The journey to becoming a picture book author often leads down a long and winding road. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself lost or at several dead ends (rejected approximately 140 times over 7 years!!), and having to retrace your steps and set off in a new direction before you start making true progress.
I made every mistake in the book starting out and my husband recently told me that he had no faith in my ability to get published during my early years writing picture books. My writing was sub-par and, let’s be honest, it is one of the hardest markets to break into because everyone is writing picture books! Having said all that, I believe if you’re willing to learn and you don’t waver from your goal, that you can do most anything you want.
The reason I’m writing this is two-fold. Firstly, I’ve been on the receiving end of lots of great advice from fellow children’s authors and SCBWI members over the years. I’ve tried to always pay it forward, offering free advice to others but, admittedly, that tends to be on an individual basis. I decided it might be nice to offer up advice in a group setting. And the second reason, I’ll explain in a moment.
So…what I decided to do is offer up my time and advice here. I’ll answer as many questions as I can that come through the comments on this blog post before the end of the year. If there are a lot of questions, it may take me some time but I’ll do my best to get to all of them eventually.
Additionally, I’m offering a free six-month mentorship to one picture book writer. I’ve not done this before so I don’t know yet exactly how it will work but my thought was to be accessible for questions twice a month via Skype for up to one hour on each occasion, as well as feedback on a manuscript once a month over the half-year period. It needn’t be the same manuscript each time, as long as we’re both happy that the manuscript you’re working on is marketable. The only proviso on the mentorship is that you not be traditionally published in the picture book market, nor be a family member of mine. I’d also ask that I be allowed to publish the name of the mentorship winner on my blog.
The winner will be drawn from a hat by my children. Just put your name in the comments below with your contact details (you don’t have to ask a question) OR send me your contact details via my website contact form by 15 November. Either way, you’ll be in the draw.
My credentials: I’ve published 2 picture books to-date, I have a third one forthcoming in 2017, and a further one in the works that I can’t tell you about just yet. I lean towards fiction and rhyme but I’ll try to answer any PB questions. I would suggest, however, the winner of the mentorship not send me non-fiction manuscripts as I’ve struggled getting my own NF texts published.
Now for the second reason for this post. Alongside picture book writing, I’ve decided to try screenwriting. It’s going well so far with very positive comments on my work by both an agent and a producer, but I’m under no false illusions that the journey will be any shorter or easier. If anything, the opposite may be true.
So why am I telling you this? Because I have the opportunity to attend a screenwriting retreat next year that will show me how to get my scripts off the ground, and without a paying job (librarians aren’t in demand in the UK anymore) and without owning a house I can remortgage (the sacrifice has been worth it), I just can’t afford to attend. And the more I learn and the sooner I learn, the quicker my journey to becoming a credited screenwriter will be.
I’ve been fortunate over the years to be on the receiving end of grants and scholarships—not to mention the generosity of family members, and I’m extremely grateful for the patronage! This got me thinking. What if I offered critiques and mentorships in return for sponsorship? I’ve set up a GoFundMe page where I offer reduced rate critiques, school visits (Skype or in-person), a further mentorship, the opportunity to name characters in my books or films, and even tickets to my first premiere and a walk down the red carpet with me.
Regardless of whether or not I get the sponsorship I need, I will still be answering questions and running the mentorship contest, as I want to pay my own good fortune forward.
Should you wish to take advantage of the reduced-rate critiques or other rewards, you can find more details here: www.gofundme.com/fairy-godmothers-needed-2w93t2fw (Please note: payment is in pounds but if you’re in the US, that’s not a problem. You’ll merely receive the exchange rate on the day and the dollar hasn’t been this strong against the pound in over 30 years!)
Remember that entry into the mentorship contest ends 15 November at midnight PST. But I’ll answer questions until the end of 2016.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to working with at least one pre-published picture book writer soon!
UPDATE: I’ve decided to add a BONUS. If I meet my GoFundMe goal by 1 December, I will draw another name for a second free mentorship!