Monday Meet-Up for February 1, 2016
Picture book writer and SCBWI co-chair, Carrie Pearson!
Carrie is the author of A Warm Winter Tail and A Cool Summer Tail
- Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?
Thanks, Janice, for the invitation to be part of your blog. I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (the part that looks like a wolf head and that is sometimes left off maps of Michigan) on the amazing Lake Superior. I am Mom to three young adult ladies who leave me speechless with equal measures of joy and “you’re kidding me, right?” I am a happy wife, outdoor enthusiast, SCBWI zealot, and lover of all things children’s literature.
I became an author through sheer stubbornness. It started with a month-long expedition to Arizona with my children in a small motor home. After they went to bed, I cleaned the three dishes and three forks, and wrote about what we experienced each day. I wrote stories about sheep who didn’t want to be sheared, fish who wanted to escape the hatchery, and ancient Native American ruins. They liked the stories and when we re-entered regular society, I kept writing and reading and relied on my BA in early childhood education to incorporate developmental aspects in my stories. In 2005, I joined SCBWI. In 2009, I got serious. In 2012, I sold my first picture book and in 2014, I sold my second.
- 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…)
This is a great question. I give a presentation to writers called, The Children’s Book Industry 101 and it almost killed me trying to distill 10 years of living children’s books into a 45 minute PowerPoint! The most important piece in my opinion is to recognize for almost everyone, being traditionally published is a marathon. It takes training (writing a lot!), support (from your home and writer tribe), fueling your body (with craft), days off to recuperate, and a relentless pursuit of the finish line no matter how difficult it feels (this is where dealing with rejection comes in). Remember the stubbornness I mentioned?
- What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited about?
I mentioned my two published books – they are narrative nonfiction picture books about how animals adapt to cold called A Warm Winter Tail and heat called A Cool Summer Tail. I have two manuscripts on submission with Karen Grencik (Red Fox Literary) that we are excited about: a narrative nonfiction picture book about the world’s tallest tree and a fiction picture book about how Henry David Thoreau might have seen the world as a child. I have a completed historical middle grade ready for submission as well as other narrative nonfiction pieces in various stages of development.
4. How important are literary agents? Should an author secure an agent first?
The right agent can make all the difference in your career. They provide access to editors that unagented authors just cannot have, they speed up the process immensely, advocate for you, and provide a good sounding board for your projects. Some agents are more editorial and some only take projects they connect with right away. Research those agents that match what you need and want. When you find the right agent for you, the partnership is wonderful. I sold my first two books on my own and many people do this. But I am grateful to have a partner in the process now. It can be hard to secure an agent without a publishing track record and most new writers are not ready for an agent yet. It is a competitive process to secure an agent, but there are also many agents that love finding new talent. I guess there is no one answer to that question. Sorry!
- Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision?
Tricky question! It depends on what the author wants from the experience of publishing. Does the author want more control – timing of release, cover art, words on the page, distribution? Does the author like self-promotion, meeting with book store owners, attending festivals and other hand-selling book events? (These are activities that traditionally published authors need to do, too, by the way.) Or does the author mind giving up some control in exchange for input from a traditional editor, art from an art department, promotion, and distribution? There are more questions than answers here, but I’m finding many of my independently published friends are opting for more of a hybrid approach where they secure an editor upfront and get support on the actual publishing piece from a printer that specializes in printing books. Then they know their work is the best they can make it.
- What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers?
Uh…did I say be stubborn about your dream? Carve out time for it. Get serious. Call yourself “pre-published” versus “unpublished.” Sometimes just the shift in thinking is enough to give yourself permission. Get your energy drink and double knot your laces. The finish line is waiting just ahead.
Visit me at www.carriepearsonbooks.com, @carrieapearson on twitter, Carrie A. Pearson on Pinterest
Thank you, Carrie!