I had a fabulous time at the Miller branch of the Howard County Public Library last Sunday, giving a talk about myself and my career and foibles at our region’s Authors Book Club event. For one thing, I rather enjoy talking about myself; I’m rarely shy about blowing my own horn… perhaps the mark of a first-born? Anyway, the event was fun for me and I’m sorry if you missed it.
One of the things I wrote in my notes but perhaps forgot to say is What I Have Learned: COURAGE & PERSEVERANCE. Those are the two attributes I believe one must have to succeed in this business.
Some of you may know that my only picture book as an author/illustrator is Fine Life For A Country Mouse, published last September by Penguin Random House after many (22!) rejections. These rejections which were over a decade, spanned the whole gamut, from personal letters from editors praising my illustrations but passing on the book to… no response at all. The different responses may be because the decade in question also saw a complete change in communications technology from almost exclusively USPS mail to email to… what? Also, from what I have heard from editors, there are many more submissions and fewer staff to answer them these days. But I always knew in my heart that my book would be published; it was part of my core belief in my work. I felt that getting it published was just a matter of submitting my best and finding the right editor at the right time. So, with a bit of luck and the help of the SCBWI conferences, I kept improving the dummy book, and continued submitting, and it finally paid off. Maybe I should not have submitted prematurely ten years ago; this is a lesson I have learned! I fervently hope that Fine Life is only the first of my books as author/illustrator.
So please, do not give up. If you believe in your work and know that it is going to touch a child the way that you connected with books as a child, have courage and keep trying. And keep your mind open to learn all that you can about what makes a children’s book great.