Back in good ol’ October we were fortunate enough to get a bevy (I’ve always wanted to write a sentence with that word) of young adult and middle grade authors in for a panel discussion hosted by the amazing Betsy Bird, legend of the New York book scene and recently published author http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/. Officially, Betsy’s title is Youth Materials Specialist for the New York Public Library and she was joined by 6 distinguished guests: Ame Dyckman (Boy and Bot), Lynda Mullaly Hunt (One for the Murphys), Joanne Levy (Small Medium at Large), Katherine Longshore (Gilt), Elisa Ludwig (Pretty Crooked) and Sarvenaz Tash (The Mapmaker and the Ghost). These talented women shared their personal stories and insights into getting into the young adult and middle grade book scene.
So how did these ladies get into writing kids’ books? Lots of different ways. One author credited everything she knows to SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). www.scbwi.org She said she learned everything she needed to know from the organization and she got a pitch with an agent through a SCBWI event and alakazam that’s how she found her agent. A few of our authors had agents, weren’t able to sell their books but were steered in new directions by publishing companies who eventually went on to publish their new work. Another author researched agents extensively and made sure she met the agent she wanted in person so she could have a connection to send a query letter.
Some of you are thinking query letter? What you talking ‘bout Melinda?
In order to find a literary agent, almost everyone will have to write a query letter at some point. So, you finish your book, it’s awesome, then you write a letter and send samples from your book to agents who help you find publishers. It’s almost impossible to get a book published without an agent. The authors on the panel recommended www.querytracker.net as a useful resource as it’s important to research agents and find out what they want. You don’t want to send a middle grade manuscript to an agent that’s only seeking picture books or one that’s looking for erotic literature, you know what I mean. Other useful resources mentioned were www.publishersmarketplace.com and Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market.
What was some advice our panelists had on pursuing life as a writer? A few people gave advice on dealing with rejection – it’s important to know that rejection of your work is not a rejection of you. Don’t get caught up with negative reviews, keep working on new work and eventually you won’t stalk the internet for news about your book. And whatever you do, don’t try to cater your work to an agent. Your writing won’t come across as being authentic, better to find an agent that matches your sensibilities than to try to match your sensibilities to those of an agent. And with those wise words, I’ll let you go about your day, dear reader. Now go write!
Main Takeaway: It all comes down to being yourself and being true to your vision. If this great idea is in you and you want to write about it, write! Sometimes you’ll have success, sometimes you won’t but it’s important to get that little bit of you out into the world.
Personal Takeaway: One writer said the most ingenious, insightful words I’ve ever heard (seriously): “Put your butt in the chair.” She would set a timer and make herself write for 30 minutes before she could do anything else. When I write, I find that starting is the hardest part. Take this advice.
Inappropriate Takeaway: Perhaps this is inappropriate because I am a 30-something year old woman but this event had stickers. Is there anything more awesome than getting stickers? The answer is none. None more awesome. (That’s right, I’ll use this joke until somebody laughs.)