Posts Tagged ‘Jacqueline Kelly’

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Writers’ motto: Never give up

February 10, 2010

If there was a theme in what the many published writers said at the Austin SCBWI conference a couple weeks ago, it was that perseverance is an important part of their success.

Three of this year’s ALA winners were there — Jacqueline Kelly (The Evolution of Capurnia Tate), Marla Frazee and Liz Garton Scanlon (All the World illustrator and author) and Chris Barton (The Day-Glo Brothers) — and they all told tales of facing many rejections before publication and of pursuing their dreams of being published for years before making them a reality.

Kirby Larson, author of the 2007 Newbery Honor book Hattie Big Sky, said she received piles of rejection letters before her publishing career began. Finally, after many years of trying and taking a 10-day course that happened over her daughter’s birthday — what a sacrifice — she sold her first picture books. A few more followed, but then she didn’t sell anything for seven years. That’s when she tried a different type of writing and Hattie Big Sky was born.

Former editor and now full-time author Lisa Graff explained that for her last book, Umbrella Summer, she wrote 18 complete drafts.

Yesterday, this theme was reinforced in an article in the Los Angeles Times about non-fiction author Rebecca Skloot, whose The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks appeared on Amazon’s bestseller list immediately after the book debuted on Feb. 2. This was all after Skloot spent 10 years working on the book and went through three publishing houses, four editors and two agents.

All these writers shared something in common: They didn’t give up.

So, the motto for today: Never give up.

Write On!

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Advice from ALA winners

February 8, 2010

Sorry if you came here on Saturday looking for this post. I had a busy weekend and didn’t get to my computer much.

But here is day six of my reports from the Austin SCBWI conference. First, a quick recap of my other reports: agent Mark McVeigh on publishing, agent Andrea Cascardi on getting and working with an agent, editor Cheryl Klein on writing a great book, agent Nathan Bransford on finding the right agent for you and author/former editor Lisa Graff on writing and revising.

Today I’m featuring three of this year’s ALA award winners, all of whom show that success comes from perserverance.

Jacqueline Kelly, author of the 2010 Newbery Honor book The Evolution of Capurnia Tate, said the inspiration for her book came after she fell in love with a really old house that’s falling down. As she sat on its porch one day, she could hear the main character come alive in her head and recite the book’s first paragraph to her.

She first wrote about the characters in a short story, and it was her critique group members that encouraged her to expand it into a novel.

Capurnia Tate was rejected by 12 publishers before it was picked up.

If it wasn’t for Jacqueline’s critique group and her perserverance, we would not have Capurnia Tate to enjoy today.

Acclaimed illustrator Marla Frazee, whose picture book All the World is a 2010 Caldecott Honor book, has had similar perserverance during her career. She said it took 12 years to get her first book, then another five years before her second.

She said picture books are a collaboration between words and pictures, with the two working together to tell the story. Sometimes the pictures will illustrate the words completely, and other times the pictures will add new meaning to the words. For example, she showed a picture from her book A Couple of Boys Have The Best Week Ever, in which the words say the character is sad to leave his parents but the picture shows him excited and happy.

Marla said that when she gets stuck on a picture she “goes back to basics” and figures out the emotion of the story, what’s at stake at this particular moment. Great advice for writers too.

Finally, Chris Barton, author of the Sibart Honor book The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors, is also an example of perserverance paying off. Chris said it took eight years to get his book published.

He also said he does a lot of research for his non-fiction books. “For me, there’s no such thing as too much research,” he said.

So, the lesson these winners can give us is not to give up.

Check back tomorrow for my final report from the Austin SCBWI conference: advice from other writers.

Write On!

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