Behind the Scenes: “Building Franz’s Phantasmagorical Machine”

This post is another in my author’s journey. Though my initial attraction to Franz Gsellmann’s story came from the child within, and the writing brought more layers of connection, as I reflect back on it now, I’ve found something deeper. 

To celebrate the release of FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE, we’ve got a GIVEAWAY! Just leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of the book, illustrated by Caroline Hamel, from Kids Can Press. 

The winner of SO MUCH MORE TO HELEN! from Meeg Pincus’ post last week is……Donna Rossman!


FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE, based on the life of irrepressible tinkerer, Franz Gsellmann, is ready to meet the public! In every story I chase down, I somehow find a piece of myself. But with this one, I found more—the story of Franz building his machine amazingly reflects my journey writing this tale.


The “Whisper”

I come from a long line of tinkerers, so of course, the idea of making a machine from an assortment of found items grabbed me from the start. Though I began my tinkering with scraps and discards in my dad’s workshop, these days my “whisper” urges me to assemble words to build stories.


I ran across Franz’s story early on, in April 2015, as I settled into my niche of telling true stories. Like Franz, I had a smattering of skills and was learning by doing. Very little was available on the man and the machine, and what was, was in German. But I was as smitten with his story as Franz was with his idea for a machine. His story was quirky, his joy was childlike, and the writing was fun! Finally in January 2016, I submitted it to a few agents, including a new one—Stephanie Fretwell-Hill at Red Fox Literary.


Breakthrough Moment!

Lo and behold, she loved Franz’s story! She “got” it! And asked to see more. Within a few weeks I had representation and Franz soon began meeting editors. Just as viewing the Atomium in Brussels was the breakthrough moment for Franz, his story was what opened the door to publishing for me. But…it took a while for FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE to find a home.

Rejections, Rethinking, Fine-Tuning

The process of subbing and receiving responses is slow. I practiced patience and perseverance, and listened to any feedback I could get—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I kept learning from new manuscripts. I continued revising. Finally, at the end of 2018, Franz was embraced by Kids Can Press, really a perfect publisher for this quirky STEAM story.

Opening the Door

Now, as I hold the book about the creation of Franz Gsellmann’s “wonder machine” in my hands, I feel like Franz opening the door of his workshop to the public. Hoping for a smile. Hoping others see what I saw in his story. Hoping each child hears their own “whisper.”

Franz crowd outside

I suspect Franz’s machine journey reflects the creative process for many of us. You start out lacking needed skills. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell where it’s all going. If you dare to share your goals, people don’t understand the ups and downs of the entire process. At some point, you begin to doubt if the project will ever be seen as a worthwhile endeavor by anyone else. But you keep going because…there’s joy in the process of learning, creating, and tinkering.2727_cv_HR2

Like he rejoiced at a perfect bell, I celebrated a perfect word.

Like he may have gone overboard with lights, I indulged in onomatopoeia.

Like he first thought he was finished only to learn he had more work to do…yep, me, too.

My hope is that Franz’s story will spur on tinkerers of all kinds—whether writers or builders or artists or crafters or cooks or whatever your “whisper” may urge—to ignore the nay-sayers and go for the joy…because you never know the impact of “inspiring forward”!

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE! (US and Canada addresses, winner announced 5/6/22)

28 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes: “Building Franz’s Phantasmagorical Machine”

  1. Like you, I’m a tinkerer. I think writers have to be, since very little “comes out right” the first time around. I love your journey with this book, Beth! Kids Can Press is a terrific publisher! I’m so glad this book found a home there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a huge admirer of Beth’s work, especially how she always finds the heart of the story and presents in a way readers also marvel at the subject. This book will be fascinating to read too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beth, thank you for sharing another aspect of your journey as an author! It’s so great to hear how Franz’s life inspired you. It sounds like researching his life was challenging. I admire your perseverance in bringing his story to life so it can inspire others. Congrats on your book! I look forward to reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hurray!!! I remember this story – and I’m so thrilled to see it is now a book! I’m excited to feature FRANZ on my blog on Tuesday for your book’s birthday! And I love how you go behind the scenes and share your writing journey for this book!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Merrifield Team and I fell in love with Tad, Prudence, and Lizzie. Now we look forward to learning about Franz. I am guessing we will fall in love with him as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It may have been a later connection for you to see thatnFanz and you followed parallel journeys, but as I read the book I thought of that immediately- the way you work to get things exactly right, to explore concrete elements (in your case, factual content, in his, mechanical and physical sciences) but presented in ways that are irresistibly entertaining! Congratulations!

    Liked by 1 person

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