on holiday break from college and sat on the floor in my bedroom using chalks to free images for the story that lived in my mind.
The images were then tucked away in a scrapbook album until 2014. “Sammy Sparrow’s First Flight” (ages 2-8) was released Dec. 25, 2014 by Guardian Angel Publishing. It is my third children’s book.
In conjunction with the book, I have created the Sammy Shelter Project to help nine local (Illinois) humane organizations through the book sales. By ordering through the project website I created, all funds from each book purchased will be donated to the organization chosen and noted on the form. This link takes people to that page -
Current humane organizations benefitting from this project are: It's a Pittie Rescue (Peotone, Il.), New Beginnings for Cats (Bourbonnais, Il.), River Valley Animal Rescue (Momence, Il.), Cache Creek Animal Rescue (Anna and Joliet, Il.), Illinois Horse Rescue of Will County (Beecher, Il.), Iroquois County Animal Rescue (Iroquois, Il.), Kankakee County Humane Foundation (St. Anne, Il.), Because Animals Really Kount (Kankakee, Il.), Hospice Hearts (based in central Il.).
In “Sammy Sparrow’s First Flight,” a young sparrow named Sammy quickly learns why parents set rules. He was told not to fly alone at night. His wings are weak and Sammy falls into a bush below. The world looks scary from the ground. A friendly owl flies Sammy back home to sleep under his parents’ wings.
The story is based on my childhood years of rescuing baby sparrows that fell out of a multi-room birdhouse high up on a pole in a neighbor’s backyard.
Initially I went to college to be a veterinarian and changed my major to English. I continue to help creatures with the written word, my art and volunteering for humane organizations. It’s only fitting that I finally let Sammy fly with a mission to help area humane organizations I have grown to know and volunteer with.
You can also find information about the project on Facebook under Sammy Shelter Project.
To donate to a participating rescue organization, you must use the form available for download from the Sammy Shelter Project website.
Otherwise, “Sammy Sparrow’s First Flight” can be ordered in eBook form ($5) and print form ($9.95 + $5.95) through Guardian Angel Publishing, www.guardianangelpublishing.com. It can also be ordered in print form through a variety of other book order sites such as www.barnesandnoble.com and Amazon.com.
What marketing methods are you using to promote your book?
I always start with local news outlets, from radio to print. I branch out through social media and network with anyone I know who may be interested in a review about my book or an author interview. My social media outlets commonly used include Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogpaws, email, Animal Wellness Network, Google+, Tumblr and StumbleUpon.
With “Sammy Sparrow’s First Flight” I established a contact person with each organization I am helping with proceeds from the book sales. I share a post, including a printable photo image of a book order form, to each organization’s Facebook page the first of every month so that their followers will see the book as a donation option. I also shared a news brief and photo image of a book order form for each organization to place on their website as a continual donation option. I always scour the internet to find magazines (online or print) that may publish a mention about my book. I established a web page for my book and post all media mentions there. I also link every organization from my website to their websites. I try to attend at least one event for each organization per year and sell my books. At home I keep a filing system of orders and which organizations the donations go to. I send out donation checks twice per year and have a logo stamp for my mailings that includes the Sammy Sparrow character.
My book is published through a small publishing company, not self-published. If someone wants to donate to an organization the book is assisting, I ask that an order be placed using an order form I created. This way I can keep track of book sales and which organizations the donations are designated for.
What advice do you have for other writers?
I have found that writing to help others is the most fulfilling experience. I have been blessed with talents for a reason. This is my second book to help an animal rescue organization. In 2011 I had a book titled “Raising My Furry Children” published through a small publishing company. That book was assisting American Brittany Rescue. Unfortunately the publishing company has gone out of business now and I am going to self-publishing the book so that it continues to help Brittany rescue. I also wrote a non-fiction book (titled “Giant Hero”) for a family that lost their son to a rare disorder called Potter’s Syndrome. I helped obtain funding to self-publish that book and it is used as a mode of education about the disorder. Self-publishing is not difficult. However, you need to realize that you will need to market the book and it is a constant part-time job, unless you just wish to use your book as a keepsake for family and friends.
Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
Please visit www.tracyahrens.weebly.com; www.facebook.com/TracyLAhrens and follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Google+, BlogPaws.com and Pinterest
How long did it take you to write your book?
“Sammy Sparrow’s First Flight” was created over a period of 1 to 2 weeks during a holiday break when I was in college. That was over 20 years ago. I sat on the floor in my bedroom at my parent’s home with drawing pads and chalks flaking dust up to my elbows. The book images came to me first and years later I fine-tuned the words.
Where can a reader purchase your book?
In order to donate all book proceeds, please print and submit an order form located on my book web page at http://guardianangelpublishing.com/sammy-sparrow.htmthrough any major book seller, including Amazon.com and via the publisher’s website, Guardian Angel Publishing at
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
I am writing and co-illustrating a children’s educational/picture book about insects and leaves. I am also creating a non-fiction book consisting of a compilation of my newer pet-related columns from over the past six-plus years. I currently contribute stories about raising my pets to eight online and print publications. I am also going to self-publish my book, “Raising My Furry Children” since the original publishing company went out of business.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?
It is difficult to obtain a traditional publisher since they are overwhelmed with submissions. Your query letter and topic has to stand out. Research publishing companies and how to write a query letter before trying. A good source is the latest edition of “Writer’s Market.” Another road block you will find is that many traditional publishers only accept query letters from agented writers. Self-publishing is fairly easy, but getting self-published books into traditional brick-and-mortar stores to sell is difficult. Do not give up. You must have contacts to network. You must have the energy to keep trying to share your book with the world. That is, unless you only wish to write and publish a book for family and friends to cherish. Always try. Always ask. Remember that if one publisher rejects your manuscript idea, it does not mean that all of them will. I have seen many authors become very frustrated with receiving rejection letters and stop trying.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Spending quiet time with my three cats and one dog, gardening, being outdoors, cycling, drawing, taking unique photos of plants in nature and volunteer work.