By Kim Tomsic
My journey to publication includes a mixture of focused effort, magic, and hijinks. In 2008, I’d just finished reading all of Richard Peck’s books to my son and decided rather than waiting for the great R.P. to write another tale, I’d write one myself. I set to task, and 55,000 words and a year later I finished a novel. I hired a professional editor who gently informed me I was not ready to query, but that I should join the SCBWI. Two months later, I was on a plane headed to one of the most magical experiences of my life—the 2009 SCBWI International Conference in California.
Heck no, I wasn’t going to cry. I was too dazzled by the experience to even realize the critique wasn’t going well. In fact, internally I was dancing because information is power. This critique gave me greater capacity to see my errors, gain new tools, and sharpen my skills. Everyone at the conference said participating in a critiquing group was key to growth, so when I flew home, I joined two groups, read several craft books, read gobs and gobs of children’s literature, and kept working.
A few years later, I enter the hijinks phase of my publishing path. In 2011, I attended another SCBWI conference in California. I noticed an “unofficial” scavenger hunt posted on Twitter that was orchestrated by Chronicle Books editor Melissa Manlove. The rules of the hunt said to form a group of five and follow the hashtag for more instructions. I wrangled five fun strangers and spent the Saturday night gala searching for items, taking photos with kid-lit celebrities, answering book-ish questions, and then posting all answers to the unofficial hunt hashtag.
We won! The prize: cocktails, conversation, and a chance to pitch. If you’ve never met Melissa Manlove, here’s what you should know: she’s incredibly smart, she’s a fast and organized thinker; and she’s fun. She treated our team to watermelon martinis and other fancy poolside cocktails. When it was my turn, I pitched a story idea for a novel. Melissa listened and then gave me a piece of advice that I might have heard a thousand times before, but for some reason, this was the first time I actually digested it. She said, “It sounds like a lot of things are happening to your character rather than your character making things happen.” This was my lightbulb moment.
Fast-forward to today, my debutnonfiction picture book, GUITAR GUINIUS, How Les Paul Engineered the Solid Body Electric Guitar and Rocked the World, edited by the fabulous Melissa Manlove and illustrated by Brett Helquist, will release with Chronicle Books on April 9, 2019. The elephant story (title tbd) releases with Chronicle in 2020. Oh, and by the way, thanks to Melissa’s initial advice, I learned how to write active characters. Please check out my two novels edited by Maria Barbo and published by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, The 11:11 Wish (February, 2018) and The 12th Candle (October 2019).
Kim Tomsic was the "new girl" at 8 different schools where she played four square, volleyball, and the flute. She never learned to play the guitar, but she likes to brag that she’s the mother of a guitarist! Kim lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband, two children, and two dogs. She believes in miracles, magic, and music. Beyond writing, she is also a yoga teacher, a pet wrangler, and the Co-Regional advisor of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Kim’s debut novel,The 11:11 Wish released with Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins in February 2018.
Little Lester Polsfuss’s music teacher told him he’d never be musical. She was wrong! Guitar Genius, How Les Paul Engineered the Solid Body Electric Guitar and Rocked the World! (April 9, 2019 Chronicle Books), is a perseverance story centered on National Inventors Hall of Fame legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame icon, Les Paul. Les faced ridicule, hardships, and struggles as he worked to engineer devices and recording techniques that proved to be revolutionary in the music industry.