Writers are always told ” write about what you know.” So when I started to delve into the world of children’s writing , that was not great information for me; because I wanted to write nonfiction, about new and unknown subjects or places. I come from the background of writing feature news articles for adults. I have always been more comfortable reading and writing nonfiction. But after an almost two year stretch of acceptance and revisions for a nonfiction kid lit biography I wrote, came the ultimate rejection from a great publisher. I was crushed. I then decided to step out of the comfort zone and try writing fiction picture books instead of nonfiction.
Write about what you know: Family, nature, humor. I wrote my first fiction picture book about two years ago and received requests from a couple of publishers who liked it, but wanted some edits. Still haven’t sold that title, but it has led to more fiction writing. My newest manuscript is being read by a few agents and editors right now and I feel confidence in it. It’s funny and kids like funny; it has a feline main character who can read and write.
Working on tightening my fiction writing led to me recently selling my first online short story, written with a lot of dialog; way out of my comfort zone of writing nonfiction narrative. I still plan on writing kids’ nonfiction; I have started on some new ideas for researching in the next few months. But sometimes it is good to try new things and step outside of that comfortable box and stretch your goals a little. For me, the fiction writing led to better writing and revising and I can say it was worth it to take on the challenge.
Hello fellow unpublished writers! It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here and I’ve been busy doing what all of us unpublished hopefuls do: subbing manuscripts to different houses, querying agents, researching and rewriting.
I felt so blessed to receive a welcome from a children’s book publisher after only subbing to a few houses for my first picture book kids’ bio. After three sets of revisions in a year and a half, I thought I was on my way to publication. It was too good to be true. Last week after hundreds of hours of revisions and rewrites and putting my heart full steam into this project, the publisher decided not to continue to fruition with my book. I was crushed. It took over my emotions for a week, I truly was devastated. I had marketing plans and ideas for school visits to promote this worthy book I had worked so hard on and it all was over. The associate editor who was an advocate for me had been outvoted by other editors and possibly the marketing department, as I assume my work was not as commercial as they wanted, but more suitable for a school or educational market. As a children’s librarian I am now learning a lot about the business world of publishing!
So I’ve had to pick myself up, resub my polished manuscript and go on to work on some other manuscripts and now play the waiting game all over again. Strategies now include getting an agent as well, so I don’t have to play the editing waiting game. I will attend writing workshops or conferences in hopes of meeting editors or agents face to face. Hopefully by the end of 2015 I will hear some good news. And I will continue to aggressively follow the children’s book market that I so love.
As a child I was a voracious reader, devouring fiction books with great characters at almost a book a day. So it came as a great surprise to me as an adult writer how difficult it really is to craft and create an interesting character in my own books. As a young adult I became more of a reader of non-fiction and biographies and still favor that genre, with the exception of historical fiction.
As a writer of 3 children’s manuscripts in the past two years, I find it easier to do the research than the writing and certainly the editing. My editor for my first non-fiction bio for kids about an inventor, gave me great advice. She told me to find heart in the story. I never realized until after a year of revisions that crafting a good non–fiction character requires not just telling their story, but fleshing out a believable and interesting portrait with respect to the character’s history. Like a good fictional character, the real person you are writing about needs to grab your reader’s interest. I needed to find a voice for my character, even though his biography is written in the third person.
Writing for kids is very different than writing for adults. And when writing non-fiction it is very easy to get too technical for young readers. When I stepped back and thought about my audience as being seven to ten year olds, I had to revise and edit my original drafts many times and add less technical vocabulary and contextual clues. In writing a book about an inventor for a young audience, you have to find the excitement in that inventor’s process and the creative process of inventing. As a new writer in the children’s book field, I was also inventing my own process of using a combination of the research facts and the elements of storytelling to respect the subject I was writing about, the inventor, Lewis Latimer. I hope my journey as a writer and the love I have developed for my subject, telling about untold heroes in history, will appeal to my young readers. Maybe they will find their voices as writers as they are already on their path as readers.
Yes, we all know by now that it is Breast Cancer Awareness month. As a 13 year survivor, I have witnessed 13 years of friends, colleagues and family members also go through the fight and live to see another beautiful fall October day like today. And that has made us not just survivors, but fighters. I think young girls need to see some of these role models not just in October, but all year long. I am inspired by strong women in daily life, from the arts, sciences and from history. For my next children’s book, I want to focus on the story of a strong woman who made strides in her life and bring her story to life for the young women of today.
As a survivor and fighter I have become strong and continue to become aggressive in representing positive role models and teaching respect to my students. As a writer, I have experienced mostly positive responses to my work, but this week after working for many months on a picture book project I received a rejection from an editor who had been encouraging at first.This only makes me want to work harder. I think this fighting spirit definitely comes from having beaten cancer. Before that I was definitely less of a fighter for what I believed in and was more passive.
So to my writers, students and cancer survivors out there, work and live hard for what you believe in!
I took a vacation from this blog for a few weeks and devoted my time to revising my picture book biography manuscript about the inventor Lewis Latimer for the second time. My editor at Lee and Low publishers in NYC had some great suggestions for simplifying my story and I think that will make it a better read and more appealing to an audience of 8 to 12 year olds who are interested in science and history.
This has been almost a two year project and I hope this biography has its book birthday sometime in 2015. I have been blessed and am thankful for the opportunity to become a first time author.
As some of you know, I abandoned writing dreams for over 20 years of teaching, but always loved teaching writing and revising to kids of all ages. The writer in me came back alive about two years ago when I met with two important authors at a NJ Librarians’ convention. Ann Malaspina and Audrey Glassman Vernick are 2 NJ children’s book writers extraordinaire, who have supported me in my journey, in addition to many friends. Audrey and I went to the same elementary school in Queens, NYC, and have talked about the children’s librarian we loved, who had a great influence on us today as adult readers and writers.
Here’s hoping the third time’s a charm! I will continue to edit some other multicultural kids manuscripts I have written, and hope to soon start a new bio about a little known female artist with ties to Haiti, as most of the kids I teach are from this country and do not have many books to read about role models from their native land.
I just got back from a week at the Jersey shore, in a quiet little beach town. And I had promised my mind a little break from writing. Well, wouldn’t you know on the second morning there I got a response from a children’s book editor on a manuscript I had just sent her the previous week! She gave me great ideas for a rewrite, a revamping of the character and some spot on suggestions. That night I lay awake in bed revising in my mind. While I did not get out my computer to write, I had to walk downstairs and jot down my thoughts on paper at 11pm, before I went to sleep. Don’t know why my mind seems to work best while I am trying to get to sleep!
Before I left, I toyed with the plan of getting myself an agent and sent an application to a nearby literary agency in NJ. And of course, in addition to the first editor’s e-mail on Tuesday, I finally got an e-mail from another editor for my first nonfiction children’s manuscript that is in 2nd revision phase and that I wrote almost two years ago!
So maybe having an agent is not what I need, but patience! Having written 3 children’s book manuscripts in less than 2 years is a lot to handle, especially doing the research for the 2 nonfiction titles. And as you, my writer friends know, the writing is not the hardest work, but the rewriting!
Keep believing in your work and good things will happen. And if you don’t have an agent, do your research into the market group, audience and publishers you are writing for. Kids and teens today don’t want to read the same types of books we grew up with in the 60s, 70s or 80s. Being a school librarian by day does help with my writing by night. And taking a week off from writing is sometimes a good thing!