Just kidding! With ALA announcements yesterday, we all have awards on the brain. I know nothing simple and sure that guarantees such results. This round we are posting on advice for aspiring children’s book creators.
I enjoy when authors and illustrators share their paths to publication. A couple years ago I was one of many speakers at the MAZZA Museum Fall Conference. Author/illustrator Tad Hills (Duck and Goose, How Rocket Learned to Read) projected a wedding photograph and suggested, “Marry your publisher.” Tad is an accomplished artist and storyteller, so his wife and publisher, Lee Wade (Schwartz and Wade) is lucky too. Fortunately, there are other ways to get attention for your work.
My path bears a little resemblance to Tad’s. I worked in-house at NYC children’s books publishers before receiving my first manuscript to illustrate. I studied illustration and design at Pratt Institute, but was too shy to show my portfolio. Rosemary Brosnan my colleague at Dutton, was determined to encourage me. I illustrated three books with Rosemary under the Lodestar imprint. I continued to work as designer/art director for many other publishers, and illustrated numerous other books offered to me by my editor-friends. I had proved myself to each of them through our working relationships.
Working in-house at Dutton, Putnam/Philomel, Bradury Press, Macmillan, Four Winds Press, and Simon and Schuster, I gained a deep knowledge of the collaborative bookmaking process. Not everyone has this opportunity or even desires to work in-house in publishing. There are other ways to learn how the system works: books, conferences, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator (SCBWI) events. In addition to understanding the how, who is also a key factor. I enjoyed proximity to people in the field. If I never got up the courage to show my portfolio, and never made these connections, I would remain unpublished. Wherever you are on your creative path, find others who can help you. Start with critique partners or groups. Seek out local chapters of SCBWI, writing/illustration classes, and all opportunities to meet editors and agents. Go to the library and read, read, read! Resources are available.
Most important advice I can offer is the old slogan, “just do it.” Put one foot in front of the other, put pen to paper, and go for it. Make lots of mistakes. Everyone learns through process. Don’t imagine awards or financial success. Do this for yourself, because you love it.
I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.
—Edna St. Vincent Millay