Category Archives: publishing

The Waiting is the Hardest Part, Part III

I’ll soon be coming up on my fifth anniversary of writing for kids. It was December of 2012, when I first decided this librarian had things to say in books. My first manuscript, which took me a few months to write was a nonfiction biography for kids about a little known inventor.  I wanted to get his story out there in the world for kids.

Without an agent, I sent it out to about 5 publishers and played the waiting game. In the meantime, I wrote a narrative nonfiction book that took me a few months and got better at my craft. About 8 months later I received a request for the first bio from a great publisher. They loved the idea, but had a lot of changes for me to make. Would I be interested they inquired? Of course, I was excited and so new to the process. Over the next year and a half I worked with an editor who championed my book and made multiple changes. Ultimately, it was rejected. I was upset, but it helped me to develop the thick skin writers need for the many rejections we receive with and without feedback.

In the next year, I wrote a fiction manuscript with a diverse character. This too was requested, by a Jewish publisher, and had two rewrites, before a pass. Subsequently a similar idea came to fruition by another author that was published by same publisher, but hey great minds think alike!  And I’ve learned there are not that many new ideas in the kidlit world of sharks, dinosaurs, monsters and princesses.

So my writing was going places and I was learning the craft and the game. I took a few online webinars and went to a big conference. I have had my writing critiqued by other writers and editors. I signed with an agent about two years ago who believed in my writing.

Through friends and contacts, I got my first stories published by Amazon Education last year. Four e-stories in a format I never thought I would be comfortable writing in: mostly dialogue and little narrative; mostly chats between characters for the reading app Amazon Rapids. An editor who believed in me and bought four stories in a few months.

I am playing the waiting game as writers all do. Ironically, my inventor bio is being read again by the same publisher from four years ago!!! Talk about coming full circle. In the years between it was read by multiple publishers who had good things to say about it, that helped me to revise it and make it stronger. My agent helped with crafting better dialog between characters, which is the weak point of my writing. I also have a fiction manuscript about a cat who can write, out to some great publishers as well.

Now I’m working on a humorous fractured fairy-tale, so removed from the research I usually begin doing for a nonfiction manuscript.  I am enjoying the process  so much more, as I am writing what I think may be what I should focus on; creative fiction. All the rejections have just make my writing stronger and tighter than it ever was. I have helped some of my kid lit friends with editing their work as well, as I have become a sharper writer.

Did I think I would publish a book quickly? Honestly, yes. I have always believed in my stories. Did I think I would still be revising manuscripts from four years ago today? Not in my wildest dreams. But, I have come further than I thought and have learned that rejection doesn’t always equal failure, but discovery.

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Diversity is Every Day

 

 

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Here comes another month of celebrating cultures! Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Filipino American History Month, Native American Heritage Month. While I applaud celebrating diversity, shouldn’t every day be a Diversity Day?

It is almost thirty years this month that I started teaching urban kids in Harlem. And from that time, in the mid 1980’s until today, so much has changed. We only had the books of the father of African American kid lit, Walter Dean Myers, to offer up to to middle school and high school kids who wanted to see themselves depicted realistically in books.  Forget about finding any diversity in picture books then.  Today we have wonderfully diverse picture and chapter books by the likes of Walter’s son, Christopher Myers, Don Tate, Kwame Alexander, Zetta Elliott, Jacqueline Woodson, just to name a few authors of color. Monica Brown, Margarita L’Engle and Meg Medina are Latina authors representing their Hispanic culture in picture and middle grade books.  Not to mention this year’s multi award winner, Matt de la Pena, whose “Last Stop on Market Street,” has universal themes for kids of all colors.  Joseph Bruhac continues to be the master spinner of tales with Native American settings and characters.

Publishers like Lee and Low, Tu Books, Kar-Ben and Apples and Honey Press strive to show kids of different races and religions in their publishing choices. Theses publishers were not around in the 1980’s when I first had to recommend books to kids of color.  I have seen a multitude of changes in children’s lit as both a teacher and currently librarian. But I say to you, shouldn’t every day be a diversity day, to learn about a new culture? I now teach to a predominantly Haitian- American population and while we do spend a large amount of time learning and reading about African American history, which is great,  I also love for my students to read about other cultures. I have had some interesting conversations with African American fourth and fifth graders about the Holocaust and how my grandfather lost many of his siblings during Hitler’s regime.  If we only learn about our own culture, we are not getting the full picture of humanity.  And despite what many are saying, I have seen big and great changes in the world of children’s literature over the past few decades.

 

 

 

 

“And may the odds be ever in your favor.”

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I am not a mathematical person. I hated taking Statistics in college. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that for unpublished writers the odds are not in our favor.  Here’s hoping that 2016, is a great year for debut, unpublished writers of kid and YA lit. There has been a renaissance of lovely picture book illustrators in 2015 and YA writers of dystopian chronicles about fictional characters in fictional lands seems to be the norm. But what about a good, old-fashioned story?  I am primarily a non-fiction writer and we depend on great research and facts, woven with lyrical writing. Sometimes that makes our stories even harder to sell and market, especially for the children’s market which is highly fiction driven.

But it is a New Year. And there have been statistics, aha, that say print book sales for kids are up  and e-books sales for kids are dwindling. Kids are reading again, be it graphic novels or even non-fiction picture books. It is still a delight to this kid’s librarian to see a young child holding a physical book rather than an IPad. So, to my writer friends out there, don’t give up hope. 2016 is just around the corner and kids are still reading the old-fashioned way. And since eighteen, chai, is a lucky number in Judaism, 2016 added together, 18  doubled or 36, this just might be your lucky year!

To Self Publish or Not….

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 It has been a hot one in New Jersey these past few weeks. A good time to stay indoors and write, if not spending time at a beach or pool.  I have finished and subbed another children’s fiction manuscript, while I not-so-patiently wait for rejections/acceptances on my first non-fiction biography for kids.  The summer has being going luxuriously slow. I have had time to write, nature watch,think  and read other writers’ comments about the state of kid lit today and the market. It seems impossible to get an agent unless you are also an illustrator these days or have a few books already out there.

I have some writer friends who have chosen to self-publish. But with self-publishing comes self-marketing. With the time spent on waiting to hear from editors I think it may be better spent if I try to self-publish one of my four manuscripts. I still would love to go the traditional publishing route, but the waiting time is for someone with thick skin and that’s not me. After almost two years of working with a traditional publisher, my non-fiction kids book got shelved and I was crushed. I have written two more stories since then and maybe self-publishing is the way to go.

How many of you have also worked on a manuscript with an editor for over a year to then have it shelved because the acquisitions department decided it was not profitable? I would love to hear from those of you who write children’s lit and your experiences in the current publishing world, especially in self-publishing.  For now I still believe in my books, but need some new ideas about publication.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part, Part II or How I Learned to Reject Rejection

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.

Champagne Wishes and Publishing Dreams

10675520_10152977368632028_1786284487381610554_nHappy 2015!    The year has changed but some things stay the same. The waiting game in the publishing industry can literally make you insane.  After my editor said I would get my third rewrite back for my pb bio on Lewis Latimer  before Christmas, I should not have had any expectations of getting any work sent to me before the holidays.  Last year I got my first revisions and initial  interest in that manuscript sent to me by my editor on December 23! So a full year has gone by and I’m still  working on what I hope will be my final revisions before it is acquired and an illustrator is found.  I am grateful and excited though, that my debut book would be published by the wonderful Lee and Low, no matter how long it takes.  I know of many writers whose work has taken years to come to fruition. Patience is certainly a virtue. I have worked for almost 3 years now to get “Lighting the Way,” published without an agent’s help.

Just finishing sending out my multicultural fiction title, “Mooncakes and Matzahballs for Anna Goldstein Wong” to a few houses around the country.  I have high  hopes for this book, my newest baby, as I think it is unique and fits the bill for more books about multiracial/multicultural kids.   I will play the waiting game again.

I will try to get an agent this year, as having helpful editors can only go so far.  For all the months and years I invest in writing and revising a manuscript, I think having my ideas approved before the work would help my sanity.  All this while working full time as an elementary school librarian!

Here’s to anyone with hopes and dreams getting published in 2015! Keep believing in your work!