By Kristin L. Gray
Like many writers I know, I spent several years (about seven) studying, reading, and writing picture books while my children were young. As luck would have it, though, my longer work was picked up first.
To back up a bit, I took the opening pages of Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge, what would become my debut middle-grade novel, to two writing conferences for feedback. One was a local SCBWI conference, and the other was the Andrea Brown Literary Agency’s Big Sur Writing Conference set in beautiful Big Sur, California. There, I was lucky enough to be assigned to Caryn Wiseman’s roundtable. Caryn simply got Vilonia’s heart and humor from those early pages. That was a huge boost to me as a writer, to have an industry professional connect with my work. I returned home and finished drafting. Thankfully, Caryn still loved the manuscript a WHOLE YEAR later and—joy—connected to my picture book texts. We agreed to work together. To say I was over the moon is an understatement.
But so much of publishing is waiting and more waiting, revising and more revising. This is why it’s a good idea to have projects in various stages, so while you are waiting on notes for one project, you are also drafting something new. I’m still finding this balance, but one of these side projects became my debut picture book, Koala is Not a Bear. This text underwent numerous revisions while I tried to balance the fun animal facts with the fictionalized storyline, and in one frustrated email to my agent, I wrote I wanted to set it on fire.
I’m so glad I didn’t!
And I’m so thankful Sterling Kids loved it enough to publish Koala in May.
If you are new to the writing journey, take heart. You don’t have to travel across the country to meet an agent. The query inbox is alive and well. Just be sure to follow the agency’s guidelines. But if you do have the means and drive to attend a reputable conference, go for it. I was both excited and terrified. I knew no one. But I remembered a quote which stated life expands in proportion to one’s courage. So, I took a deep breath, went, and doors opened. Having just enough courage for the moment and then following through to finish that manuscript were key for me. And when I grow overwhelmed by my current WIP, as I often do, I remember this: I summon that same courage every time I sit at my desk.
It’s worked for me before. It can work again. And it can work for you.
I’m rooting for you.
Find me online at kristinlgray.com or on social media here: