Although I signed my book contract in 2020, 2019 was the "it" year. The events of 2019 propelled forward the culminating years of writing. If you've ever had that feeling of flying in a dream. That year felt like the moment of liftoff. There were some false starts - several of them, but momentum was gaining with the near misses of that year.
With time permitting, I immersed myself in webinars, conferences, contests, and submissions. There was Julie Hedland's 12 Days of Christmas, a Picture Book Hook webinar by Emma Watson Hamilton, Picture Book Palooza, Vivian Kirkfield's 50 Precious Words contest, Making Room for Rhyme contest, PBChat, PBParty, and submissions to twenty agents that year. A few requested more work. I won one of those contests and was a runner up and a finalist in two others. But it didn't matter if I had won or not. The activity gave me the energy to keep moving forward. More importantly, the year felt like a dream come true. I was not published or agented, but I was able to spend every day doing what I wanted to be doing –writing stories!
There were a couple of big moments in 2019, the summer SCBWI conference, and a class I took with the Children's Book Academy. The summer conference was overwhelming, as I knew it would be, but the benefits far outweighed the exhaustion I felt afterward. My "aha" moment occurred after seeing editor, Alynn Johnston, speak. LAYERS! She talked about weaving the layers in a story, and she read stories with such enthusiasm! I thought about my manuscripts. How could I reach kids on many levels with such minimal text?
The idea of LAYERS pestered me because I did not know how to make it work in the story I was writing. I then signed up for The Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books course. It was a six-week intensive. This course was key. It offered instruction and critiques, some of which I had heard before, but excuses aside, I buckled down and did the work. A guest editor's advice was to add a bit more plot to my concept book. She also wanted me to specify the festival. In my mind, "a festival was a festival." But I took her advice and began digging. As I researched the many Japanese festivals I had attended as a child, the layers of my story emerged. With the help of my critique partners and groups, the manuscript developed from a 200-word concept book called BABY UNDERSTANDS, to A 500-word picture book, then titled KAI AND OBA, later changed to KAI'S BRIDGE, and finally to a 700-word picture book called THE STAR FESTIVAL.
The class also offered exposure to agents and editors. My pitch caught the attention of an agent that I did not sign with (near-miss), and the editor from Albert Whitman & Company. My foot was in the door … "IT" was happening!
Immerse yourself in your passion.
Live life as if you ARE the person you want to be!