What’s Going On? I WROTE A PICTURE BOOK.

3 Jun

Hopefully I’ve set you up with a nice Marvin Gaye earworm.

What’s going on with me? It’s been a while since I’ve posted much other than a ukulele update. Which is useful to a small few, I’m sure, but there’s a lot more going on in the Miss Mary Liberry world than ukulele storytime concerts.

I still work in a public library. I still plan and present the Stories and More program. I still love it: kids, books, caregivers, fun and learning.

I still read and love and share picture books, early readers, middle grade fiction, and young adult fiction. I do a lot of sharing on my twitter feed – I should share more here.

But my biggest news relating to children’s books, I suppose, is that about a year ago I finished the first draft of my first-ever picture book manuscript. Idea by me. Written by me. Wait, what? How did that happen?

The truth is, I’d had ideas in the past. But this one, strangely, emerged from my sleep-addled brain one morning almost fully formed. Premise, dialogue, everything except the resolution and conclusion. I had the presence of mind to actually open my computer and write it down and for that I am extremely grateful to past me. Go, past me!

It took me probably a couple of years to figure out how to end the story. I talked to lots of people, and they gave me lots of good ideas. Finally, after a month or so of work, I figured it out. The ending. Whoo hoo!

I sent the thing off to some friends for their opinions – my boyfriend, my family, but also a group of children’s librarians I respect and love, my fellow Storytime Underground joint-chiefs. Each provided great feedback and ideas, and from there the revising began.

Last August I decided I was ready to start the submission process. I’ve been a member of SCBWI for a couple years but this was when I really took advantage of the resources they offer (that membership money is well-spent, y’all): their “Essential Guide to Publishing for Children” offered me a crash-course in how to get my book published that I needed to get started. I read up on next steps: would I submit my manuscript directly to a publisher? Or did I need an agent?

I decided I needed an agent. After more research into the agent querying process, and many query letter drafts, I submitted my first queries on August 5, 2017.

Now, almost a year later, I’m up to 20 queries. I’ve had 4 outright rejections, and many more “no responses.”

In the grand scheme of things, this is just a drop in the bucket. I know writers who’ve sent hundreds of queries before they got signed by an agent. So I keep researching agents, and trying again.

I’ve also written a second manuscript and just today sent it out for the first time.

[ETA: And now I’m learning that I really should have at least THREE manuscripts polished and ready to go. The books don’t tell you that; and this is why personal connections are valuable. I have so much to learn. And, fortunately, a couple more ideas in the works that I will kickstart so that I have at least three viable options to share with agents.]

It’s a hard process, and I get frustrated and depressed. I read picture books at work all the time, and while many are excellent, occasionally I think “THIS got published and nobody likes mine?” I know that’s an extreme take, and I’ve only been working at this for a short time, but it’s easy to let the irrational thoughts in some time.

We just have to keep plugging along. If I believe it will happen, and I keep working to make it happen, it will happen, right? RIGHT?

At times I feel unworthy because, as I said, I’ve not been writing actively for more than a few years. But then I think it might mean something that I’ve devoted most of my professional life to sharing picture books with young children and their caregivers? So, like, I’ve been researching the hell out of picture books for almost 20 years? That counts, right?

I don’t know.

I’m grateful for many twitter friends and (unbeknownst to them) mentors like Julie Falatko, Tara Lazar and other writers who have unwittingly provided me with guidance and motivation. I have read about others’ processes and learned, in the end, there is no one way to be a writer. There is no one “path” to publishing. All are valid. Mine is valid.

So I suppose I will “keep on keepin’ on,” as they (whoever they are) say. The process will continue it’s ups and downs and I can only hope that one day in the not-to-distant future I will open my email inbox to a message from an agent saying they’re interested in my work. And on that day I will text my family, treat myself to a donut, smile internally and externally, and go to work at the library with an extra bit of oomph.

Whew. Thanks for reading my stream-of-consciousness update.

TL;DR: I’m still a librarian. I wrote a couple of picture book manuscripts. They’re not published – YET.

 

 

 

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