12 X 12 Member Peter McCleeryNever has a How I Got My Agent Post made me laugh out loud, but Peter McCleery’s did. When you read it, I’m sure you’ll know why. It’s tough out there, folks, but with persistence it IS possible to reach your dreams. I sense a Sid Fleischman award in Peter’s future. Many congratulations!

How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?

Like a lot of newbies to the world of children’s lit, I came out of the gate a-kickin’ and a-buckin’ and ready to take the kid lit world by storm. Little did I know what little I knew. That first year I sent a few manuscripts to a select group of top agents and waited for the slew of offers. Instead I learned what a “form rejection” looks like. And what a “no response” feels like. Luckily, there’s a little thing called the Internet. So slowly but surely I learned what I didn’t know. I wrote. I researched. I read. I did that for another year or so. Then I subbed. I was really ready this time. And this time I got. . . personalized rejections! I was on to something! So I did it all again. Wrote, researched and read. Every few months I thought I was ready and sent out a small batch of queries (1-3). I got a few more rejections, but this time I also got more encouragement. A kind word here, a request for more there, a positive conference critique, etc… Enough to keep me going until I actually WAS ready. From my very first draft to landing an agent, it was probably about four to five years, off and on.

I’d like to share with you my all-time favorite rejection. It shows just how crazy and subjective subbing can be. This is the entire email: “This was hilarious and so vivid. Somehow the writing just didn’t appeal to me.”

Huh?

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

I scoured the internet. Websites, blogs, twitter. As every writer knows, it’s not procrastination when it’s research. I dug deep and not only did it help me find out what agents would be a good fit, it helped me avoid sending manuscripts to the wrong agent. If I wasn’t truly excited to send something to a particular agent, then I didn’t. And now having landed the perfect agent, I’m so glad I didn’t end up with someone I was “meh” about.

The dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?

I was rather choosy about who I sent my manuscripts to (see above) so I don’t have a ton of rejections. Maybe 15. But the ones I did get stung extra hard.

Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?

Yes, definitely. In fact I got frustrated enough that I started working on a middle-grade novel. And, when I started mentioning it in my queries, I noticed better responses right away. Agents’ ears perked up for sure. If you work in other categories DEFINITELY mention it in your query.

How did you know your agent was “the one?

I had previously researched Heather Alexander back when she was an editor. I loved her books and had planned to query her (they took unsolicited manuscripts) but never got around to it. I started following her on twitter and thought she was delightful and smart and funny. So, when I heard that she moved over to the agent side at Pippin Properties, I was pretty excited. One day she tweeted that she was looking for “smart-funny” manuscripts. She mentioned Monty Python. I couldn’t get to my email fast enough.

If 12 x 12 helped you in any way during your agent search/development of craft, can you tell us how? (P.S. It is TOTALLY okay if the answer is no. I am not trying to “lead” you 🙂 )

12 x 12 is basically a support group for people crazy enough to write picture books. When you are in the midst of querying and writing and revising and getting rejections, being part of a community of people going through the same thing is very important.

Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?

One thing that surprised me after signing was how much more pressure I feel. Things suddenly got real. Now there is someone with a vested interest in what I do and I don’t want to let her down. To steal a line from pregnant women: “Now I’m writing for two.” But it’s actually more of a positive, inspiring kind of pressure.

What advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?

Have confidence in your writing. Be bold. Take chances. Don’t write what you think they (agents, editors, etc…) will like. Write the thing YOU like. The thing that’s uniquely you. That’s the kind of manuscript that gets noticed.

Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?

I don’t think it played much of a factor because I don’t have much of a social platform. Heather probably did a quick google search on me but only AFTER she liked my manuscript.

Tell us something that is on your “bucket list.” Something you’ve dreamed of doing all your life but have yet to accomplish (besides publishing a book, which is inevitable at this point 🙂 )

I would love to write a screenplay that gets made into a movie starring Nick Cage.

What’s up next/what are you working on now?

Besides numerous picture book drafts in various states of condition, I’m also very excited about the previously mentioned middle-grade novel I’m trying to finish.

 

Peter McCleery has been a member of 12 x 12 since 2013. His debut picture book BOB & JOSS GET LOST will be published by HarpersChildren’s in Fall 2016. Peter was awarded the Author of the Month Award in October 2014 from Highlights for his story, “Invasion of the Space Monkeys.” He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and kids. You can find Peter at www.petermccleery.com.

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Children's Books, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , ,

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RIP, Cecil the Lion 2

I, like hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people am sickened, saddened, and outraged over the tragic death Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe

Much has been said and written in plenty of forums about Cecil’s death at the hand of a trophy hunter. I myself have said much and felt far more. I don’t want to use this post, however, to continue that discussion. Instead, I want to DO something.

For several days, I’ve just felt helpless. Too often, these tragedies occur and then fall out of consciousness so quickly we’re left to wonder if anything will ever change. I’ve handled my own desire to take action in the past by donating money to causes as they’ve arisen. I wanted to do more this time.

TROOP CoverAs an author, one of the reasons I write is to make a difference in the world with my books. My first published book, A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, makes an appeal at the end to protect wild animals and their habitats. It also, I suddenly remembered, features a “pride of lions.”

This book is now technically out of print, but I still have a healthy amount of stock right here in my house. So here is what I am going to do.

The retail price of TROOP is $16.95, but in support of World Lion Day on August 10, I am offering copies for $15 for the next 10 days. For every book sold, I will donate $5 to WildCru, the organization that had placed a collar on Cecil and had been studying him since 2008 as part of their mission to promote lion conservation. I will take a video recording of my donation so that you all will see how much I’m able to contribute. Here is the link if you’d like to take advantage of the opportunity to buy a book AND support a great cause.




A few points before I provide more info on WildCru and on TROOP.

  • ALL purchasers will be ALSO entered into a drawing to win a print of the gorgeous lion spread from TROOP by
    A "Pride of Lions" print from illustrator Pamela Baron

    A “Pride of Lions” print from illustrator Pamela Baron

    illustrator Pamela Baron. The winner will be announced on August 11.

  • I regret that this offer is only for folks living in the U.S., due to shipping costs.
  • Speaking of shipping, there is a flat rate of $5, regardless of how many books you purchase.
  • If you want your book signed or personalized, there is a space under “instructions to seller” where you can leave this information.
  • If you can’t or don’t want to buy the book, shares of any kind to those who might be are equally appreciated! Some samples are provided below.
  • Likewise, if you are not interested in the book, I encourage you to learn more about WildCru and it’s mission, and consider making a direct donation.
  • I welcome and appreciate comments on my blog posts. However, I do ask you to refrain from comments pertaining to all of the other suffering that is going on in the world among both humans and animals and asking why Cecil’s death is more important than those. It isn’t. There is enough misery and tragedy to go around, and believe me, I contribute both time and money to many other worthy causes. In this case, I was moved to respond in this way. Thank you!

More about WildCru and their work with lions

At the WildCRU, in the Recanati-Kaplan Centre at Oxford, we are studying lions in various parts of Africa to uncover the science that will inform and underpin their conservation. This is urgent, because lion numbers are precariously low, estimated at fewer than 30,000 across the continent and we have evidence that there are actually fewer. We have worked on the lions of Hwange National Park, with the support and collaboration of the excellent Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Our goal is to understand the threats that lions face, and to use cutting-edge science to develop solutions to those threats. Our work is scientific, we have satellite-tracked the movements of over a hundred lions and monitored every detail of the lives of more than 500 individuals, but WildCRU’s work is also highly practical – we run a courageous anti-poaching team, a local conservation theatre group, and education campaign that gets information into every school in the district, and we work with local farmers to help them live alongside lions and improve their livelihoods.

More about A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS

First published as a storybook app for the iPad and named as a Top 50 “Best Apps for Kids” by The Guardian (now available, along with it’s companion A SHIVER OF SHARKS on iTunes via the Demibooks Storytime app), TROOP is an award-winning book featuring collective nouns for animal groups told in romping, read-aloud rhyme.

A “surfeit” of skunks, a “caravan” of camels, and a “flamboyance” of flamingoes are just a few of the animal groups both kids and grown-ups will learn about, all of them accompanied by stunning watercolor illustrations from artist Pamela Baron.

Once again, here is the link if you’d like a to receive copy of A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS and donate $5 to WildCru as part of your purchase, PLUS be entered for the drawing for the beautiful Pride of Lions print.




Swipe copy for sharing

Shares appreciated too! Hopefully these pre-written posts for FB and Twitter will make it easier for you.

Twitter

Get a AND support + in memory of  (Click to Tweet this)

Get A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS and support too.  (Click to Tweet this)

I just bought A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS + supported #lionconservation #WildCRU #cecilthelion http://bit.ly/1Ige5gc (Click to Tweet this)

Facebook

One of my Facebook children’s author friends is donating $5 to WildCru and lion conservation for each of these books, A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS purchased now through August 10 (World Lion Day). In memory of Cecil the Lion. There’s a special on the book itself, plus a chance to win a gorgeous print from the book featuring a Pride of Lions. Here’s the link with all of the details. http://wp.me/p2pGqV-3CZ

Image for Instagram and other social media sites

Honoring Cecil (2)

Last, but not least, I owe thanks to Jimmy Kimmel, whose monologue about Cecil was not only courageous and inspiring, but it also brought my attention to the worthy work that WildCru is doing in support of wildlife conservation. Here is the link if you haven’t seen it yet. WildCru reports that more than $150,000 has been donated as a direct result of Jimmy’s plea to take action in support of lions. So nice to see celebrities using their platforms in efforts to make the world a better place instead of to share selfies of boobs and backsides in support of their own fame. Just sayin’! Thanks, Jimmy!

Categories: A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Books, Children's Books, Giveaway, Picture Books · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Sarah and I getting ready to present about apps at the Bologna Children's Book Fair

Sarah and I getting ready to present about apps at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair

If you have been following my blog for any period of time, you know I am passionate about all of the following:

  • Writing stories for children
  • Sharing stories with children
  • Using ALL avenues of publishing great books for children (including apps, ebooks, transmedia, etc.)
  • Italy (especially Florence!)
  • Historical fiction (especially books written by Mary Hoffman)
  • Entrepreneurial authors paving their own paths to success
  • Supporting fellow authors

For all of these reasons, it gives me great pleasure to share an outstanding project from my friend Sarah Towle that will not only bring fabulous historical tales to children in multiple formats, but will also create brand new opportunities for authors writing narrative historical nonfiction and historical fiction. Talk about a win-win!

Introducing … Time Traveler Tours & Tales (TTT&T) – a brand new way of imagining and delivering stories to children that will bring history to life for them.

I first met Sarah at the Bologna Book Fair in 2011, when she was launching the first-ever StoryApp Tour and Tale – the critically acclaimed Beware Madame la Guillotine. I was so impressed with what she was doing, I glommed onto her continued to follow her progress and learn from her as I went on to publish my own two storybook apps. Along the way, we became great friends.

TTT&T aims to be the first publishing imprint of its kind–publishing their story-based tours and tales of history in all available formats.

  • Mobile StoryApp Tours narrated by the very people who walked the streets in that place in that time of history.
  • Interactive ebooks that bring the historical period to life.
  • Print and audio versions of each tale.
  • Free curriculum guides for each tour and tale to bring history to life inside the classroom.
Authors Mary Hoffman and Sarah Towle cooking up plans for TTT&T at Writer's Renaissance 2014

Authors Mary Hoffman and Sarah Towle cooking up plans for TTT&T at Writer’s Renaissance 2014

For their official debut, TTT&T have chosen to bring to life one of the world’s greatest artistic and genius giants – Michelangelo and his David. In the Footsteps of Giants is a story woven by one of the best historical fiction writers for children of our time, Mary Hoffman. In it, we get to walk the streets of Renaissance Florence alongside the fictional model for the statue of David (P.S. We all know what that guy looks like – wouldn’t you like to meet him??).

I know first-hand that nobody knows more about Michelangelo than Mary Hoffman. She was on faculty for both of my Writer’s Renaissance retreats, and I’ve had the amazing good fortune of standing before the David in her company. Life will never be the same for me, and now you can have the same treat by reading her book.

Many of you also know I ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of one of my picture books. So I do have a special place in my heart for the power of crowdfunding. It’s the layperson’s way to support the arts and opportunities they want to see in the world. Here is your chance to do the same.

  • If you are a reader, you will enjoy a gripping story of Renaissance Florence with In the Footsteps of Giants and a whole series of historical stories that bring the locations and the events of that time period to life right before your eyes (and feet).
  • If you are a writer, TTT&T will provide opportunities for you to publish your own historical adventures for children.
  • If you are a teacher, you will have brand new ways to bring history alive for your students, using the stories themselves and the comprehensive curriculum guides.

I urge you to consider supporting TTT&T’s campaign to become one of the most exciting publishing imprints of our time. The number of backers is just as important as the total amount raised, so TRULY, no amount donated is too small. Rewards begin at $1.

If you are unable to donate, you can still help by sharing the project in your social media circles. In fact, here’s an easy tweet you can use.

New publisher plans to #turnhistoryon for kids. #writers, #teachers, check it out here: http://kck.st/1PyGzKO #kidlit (Click to Tweet this)

Me being one to put my money where my mouth is, I not only backed this project, I’m also offering a reward for others to do. Look for one of the CREATIVE COLLABORATOR rewards and you’ll see a one-hour strategy session with me on any aspect of your career as a writer, plus the first three Modules of my course, How to Make Money as a Writer. There’s only one of those, though, so if you want it, snag it soon.

There are fabulous rewards at all levels, however. Check out their campaign page to see for yourself.

As writers in the 21st Century, we have to create opportunities for ourselves whenever and however we can. What I love about what Sarah is doing with TTT&T is that she’s not only creating opportunity for herself, but extending that to children’s authors across the globe. I don’t know about you, but that turns me on. 🙂

Footsteps of Giants

Stone Giant Illustration copyright © 2014 by John Shelley Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc. 85 Main Street Watertown, MA 02472 (617) 926-0329 www.charlesbridge.com All rights reserved.

Categories: Apps, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Children's Books, Creativity, Crowdfunding, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Florence, Friendship, Italy, Publishing, Storybook Apps, Travel, Writer's Renaissance · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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My beautiful Mom

My beautiful Mom

“I embrace you with all my heart.” — Albert Camus, in a letter of gratitude to a childhood teacher.

“I believe that there is a love that moves the sun and the other stars.” — Margaret Wertheim

“…this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart   i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)” — ee cummings

WARNING: SOME MAY FIND WHAT FOLLOWS OVERLY SAPPY AND SENTIMENTAL.

This is going to be a different kind of Gratitude Sunday post. Instead of sharing the weekly list of what I am grateful for, I’m feeling the need to ruminate on gratitude’s relationship to love.

Love my kiddos!

Today, Mother’s Day, I am thinking about love. The love of a child for a mother or a mother for a child, of course. But also other, and all, kinds of love.

As I have gotten older (and yes, I do have a birthday coming up so perhaps that is where the philosophizing is coming from), I’ve come to understand that the more I let go of expectations about what love in any of its forms should look like, the more love grows and deepens, and the more I can actually feel and savor the experience of it.

The more love I experience, the more I can give. The more I give, the more that is returned to me.

What I am most grateful for today is my awareness of this simple truth.

Many times in my past, I have thought, ‘This person didn’t love me in this way, so therefore I am deprived of love and/or I love him/her more than he/she loves me.’  If the scales didn’t balance, whether in romantic relationships, friendships, or with family members, pain and resentment would often follow.

Now I realize it is entirely possible, in any relationship, to take the love and leave the disappointment.

Take the love. Leave the disappointment. (Or, for Godfather fans, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”)

Dogs love unconditionally

I believe most people are trying as hard as they can to be good and kind and loving. However, they may not present those qualities to us the way we expect or want them to. But instead of feeling shortchanged, I’ve found appreciating what they are offering is far more rewarding than being resentful about what they’re not. I do not mean we should allow ourselves to be stepped on or treated poorly by those we love – not at all. But when someone is in earnest and doing the best he or she can, accept that goodness and keep it with you.

I’ve also been sloooowly building toward another realization. Love will seldom, if ever, grow as much as you want it to if you don’t first love yourself. Now before you run away screaming, I am NOT saying I truly love myself all the time. Not by a long shot. But I am trying to, and as I try, I realize that when I deprive myself of my own love, I have less available for others.

The reason why the stakes are so high with loving others, I think, is because we’re always looking for love as it is reflected back to us from them. But what if we just gave it to ourselves, regardless of what others were doing?

So, here is a mission for you, should you choose to accept it. Although the full lyrics of this song (Bruno Mars) clearly indicate it is a man expressing his love for a woman, you can take this verse, go in front of a mirror and belt it out to yourself. To you from yourself. I’m not gonna lie, it feels strange at first. But it also feels good and powerful.

When I see your face,

There’s not a thing that I would change.

‘Cause you’re amazing

Just the way you are.

Looping back around to loving and being loved by others, this week I’m sharing a list of people who shared love and gifts with me this week and lifted my heart in the process.

  1. My Mom – she is, without fail, my best friend, the person I rely on most, and the one whose love for me is always pure, even when she’s mad. 🙂
  2. Em – my sweet, gorgeous, talented, artistic girl. She sneaks up on me to give me hugs and kisses and never lets me forget she loves me.
  3. Jay – my bubbly, smart, funny, sensitive boy. His favorite place in the world is (still) cuddled up next to me, and he

    Overflowing Fountain of Joy

    expresses himself so deeply it can move me to tears.

  4. Kellie Johnson – one of my How to Make Money as a Writer students, wrote to say she had been feeling down, watched one of my course videos, and, “…within a handful of minutes, Julie’s joy for both her own writing and her overflowing fountain of joy for helping other writers had me feeling warm and fuzzy once again.” Kellie went on to send me a photo of an overflowing fountain. The beauty of this experience is that I, too, had been coming out of a recent funk, so her comment helped lift my spirit out of its own dark spot.
  5. David – company and companionship, laughter, tears, friendship, food, deep discussions, silly jokes, music, movies – all in the face of sickness.
  6. A seventh grade boy named Colby, who took his guitar onstage at the middle school music concert and belted out The House of the Rising Sun like I’ve never experienced before. Brought me to tears, the whole audience to their feet, and made me want to go home and immediately create something. Perfection in this unexpected package.
  7. Double Emmas – Emma Dryden who gave me important, insightful, and encouraging feedback on one of my manuscripts, and Emma Walton Hamilton who dropped everything on a busy night to answer some burning questions.
  8. Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple – talked about the art and craft of writing picture books for a 12 x 12 webinar. I walked with a golden glow of inspiration all day afterward.
  9. Erzsi Deak – my agent, friend, cheerleader, therapist. She always makes me feel better about my writing and more motivated to continue. Plus, this week she gave me a contract for Korean rights to My Love For You is the Sun! 🙂
  10. Rocky – not human in body but definitely in heart – and a constant warm presence.

So, I guess this week I will ask you WHO you are grateful for?

Categories: Family, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, My Love For You Is The Sun · Tags: , , , ,

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Tulips After RainHappy belated Earth Day everyone! I hope you all got to take some time this week to revel in the wonder that is planet Earth. One of the things I’m grateful for this week is this lovely photo, sent to me by a friend, of tulips just after some rain. I do love spring. Today’s gratitude quotes are all in honor of the Earth.

Quotes on Gratitude

“May we all remember to share the gratitude of what we have been given with others – not only the humans, but the plants and animals as well, for without them there would be no life on Planet Earth.” — Tricia McCannon

If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth and eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life, your roots, and that is meditation. If we chew every morsel of our food in that way we become grateful and when you are grateful, you are happy.” — Thich Naht Hahn

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to live on this beautiful and astonishing planet Earth. In the morning, I wake up with a sense of gratitude.” — Earl Nightingale

Gratitude list for the week ending April 25

  1. My brother and his wife Ashley came to town. My mom, the kids and I got to share a fun night with them here at the house for dinner.
  2. GREAT news for some of my writing friends this week – agents, illustrators, book deals. I love watching good things happen to good people.
  3. Speaking of writing, I appreciate my in-person therapy critique group so much. Our meetings are a highlight of each month, this week being no exception.
  4. Being introduced to this song. If you are one of my English and/or tea-loving friends, you MUST LISTEN!! 🙂
  5. Watching The Breakfast Club with Em. She’d never seen it and said, afterward, “That was one of the best movies EVER.”
  6. Running four miles in gorgeous spring weather
  7. I managed to meditate almost every day this week.
  8. Candles around the bathtub
  9. Em made dinner last night while I read in bed. Luxury!
  10. This video. Sure, it may be a little sappy, but I dare you to watch it and not feel your spirit lifted – even just a little.

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Gratitude Sunday, Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

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Suddenly, the trees burst into bloom.

Suddenly, the trees burst into bloom.

I am trying to be more mindful of getting the Gratitude Sunday posts out each week. I always feel more grounded when I do. Today is a gorgeous day for gratitude. I was also quite pleased to find a quote on gratitude from none other than Casanova! 🙂

Quotes on Gratitude

“It’s wonderful to be grateful. To have that gratitude well out from deep within you and pour out in waves. Once you truly experience this, you will never want to give it up.” — Srikumar Rao

“I have had friends who have acted kindly towards me, and it has been my good fortune to have it in my power to give them substantial proofs of my gratitude.” — Giacomo Casanova

“The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.” — Henri Nouwen

Gratitude list for the week ending April 11

  1. Getting girl time with my cousin, culminating in seeing the new Cinderella movie. 🙂
  2. My trainer, for helping me get back into shape (even though I am seldom grateful in the middle of the workout!)
  3. Flowering trees, tulips in bloom, green grass, spring in the air
  4. Mother-son bonding time featuring a spaghetti dinner and watching The Empire Strikes Back
  5. Phenomenal 12 x 12 webinar on Picture Book Trends with Susannah Richards!
  6. Being introduced to some new music that has moved me AND my son’s creativity in creating on GarageBand
  7. Luxurious, long conversations spanning everything from the meaning of existence, to poetry, to what’s for dinner
  8. Lovely, vivid, and energizing dreams
  9. Homemade rigatoni with sausage, tomatoes, basil, and mozzerella
  10. I started a new picture book draft this week!

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: 12 x 12, Cooking, Creativity, Family, Gratitude Sunday, Picture Books, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , ,

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reforemo2

If you write picture books, have you been over to Carrie Charley Brown’s website this month to check out her ReFoReMo (Reading for Research Month) challenge?

If not, head over there NOW and learn from all of the guest educators who have been sharing picture books that inspire their own work. Reading the posts will give you ideas for how to do this type of “reading for research” to inspire and improve your own work.

I am honored to be today’s guest educator. Head on over to learn why I “Delve into the Dark Side” of picture books.

On a separate (but related to picture books) note, Emma Walton Hamilton and I put together a free 7-step checklist for picture book submissions, which you can grab here.

Categories: Authors, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, Writing · Tags: , , , , , ,

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TimMcCanna_8x10_smToday I have the great pleasure of introducing someone to the How I Got My Agent series who is not only a mind-blowingly (that is totally a word) talented writer and musician, but also someone I’m fortunate to call a friend. Tim McCanna tells the story of how we first met and came to collaborate on a couple of my projects, so I won’t steal his thunder, but let’s just say that the first time you encounter Tim’s work – whether his writing, music, or blockbuster videos – the only viable response is, “Wow!” Add to that the fact that he is just about the nicest person on the planet, and Tim becomes a “quadruple threat” on his way to sure stardom in the children’s writing world. It’s been an honor in every way to work with him and to have him “in my corner” on this crazy publishing journey. Please welcome Tim! 

How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?

Thanks for having me, Julie! You know, I had zero strategy when I started out writing picture books in 2009. Within months I was submitting to slush piles and I have a binder full of form rejection letters to prove it. I eventually mixed in some agent submissions here and there, but I really didn’t know what I wanted or needed in an agent.

In 2010, Caryn Wiseman from Andrea Brown Literary spoke at a local SCBWI conference. I liked her right away (as everyone in the session did) and submitted to her after the event. Alas, my story didn’t resonate with her, so she kindly passed.

At some point I dialed down the submitting and focused on improving my craft and building my network. I participated in Picture Book Idea Month and 12×12, kept attending conferences, joined a critique group, and wrote lots of new stories. Three years later, I had a much more robust portfolio of polished manuscripts. Plus, I became an Assistant Regional Advisor for my local SCBWI chapter, and I even sold my picture book Teeny Tiny Trucks on my own. At that point, I felt like my work was strong enough and I understood the industry so much better that I started to think about who might be the perfect agent for me.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?

In the early days, all I had was my copy of The Children’s Book Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. I occasionally queried agents who were spotlighted on LiteraryRambles.com. Of course, meeting folks (or at least sitting in on their sessions) at conferences to get a sense of who they are is always a good thing. I’m a total introvert at events with lots of people. But volunteering for my SCBWI chapter created great icebreakers and gave me opportunities to just talk to editors and agents without trying to wow them in sixty seconds with an elevator pitch.

The dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?

Oh gosh. Lots of both. In the first three years before I made my first sale, I submitted around 15 manuscripts of various length and style to twenty or thirty different publishers and at least a dozen different agents. I never once got one of those personal, magical, uplifting, hand-written rejection letters of encouragement from editors you hear about. I wonder if they’re just urban legends.

For a while there, I was completely flummoxed. What was I doing wrong? Why didn’t anyone other than my critique group partners like my stories!? Granted, 2009 to 2011 were especially tight years in the publishing world, but I began to slip into a resentful dark place. I pulled myself out of that self-inflicted slump by focusing on writing shorter, snappier, more commercial stories while getting out and volunteering and joining online communities. A positive attitude and persistence is key. We’re very lucky that the kidlit industry is so friendly and supportive.

Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?

Not really. That never came up. I had an early chapter reader to show a slightly longer work, and I’m currently writing a middle grade novel that I mentioned in my follow-up emails, so perhaps having a little variety helped. All I knew was I didn’t want to beg for representation. I was going to wait for an agent who loved my work and was enthusiastic about partnering with me.

How did you know your agent was “the one”?

So, nearly four years after first seeing Caryn at that regional conference, she participated in an Agent’s Day event in San Francisco in early Fall 2014. I submitted my rhyming picture book Bitty Bot! for critique and she immediately connected with it. After a couple weeks of sharing additional pieces with her and talking some more, she officially offered and I officially accepted! That just goes to show that “no thanks” doesn’t necessarily mean “not ever.”

Caryn has a great business sense—and I really kinda don’t. She also offers editorial feedback, which I knew I wanted in an agent. And she didn’t shy away from my rhymers. That was crucial. I write both rhyme and prose, but I knew if an agent said, “Gee, rhyming books are tough to sell,” that we weren’t a good match.

If 12 x 12 helped you in any way during your agent search/development of craft, can you tell us how? (P.S. It is TOTALLY okay if the answer is no. I am not trying to “lead” you 🙂 )

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. 12×12 has done a lot for me. At its core, 12×12 is about writing. Getting those first drafts down. I love the simple goal-setting aspect of it. But of course, there’s much more. The community, the support, the people, the networking, the knowledge you gain from the blog and forums. It’s a great resource that became a lovely part of my journey as a children’s writer.

Katie Davis’s kidlit podcast, which led to writing a song for 12×12, which led to writing a song for Julie’s A Troop is a Group of Monkeys app, which led to my selling Teeny Tiny Trucks to the same publisher. It was a 2-year domino effect that I never planned!

Tell us something that is on your “bucket list.” Something you’ve dreamed of doing all your life but have yet to accomplish (besides publishing a book, which you’ve already checked off! 🙂 )

Two words: Dog Dancing. It’s totally a thing.

What’s up next/what are you working on now?

Well, after signing with Caryn, we sold Bitty Bot! a month or so later in a 2-book deal to Paula Wiseman Books at Simon & Schuster. Woo! The first book comes out Fall 2016, and I’m tossing around ideas for a sequel right now. My working title is Bitty Bot 2: Bitty Does Something Else In a New Location, Perhaps During a Holiday, Or Not.

Tim McCanna played accordion in a punk rock band and composed very silly sci-fi musicals in New York City before he finally got a real job as a children’s book author. When he’s not daydreaming about dancing with dogs, Tim serves as Assistant Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators San Francisco/South chapter. He lives in Mountain View, CA with his wife and two kids. Find Tim online at www.timmccanna.com.

Categories: 12 x 12, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Agents, Children's Books, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, Storybook Apps · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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Piglet GratitudeI write this post to the sound of the ocean waves outside the window–quite possibly the most soothing sound on earth. Lucky me! I have much to be grateful for this week, so let’s just get started. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know my love of Rumi. All of our quotes today are his, including one that mentions the ocean. Apropos of my location.

Quotes on Gratitude

“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.”

“Gratitude is wine for the soul. Go on. Get drunk.”

“Love rests on no foundation. It is an endless ocean, with no beginning or end.”

 

Gratitude list for the week ending March 7

  1. I am grateful that my friend Lara France, who lives in England and who has never even met me in person, sent me the image I’ve shared on this post saying she “thought of me” when she saw it.
  2. Another friend, Carmela LaVigna Coyle, recommended me to the loveliest new children’s bookstore that’s opened in Denver called Second Star to the Right. I met with them on Tuesday. They not only booked me for a reading, but bought four copies of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN right out of my hands because they “couldn’t wait for their order to come in” from Baker & Taylor!
  3. Speaking of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, I got a call from a school principal in Denver who loves the book. She invited me to come for an author visit, and… they are going to buy 300+ copies of the book!!!! One for every child in the school. Grateful for my friend Marcie Colleen who created the fabulous Teacher’s Guide for the book, which helped them make the case for funding for the book purchase.
  4. Fate put me in the path of a friend I don’t see often in the form of lunch at the Atlanta airport, making for what is no doubt the most enjoyable layover I’ve ever had.
  5. Continuing on the friendship theme, I’ve had a wonderful time working with Emma Walton Hamilton on The Complete Picture Book Submissions System. Today is the last day of our product launch, and we’ve spent countless hours working together over the past few months. It’s been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun because we were in it together.
  6. I had the honor of hosting a webinar featuring agent Jill Corcoran on Thursday. She was so generous of her time and wisdom, and it was a raging success!
  7. My kids were particularly sweet and well-behaved this week. Nuff said.
  8. Sledding with the kiddos in Carpenter Park followed by hot chocolate
  9. My stepmother treated me to this much-needed break from winter and the accumulated stress of two of the busiest months I’ve ever had. I haven’t yet walked on the beach, but that is on the agenda as soon as this post goes live.
  10. My assistant Kelli, without whom my business would unravel to the point of being unrecognizable.

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, My Love For You Is The Sun, Picture Books, Travel · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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12 x 12 WebinarTwo weeks ago, NYT Bestselling author, children’s literature professor and freelance editor Emma Walton Hamilton and I launched the 12 x 12 webinar series with a discussion on how to KNOW when your picture book is submission-ready.

Now we’re moving on to the submission itself. We have some exciting updates in the works to our product(s) on picture book submissions, but we need your help! So here’s the deal. If you click on this link and answer this ONE question, we’ll instantly send you a free video outlining the four essential elements of a picture book query.

The entire process (including watching the video) takes about five minutes.

Here’s the link again.

Oh, and this ONE time I have to ask you not to leave your question in the comments, but instead leave it in the survey at the link.

If you’ve already seen the Four Essential Elements of a Picture Book Query video, we’d love for you to leave feedback in the comments for others.

Please feel free to share this post with your picture book writing friends. The more responses we get, the better we’ll be able to help you with your submissions.

Thanks so much!

Categories: 12 x 12, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries · Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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