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Posts Tagged ‘Kirsti Call’

kid-lit writing wisdom

The Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom team is gradually working our way into topics such as submission and marketing. But we feel it’s important to talk about the craft of writing along with the writer’s life first, which will also include the topic of critiques and critique groups. So, it seems the best place to start is the beginning. When I was acquisitions editor for Blue Whale Press, if the first lines of a manuscript didn’t capture me, the story usually didn’t engage me. I always say, if the first lines don’t hook the agent or editor you’ve submitted to, what will make them think they will capture readers?

This month, I asked our wise authors to share thoughts on the importance of powerful first lines along with some tips for writing an outstanding beginning or outstanding first lines. I’m excited to share our many fabulous tips and examples. These tips can also be used for revising your stories’ beginnings, so you get double the treasure with these posts. This is such an important topic that we will have three parts for this topic. You’ll notice that some of our wise authors talk about the ending of the story as much as the beginning. There is good reason for this. In my picture book writing course Art of Arc, I interrupt the lessons on writing beginnings to talk about endings. Following are a few excerpts from Art of Arc to explain why it’s smart to think about endings when writing your beginning. You’ll also find more on the subject of endings in some of the wise-authors’ answers in this post and the two to come.

Excerpts from Art of Arc

“You might think that endings would be the final lesson presented in a course on writing and analyzing picture books, but another common problem that I have found in writing critiques is there is often a disconnect between the beginning of the story and the end. The ending has so much to do with the beginning and the rest of the story that it is important to start thinking about it at the beginning.”

“. . . From the beginning and all the way through the story, the destination is the ending. Therefore, every word, sentence, and scene should relate to the ending. And the ending should relate to the beginning.”

WE HAVE A BONUS!

writing for children webinars and courses
I will give away free access to my webinar HOW TO WRITE POWERFUL FIRST PAGES LIKE A PRO to one lucky winner. To enter for a chance to win, please comment on one of the three posts about writing outstanding beginnings and share the link on Twitter or FB. Please tag me when you share the link, so I can make sure I get your name in the drawing.

Happy Book Birthday

Listen_coverMost of the people in this group are from my groups for 2021 picture book releases: 2021 Word Birds and Twenty One-derful Picture Books. Before I move on, I’d like to congratulate one of our Twenty One-derful group members Gabi Snyder. Her picture book LISTEN, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, will be coming into the world on July 13. Happy Early Birthday baby LISTEN!

Peach and Cream Photo Spring Quote Twitter Post

Also, friends have made me aware that I failed to let the world know about my latest Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy Book: COWBOY TROUBLE. So, I thought this would be a good time to let everyone know it is there and would make an excellent summer reading book. You and your children can read the first three chapters on You Tube (see below). The “cowboy trouble” begins in chapter three. I also share the book trailer for anyone who is interested.

Words of Wisdom

Since, as usual, my answer is the most wordy, I will lead with it.

THE FIRST LINES OF A BOOK ARE THE DOOR TO YOUR STORY. THE WORDS INVITE THE READER TO STEP OVER THE THRESHOLD AND ENTER THE STORY WORLD.

by Alayne Kay Christian

I decided to take the easy way out and pull some excerpts from my picture book writing course Art of Arc. Unfortunately, it ended up being a hard way to go because I struggled to choose just a few words to share from the course. I thought it might be fun to introduce some of the reasons a strong beginning is so important. So here goes. . . .

Have you ever seen carnival barkers in old movies? “Step right up!” they shout to people passing by. They describe attractions. They emphasize variety; advertise novelty, oddity, beauty, challenge, and fun. Their barks are intended to create curiosity, generate excitement, and entice listeners to buy tickets to entertainment. Sometimes, they conduct short shows for free, where they introduce performers and describe acts. Their promises of entertainment are all intended to entice and incite the passersby to come on in!

In the old days, or in old movies, a newspaper boy shouted things like, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Bonnie and Clyde shot dead!” The purpose of this? All to create excitement and curiosity that would entice people to buy an extra edition of the newspaper.

Without the red carpet and fanfare on Oscar night, would the event be nearly as exciting, inviting, or enticing?

In the movie, The Wizard of Oz, would the beginning have been nearly as engaging without the yellow brick road, the fantastic send-off song, and Dorothy’s cheerful dance down the road? Not to mention, the switch from black and white images to color. What if Dorothy had just said, “Okay—I’ll go find the wizard.” and then shuffled along aimlessly in silence through a black and white setting, sans the road? Would we have been as eager to follow her into the story?

The barkers, the newsboys, the red carpet, and the yellow brick road all pave the way for an event, an experience, a journey, an adventure, or whatever it might be, to unfold. The first lines in our books pave the way for our idea/story/plot and our protagonist’s and readers’ journey to unfold. The whole objective of first lines is to capture readers’ attention and make them want more. We want to entice and incite them to come on in, buy into the experience, and commit to taking the journey with our protagonist. This is often referred to as the hook.

A good hook creates questions and curiosity. It makes a promise that says, “This is what the story is about.” It also sets expectations and maybe even evokes emotions. Wow! That’s a lot to accomplish in a picture book page or two. This is true, but writers do it all the time, proving that it can be done. . . .

. . . In picture books, we often incite the reader’s interest with words such as the following, “but,” “until,” “one day,” and we use the three little dots . . . called the ellipsis. Interestingly enough, these words and punctuation that incite the reader to turn the page usually lead to the inciting incident—the event that energizes the story’s progression. This event moves your protagonist into the action of the story. It also pulls him out of his ordinary world into a new world where change can occur—the door to our story.

Why are these words (“but,” “one day,” “until” and so on) or the ellipsis used so frequently? They work to keep the reader reading. How? They create a pause or a moment of silence that gives the reader an opportunity to think, imagine, guess, ask questions, and experience emotions. It makes them stop and pay closer attention. Using these techniques hint at what’s to come, which in turn creates curiosity. Sometimes they are the arrow that points to the heart of the story. Using these techniques are great ways to hook a reader. They all suggest there is something coming, and they create anticipation. It could lead to an answer, reveal a secret, hint at danger, present the unexpected, and so on. All of the above hook the reader. When the reader is hooked, she is pulled into the story far enough that she wants to read more.

I’d love to share more, but we have many great words of wisdom waiting for you, so let’s move on.

HOW DO WE KEEP OUR READERS INTRIGUED AND WANTING MORE?

by Kirsti Call

Richard Peck said: “You’re only as good as your opening line.” How do we keep our readers intrigued and wanting more?

Ask a question. Asking a question gets readers thinking. Not a Box immediately asks: “Why are you sitting in a box?” We want to turn the page to find out the answer. The Day the Babies Crawled Away questions: “Remember the day the babies crawled away?” This piques our interest. We want to know what happened on that fateful day. Did the babies survive? Where did they go?

Take People by Surprise. Mustache Baby declares: “When Baby Billy was born, his family noticed something odd: He had a mustache.” A baby with a mustache? We have to read on. Leonardo the Terrible Monster tells us: “Leonardo was a terrible monster…he couldn’t scare anyone.” A monster who isn’t scary? I can’t wait to turn the page.

Use word play. Being Frank starts with: “Frank was always frank” and Bridget’s Beret is similar: “Bridget was drawn to drawing.” There’s nothing better than the clever use of words to get people wanting more.

Using questions, surprise, wonder, opinion and word play makes the first sentences of our stories irresistible.

FIRST LINES THAT ECHO THROUGHOUT THE STORY—AN EFFECTIVE TECHNIQUE

by Laura Gehl

One of my favorite techniques when I am writing is to use a first line that will be echoed throughout the book.

For example, the first line of Juniper Kai: Super Spy reads, “Juniper Kai was born to be a spy.” This line comes back in the middle, when Juniper is feeling left out: “It didn’t matter if she had nobody to play with. Because Juniper Kai was born to be a spy. And spies work alone.” Then the line comes back a third time at the end: “Juniper Kai was born to be a spy. And spies work alone. Sometimes. But sometimes a spy needs a good co-agent. And Juniper Kai knew she was born to be…a spy-tacular big sister.”

Another example is in I Got a Chicken For My Birthday. Like the title, the first line reads, “I got a chicken for my birthday.” This line is repeated throughout the book: ”I got a chicken for my birthday. And the chicken has a list.” “I got a chicken for my birthday. And now the chicken stole my dog.” The line then comes back at the end. “I got a chicken for my birthday. And it was the Best. Present. Ever.”

The reason I like this technique so much is that you can see your character growing and changing by the way that repeated line is used at the end compared with at the beginning. In Juniper Kai: Super Spy, Juniper goes from being a lonely only child to wondering what secret her parents are hiding, to being an eager big sister. In I Got a Chicken For My Birthday, Ana goes from feeling perplexed (and a bit annoyed) by the strange birthday gift from her grandmother, to even more perplexed (and more annoyed) as the chicken begins recruiting her pets to build something huge in the backyard, to feeling absolutely thrilled (and realizing that her grandmother knew exactly what she was doing all along).

I also love this technique when I see it in other people’s writing! Any book that starts and ends with a similar line tends to leave me smiling and satisfied!

FIRST LINES PROVIDE A PEEK INTO THE WORLD OF THE STORY

by Melissa Stoller

First lines in a picture book set the tone and the mood for the story. Like an invitation that might provide an initial glimpse into the theme of a party, a first line can provide a peek into the world of a story. When I draft the first few lines, I try to give the reader an idea of what will come next, what the character might want, and a little bit about the setting, if possible. Of course, I write, rewrite, revise, and tweak as the story evolves. The first line that I start with is usually not the first line that is printed. Also, when I finish writing the story, I go back to ensure that the ending works with the beginning. I love to have first and last lines that complement each other, that show growth of the main character, and that leave the reader with that special something that makes them want to read the story over and over.

Here are examples of first and last lines from two of my picture books:

SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH

First line: One day, Scarlet found a magic paintbrush and everything changed.

Last line: With her own magic, she painted what she saw in her heart, Scarlet’s masterpiece.

Throughout the story, Scarlet realizes that she wants to rely on her own magical creativity instead of the magic of the paintbrush.

READY, SET, GORILLA!

First lines: Gorilla liked racing his school pals. But most of all, he loved to win . . . at any cost.

Last lines: The friends all lined up. They crouched down. Together, they shouted . . . Ready, Set, GO! Off they raced . . . and everyone was a winner.

Over the course of the story, Gorilla realizes that playing fair, good sportsmanship, and being a good friend make him a winner.

Happy writing and editing as you draft the best first lines for your stories!

FIRST LINES IN EARLY DRAFTS ARE OFTEN A TYPE OF WARM UP WRITING UNTIL YOU FIND THE PERFECT WORDS

by Dawn Babb Prochovnic

The beginning of a story is still very much a draft until I write and then polish the ending. Eventually, I return to the beginning and rework it until I’m satisfied that it aligns with (and is worthy of) the ending I have carefully crafted. Sometimes I discover that the “beginning” is actually several sentences into the story I have written, which means I have to cut some (often many) of my beloved words. To make this process easier on myself, I usually create a document called “darlings I had to cut” that I can copy and paste these tender words into, so I can bare to part with them in the working draft of my story. I rarely, if ever, go back and retrieve these “darlings,” but saving them “just in case,” allows me the creative freedom to vigorously revise, so the story can start right where it needs to, and without all of the unnecessary “throat clearing” that often shows up at the beginning of my earlier drafts.

I will also mention that Richard Peck offered his wisdom on this topic (as it relates to writing novels, but widely applicable), in this 2006 article for The Horn Book: In the Beginning: What Makes a Good Beginning? 

MORE TO COME!

There will be two more posts (July 10 and July 17) on this topic with lots of great information coming from the following wise authors: Vivian Kirkfield, Beth Anderson, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Pippa Chorley, Ellen Leventhal, Michelle Nott, Rosie Pova, and Rob Sanders. 

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kid-lit writing wisdom

For this round of Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom Q & A, I asked the team why it’s important for writers to read children’s books and how one might get the most out of reading them.

I thought it would be good to start this post with the definition of mentor texts. The Iowa Reading Research Center defines mentor texts as “. . . written pieces that serve as an example of good writing for student writers. The texts are read for the purpose of studying the author’s craft, or the way the author uses words and structures the writing. The goal is to provide students a model they could emulate in crafting their own piece.”

Because I once again have the wordiest answer, I will start with my answer to the question. However, before I get started, I’d like to wish a couple of Laura Gehl’s newly released board books, SOCCER BABY and BASEBALL BABY, a belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY! And I’m excited to share that my book THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS has won another literary award! Congratulations to illustrator Polina Gortman and me, of course : – )

Happy Book BirthdayBaseball soccer baby

Congratulations!

AWARD WINNER FOR HOLIDAY BOOKS TWITTER

Words of Wisdom

IN THE END, YOU’LL END UP BEING A DIFFERENT WRITER THAN YOU WERE BEFORE YOU STARTED DIGGING DEEPER

by Alayne Kay Christian

When I first started studying the art of children’s writing, veteran authors advised repeatedly, “read, read, read.” And so I read. I would bring home 50 picture books from the library (usually biweekly) loaded in my bag with wheels. What I didn’t understand, until I had read hundreds of picture books, was reading them wasn’t enough. What I really needed to do was analyze them. But how could I analyze them, if I didn’t know what I was looking for? So, my next step was to take writing courses specific to picture book writing. In those courses, I got a sense of story arc (narrative arcs and character arcs). When I started doing professional critiques, the “sense” of arc that I had learned from courses gave me enough instinct to know when something was off with the plot of the picture book I was critiquing. But I didn’t always know how to explain the problems to the author of the manuscript. So, I worked to find the answers and explain the issues. I continued to work to understand arc and plot deeper. I read craft books, I did searches on the Internet when something wasn’t clear to me, I took more courses, and I continued reading picture books. That’s when I discovered that the only way I was really going to learn what I wanted to know was to dissect the stories I read. And that’s exactly what I did. In the process of trying to help others, I helped myself as an author. I came to understand fully what makes a powerful beginning, what makes an engaging or compelling middle, and what makes a satisfying ending. I learned the importance of knowing your character’s motivation, want, and need. I discovered the power of solid cause and effect and growing tension. I love seeing how authors leave room for illustrators and how they both tell part of the story. I discovered the importance of pacing and so much more. Once, I understood how to build stories, and I had helped a hundred or so writers understand the same via my critiques, I wrote my picture book writing course, Art of Arc: How to Write and Analyze Picture Books and Manuscripts. Does the fact that I’m a retired acquisitions editor and I offer professional critiques, a bit of mentoring, and a writing course mean that I no longer need mentor texts? Absolutely not. There is still much more to picture book writing besides the plot. Today, I analyze picture books for word choice, voice, and execution of the idea or theme (usually looking for why it stands out). I pay attention to unique characters and character building. I study the huge variety of storytelling structures. I read humor and dream of one day writing something funny. I read heart-tuggers that connect me emotionally to the character and story (That’s the kind of story I tend to write.) I look for “why” I enjoy a book or “why” I sometimes wonder how a book ever ended up published (meaning I didn’t enjoy it). I’m always looking for something, and I’m always learning. I love studying books for language—especially lyrical stories—love them! I could go on forever about the treasures found when you start looking deeply into a story instead of just reading it. But I won’t.

Analyzing or dissecting mentor texts will stretch you as a writer. You’ll be more willing to take risks and try new things. You’ll start wondering things like, what if I used that format instead? What if I tried that cool or clever strategy? The puzzle pieces of what makes a sellable picture book will start slipping into place. And in the end, you will be a different writer than you were before you started digging deeper.

We have lots of great wisdom on this topic, and it’s time to make way for those answers. I do want to say that many moons ago, I discovered that our wise author Marcie Flinchum Atkins knows her way around a mentor text, and you can find some of her posts here and here. At the end of this post, Marcie offers some excellent tips and tools for using mentor texts. Also, our wise author Kirsti Call is the co-founder and of Reading for Research Month (a.k.a. REFOREMO) along with Carrie Charley Brown. They not only offer this very focused annual challenge. They also offer posts year round that walk us through a variety of books with hints regarding what they might teach us as writers. In addition, look around their site for lots of resources. Finally, if you join their Facebook page, they have lots of files that list great mentor text books by categories.

Some of our authors, Vivian Kirkfield for example, participate in Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Fridays. Participating in this activity will expose you to lots of different books, plus Susanna offers a list of books by themes (scroll down on linked page). Following are some other links that will lead you to mentor text info from Marcie and Reforemo.

http://www.reforemo.com/2019/09/mentor-text-talk-with-author-marcie.html

https://www.marcieatkins.com/tag/reforemo/

https://groggorg.blogspot.com/2015/03/show-me-way-mentor-texts-as-lights-into.html

10 REASONS TO READ CHILDREN’S BOOKS

(ESPECIALLY PICTURE BOOKS)

(AND DEFINITELY PICTURE BOOK BIOGRAPHIES)

by Rob Sanders

1. To learn something new.
2. To soak in the story.
3. To examine the structure.
4. To observe the page turns.
5. To analyze what makes the story work.
6. To dissect the craft.
7. To enjoy the illustrations.
8. To investigate the word choices.
9. To evaluate the back matter.
10. Because you can’t not read them!

GET INSPIRED TO SIT DOWN AND WRITE!

by Laura Gehl

I read children’s books to marvel at thoughtful page turns, to laugh at witty spreads, to appreciate the interplay between text and art, to let various rhythms and cadences wash over me, to get refrains stuck in my head, to admire different text structures, to soak in new information, to feel characters tug at my heartstrings, to think, “I wish I had written that,” and…most of all…to get inspired to sit down and write!

READING PICTURE BOOKS ALOUD HELPS ME DELIGHT IN STORYTELLING AND LUSCIOUS SOUNDS

Kirsti Call

I read picture books to learn about what works and what doesn’t, to appreciate the poetry of sparse text, to feel and to heal. Reading picture books aloud with children helps me delight in storytelling and luscious sounds. And of course reading picture books inspires me to create my own stories, putting words together in ways that (hopefully) evoke laughter, love and connection.

WHY I LOVE READING CHILDREN’S BOOKS

By Melissa Stoller

As a children’s book writer, it’s vital for me to read children’s books. I write chapter books and picture books, so those are the book genres that I mainly read. I like to read children’s books for several reasons. First, it’s important to keep up to date with all the new books. I love reading newly published picture books so I can stay current about topics and what is selling at the moment. Second, I can apply the knowledge I gain from reading children’s books to my writing process. I use books as “mentor texts,” meaning they teach me about writing in some way. For example, if I’m writing a non-fiction book about sea life, I will read every current similar book I can find to see how other authors handled the subject. Or, if I’m trying to add more “heart” into my fiction picture book manuscript, I will read books that I know pull at the heartstrings. I also notice how the author chose specific words and language patterns, handled pacing, left room for the illustrator, and other craft points. Third, I use current children’s books as “comparative titles” that can help me pitch my manuscripts and place them in the marketplace, comparing my manuscript to a recently-published title, and also showing how my manuscript is different. Finally, the most important reason that I read picture books and chapter books is that I LOVE them! I enjoy reading children’s books almost as much as I like writing them! A perfect afternoon would be spent curling up with a cup of mint tea, a gluten-free muffin, and a stack of wonderful children’s books!

READING KID LIT MAKES ME FEEL LIKE A CHILD AGAIN, WHICH IS HOW WE NEED TO FEEL TO WRITE BOOKS ABOUT AND FOR CHILDREN

Pippa Chorley

Every Wednesday morning, we start our critique session with a table piled high with books; childhood favourites, classic picture books, brand new purchases, library searches and recommendations. It’s one of my favourite parts of the week. I always feel like a kid in a sweet shop!

It gets our conversation bubbling immediately, what we like, what we don’t like, what we find clever, beautiful, funny, endearing, or even why we don’t like something or think it could have ended differently. It opens up conversations about craft and style, and it also gets our own creative juices flowing. It helps us generate new ideas or writing styles and helps us critique our wobbly new manuscripts at a much higher level and gives us courage to try new things. Sometimes it even sparks a whole new idea for a manuscript too!

I think the reason why we read children’s picture books as authors is endless and unquestionably important. But, for me personally, why I love it so much, is because it brings me and my fellow critique partners together weekly through a shared love of children’s writing. And most importantly, it makes me feel like a child again. Which is just what we need to feel when we are writing books about them and especially for them!

IF WE’RE GOING TO WRITE BOOKS, WE NEED TO LEARN FROM THE BEST

by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

If we are going to create stories, we must also admire stories. If we are going to write books, we must learn from the best. One of the most accessible ways to learn about what the greatest writers are doing is to utilize your library card. I make a habit of keeping my holds and checkouts at the library maxed out. At least once a week, I take a big stack of picture books and read and analyze them.

One of my favorite ways to determine which ones I want to study in depth is to read through the stack of books. I make three stacks:

1) Not for me.

2) These are great, but not my style.

3) THIS is the kind of writing I want to do.

Pile #3 is the one that I take more extensive notes on. It’s the type of books I type up to see how it looks on the page, examine the structure, and bask in the language.

For more posts about reading mentor texts, you can check out the many mentor texts posts on my blog.

For a more extensive post on how I organize and keep track of my reading, you can check out this bullet journaling post.

One other tip: If I’m feeling stuck or mired in muck about my own writing, often reading stellar books can bring me back. It usually takes me only about 20 minutes of immersive reading to realize I really DO want this writing life, and I really want to create stories.

Next week, we will get more great tips and stories from Beth Anderson, Vivian Kirkfield, Ellen Leventhal, Dawn Babb Prochovnic, Michelle Nott, and Rosie Pova.

TO READ PART 1 OF “LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO PUBLICATION” click here.

TO READ PART 2 OF “LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO PUBLICATION” click here.

TO READ PART 3 OF “LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO PUBLICATION” click here.

TO READ THE TEAM MEMBERS’ ANSWERS TO “MY MOST IMPORTANT LESSON LEARNED” click here for Part One and here for Part Two.

TO READ MORE ABOUT THE KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM TEAM AND THEIR BOOKS click here.

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KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM PRESENTS LONG AND WINDING ROAD: PUBLICATION (USUALLY) DOESN’T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT (Part 1 of 3)

kid-lit writing wisdom

Copy of What was one of the most important lesson learned on your road to publication_

This “Wisdom” round’s question isn’t exactly a question. I asked the team to tell us about their travels down the long and winding road to publication. One of the reasons I wanted us to cover this topic is because every once in a while, you’ll see blog posts from an author who tells you the very first manuscript they sent out was acquired overnight—as though it’s the easiest thing one can do. That is not the norm nor is it reality. I also wanted emerging writers as well as those who have been at it for a long, long time to see similarities and differences in each writer’s experience. My wish for you and all our readers this round is that you might be inspired or pick up just one bit of wisdom that will help you in your journey. But also, that you adjust your expectations, so that if you find yourself on a long and winding road, you’re not disappointed or discouraged. And if you are one of the lucky ones who gets a contract overnight, you will be surprised and appreciate the moment even more than you might have.

Because it has been a long road for the “Wisdom” authors, we all had a lot to say. So, this topic will be shared in three parts over the next three weeks.

I’ve seen some similarities in answers, but everyone’s path has been a little different. I’m going to start with my own answer because it brings up a topic that didn’t pop up in any of the other answers.

Before we get started, I’d like to share some good news and congratulate Rob Sanders has a book birthday coming on May 4 with  TWO GROOMS ON A CAKE: THE STORY OF AMERICA’S FIRST GAY WEDDING. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I’d like to also congratulate the illustrators of my picture books for winning the Story Monsters Approved Award. Polina Gortman illustrated THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS: The Mostly True Tale of the Toledo Christmas Weed. And Milanka Reardon illustrated AN OLD MAN AND HIS PENGUIN: How Dindim Made João Pereira de Souza an Honorary Penguin.

Congratulations!

Two Grooms on a Cake

AWARD WINNER FOR MAKING A DIFFERENCE!Winner for (1)

Words of Wisdom

WHEN YOU SAY “YES” TO ONE THING, YOU ARE SAYING “NO” TO ANOTHER

by Alayne Kay Christian

I’m guessing, as with most team members, it would take an entire book to share my long journey. I’ll do my best to keep this short. My first picture book BUTTERFLY KISSES FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA was released way back in 2009. It won some awards and got great reviews, so I thought for sure, this kid-lit writing thing was going to be a breeze. I was wrong. I spent the next several years taking children’s book writing courses, attending SCBWI conferences and workshops, and getting involved in the online writing community. In 2013, I was on top of the world when I signed with an agent (my choice out of three agent offers—wasn’t I something?). I knew for sure that I was going to conquer the kid lit world now! Well, once again, I was wrong. In 2015, I parted ways with the agent. That set my confidence back for a couple of years. I did very little submitting, but I did continued to write, study children’s book writing, and work to grow my online presence. I also started a professional critique service and wrote an independent-study picture book writing course, Art of Arc. I also started working as a critique ninja for Julie Hedlund’s 12 X 12, which I did for three years. In 2016 I signed with a small publisher and in 2017, my chapter book series Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy was launched. I continued to study children’s book writing and submit. Also in 2017, I helped my husband relaunch Blue Whale Press where I was the acquisitions editor and creative director. In addition to that, I spent the year going back and forth with an agent who I thought was going to sign me for sure. Once again, I was wrong. We even had what I thought was “the call.” But it turned out to be a “let you down easy” call. She loved one of my stories, but didn’t fully connect with the others I offered. That set me back for a while. But I had so much going on with Blue Whale Press and my other writing related work that I didn’t have time to fall into negative thinking. In 2019, I started offering affordable children’s writing webinars. But even with all of the above, I also continued to study, write, and submit. 2020 was an exciting year for me when finally; my next two picture books were published. I am so proud of AN OLD MAN AND HIS PENGUIN and THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS and my latest Sienna book COWBOY TROUBLE. I’m so excited that THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS recently won the Story Monsters Approved award for books that make a difference. And THE OLD MAN AND HIS PENGUIN won an award in the nonfiction picture book category.

It took thirteen years of hard work, but more than anything, perseverance, to get (soon to be) four published picture books and two chapter books into the world. I tried to include what I consider to be major parts of my journey to demonstrate that it’s not necessarily just about writing and submitting. It’s about learning, growing, and finding ways to apply your knowledge and creative energy when it sometimes feels as though all has failed. And like in the stories that we write, finding our way through our darkest moments will lead us to a satisfying ending.

I don’t regret my path for a minute because I love all the gifts I have given writers and illustrators over the years with my critiques, courses, work with Blue Whale Press and so on. I’ve found that for me, relaxing into where life takes me usually leads me to where I need to be. But a word of warning . . . when you say “yes” to one thing, you are saying “no” to another. In my case, I said a lot of “no” to writing and submitting by saying “yes” to helping others. Where might I have been had I been more focused? That is not a question of regret. It is a question that I pose to you as writers. Following is a little worksheet to help you see your “yes” and “no” choices more clearly. I hope some of you find it helpful. The worksheet was initially part of a much longer post I wrote on the topic. Click here to read it

say yes say no

SHEER LUCK? SOMETIMES. SHEER GRIT? MOST OF THE TIME.

by Kirsti Call

It happened backwards for me. I wrote my first couple of stories, joined a critique group, submitted THE RAINDROP WHO COULDN’T FALL about three months into my writing journey. Character Publishing gave me an offer almost immediately, and my first book came out in 2013. Then for 6 years I wrote and revised and submitted and submitted and submitted again. I FINALLY got my first agent who subsequently sold 4 books for me. Sheer luck led to my first book. Sheer grit led to others.

ALL THE TIME I PUT INTO LIVING LIFE, AND WRITING STORIES, LED ME TO STRENGTHEN MY CRAFT AND FIND MY WRITING VOICE

by Melissa Stoller

My journey to publication was indeed a “long and winding road.” I had started writing when my oldest daughter was a baby and I loved reading picture books to her and making up bedtime stories. Before that, I practiced as an attorney, taught legal research and writing to law students, and worked as a career counselor at a law school. When I received many rejections to my initial book queries, I turned my attention to writing parenting articles and doing freelance editing. But eventually, I returned to my dream of writing for children (and by that point, I had three children and lots more time doing field research into the KidLit world). In fact, I had joined the SCBWI in 1997 (!) and my first book, THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND, was published in 2017! I am forever grateful to Callie Metler and Clear Fork Publishing for helping me turn my writing dreams into reality. My advice to aspiring writers is to keep pursuing your goals. Your writing journey may detour down some curving roads, like mine did, and your path to publication may not be straight. But all the time I put into living life, and writing stories, led me to strengthen my craft and find my writing voice. So, buckle up, get on whatever type of road best fits your career, and say ready, set, GO!

KEEP YOUR CHIN UP AND YOUR FINGERS ON THE KEYBOARD!

by Rob Sanders

My journey to publishing started back in college. I paid my way through college and graduate school by writing religious educational materials. A few years later, I wound up working for the company for which I’d been writing, eventually becoming an editor and product designer there. But none of those materials were things kids would ever find in their public or school libraries or local bookstores. It wasn’t until I was 50 that I decided to pursue my dream of writing picture books. Two years later I made my first sale through a paid critique at SCBWI LA. A year later, I landed an agent. Selling my second book proved to be as difficult as selling the first and that pattern continues. Each of my manuscripts has to stand on its own merits and find its own home. I often remind myself of the advice my agent gave me when we first started working together: Keep your chin up and your fingers on the keyboard!

FIVE INGREDIENTS THAT ARE NECESSARY FOR SUCCESS IN ANY PROJECT

Vivian Kirkfield

Whenever I do presentations about the path to publication, I talk about how becoming a picture book author was a lot like making a pizza. Whether I’m speaking with six-year-old school kids or sixty-year-old aspiring authors, I share the 5 P’s…5 ingredients that are necessary for success in any project: PASSION, PREPARATION, PRACTICE, PATIENCE, and PERSISTENCE. It’s a process and it takes time. I started my writing journey at the end of 2011 – we signed my first book deal at the end of 2015 – and that book launched in 2019. I had sent out a few submissions to editors on my own, but I knew I wanted an agent because I knew I didn’t want to focus on where to send my manuscripts…I wanted to focus on writing them. However, the path is different for each one of us – and what is right for one person might not be right for another. What is needed, however, whether you have an agent or not, is positivity. Oh…there’s another P…I guess you can tell I’m a picture book writer with all of that alliteration.😅 I remain positive because I know that the rejections…and YES, I do get lots of rejections…are not personal. I try to remember that this is a business…and the publisher/editor must make a profit from the books they produce. Otherwise, they have to close their doors. And if they don’t choose my manuscript, it’s because they don’t think they will make money. I also try to keep in mind that sometimes, publishers are wrong. So, when I get a rejection, I remind myself that I am in good company with J.K Rowling and Louisa May Alcott and Stephen King and many others: https://wildmindcreative.com/bookmarketing/6-famous-authors-who-once-faced-rejection.

COMING IN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS PART 2 AND PART 3

Next week, Ellen Leventhal and Pippa Chorley talk about their journeys, which both include dealing with imposter syndrome. And Beth Anderson shares her thoughts on what it takes to be successful as an author. Finally on May 8th, we’ll wrap up our thoughts on the path to publication with Laura Gehl who talks about how time only serves to make you a better author. Dawn Babb Prochovnic looks at the importance of continuing the work in spite of obstacles. Michelle Nott talks about trends and also demonstrates that it pays to never give up on old stories. Rosie Pova talks about how persistence pays off. Marcie Flinchum Atkins talks about enjoying the rituals of writing and having friends who “get” the writer’s experience.

TO READ THE TEAM MEMBERS’ ANSWERS TO “MY MOST IMPORTANT LESSON LEARNED” click here for Part One and here for Part Two.

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Welcome to Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom where a team of multi-published kid-lit authors with over 170 years of combined experience as writers share their wisdom. You can read all about our team here. Before we get started, I’d like to share some good news and congratulate some of our team members.

Rosie Pova’s lovely book SUNDAY RAIN had a birthday on March 2. Welcome to the world, little one!

Vivian Kirkfield’s new book FROM HERE TO THERE: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves is really going places! (See what I did there?) Great collection of stories all in one book!

Kirsti Call’s picture book, COW SAYS MEOW just had an udderly sweet birthday on March 16! Welcome to the world little book!

Laura Gehl‘s rhyming board book BASEBALL BABY will come into the world on March 30. Happy early birthday!

I decided to launch our “wisdom” series with a general question. I half thought that there would be a lot of similar answers. Although, some answers might relate to another in small ways, the answers prove that although what most of us strive for is the same, everyone’s experience is different. I think most of us on the team agree that we are all still learning, but with so many years behind us, we do have a lot to share. The question for this post is . . .

Answers Most Important Lesson Learned

 

I am rudely offering my answer first because it is the longest answer.

 

COMPARISON, CRITICISM, AND JUDGMENT

A WRITER’S WORST ENEMIES
by Alayne Kay Christian

Through my own experience and through observing other writers’ struggle, one important lesson I’ve learned is comparison, criticism, and judgment are a writer’s worst enemies. When it comes to looking outside ourselves to find our worth via comparison and judgment, my experience and observations have been that it usually leads to self-criticism and pain. In the kid-lit writing world, it can be a long hard road to what one might consider success. Most of us see success as getting positive feedback on a manuscript, signing with an agent, getting a book contract, holding that published book in our hand, getting great reviews, having a million-copy seller, and on and on. Unfortunately, success is a moving target. Like a drug addict, we are always looking for the next success fix. But as soon as the pleasure of meeting a goal fades away, sometimes even while we are still enjoying it, we are looking for more of the same or maybe even something different.

In the online writing community, it’s almost a daily occurrence that someone’s good news (usually several people’s good news) is shared. Sometimes, it seems like an hourly event! Isn’t that great? It’s also great the writing community is always there to help celebrate our successes. But I know for sure that when you are surrounded by others’ perceived successes, and you can’t seem to see any successes on your end, comparing, criticizing, and judging is a surefire way to stop or hinder your chances of success. When we compare ourselves, our efforts, and our situations to others, we become our own victims because the next step is self-judgment and usually self-criticism. I suppose for some, the outcome might be inspiration, encouragement, and the strength to keep on keeping on. But for others, comparing, followed by self-judgment and criticism, lead to emotional confusion, discouragement, and sometimes a sense of defeat. Most climb out of it, pick themselves up, and get back on the rough road they have put themselves on in their writing journey. I admire and praise those who have found the peaceful route to their perceived success. But more than anything, I wish peace for those who struggle.

Of course, we all have our own path to follow. And we all have the road that will take us to where we are meant to be. I’d just like my ramblings to leave you with the thought that we have the power to make this writing journey a peaceful and pleasurable ride or to make it a treacherous and tumultuous one. For me, remaining aware of the compare, criticize, judge trap (whether it be directed at self, others, or both) is one of the best things I ever learned to do for myself. But the biggest lesson is to recognize it for what it is—the enemy. See that big flashing red light of discomfort and distraction and STOP looking outside yourself. Then, find a way to bring your focus back to you in the moment where you can find peace and joy in your writing journey. One lovely step at a time.

If doing what you love feels more like a struggle than a peaceful or joyful experience, take a good look within. You will likely find that you are comparing, criticizing, or judging (or maybe all three.) It’s impossible to be in the moment under those circumstances.

Coincidentally, while I was working on the above answer, the following Jane Friedman blog post popped up in my email. I feel like it is too related not to share. Although, I’m not talking about jealousy in my answer, falling into the compare, criticize, judge trap can lead you there. Click here to read The Green-Eyed Monster: Jealousy in the Time of Quarantine by Nancy Stohlman.

It’s funny how once you bring something into your consciousness, it seems to pop up everywhere. As I was preparing this blog post, I received newsletter from Jess Keating. Jess has a different take on jealousy. And she offers her creative guide to jealousy here. It’s definitely worth reading! Thanks, Jess.

 

To learn more about Alayne and her books visit alaynekaychristianauthor.com

 

SUCCESS LIVES IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF FAILURE
by Kirsti Call

My most important lesson learned on my publication journey:

Each rejection, each defeat, each failure only teaches resilience and leads to success in this business. Without years of persistence through the failures, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Success lives in the neighborhood of failure.

My book, COW SAYS MEOW came out on March 16! Here’s the 2 minute song my 15 year old daughter wrote for it: https://youtu.be/X14k86vW6FY (And I just got a very unexpected starred review from SLJ!)

Happy Creating!

To learn more about Kirsti and her books visit www.kirsticall.com

 

WRITING AUTHENTICALLY IS A MUST
by Rob Sanders

My most hard-learned lessons seem to be those that are the most obvious. I wrote and published for a few years before I finally owned the lesson that I need to write the stories only I can write and to write with authenticity. I still have to evaluate what I’m working on to see if I’m doing that. Life (and my writing career) is too short to spend time writing things that don’t truly represent who I am.

To learn more about Rob and his books visit www.robsanderswrites.com

 

WRITING IS ONLY THE BEGINNING
by Pippa Chorley

I think the thing I learned from the entire process is that writing is only the start. Once the book is handed over to the illustrator your work does not stop, its then time to begin marketing your book, engaging with other authors, preparing blog tours and launch events for when the book is out on the shelves, as well as school author visits, craft and storytelling sessions. For many authors that is particularly tough as we tend to enjoy the process of writing rather than speaking and shouting loudly about ourselves and our work. I do think in hindsight though that the earlier you begin this process the less pressured and easier it is, and the more you engage with other writers the less scary it feels and more enjoyable. Writers are wonderful people and love to help other writers and once you start talking to them, even via twitter and Facebook, it is easy to become part of this lovely community and gain the confidence you need to put yourself out there. So my tip would be to engage early on in small and meaningful ways and build it up slowly so that it never feels too onerous or overwhelming.

To learn more about Pippa and her books visit pippachorleystories.com

 

EVERYONE’S WRITING PROCESS IS DIFFERENT
by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

I wish I had known much earlier on that everyone’s writing process is different–that it’s okay to lean into what works for me. I’m fascinated by other people’s ways of brainstorming, organizing, and revising, and I learn a lot from the way other writers do things. What I have learned is that I need to think about what works best for my brain. Often, I hear a cool tip from another writer, and now my first step is to spend some time journaling about what that might look like in my own process with my current projects. If I think it might help, I try it out. If I think it needs tweaking, I change it to make it work for me. This means that I’m learning to trust myself more. I do a lot of reflection–weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly. At every point along the way, I’m asking myself: “What did you learn about yourself as a writer or about your process?” Knowing that I can lean into my own quirks and develop my own unique processes has helped me abandon what is no longer working and feel more confident in my writing. It has helped me embrace the mantra: “Joy in the process.”

To learn more about Marcie and her books visit www.marcieatkins.com

The team will continue to answer the question in part two of THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON LEARNED IN MY PUBLICATION JOURNEY with some great bits of wisdom from Beth Anderson, Laura Gehl, Vivian Kirkfield, Ellen Leventhal, Michelle Nott, Dawn ProchovnicRosie Pova, and Melissa Stoller.

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On Friday, I announced changes for Blue Whale Press and me. I also announced a new series coming to my blog. I’m going to repeat it here, but also fully introduce you to the KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM team. So here goes . . . I’m resurrecting my “All About” blog series (All About Submissions and All About Platforms) combined with Marcie Flinchum Atkins’s “We’re All In This Together” series—with Marcie’s permission of course. Thanks, Marcie! And boy do we have some fantastic multi-published authors to tackle our old topics and lots of new ones. We’ll be sharing our wisdom and stories about the world of kid lit writing and publishing. And because of all our combined years of kid lit writing experience, we will be giving the series a new name. KID-LIT WRITING WISDOM (Over 170 years of combined experience as authors!)

We believe that kid-lit writers have lots of questions about writing, agents, publishing, editors, submissions, platforms, and more. Our intention is that Kid Lit Writing Wisdom will be a very helpful resource. Do you have a question?

IF YOU HAVE WRITING OR PUBLISHING QUESTIONS THAT YOU’D LIKE TO SEE THE TEAM ADDRESS, PLEASE LEAVE YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

Please allow me to introduce the Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom team.

All of our team members (except for one) have new picture books coming out or already released this year. We are either members of 2021 Word Birds or Twenty One-derful Picture Books in 2021 or both. Bios and more follow the list.

Beth Anderson
Marcie Flinchum Atkins
Kirsti Call
Pippa Chorley
Alayne Kay Christian
Laura Gehl
Vivian Kirkfield
Ellen Leventhal
Michelle Nott
Rosie Pova
Dawn Prochovnic
Rob Sanders
Melissa Stoller

 

Beth Anderson, a former English as a Second Language teacher, has always marveled at the power of books. With linguistics and reading degrees, a fascination with language, and a penchant for untold tales, she strives for accidental learning in the midst of a great story. Beth lives in Loveland, Colorado where she laughs, ponders, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same. She’s the award-winning author of TAD LINCOLN’S RESTLESS WRIGGLE (10/2021), “SMELLY” KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES, LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT!, and AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET. Beth has more historical gems on the way. Learn more about Beth at bethandersonwriter.com Signed copies of Beth’s books can be found here.

Marcie Flinchum Atkins is a teacher-librarian by day and a children’s book writer in the wee hours of the morning. She holds an M.A. and an M.F.A. in Children’s Literature from Hollins University. Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature (Millbrook Press, 2019) is her most recent book. Marcie also serves as the nonfiction coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI region. She muses about mentor texts and making time to write at marcieatkins.com. She’s on Twitter and Instagram as @MarcieFAtkins.

 

Kirsti Call is the co-hosts of the PICTURE BOOK LOOK podcast and co-runs ReFoReMo. She’s a critique ninja and elf for 12×12, a blogger for Writers’ Rumpus, and a Rate Your Story judge. She’s judged the CYBILS award for fiction picture books since 2015. Kirsti is a therapist trained life coach for creatives. Her picture book, MOOTILDA’S BAD MOOD (Little Bee) moooved onto shelves last fall. COW SAYS MEOW (HMH) and COLD TURKEY (Little Brown) release in 2021. Kirsti is represented by Emma Sector at Prospect Agency. Learn more about Kirsti by visiting kirsticall.com.

 

Pippa Chorley is the award-winning author of three picture books. She grew up in a picturesque village in England and now lives in sunny Singapore with her husband and their three children. As a child, she spent her days dreaming up magical worlds on her family dog walks. Today, Pippa can still be found composing stories on her morning walks with their springer spaniel, Jasper.

Trained as a primary school teacher, Pippa loves to write stories that make children giggle and think outside the box. Her newly released picture book, STUFFED! (illustrated by Danny Deeptown) empowers children to use their imaginations and problem solve with courage and kindness. Watch out for Pippa’s next picture book OUT OF THE BOX, which is due to be released at the end of 2021 and is sure to be ‘out of this world’! To learn more about Pippa and her books visit pippachorleystories.com.

 

Alayne Kay Christian is an award-winning children’s book author and the creator and teacher of a picture book writing course Art of Arc. She was the co-founder of Blue Whale Press and the acquisitions editor and art director for three years. In addition, she shares her knowledge with writers through free and affordable webinars at Writing for Children Webinars. She has been a picture book and chapter book critique professional since 2014, and she worked as a 12 X 12 critique ninja for three years. Her published works include the Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy chapter book series, and picture books BUTTERFLY KISSES FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA, AN OLD MAN AND HIS PENGUIN: HOW DINDIM MADE JOÃO PEREIRA DE SOUZA AN HONORARY PENGUIN, and THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS: THE MOSTLY TRUE TALE OF THE TOLEDO CHRISTMAS WEED. Her fourth picture book, FAITH BENEATH THE BRIDGE is planned for release in the fall of 2021. Born in the Rockies, raised in Chicago, and now a true-blue Texan, Alayne’s writing shares her creative spirit and the kinship to nature and humanity that reside within her heart. To learn more about Alayne visit alaynekaychristianauthor.com.

 

 

Laura Gehl is the author of more than two dozen board books, picture books, and early readers, including One Big Pair of Underwear, the Peep and Egg series, I Got a Chicken for My Birthday, My Pillow Keeps Moving, Always Looking Up: Nancy Grace Roman, Astronomer, and the Baby Scientist series. Her work has won awards, appeared on state and national reading lists, and been translated into numerous languages. For information about new books and free downloadable teacher’s guides, please visit lauragehl.com.

 

Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, and visiting kidlit friends all around the world. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the picturesque town of Bedford, New Hampshire. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge. Her nonfiction narratives bring history alive for young readers and her picture books have garnered starred reviews and accolades including the Silver Eureka, Social Studies Notable Trade Book, and Junior Library Guild Selection. Vivian’s books are available at Barnes & Noble and indie bookstores, as well as Bookshop.org and Amazon. If you order from her local indie, Toadstool Bookstore in Nashua, you can get a signed copy. If you order from anywhere else and would like a signed bookplate, please email her at: viviankirkfield@gmail.com. To learn more about Vivian and all of her books visit viviankirkfield.com.

 

Ellen Leventhal is an educator and writer in Houston, TX. Ellen is the co-author of Don’t Eat the Bluebonnets, the author of Lola Can’t Leap, and the upcoming A Flood of Kindness, which releases in April 2021 from Worthy Kids/Hachette Book Group. She has been published in magazines, newspapers, as well as in poetry and short story anthologies. Ellen loves school visits (in person or virtual)! When visiting schools, she coordinates with and supports literacy programs as well as diversity and anti-bullying programs. Ellen’s best days are when she can interact directly with the students and spread her love of literacy and kindness. To find out more about Ellen’s books and writing projects, please go to Ellenleventhal.com.

 

Michelle Nott is a freelance editor, published poet, and children’s book author. She writes fiction and nonfiction, in prose and verse. She has authored two early readers, Freddy, Hoppie and the Eyeglasses and Dragon Amy’s Flames. Her debut picture book, Teddy Let’s Go!, is forthcoming from Enchanted Lion Press (Fall 2021). Michelle grew up in the U.S. and has lived in Europe for extended periods of time. She holds American and French citizenship and is bilingual, English and French. Her extensive travel around the U.S., Europe and Africa fuels her imagination and appreciation for story and world cultures. To learn more about Michelle visit authormichellenott.com.

 

Rosie J. Pova is a multi-published, award-winning children’s author, poet, speaker, and writing coach. She’s a Writing Instructor for the Dallas Independent School District through The Writer’s Garret, an instructor with Writing Workshops Dallas, teaching online picture book courses to children’s writers, and also serves as a judge for Rate Your Story.

Rosie speaks on many women’s topics as well and has appeared on radio and print media.

Her upcoming picture book, Sunday Rain, celebrates imagination, the love of books, and new friendships. Her other upcoming picture book, The School of Failure: A Story About Success will be released in spring of 2022. Visit Rosie at rosiejpova.com.

 

Dawn Babb Prochovnic is the author of Lucy’s Blooms (forthcoming, 2021), Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes Series, including one title that was selected as an Oregon Book Awards finalist. She is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud. Dawn is a vocal advocate for school and public libraries and was honored as a 2015 Oregon Library Supporter of the Year by the Oregon Library Association. She is a frequent presenter at schools, libraries and educational conferences, and the founder of SmallTalk Learning, which provides American Sign Language and early literacy education. Dawn lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, two kids, two cats, and a feisty dog. Learn more at dawnprochovnic.com.

 

Rob Sanders is a teacher who writes and a writer who teaches. He is known for his funny and fierce fiction and nonfiction picture books and is recognized as one of the pioneers in the arena of LGBTQ+ literary nonfiction picture books.

This year Rob will release TWO GROOMS ON A CAKE: THE STORY OF AMERICA’S FIRST GAY WEDDING (Little Bee Books) and STITCH-BY-STITCH: CLEVE JONES AND THE AIDS MEMORIAL QUILT (Magination Press). His 2020 releases included THE FIGHTING INFANTRYMAN: THE STORY OF ALBERT D. J. CASHIER, TRANSGENDER CIVIL WAR SOLIDER (Little Bee Books), MAYOR PETE: THE STORY OF PETE BUTTIGIEG (Henry Holt & Co.) and BLING BLAINE: THROW GLITTER, NOT SHADE (Sterling). Rob is co-regional advisor for SCBWI Florida and a frequent speaker, teacher, and critiquer.

A native of Springfield, Missouri, he has lived in Texas, Alabama, and Tennessee. After earning a B.S. in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Religious Education, Rob worked for fifteen years in children’s religious educational publishing as a writer, educational consultant, trainer, editor, editorial group manager, and product developer.

In 2006, Rob moved to Florida and began working as an elementary school teacher. Soon he was serving as a district writing trainer and resource teacher. But he spent most of his career teaching fourth graders about books and words and reading and writing. Rob took retirement in December 2020 and now is writing full time. To learn more about Rob visit robsanderswrites.com/.

He is represented by Rubin Pfeffer.

 

Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection – Return to Coney Island (Clear Fork Publishing); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush, Ready, Set, GOrilla!, and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories. (Clear Fork). Melissa is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her family, and enjoys theatre, museums, and long beach walks. To learn more about Melissa and her books visit MelissaStoller.com.

IF YOU HAVE WRITING OR PUBLISHING QUESTIONS THAT YOU’D LIKE TO SEE THE TEAM ADDRESS, PLEASE LEAVE YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

We’ll be back soon with our first words of wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

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Change is in the air for me, Blue Whale Press, and my blog. I have some announcements today and more to come. Where to start?

Well, I’ve been waiting for a big announcement to be made, but I let the cat out of the bag the other day during an interview with Mel Rosenberg. I loved the interview. It was like talking with a longtime friend.

I figured I should lead with the biggest news, which I just did on the above video. After very long consideration, I’ve made the tough decision to step down from my roles as acquisitions editor and art director at Blue Whale Press. It’s time for me to practice a little self-care and step into some new adventures (or maybe I should say ventures????), which time will slowly reveal. I recommended Jackie Kruzie to be my replacement, and I’m happy to share that she is stepping up to the challenge as acquisition editor. To learn more about Jackie at Blue Whale Press, click here. You can also find Jackie’s wish list and temporary submissions page here. I believe Callie will be doing a blog post about the change, which explains why I recommended Jackie for my replacement, and you’ll gain deeper knowledge about Jackie’s excellent credentials and kid lit experience.

It has been an honor for Steve and me to bring Blue Whale Press up to this point. We are extremely proud of our little press, and even more proud of the books we’ve produced and the wonderful authors and illustrators who entrusted their precious work to us. We are grateful for each and every author and illustrator and the relationships we have built with them. Knowing that Blue Whale Press will live on as an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing under the fine guidance of Callie Metler and Jackie Kruzie makes this difficult life choice much more palatable.

I am no longer taking submissions. However, I will continue with art directing and design through May 15, 2021. This will give the last four books that I acquired a good head start before I fully pass the baton to Callie and Jackie. After May 15, I will likely take a sorely needed hiatus. Once I regroup, I will be back better than ever with more surprises for kid lit writers and friends.

As for Blue Whale Press’s future, we would love to see Blue Whale Press continue to grow. After that, our wish for Blue Whale Press is that it will continue to publish quality books that have so much staying power that they have potential to one day be called a classic. I believe Blue Whale Press books will continue to entertain, inspire, and educate readers of all ages. From the beginning, one of our dreams was to launch authors and illustrators into long-lasting careers that they love and are proud of. We continue to want that for Blue Whale Press authors and illustrators. And we’d love to see our vision of many Blue Whale Press books becoming award winners on best-sellers lists.

I can’t say it enough; I’m extremely proud of Blue Whale Press and my accomplishments there. Maybe one day, I’ll write a blog post about it. For now, I will offer my latest photo (although slightly blurred) of my office Blue Whale shelf (top shelf). With four more books in production, I’m honored to share that I played a role in bringing 17 Blue Whale Press books into the world. It has been a beautiful and fulfilling ride. More to come in Callie’s blog post.

There are some changes coming to my blog as well. I’m resurrecting my “All About” blog series (All About Submissions and All About Platforms combined with Marcie Flinchum Atkins’s “We’re All In This Together” series—with Marcie’s permission of course. Thanks, Marcie! And boy do we have some fantastic multi-published authors to tackle our old topics and lots of new ones. We’ll be sharing our wisdom and stories about the world of kid lit writing and publishing. And because of all our combined years of kid lit writing experience, we will be giving the series a new name. KID LIT WRITING WISDOM (Over 170 years of combined experience as authors!) I will introduce the team after one more announcement.

As many of you know authors are always happy when another one of their babies comes into the world. So, I’m thrilled to see Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy series bring a new story to readers. This time Sienna is having some COWBOY TROUBLE. Here’s the trailer.

Please allow me to introduce the Kid Lit Writing Wisdom team.

All of our team members (except for one) have new picture books coming out or already released this year. We are either members of 2021 Word Birds or Twenty One-derful Picture Books in 2021 or both.

Beth Anderson
Marcie Flinchum Atkins
Kirsti Call
Pippa Chorley
Alayne Kay Christian
Laura Gehl
Vivian Kirkfield
Ellen Leventhal
Michelle Nott
Rosie Pova
Dawn Prochovnic
Rob Sanders
Melissa Stoller

On Sunday, I will fully introduce you to the team with bios and images and links.

IN THE MEANTIME, IF YOU HAVE WRITING OR PUBLISHING QUESTIONS THAT YOU’D LIKE TO SEE THE TEAM ADDRESS, PLEASE LEAVE YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

 

 

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AAS Q&A 4

This month, I asked the All about Submissions team the following questions: How do you cope with rejections? What do you do with the rejection letters – even if they are just form letters? I will share some of their answers today and the rest tomorrow. Please feel free to comment and share your tips for coping with rejections.

I would like to introduce our newest team member, Heather Ayris Burnell, author of Bedtime Monster. Welcome Heather.

As always, a big thank you to all that took the time to share their answers to this month’s questions.

* * *

Kirsti Call, Children’s Author

The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall!

http://www.characterpublishing.org/store/index.php?route=product/product&path=82&product_id=60

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILoU8KRTjRM&feature=youtu.be

www.kirsticall.com

Rejection is proof that I’m writing.  Rejection is proof that I’m submitting!  Rejection gives me one less publisher or agent to send that particular manuscript to!  I have dozens or maybe even hundreds of rejections and I keep every one of them. Even form letters are concrete evidence of my dedication to writing stories for children.  And somehow, with each rejection, I feel like I’m one step closer to finding the right publisher.

* * *

Julie Falatko

Author of SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK) (Viking Children’s, 2015)

Represented by Danielle Smith

http://worldofjulie.com/

I am someone who suffered from severe submit-o-phobia for two years. It was good. I am grateful for my fear of rejection, because otherwise I would have submitted some truly awful stories. But as I was working on writing, and knowing I wasn’t ready yet, I’d see friends complaining about rejections, and I was so jealous. I wanted to be ready to submit things! I couldn’t wait until I was far enough along to actually start getting rejections. That was the next phase on the horizon that I could see: submitting stuff, getting rejections. And I knew I wasn’t there yet.

So when I did finally started submitting, I honestly didn’t mind getting rejections. I mean, well, sure, I minded a little. But I knew every rejection just meant the agent and I weren’t a good fit. I was so happy to finally be at a point where I was getting rejections. I found the waiting-for-rejections to be a lot harder than the rejections.

I kept all of my rejections. Some of them were very nice ones, and I would go back and reread them for encouragement. I don’t know what it means that I am someone who read rejections for encouragement, but it’s true.

* * *

Heather Ayris Burnell, Author

Bedtime Monster

www.subitclub.wordpress.com

www.frolickingthroughcyberspace.blogspot.com

Represented by Sean McCarthy Literary Agency

To me, rejection is just part of the process of becoming published. Statistically speaking, it takes a lot of rejection to get to an acceptance. When we send our work out for consideration we are competing against hundreds of other talented writers and their work. There are so many factors that are out of our control once we send our work for consideration. The piece we send not only has to be the best of the best, it has to reach the right person at the right time and fit into their vision, whether it be an agent building their list or a publisher looking for that next great book to publish. Being rejected means you are getting your work out there and trying to reach your goal of publication. That is a positive thing! When I get a rejection, I let myself have that “oh darn” moment but I don’t dwell on it. I read the reply a couple times to let it sink in (I always seem to skim on the first couple of reads), take note in my submission log, move on, and keep on working toward my goal. Sure, I might switch up my query letter if I keep getting forms or do some revising if I get suggestions.

Rejections don’t have to hold you back. They can help you gain insight that can keep you moving forward in a positive direction.

I do think you can have some fun with rejection letters. Why not? I have a lot of ideas of what to do with them, I even wrote a post, Fun with Rejections! I’m saving mine up for a piñata and am hoping to have a big party with a bunch of my writer friends someday. Not sure exactly what I’ll fill the piñata with. Pens…notepads…chocolate? There will definitely be chocolate!

* * *

Elaine Kiely Kearns, Children’s Writer

http://www.kidlit411.com/

Ah, rejection.

After much reflection upon this question I can only answer in one way: rejection sucks, people. It stings, it burns, it makes us feel like we are inadequate and that our writing is subpar.

And of course, anyone reading this post also knows that rejection is a part of this wacky, wonderful path to publication. Getting your manuscript snatched up by an agent or an editor right out of the gate is unrealistic. Of course it happens, but it’s rare. I am guessing that it would be easier to win the lottery – twice.

So what do we do with all of this rejection? How do we cope?

Well, first of all, we have to learn to take comfort in knowing that it is just part of the process. It’s business. Just business. When you look at it like that, it’s so much easier to accept. Another rejection? Who cares! Onward! (Especially if it was the standard form letter rejection.)

However, if you received some notes from an editor or agent on your manuscript, Congratulations! If an agent or editor has taken the time to give you feedback, I would take that as a sign that you are getting closer. A lot closer. Agents and editors do not have the time to give feedback, so even though it’s a pass, be grateful that they thought enough of your manuscript to give you a little bit of something to go on. Celebrate!

The last thing you can do is to arm yourself with information and become familiar with an agent and editor’s job. Wait, what?! Why? Well, if you put yourself in their shoes, you will see that the rejection you’re receiving isn’t personal. Publishing, after all, is a business. That’s the bottom line, and sometimes we need to remind our creative brains of that fact. Your writing may be strong and entertaining, but for a myriad of other reasons, it may just not be the right time for them to accept it. If you understand where they are coming from, it’s much easier to understand and accept that painful sting.

And ultimately, won’t it be that much sweeter when your deal finally does come through? Just think of all the hope you’ll be able to give to those who come after you when they ask, “Did you get a lot of rejections before your ‘yes’?” And you’ll say, “Yeah, a lot. Hang in there, it will happen for you too!”

“You never really fail until you quit.”- Anonymous

Happy writing!

For more information about agents, editors and rejection visit: http://www.kidlit411.com/2014/01/kidlit411-submission-how-to.html

 * * *

Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Children’s and YA Writer

www.marcieatkins.com

Marcie wasn’t able to contribute this month, but Marcie, ten other writers (many you may know), and I discuss “Dealing with rejections” on her blog. Here are the links:

http://www.marcieatkins.com/2013/04/20/were-all-in-this-together-rejection-post-1/

http://www.marcieatkins.com/2013/04/21/were-all-in-this-together-rejection-post-2/

* * *

Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

Instead of reinventing the wheel, I will offer links to a couple of my previous posts about rejections below.

TWELVE METHODS FOR COPING WITH REJECTIONS

This partly humorous and partly inspiring post offers the yin and yang of coping with rejections.

BLACK JELLYBEANS, MANUSCRIPT REJECTIONS, AND BEETS

This post talks about how taste influences rejections and acceptance.

From Marcie Flinchum Atkin’s blog: WHAT’S SO LOVELY ABOUT WRITING FOR CHILDREN? While all the writers’ answers are inspiring, mine relates to rejections, so be sure to scroll down until you get to my answer.

WHAT’S COMING IN PART TWO?

  • Teresa Robeson talks about growing out of the deep funk that rejections can induce.
  • Sophia Mallonée and Cindy Williams Schrauben both share their thoughts on the many sides of rejections.
  • Sylvia Liu gives her “numbers game” perspective along with sharing a bit about her favorite rejection.
  • I share a bunch of inspirational links on topics such as new perspectives, turning your rejections into successes, and taking criticism like a pro.

A list of all the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS posts.

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AAS Q&A 4DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT SUBMISSIONS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE ANSWERED? ASK YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

Before I get started today, I want to thank the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS Q & A team for their great answers to this month’s question.

When I first got the idea for this series, I asked children’s book writers what questions they would like answered regarding manuscript submissions. Several people asked similar questions about agents and editors. I decided to share all the questions with the team, as I believed it would offer them more brainstorming power. I think if I were to combine all the questions asked, they would lead to two basic questions.

1) How do you manage your agent/editor searches, information gathering, and so on?

2) How do you determine who you sub to?

Here are the questions as asked:

  • How to narrow down your “where to submit” list?
  • I find researching agents and editors overwhelming. Where is the best place to start?
  • How do I know if I am really targeting my manuscript to the right publisher? I know that we are supposed to study publisher’s websites, market guides, read other books published by them in the same genre, etc., but how do I “really” know if mine is right for their list? Are there any tips or tricks that help you to narrow down potential publishers? Are there any “tried and true” methods used by those of you who are published? I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend to feel somewhat overwhelmed when I peruse those market guides.

Once again, the team came through with excellent answers. And once again, they have offered so much information that I will do two posts. Click here for RESEARCHING AGENTS AND EDITORS: HOW TO YOU DETERMINE WHO TO SUBMIT TO? PART ONE

* * *

Sylvia Liu, Writer-illustrator

portfolio: www.enjoyingplanetearth.com

blog: www.sylvialiuland.com

Sylvia Liu is a winner of the Lee & Low New Voices Award. http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/01/15/announcing-our-2013-new-voices-award-winner/

Here’s how I research and query agencies:

(1) Overall Strategy: Small Batches. The best advice on querying agents is to do so in small batches (4-6) at a time, and include both your top and lesser choices in each batch. That way you can get feedback (or silence, which is a form of feedback), and adjust your query. If you blast out a query that is not working to 50 agents, and they all decline to ask for more, you are out of luck. If you get rejected on your first round of 4-6 submissions, you will still have other top choice agents to send a revised query to.

(2) Initial research. I start researching agencies using Literary Rambles, which has a comprehensive list of children’s agents with detailed interviews of their likes and dislikes and links to other interviews. I also check out lists like the top 25 children’s agents by sales and the many lists on Kidlit411’s agent page.

(3) Excel spreadsheet. I create an Excel spreadsheet with agents I’m interested in, listing their name, website, submission process, and any specific interests relevant to my work. I color coordinate the entries by highlighting my favorite ones in one color and my second choice in another.

(4) More research on top choices. For my top choice agents, I do more research. Their websites usually list their clients. I’ll check out as many books of their clients as I can find and read them (for picture books, it’s easy to read; for middle grade books, I skim or read the first few chapters). This is a good way to see if my work would fit in with the agent’s tastes and to get good personalized information for the query letter.

(5) Send out in small batches and keep track of responses in Excel. I send my query (for picture books, that often includes the story pasted in the email text) to 4 to 6 agents, including 2 to 3 of my top choices, and 2 to 4 of my second choices. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of the date I sent a story, what I sent, and the usual response time (some agents will tell you that if you haven’t heard within x weeks, consider it a rejection).

When I get a rejection, I highlight that entry gray, so I can tell at a glance which submissions are still active. If I get requests for more material, they get a yellow highlight. When I followed this approach last year, I got two requests to see more work, which did not lead to representation. I highlighted those entries in light purple (to remind myself I’m making progress). My 2013 Excel spreadsheet had a lot of lines of gray (rejection) and white (no response), 2 lines of purple, and one bright yellow (my contest win – I also keep track on my spreadsheet all my contest entries).

* * *

Sophia Mallonée, Children’s Writer

www.sophiamallonee.com

Unfortunately, I don’t think there are any special tricks to narrowing down your submission list. The only tried and true method to finding the right agent or publisher is through research. Lots and lots of research.

The thing is, as much as you might not want to hear this, all of that painful time spent researching, is actually really good for you. Think about it. If you find an agent, that person doesn’t simply help you sell your work, they become a partner, working with you to help you mold your career. Speaking not only as a writer, but as an ex-agent (in the photography industry), your relationship with your agent should be just that, a relationship. This is a person who has to not only believe in your work, they also have to share your vision and passion for it too. You don’t want to just sign with anyone, you want to sign with the one.

You need to research, you need to sift through lists and websites and message boards and everything else you can possibly find. Then once you’ve done all that, you can start the courting process. It might be quick and heated, or it might be long and drawn out. But in any case, it is the way it is and the way it should be. None of this is something that can be rushed. This is your career and there are no shortcuts when it comes to building a strong foundation.

As for finding publishers to submit to, the same holds true. Read blogs, read books both in stores and libraries, Google publishers, go to conferences, listen to what editors have to say and in other words, research. This isn’t a race to see who gets published first, this is your passion and your work. Work. It’s not always easy – if it was, everyone would be doing it.

If you believe in what you do, then let your belief be your fuel. You will power through it and eventually, you will find the place that you were always meant to be. Good luck!

* * *

Julie Falatko, Author of SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK) (Viking Children’s, 2015)

Represented by Danielle Smith, Foreword Literary

http://worldofjulie.com/

I found the best way to find agents who would be a good fit was to read a lot of picture books. When I read books that I loved, or that were a little bit like mine, I’d dig around and figure out who the author’s agent is. A few agent names kept coming up again and again, so I moved them to the top of my spreadsheet. I then researched those agents like I was cramming for finals. I wanted to know everything I could. What books do they like? What are they like on Twitter, if they’re on there? Do they seem passionate about books in interviews, or snooty and snarky? And: are they still open to submissions? Are they still accepting picture books? Submission guidelines change, and the biggest best thing you can do is to read them and follow them exactly.

I read advice that said you should simultaneously query huge batches of (well-researched) agents at a time, but I could never get my head around this. Maybe because what I write is kind of oddball, and so it didn’t seem like there were that many agents who might dig my style. Instead I went for a super-focused, very personalized querying approach. It was maybe more nerve-wracking, because I felt like I was narrowing my options, but I think it’s what helped me get an agent. I wasn’t wasting anyone’s time. (I ended up querying eleven agents total.)

* * *

Kirsti Call, Children’s Author of  THE RAINDROP WHO COULDN’T FALL!

http://www.characterpublishing.org/store/index.php?route=product/product&path=82&product_id=60

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILoU8KRTjRM&feature=youtu.be

www.kirsticall.com

Here are 3 things that help me decide where to submit:

1. I go to the library or bookstore and read!  When I find picture books that I like, I take note of who the publisher is. Then think about which of my manuscripts would be a good fit for that publisher.

2. I search Book Markets for Children’s Writers 20142014 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrators Market and SCBWI’s The Book.  I mark each publisher that fits with the name of the manuscript I want to submit.

3. I network.  People in the 12×12 community or Children’s Book Creatives share what they’ve learned about publishers and then I have a better idea of whether they are a good fit for me and my story. I was lucky with my debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall.  A friend in my critique group was published by Character Publishing, so I submitted to them.

* * *

Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

Between today’s answers and those posted yesterday, I believe the team has done a thorough job of answering the question. Therefore, I have decided to share some links that fit well with this topic. First, I want to mention that Elaine Kiely Kearns, Children’s Writer http://www.kidlit411.com/ will be our guest blogger on March 15. Her blog will be a bonus post for this topic. Not only will she give her tips for researching agents and editors, she will be giving some other tips for agent submissions, including bringing your manuscripts to conferences and sending conference submissions.

RESEARCHING AGENTS PART ONE

Alayne’s Links for HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHO TO SUBMIT TO? Part Two

Before I give you links to resources, I want to offer some links to a couple Facebook Groups that relate to submissions and agents and editors.

Agent/Editor Discussion This board is for picture book authors. We discuss agents/editors, sending manuscripts, cover letters and queries. We support the successes and celebrate the rejections (that means we are one step closer to a yes). It is a closed group, but you can ask to join on the page.

Sub Six The Sub Six picture book support group’s focus is supporting each other as we work toward our submission goals.

Hot off the press. SO YOU WANT TO GET AN AGENT, by Romelle Broas

http://romellebroas.blogspot.com/2014/02/so-you-want-to-get-agent.html

From PUB[LISHING] CRAWL: RESEARCHING AGENTS by Susan Dennard; INDUSTRY LIFE

http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2013/09/06/researching-literary-agents/

4 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN RESEARCHING LITERARY AGENTS, from Writers Digest and Brian Klems’ The Writer’s Dig.

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/4-things-to-consider-when-researching-literary-agents

HOW TO RESEARCH LITERARY AGENTS, By Noah Lukeman from WRITERS STORE

http://www.writersstore.com/how-to-research-literary-agents

ALL OTHER “ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS” POSTS

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AAS Q&A 4DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT SUBMISSIONS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE ANSWERED? ASK YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

When I first got the idea for the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS series, I asked children’s book writers what questions they would like answered regarding manuscript submissions. Several people asked similar questions about agents and editors. I decided to share all the questions with the team, as I believed it would offer them more brainstorming power. I think if I were to combine all the questions asked, they would lead to two basic questions.

1) How do you manage your agent/editor searches, information gathering, and so on?

2) How do you determine who you sub to?

Here are the questions as asked:

  • How to narrow down your “where to submit” list?
  • I find researching agents and editors overwhelming. Where is the best place to start?
  • How do I know if I am really targeting my manuscript to the right publisher? I know that we are supposed to study publisher’s websites, market guides, read other books published by them in the same genre, etc., but how do I “really” know if mine is right for their list? Are there any tips or tricks that help you to narrow down potential publishers? Are there any “tried and true” methods used by those of you who are published? I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend to feel somewhat overwhelmed when I peruse those market guides.

Once again, the team came through with excellent answers. And once again, they have offered so much information that I will do two posts. Part Two will go live tomorrow.

* * *

Teresa Robeson, Author and Artist

teresarobeson.com

My least favorite part of the writing life is not coming up with ideas, or the initial writing, or even the several hundred revisions I have to do on each manuscript. No, my least favorite part is doing market research to send it to the appropriate agent or editor. I don’t know why I dislike it; perhaps it seems so dry and methodical after the creative process of writing a story.

The following are steps I take to ensure I’m targeting the right person, be it an agent or publisher:

1)   I determine what specific category (that is, age range) and genre my story is in. This is very important since agents and editors have their likes and dislikes and won’t rep or publish anything that’s not on their want-list.

2)   I look through a copy of a children’s writers market guide and see who is accepting works in the category/genre of my story. Usually, I use the Writer’s Digest one – CHILDREN’S WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET or the Institute of Children’s Literature version – BOOK MARKETS FOR CHILDREN’S WRITERS. Those market guides will have not just a general alphabetized listing of publishing houses and agency names, but they also have listings by specialization. For example, the Category Index of the “2014 Book Markets for Children’s Writers” goes from Action/Adventure to Fantasy to Young Adult Nonfiction, and everything in between.

3)   After narrowing it down to a section comes the tedious but necessary part of skimming through all the entries under that section. You may decide to choose more than one section to look at. For example, if you have a fantasy for middle-graders, you should check both the Fantasy section and the Middle Grade Fiction section. The optimal agents/editors to send to would be the ones that fall into both categories.

4)   While doing step 3, I put the agents/editors into three categories: Most Desirable, Somewhat Desirable, and Last Resort.

5)   I start with the Most Desirable and look up their websites to see if they’re currently accepting clients/manuscripts and see if there’s more info about their likes and dislikes. Plus, their websites will have their most updated mailing (or emailing) addresses.

6)   Step 5 might help you further rank all the people/places in your Most Desirable list from your dream agent/publisher on down. Start submitting!

There is no guarantee that, even with all that work, you are targeting the best person/place for your manuscript — perhaps Agent A just broke up with her boyfriend the day she reads your story, and even though she normally loves YA romance, she may hate your romance that particular day. You can’t control these things, but if you’ve done the research above, you can be certain you’re sending your story to the people who would be interested.

Note from Alayne: The market guides that Teresa mentions in her answer also offer a variety of manuscript submission related articles, information and examples. They also have lists of contests. The info provided is different every year, so if you get a chance, give them a look. Some libraries have these guides in their reference section, plus Amazon has their look inside feature.

* * *

Cindy Williams Schrauben, Children’s Writer

Raising Book Monsters – kids who devour books and hunger for knowledge

http://www.RaisingBookMonsters.com

I am still an agent-orphan, but . . . I have studied, researched, and absorbed information for quite a while now, so I will share what I believe to be best and worst practices.

This process is overwhelming; one that is driven by passion and a desire to reach a goal as quickly as possible. Blind drive and determination can be problematic at times. It can, I’m afraid, cloud our vision and instigate reckless behavior. Let me give you an example: I have my list of “dream agents” carefully chronicled on a spreadsheet with links to their interviews, wish lists, current titles, and agency sites. I have created this list with care and a clear mind. I know what I want and who can help me to get there based on hours of research. But then . . . my internet writing family starts buzzing about the fabulous Agent X who has just opened up to submissions. Hmmm, doesn’t sound familiar; I check my list, but he’s not there. I check out his stats, current clients, past sales, and desired projects and realize that he isn’t really a good fit. But, as the buzz continues and I get caught up in the excitement . . . Maybe I will be the exception. Agent X says he doesn’t like quirky-zany stories, but surely he will like mine! So, I spend hour upon hour researching and writing a killer query, and I send my story off. Wait, why did I just do that? Because I lost sight of my writing . . . my goals . . . and the best path to get there.

Instead of reiterating the Internet sites and market guides that are available for research, I will end here with general advice. This journey to publishing is a rough one, and it should be traveled with a sure foot and discriminating mind. Do your research. Keep careful records. Determine a path and stick to it. Stay true to yourself and your writing. Submitting your work to long-shot agents not only wastes countless hours, it plays games with your self-confidence as well. So, garner your patience, use the down-time to learn more about your craft and stay on a straight road toward your goal.

Note from Alayne: After I read Cindy’s answer, I asked her the following: You mention when Agent X pops up, that you get sidetracked and check out his stats, current clients, past sales, and desired projects. Do you have a specific place you go to get these stats? If so, would you be willing to share?

Cindy’s answer: As far as researching, I use an agent’s site, first and foremost. Facebook, Twitter, Literary Rambles, Query Tracker, and good old Google for interviews. I feel that interviews give me the best insight into the agent and not only their wish list, but their writing preferences related to style, voice, etc.

* * *

Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Children’s and YA Writers

www.marcieatkins.com

1) Read, read, read. When you find books like the ones you write, look up the author. Google the author’s agent. Then you can say, “I really like your client xxx’s work, and my work is similar to xxx.” Knowing who agents represent or the types of authors they represent is very important. You aren’t going to send a picture book to an agent who represents adult thrillers. It’s a waste of everyone’s time. Reading books like those you write will help you know the market, but it will also help you get a leg up on agent research.

2) Follow blogs and industry newsletters. I find Literary Rambles a helpful site as a starting point. I also subscribe to Children’s Writer Newsletter and Children’s Book Insider. They often write about agents and what they are looking for. If an agent mentions that she is looking for a middle grade magical realism novel, and you have a completed one, then that might be an agent you should consider researching a little bit more. You can also Google the agent’s name + interviews. I’ve found interviews all over the internet just by Googling.

3) Go to SCBWI conferences or join groups like 12×12. Agents go to these conferences or participate in 12×12. Live conferences help you get an idea of personalities of different agents.

4) Connect with other writers. Once you get to know people in critique groups, Facebook groups, and at conferences, ask them about various agents. My critique group had dinner together the other night, and between the five of us, many of us had experiences with various agents through in-person critiques, e-mail contact, or even representation. Nothing can beat networking in that form.

5) Stay organized. I recently wrote a post on this blog about submission organization. Once you do your research, keep track of it. I use a spreadsheet. Every time I find someone who I might be interested in, I put them on the spreadsheet. I make notes to myself, paste in website addresses, then it makes researching much easier next time. If I just have a name, I don’t know why I put them there. But if I put a name, a web address, and a note to myself “looking for multicultural YA,” then I even know what manuscript I want to send.

* * *

Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

First I want to announce my professional picture book manuscript critique service.  Click here to learn more about my service. Between today’s answers and those that will be posted tomorrow, I believe the team has done a thorough job of answering the question. Therefore, I have decided to share some links that fit well with this topic. But first, I want to tell you about tomorrow.

RESEARCHING AGENTS AND EDITORS PART TWO

  • Sylvia Liu will offer some additional resources plus her five step strategy for researching and querying agencies.
  • Sophia Mallonée will give her photography industry ex-agent perspective on the importance of finding the right agent.
  • Julie Falatko will talk about her super-focused, very personalized approach to finding, and signing with the agent that appreciates her “oddball” writing style.
  • Kirsti Call will share three things that help her decide where to submit. And I will offer more links to other agent/editor resources.

Alayne’s Links for HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHO TO SUBMIT TO? Part One

Perfect fit! MARCH 27 WEBINAR through Michigan SCBWI – HAROLD UNDERDOWN PRESENTS: FINDING THE RIGHT FIT – RESEARCING THE RIGHT AGENT, EDITOR, AND/OR PUBLISHING HOUSE.

https://michigan.scbwi.org/events/webinar-3-researching-the-right-agent-editor-andor-publishing-house/

https://www.facebook.com/events/402818103189026/?ref=3&ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

Since a couple answers mention Literary Rambles, I thought it might be good to start with the following:

THREE PART SERIES ON LITERARY RAMBLES: RESEARCHING LITERARY AGENTS

PART ONE

PART TWO

PART THREE

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN BUZZING AROUND THE WRITING COMMUNITY THIS WEEK.

ON TWITTER, GET THE INSIDE SCOOP: EDITORS AND AGENTS POST THEIR MANUSCRIPT WISH LISTS – OVER AND ABOVE GUIDELINES.

 #MSWL PICTURE BOOK

#MSWL MG (Middle Grade)

#MSWL (Other)

SHARON K. MAYHEW OFFERS A LIST OF AGENTS, EDITORS, ETC. 

http://skmayhew.blogspot.com/p/blog-awards.html

Click here to find all other ALL ABOUT SUBMISSION posts.

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT SUBMISSIONS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE ANSWERED? ASK YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

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AAS Q&A 4Welcome to the launch of ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS Q & A. This will be a monthly feature with some bonus posts here and there. I have been collecting questions about submitting to agents, editors, etc. from writers with inquiring minds. I have recruited a fantastic team of children’s writers who have many years of experience with submitting. I developed this team because I thought it would be beneficial to writers to see answers from a variety of perspectives. This month’s answers have some common threads. Two strong threads are “Join a critique group – maybe even more than one.” And “Don’t be in a hurry. Take time to let the story marinate.”

The team had so much to offer that I will be posting more answers tomorrow. Elaine Kiely Kearns will share the seven stages that her manuscripts go through before she considers them ready. Cindy Williams Schrauben will give you eight simple, common sense guidelines for determining if your manuscript is ready. I will share a few tips and provide some links with more tips, including some additional checklists that you can use to decide if your story is ready for submission. Before I move on I would like to announce my new picture book manuscript critique service. Click here to learn more about what I offer.

Introducing the team members!

Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Kirsti Call

Julie Falatko

Elaine Kiely Kearns

Sylvia Liu

Sophia Mallonée

Cindy Williams Schrauben

Alayne Kay Christian

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR MANUSCRIPT IS READY TO SUBMIT?

 Sylvia Liu, Writer-illustrator

portfolio: www.enjoyingplanetearth.com

blog: www.sylvialiuland.com

You know your manuscript is ready if: (1) it has sat in your computer and marinated for a while; (2) it has gone through at least two rounds of critiques and revisions, one for big picture issues and one for fine-tuning and word-smithing; (3) you’ve street tested it (read it out loud to children in your target age group, preferably not your own children); (4) optionally, it has gone through a professional paid critique, and (5) you read it and get that feeling that you have captured magic in a bottle. Getting to the fifth step is the hardest in my experience. I’ve sent out plenty of manuscripts that weren’t quite there and in retrospect, they were not ready. The one that met all of these criteria ended up being the manuscript that got me a publishing contract.

A BIG CONGRATULATIONS to Sylvia Liu. She is the winner of the Lee & Low New Voices Award. She tells all about it in her Interview on Clarike Bowman-Jahn’s blog.

Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Children’s and Young Adult Writer

www.marcieatkins.com

I consider my manuscript ready to go when I’ve vetted it through all of my critique groups (sometimes multiple times). When they start fiddling with commas and moving a word here or there, then I know it’s pretty close. Sometimes I’m so immersed in revisions that I think it’s ready before it really is. This year my goal is to take the manuscript as far as I can, put it away for 2-3 months, then re-evaluate it again. Sometimes that manuscript I think is really ready is really not.

Sophia Mallonée, Children’s Writer

www.sophiamallonee.com

This is probably the single most difficult question to answer when it comes to writing, and honestly there’s no clear sign or finish line. It would be so much easier if there was!

For me, I like to pound out a very rough first draft and then leave it for a week or two before I do anything with it. I usually then go through 1-3 rounds of personal revisions before I send it off to my critique group and then 1-2 rounds of edits with my crit partners. After a series of thorough revisions, I’ll leave the story to sit and marinate on its own for a couple of weeks.

The passage of time is really my best tool to judge the strength of a manuscript. After enough time has passed for me to feel distant from the story, I’m then able to pick it back up and read it with fresh eyes. If it reads smoothly, makes me smile in the right places and so on, I’ll send it out. Otherwise, I start the process all over again and might add a few new eyes into the mix for more suggestions.

I also prefer to do small batches of submissions at a time and that way, if I get any helpful feedback from my submissions, I’m able to make further revisions before I send it out again. So you might find that even after you think a manuscript is ready to submit, there are still changes to be made!

Kirsti Call, Children’s Author

www.kirsticall.com

Her debut book: The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall! (trailer)

I started submitting almost immediately after I got back into writing 3 years ago. I thought my first story was fabulous and ready to be published.  Sadly, no publisher agreed with me!

Now that I’ve had more time working in the industry, I realize that it wasn’t ready.  I needed to go to a critique group, get a writing partner, revise, revise and revise some more!  I needed to attend conferences and hone my craft.

Now that I do that, I know my manuscript is ready when I have no qualms about the beginning, middle or ending. I know it’s ready when I can read it out loud without stumbling.  I know it’s ready when my critique partners have nothing much to say about the story, except for how wonderful it is, of course!  Nothing’s better than making a manuscript sing!

Julie Falatko, Author

http://worldofjulie.com/

Her debut book: SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK) (Viking Children’s, 2015)

Represented by Danielle Smith, Foreword Literary

In so many ways, it’s very, very hard to know when a manuscript is ready to submit. For me, at least. It took me years — YEARS — to understand that first drafts are SUPPOSED to be terrible. And that it is my job to fix them. So usually when I write, I go through a fairly normal cycle of “this is awful/this is brilliant.” I need to make sure that when I think a manuscript is done, that it is really done, and it’s not that I just happened to catch myself at a “this is brilliant” upswing. Having more than one critique group helps. Taking some time away from it helps, too, so you can come back to it like someone else wrote it, to see what still needs to be fixed.

But eventually, you’ll know in your gut that there’s nothing else you can change in a manuscript. You have to be really honest with yourself about this. It might, and probably should, take months. Take your time. Take it seriously. It’s a tough balance — you need to give yourself enough time to get it right, but at a certain point you also have to let go and trust that you’ve done all you can.

Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

As I mentioned earlier, one of the strong themes in this month’s answers is do not rush to submission. Don’t let your desire to be published or get an agent interfere with good judgment. In a recent Interview on kidlit411, I offered the following advice to writers. Do not be in a hurry. I don’t want to discourage any writer from submitting because there are some people who are new to the writing scene who find success in achieving publication in a very short time. However, I believe that this is rare. I know it is tempting to jump right into submitting, but I caution you to take your time. Learn your craft, and learn it well. If you can afford it, take classes, get professional critiques, and read, read, read. Be sure to join a critique group. Immerse yourself in the writing community, and learn from those who have already learned from their mistakes. It is not a race – it is a journey.

Click her for HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR MANUSCRIPT IS READY TO SUBMIT – PART TWO with additional answers and some excellent resources for deciding when your manuscript is ready for submission.

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