Monday Meet-Up for November 30, 2015:
Author & Speaker, Kristen Remenar
1. Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?
I won my first writing award in second grade. Thirty-four years later, I sold my first picture book.
In between, I wrote, hated my writing, stopped writing, missed writing, wrote again, repeated the process ad nauseam until I hated my writing less and less. I read constantly. I became an elementary teacher and wrote with my students. I always encouraged them to follow their dreams, and eventually realized I should take my own advice.
So I joined SCBWI in 2000, met wonderful mentors, became a children’s librarian, read tons more to learn what really good writing looks like, wrote more and learned to write better, grew my collection of rejections, and finally made my first sale to Charlesbridge in 2013.
2. What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry? (Maybe things you wish you had known, or things you had learned the hard way…)
For your manuscript to sell, it has to be seen by the right editor at the right time, which means that not only does the editor like your writing, but also has room on his or her list for your book. If you write the most amazing kitten picture book, you might find an editor who loves it, but has already acquired four other kitten picture books recently and so passes on yours. Don’t take every rejection personally. Keep writing, keep sending, and if an editor or agent ever tells you to feel free to send something in the future, build that relationship.
3. What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited about?
My debut picture book, GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA, illustrated by the talented and gorgeous Matt Faulkner, was just published by Charlesbridge! My birthday is February 2nd, and every year, I’d wish the groundhog would make spring come early (a far-fetched dream considering I live in a northern state). I began to wonder if I could convince the groundhog to predict an early spring, and then I wondered if others would try to convince him to declare six more weeks of winter, and what would the groundhog do, and the story was born.
I also have a snarky, humorous book coming out this month under the pseudonym of Helen Wrath called DRAW WITH A VENGEANCE: GET EVEN IN INK AND LET KARMA HANDLE THE REST. It’s a drawing/doodle/coloring book in which you can draw whomever is making you crazy in horrible, hilarious situations.
4. Is having an agent important? Why?
With many publishing houses closed to unagented manuscripts and slush piles miles deep, the fastest way to get your manuscript in front of an editor who wants to buy what you write is to have an agent.
5. Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision?
Self-publishing means that you take on everything a traditional publishing company would do – editing, marketing, etc. An author can bypass the “gatekeepers” of agents and editors for faster publication with self-publishing, but it also means the author has to be the editor, book designer, publicist, accountant, etc.
6. What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers?
Become the best writer you can be. Write as much as you can. Read a ton and take note of techniques that captivate you. Join a critique group and learn from constructive criticism. There is no algebraic formula for creating a bestseller, so keep your focus on writing something you’d want to read. That way, no matter when or how or to whom your manuscript sells, you have the satisfaction of having written a book you truly love.
Thank you, Kristen! I can’t wait to read your upcoming titles!