What a busy spring with school visits galore! And yet there’s nothing like a spontaneous hug from a student, the creation of classroom poems, and the signing of a book to a new reader. After all, isn’t that what writing for kids is all about?
Here’s a few photos of my most recent visits to local schools (Wrentham & Norfolk), a Boston school (Joseph P. Tynan), the Coolidge Elementary School (Shrewsbury) and the Tuscarawas County Public Library (OH). Did I mention I had a blast!?
I love all of the poems that the students created, each and every one, but there are always a few that are unforgettable, like the boy who wrote about his bed being his favorite place in the world (yes, I agree wholeheartedly).
Happy Summer, my school friends! See you again in the Fall (should I have said that four-lettered word?)
In many ways, I’m still the girl who needs advice on how to get published. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that in the last 10 years, I’ve had 7 books published, three of them for children.
That said, a lot of people have been asking me how to break into the world of children’s publishing lately. After a great guffaw (as in, “you’re asking me?”), I would say the following 6 items are essential. I’ve written them in the form of a letter.
Dear Future Children’s Author,
Here’s my advice to you:
1. Join a critique group. Yes, it may take a while to find the “right” group, but I don’t know anyone whose manuscript is ready to submit by the first draft, or even by the 25th draft, in the case of my story, Double Happiness.
2. Join and attend a SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. Not only will you meet others who are striving toward the same goal, but you will connect with agents, editors, and well-known authors who know their stuff.
3. Look for an agent. The right agent not only moves your manuscript out of the publisher’s infamous slush pile, she makes your stories shine. Not to mention, it’s a little known fact that the best agents are fully trained as counselors who will wipe away your tears and tell you to get back in the writing saddle.
4. Write (and illustrate) more than one story. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they have a story, but they haven’t written it yet. Or they’ve written one story, but that’s all. You need to have at least 5 quality manuscripts in your back pocket when you’re working on Steps 1-3 above.
5. Learn to listen and have a bucket load of patience. It’s the only way your dreams will come true. Each rejection, each road diverged, is a learning experience. If you close your ears to some of the best advice you can find along the way, you’re going to end up at a dead end vs the mountain top.
6. And, once you’ve “arrived,” once you’ve been published, never forget that you, yes you, asked a lot of questions along the way. Maybe it’s your turn to share your knowledge. After all, a generous author is a happy author.
Confession! I am completely biased. I have loved The Nian Monster ever since I heard Andrea Wang read her manuscript at one of our writing retreats. Wang and I both belong to the Erin Murphy Literary Agency (aka The Agency with the Best Client Retreats). And, yes, Alina Chau illustrated my book, Double Happiness, so I fell in love with her water colors quite some time ago.
That said, who wouldn’t want to take a journey with The Nian Monster? Wang has created a thoroughly beguiling story of the Chinese New Year with her feisty character, Xingling. Xingling is as loveable as Kungfu Panda and smart and wily as Word Girl.
For years the Nian Monster has been afraid to return to Shanghai during the new year because of the three things— “loud sounds, fire, and the color red.” However, Nian has grown accustomed to these tricks and has returned this year to devour Shanghai. Of course Nian begins to realize what a wise, brave girl is challenging him. Xingling knows that the way to tackle this pesky monster is through his mind and his stomach, as well as a few firecrackers in the end.
With Wang’s lyrical text and Chau’s heart-warming illustrations, children will want to jump into Chinese New Year in this new way. They might even discover a unique way to frighten the Nian Monster, perhaps with a few Shanghai dumplings of their own.
When I sat down to write out my resolutions for the year, something occurred to me. The very place where I work, the public library, holds the key to many of my future goals and desires. How can that be, you might ask? Check it out here!
I am always amazed to hear stories of authors and illustrators who never connect during the picture book process. How can this be? I know publishers can be a bit leery of any author-illustrator relationship pre-publication. After all the author might attempt to influence the illustrator, or squash her creativity. But I LOVE to find my illustrator on social media right away. If the chance arises to meet her in person, all the better. And the ultimate meet up? You got it! A book signing together.
Chronicle Books was the perfect matchmaker when they paired illustrator, Alina Chau, with my story Double Happiness. Besides being uber-talented, she’s delightful and humble and fun. While I’ve known this for some time, this summer was the first time I was able to see her in action at our signings in California.
First, we visited Luan Stauss’ Laurel Bookstore in Oakland. Alina’s dog, Coco, joined us. When you’re reading Double Happiness, see if you can find Coco in the book.
Photo by Selina Liu
We had a few celebrities join us at our signings, too. Here’s Mike Jung and his famous donuts:
The next weekend we were privileged to be part of an inaugural event thanks to the Book Shop West Portal and West Portal branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Alina and I read Double Happiness in two voices (Gracie’s and Jake’s) at the library. Alina showed the audience how to draw a few of the characters.
We had a celebrity there, too–the lovely Deborah Underwood.
Our last stop was a totally new venue for me. Trickter is a gallery/bookstore in Berkeley, run by Anita Coulter.
See what happens when you hang with your illustrator! A whole new world opens before you.
Now if I can only entice Alina to visit the east coast for a few double signings here. That will be extra happy occasion, for sure.
(As an aside, I had the best fig pizza ever from Summer Kitchen in Berkeley, but I didn’t get to try Mike’s donuts)
I had such a fantastic visit at the Hardy Elementary School in Wellesley last week. Together we created seasonal poems about winter and summer. I also gave them a creative writing assignment. They answered 10 questions about their favorite place. These questions served as prompts for their Poetry of Place poems. You won’t believe what amazing poems these first graders wrote. Click on FirstGradePoemsMsGiampetro to read their work!
I wrote this post for Lee & Low. As I mention in the article, The Story I’ll Tell was one of those amazing gifts that we sometimes receive as writers. The idea came to me in a day dream. Click here to find out more.