Hey, you say! It’s not a Monday! How can you post an #AuthorAcrostics on a Wednesday? Are you trying to trick us? Well, not exactly, but it is officially the Christmas season, so what better time to introduce you to Suzanne Nelson’s debut picture book?! Over in the Stable is a book to feast your eyes on thanks to the illustrations by Aleksandar Zolotic. You may read about all of Suzanne’s books and activities here.
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.
It’s fascinating to learn how my illustrator, Jessica Lanan, paid attention to the finest details when creating The Story I’ll Tell. At one point, dressed up and carrying firewood, Jessica had her husband take her picture so she could more accurately depict a scene in the story. Read more here so you can see how the story’s father ultimately replaces a cat in that very illustration.
A novice children’s author rarely has a say in the choice of illustrator for her book. That said, I’ve been delighted every time by my publishers’ match-making abilities. When I first saw Jessica Lanan’s illustrations, I fell in love. In great part this was because her art carried me into the story. It flowed beautifully. If you click here, you can learn about the Golden Spiral and how it helped Jessica illustrate The Story I’ll Tell.
I’m fascinated by the work of illustrators. Having no talent whatsoever in the visual arts, I stand amazed. I wouldn’t know where to begin. Thankfully, Jessica Lanan, the illustrator for The Story I’ll Tell, is doing a series describing her journey. You may see how she started brainstorming here!