Conference goers were inspired—or, at least I was—by Mary Quattlebaum’s talk on how to “Catch an Editor’s Eye, an Agent’s Ear, and a Reader’s Heart.” She gave us a handout listing the “3 R’s” one should employ to give a manuscript a good chance of being published and adored by the readers.
The first of the R’s is revise, so after you’ve put the manuscript aside for a while, go to work looking to see what will need revising. Is it unique? Will your story problem connect with child readers? Have you really put the reader into the story’s world, using all five senses? (Mary’s examples are from Jane O’Connor’s Fancy Nancy and Catherine Fisher’s 2010 novel Incarceron.)
The second R is to remain focused and positive. For instance, while you’re waiting for the book publishing world to recognize your outstanding talent, write articles for magazines. Highlights and the Cricket magazines group both have book publishing branches. Or try writing for the educational market. (Check out author Joann Macken’s website for a list of links in the right margin: www.joannmacken.com/works.htm.) Participate on a few children blog sites. Or try a different form—put aside your picture books and try a chapter book or novel. Join a critique group and pay attention to what the members say. Be sure to send only your best work.
The third R is to rejuvenate yourself and your writing. Experiment with styles. Mary suggested trying the writing exercises in Elizabeth Berg’s Escaping into the Open and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. Play with words. Write regularly and finish your projects. And give back to the writing community by reading to children or tutoring a child or arranging for an author/illustrator to speak at your child’s school or judge a children’s writing contest. If you can, support independent bookstores. Interacting with children can inspire your writing and maybe even produce new story ideas.
Mary left us with an acronym: Talent; Optimism; Wide Range of Interests; Endurance; Luck.
(Thanks again, Sarah Maury Swan!)