March 24, 2008

Write What You Love

At conferences, aspiring children's book writers always ask editors what is the hot topic right now. And the editors' answers - don't write to fill a niche - write what makes you excited to write. If you wrote a book based upon today's current "hot topics", by the time your manuscript is acquired and illustrations are complete, it could easily be two years before your book is on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble. Your topic should be your passion - something that will make you excited to sit at your computer day after day, writing, researching, revising. It has to be what you love, or you will lack the energy to bring it to publication. An author's enthusiasm shows in her writing and story. Tonight You Are My Baby is based on a mother's love for her child - I tapped into my own feelings that are fierce and passionate. The other two manuscripts that I recently submitted are are also based on my experiences. My book about a big dog that wishes he was small, is based upon our current 75 lb. English Setter/hound mix, Harry Potter, that is sure he is a lap dog. I have always been crazy about the big mutts that have been a part of my life. What fun it is to write about them now! As a child, I also spent hours exploring with my dog in the woods and fields around our house. (Those were the days when kids were free to explore and check in for dinnertime.) A natural choice for my next manuscript was based on animals in nature, and the homes that God provided for them. Each manuscript was a joy to write and flowed easily. They may not be the current "hot topic", but I'm hopefully that my passion will show in my writing and result in another acquisition.

March 17, 2008

SCBWI New Jersey Workshop

Several weeks ago, I attended a mentoring workshop through the New Jersey region of
the SCBWI. These mentoring workshops are a really valuable tool for aspiring writers. If you have the opportunity to attend these workshops, or one in your area, I would certainly encourage it. Kudos to Kathy Temean, NJ regional advisor, for coordinating this service. Several editors from various publishing houses attend and critique the writer's manuscript. This is your best chance to get in front of an editor, receive their input and improve the manuscript. It's also an excellent opportunity to network and gather new ideas. It was through a NJ mentoring workshop that my manuscript was acquired. I had submitted the first page of Tonight You Are My Baby for a "first page session". In this session, workshop attendees anonymously submit just the first page of a manuscript. Someone will read the first page aloud and the editors will spend several minutes critiquing the page. I was hesitant to submit Tonight You Are My Baby, as I wasn't sure it was the right forum and it wasn't quite ready. As my editor said later - what a fateful decision! After that reading, an editor from a different publishing house asked me to submit the entire manuscript. It was eventually declined from that house and several months later I attended a mentoring workshop with my editor. She asked me about Tonight You Are My Baby, and in a matter of months I had a contract! Yay! Tip for the day: you never know where your opportunities will arise. But the more you network, and attend workshops, the better your chances of getting published.

March 12, 2008

Ten Tips for Aspiring Authors

The following are tips that, I believe, are essential in writing for children and landing a contract:

1. join SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) - this is THE professional organization for children's writers. The SCBWI offers international chapters, state/regional chapters, great workshops, online resources/newsletters and the latest news in the industry. As a member of SCBWI, it lets an editor know that you are serious about writing (

2. write often - many aspiring authors have "real jobs" or are at least lucky enough to have spouses with good jobs and health benefits. In our daily lives, full of responsibilities, it can be difficult to carve out the time to write. Writing often, however, is the only way to improve your writing skills and keep you focused. Find the time that works best for you: an hour in the morning before the kids rise, late at night when the house is quiet, a half hour of your lunchtime. Find what works for you and work it in to your routine. Remember, this is an investment in your future.

3, Read! This seems obvious, but particularly in children's writing, it's important to study the books that are getting published. Visit the children's library, study the best-seller shelves of Barnes and Noble, chat with your local indie bookstore employees.

4. Join a critique group - this can take place through an online group or a small group of writers in your area. The regional SCBWI often has groups that are looking for new members or guidelines on how to start your own. I belong to an online group and an area group. I find them both valuable. A good critique group will read your manuscript and help you prepare it for an editor. What are the strengths of the manuscript? Are the characters believable? Is it too long/too short? A writer can become so immersed in her manuscript, that sometimes we can no longer see the obvious. In turn, you will help your comrades with their manuscripts. A critique group is also a great way to network and make new friends. Your family will be happy to have a break from reading each revision too!

5. Revise - most of writing is, rewriting! A good writer must be open to revising and an editor will be much happier to work with you. We sometimes become "married" to a line or character in the story. But sometimes it simply isn't working for the story. As a writer, it's important to say, "How can this be the best possible book?". After my manuscript was acquired, my editor asked me several times for revisions. Each time, the book became better and better. Even when we thought the revisions were complete, and it was given to the illustrator, the story needed to be moved around. Trust your editor. This is her job and she wants the best book too.

6. Attend workshops/conferences - they are sometimes expensive, but well worth it. My manuscript was acquired through a New Jersey SCBWI workshop. This is your opportunity to have your manuscript seen by an editor. Some of the publishing houses are closed, unless you have an agent, so this may be your only way in. It's also a great way to get editorial advice on your manuscript.

7. Give your manuscript some time - don't be in such a rush to get it out to publishers, that you lessen your chances. Sometimes it's important to put your manuscript down and work on something else. When we give ourselves a break from writing on one project, we tend to see it more clearly. Allow your work to go through the critique group several times, mull it over and go back in a few days or weeks. You can keep busy starting other writing projects and you will be refreshed when you return to your manuscript. You really only have one chance to have the manuscript considered by an editor, so being in a rush, can lessen your chances of being acquired.

8. Be professional - be sure that your query letters are free of errors and you have correctly spelled the editor's name. At several SCBWI conferences, several editors mentioned how often mistakes are made. That doesn't say much for your writing. Take the extra time to be sure.

9. write what motivates you - don't try to follow the current fad. Picture books take several years to be published, so chances are the "current fad" will be over. Write what excites you and will take you to your desk each day. Your love will show in the writing.

10. Don't give up! It's easy to become discouraged when the mailbox is filled with only bills and rejection letters. Remember that all writers (even the highly successful ones) have experienced rejection many times over. Having your first book published will make it seem all worthwhile!

March 10, 2008

March 9, 2008 Welcome

Thanks for checking in to my blog. Welcome! This is a new experience, so bear with me while I work out the details. A little about me: I have a great family which includes my husband, two children and a big mutt. I am a children's book author with my first picture book, Tonight You Are My Baby, available in Fall 2008. Tonight You Are My Baby is an intimate portrayal of Mary and Jesus on Christmas night. Mary speaks of her love for her baby with simply a mother's love. The most powerful love that all mothers feel. Moms will enjoy snuggling with their own little ones and reading of the miracle that took place long ago. Tonight You Are My Baby is published by HarperCollins Children's Books. In this blog, I'll be addressing how a new author gets published, networking, the process of the book going to print and other helpful tips for writers. Check back soon.....happy writing!