People have asked, “So how did it happen?” Or some version of this is what many want to know. So whether someone wants to simply celebrate with me and/or learn how they can do it themselves, here’s my story. Keep in mind, there are many paths toward creating a book. But one thing they almost all have in common… dedication to the craft. Here, I’ll give the bare bones framework of my steps. And sprinkled throughout posts that follow, I’ll dig deeper into some of the details.
Since I was young, I loved reading and writing. But with the pressures of school and other interests taking more and more time, I actually stopped reading books for pleasure. Even though I majored in “mass communications,” and writing journalistically was ongoing, I didn’t read fiction much in my free time. I know, it’s embarrassing as a fiction author now. But somehow, reading for fun felt like an indulgence I didn’t have time for.
Then, a professor read the Lorax. This was way before the movie came out and it was the first time I had heard about this picture book. It moved me. And it set the tone for a very impactful environmental science course in college. I was reminded of the power of children’s books. I had several reminders thereafter. It was as if these stories were calling to me and I wrote down pages of ideas for years.
Finally, when faced with some questions to prayerfully consider over a period of time: “What did God create you to do? What do you love to do? What are you good at?” the same thing kept rising to the surface: stories for kids. Childhood was fun and vivid for me. It was the most emotion-filled years of my life! So I started there.
In 2012 I found SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and dove in! This was the single most important step in taking this calling seriously. I went to conferences. I found writing groups. I learned about the industry. I made friends with those who wanted the same things I did. I thought I would sell a book within a year (ha!) This could happen (though rare,) but not for me.
Rather, eight years later, after writing 4 novels and about a dozen+ full picture books, querying countless agents and editors on and off that entire time, and turning in my work to dozens of contests, I finally got a break. Sure, I had come “close” several times: a finalist in this contest, agents requesting my full manuscript from that agency, getting closer and closer… and then, someone wants to represent you and someone wants to buy your book! Usually, you find an agent. Then they sell your book. But in my case, I found my agent and editor at the same time.
An agent I had carefully researched and queried months before had said online that if she doesn’t respond in so many weeks, consider it a “no.” That period had passed, so I moved on. But then, this agent did email back and said she was interested in talking to me! This agent, my current agent was/is Louise Fury at The Bent Literary Agency, one of the most reputable agencies in the world! I was dumbfounded. After sending some more manuscripts her way, we had a phone meeting and that’s where she proposed… I mean she broke the good news to me… she liked my work and wanted to represent me! I think I was almost as happy as when Mike proposed (almost!)
At the same time, I was sending back a second rewrite to an editor at Dial (Penguin Random House). I had done this before and knew I still had some hoops to jump through before a contract. But it was very promising. I had to tell Louise. I knew she would have liked editors fighting over my work, so to have just one that I was going back and forth with could have been a let down. Still, she was willing to move ahead. But this editor was/is so amazing I didn’t want anyone else. She understood my vision and helped me form it into something more beautiful each time we edited together. This sage of an editor is Rosie Ahmed.
I considered Rosie’s input, priceless. I mean people actually spend thousands of dollars to get advice like this and so I thought, even if she didn’t buy my manuscript, I’d considered it a win. But an even bigger win, after the third round of edits, still not knowing if she would purchase it, she gave Louise and I the good news that she did want it and would champion it! This was in 2020.
Part 2: Why is there still not a book? It takes time, my friend! Even for fewer than 1000 words, it takes time. And in part 2, I’ll explain.
6 Comments Add yours
I love hearing this process. The phrase “dove in”’takes on deeper meaning for those who know you and the energy you’re capable of — and inspiring around you!! Can’t wait for part 2.
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Thanks Sarah🤗You’ve seen some of my ups and downs over decades! You’re a precious friend 💕
What a journey! Praying for rewards to match all the time spent and the finished product itself! Thanks for sharing!
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Thank you, Nancy 🙏
I had no idea you wrote novels as well as your picture books. You are an inspiration.
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…trying w/novels, too🙏😘