Author of Thomas Nast Shares Her Publishing Journey from Traditional to Indie
Lynda Pflueger has written nine biographies for children. Her books have been favorably reviewed by Kirkus, School and Library Journal, and Booklist. Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist is the fourth book in the Spotlight Biography Series.
One day, while researching an article on collecting, a book fell from the shelf above me and hit me on the head. I rubbed my head for a few seconds and then reached down and picked up the book. It was about a man who collected political cartoons. His favorite cartoonist was Thomas Nast.
I’m a history buff, particular US history. I love visiting museums and libraries. Nothing pleases me more than to roam around dusty old archives and find newspaper articles or photographs I can use in my books. Sometimes my discoveries come from unusual places and surprise me.
I was intrigued by Nast’s story. After the Civil War, with only his pen as a weapon, he helped bring down a notoriously corrupt group of politicians called the Tweed Ring in New York City. Nast continually harassed the ring with his drawings and often focused his attention on William M. Tweed, the leader of the ring. In one drawing entitled “Brains” Nast drew Tweed dressed in a three-piece business suit and replaced his head with a money bag to signify the money he had stolen from the city.
I also fell in love with Nast’s drawings of Santa Claus inspired by Clement Moore’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Nast portrayed Santa Claus as a jolly old fellow with a white beard and round belly.
Then I came across one of Nast’s drawings entitled Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner and I knew I had to write about him. In the drawing Uncle Sam is carving a turkey, next to him is Columbia, and sitting around the table are Americans from around the world: Germany, France, Britain, Africa, China, Italy, Spain, and Ireland. At the bottom of the drawing on the left side Nast wrote, “Come One Come All,” and on the right side, “Free and Equal.”
I started collecting all the books and magazine articles I could find about Thomas Nast. I traveled to Morristown, New Jersey, where he lived with his family. I spent days at the Morristown and Morris Township Library going through Nast’s scrapbooks, drawings, and other memorabilia. Afterward, I walked across the street to the Macculloch Hall Historical Museum and saw several of Nast’s paintings. I also discovered the Thomas Nast Society and purchased several copies of their journal. Finally, I was ready to sit down and write.
I completed my first draft and then sent out query letters to six educational publishers. Five months later an editor called. She was impressed with my query letter. Her publishing house was starting a new Historical American Biography Series. She wasn’t interested in a book about Nast at the time; but wondered if I would like to submit a proposal for a biography of someone on their list. She gave me a choice of five people. I chose Stonewall Jackson and within a week I submitted a proposal. Timing was important because they wanted the complete book in four months.
I met my deadline and a year later the first book in the Historical American Biography series, Stonewall Jackson: Confederate General was published. A few weeks later my editor called with the news that Kirkus had favorably reviewed my book and commented it would find fans with Civil War enthusiasts.
Over the next few years, I wrote several other books for the series. Then one day my editor called and asked if I still wanted to write about Thomas Nast. I enthusiastically responded, “Yes!”
Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist Published
The first edition of Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist was published in 2000. This year, I updated the text, added hyperlinks, more photos and a new cover for an ebook version. For more information about Thomas Nast and upcoming writing projects visit my website at LyndaPflueger.com. The ebook is now available online.
Note: The images used in this blog are from the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, reproduction numbers: LC-USZ62-787, LC-USZ62-42027, and LC-USZ62-85882.
Tell me about your publishing journey. I doubt it started with a book falling on your head, but would love to hear the details.