By Chana Stiefel
As many of you know, getting a book published appears to be easy peasy…but it’s NOT! It takes years of hard work to go from first draft to publishing party. I sure wish someone had told me that when I drove down to my first Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) picture book workshop held in Princeton, NJ, in 2009. “I’m gonna get published! I’m gonna get published!” I sang all the way. But after a few hours of critiques, the most important lesson that I learned was that I had A LOT to learn. My first picture book draft was over 1,000 words and it rhymed...poorly.
Six years and a pile of dusty drafts later, that baby is finally getting published. Stay tuned for DADDY DEPOT from Feiwel & Friends in 2017! So if you’re still in that first draft stage (or even beyond), here are a few things you should know to prepare yourself for the perilous—but very pleasing—path ahead.
The First P's of Publishing a Picture Book
Passion. If you’re reading this blog, you already love kids books as much as we do (and hopefully you’re writing them too). Hold on to that passion because you will need it as you swerve around the pot-holed road to publishing. Passion is what motivates you and keeps you dreaming and creating. So surround yourself with people—even little ones—who support you and will help keep your passion alive.
Persistence. Open your notebook or turn on your computer, sit that posterior in your chair and write every single day. Write something. Anything. But practice your craft persistently. Pediatricians, preachers, and prime ministers practice every day . . . so should you! Treat your writing like a profession, even you don’t get paid (yet). If you take it seriously, others will too. Which leads us to...
Professionalism. I could probably write a separate post on this one alone. It's perfectly acceptable to write for fun and as a hobby. But to achieve real success in this field, you need to check off that Writer/Author/Publishing Professional box under the Career heading. Definitely keep your day job (hey, you gotta keep the lights on), but learn all you can about today's children's books and the publishing market. One place to start is by joining SCBWI (above) and start attending conferences and workshops. SCBWI publishes THE BOOK: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO PUBLISHING FOR CHILDREN, a perfect primer for everything from preparing and submitting your work to publicity for your big launch. THE BOOK is available in hard copy or free for Download for members. Another helpful resource is THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING CHILDREN'S BOOKS by Harold Underdown. Also read and follow author blogs (please!) and trade publications like the Horn book, Publisher's Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews. Join various kidlit Facebook groups and connect with publishers and other writers on social media. And read, read, read all the wonderful children's books being published every week. In other words: Become a professional writer!
Today’s takeaway: Proceed with passion, persistence, & professionalism and you'll soon see progress! Stay tuned for more P’s to come, including Patience, Peer review, and plenty more. Share your own P’s (and Q’s) here!
by Donna Cangelosi
I recently had the opportunity to view Eric Carle’s original collages and book dummies at the ERIC CARLE, ANIMALS AND FRIENDS Exhibit in Montclair, NJ. Standing in awe among a crowd of children, parents, teenagers and senior citizens, I was struck by the brilliant, textured colors that captivated young and old viewers alike. By everyone’s expressions of joy and fascination, it was clear that the artist’s work touched them.
My daughters grew up with Eric Carle books and I’ve spent countless hours reading them, but this time I studied them as a writer. It didn’t take long to see why Carle’s books are nothing short of magical. Sure it’s his beautiful illustrations but there’s something powerful and unique about Carle’s writing as well. He keeps it S.I.M.P.L.E!
S- Sensory experience The artist marries words and images that give the reader a sensory experience.
I-Inviting Carle uses questions and appealing titles (DOES A KANGAROO HAVE A MOTHER TOO?, THE GROUCHY LADYBUG) as well as refrains to captivate and keep the child’s interest.
M- Memorable Like the title of the exhibit I attended, Carle often writes about animals and other child-friendly topics, a combination that makes them memorable and timeless.
P- Page Turns Carle uses clear, straight-forward language and fun teasers to move his stories forward and to keep kids excited about reading on. His stories have natural page turns that make kids eager to see what’s going to happen next.
L- Lyrical Carle’s books have a lyrical quality (BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR WHAT DO YOU SEE?) and incorporate a variety of poetic devices. In addition, he writes as if he is talking to children, sometimes even adding a personal note to share the inspiration for his stories.
E- Endearing, Educational & Exciting In each of Eric Carle’s books he celebrates the world of animals, nature, and relationships. His stories are universal and capture the heart of the human spirit.
The takeaway: Eric Carle can teach us a lot about keeping our writing S.I.M.P.L.E! What are your favorite Eric Carle books and why?
Welcome to KidLitTakeaways! If you’re a busy children’s writer like us, you’re eager to develop your craft, but you can’t attend every conference or watch every webinar. You’re looking for a quick burst of inspiration to guide your writing & keep you on track. You want to learn from real experiences & find a community of authors who share and support your passion for writing for children.
You’ve come to the right place! We’ve been critique partners for the past few years and have been exchanging ideas about our writing experiences along the way. We hope to share our writing journey with you through ongoing blog posts—takeaway messages from conferences, webinars, book reviews, submissions, rejections and those magical acceptances. This blog will include short snippets of information, each with a quick takeaway for you to weave into your writing. Please check in often, give feedback, and sign up if you would like email notifications. Let’s take-it-away together!
The takeaway: We’re looking forward to continuing our writing journey with you!
Donna & Chana
Donna Cangelosi and Chana Stiefel are picture book critique partners & friends who are passionate about kids' books & are eager to share tidbits from their writing journey with other aspiring writers.