Saturday, July 18, 2009

Author, Author

My sister, who works in the acquisitions department at the BYU library, invited me to attend a series of Q&A sessions with authors & illustrators yesterday afternoon at the BYU Symposium for Young Readers (geared toward librarians and teachers).

The participants were Jessica Day George (Dragon Slippers), Gennifer Choldenko (Al Capone Does My Shirts), Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow), Linda Sue Park (A Single Shard), Brett Helquist (illustrator - A Series of Unfortunate Events), and Jerry Pinkney (illustrator - The Talking Eggs and many more).

I took a few notes and thought I'd pass some along in the hopes they are helpful or inspiring:

  • Include the first page of your MS with your query letter.
  • Once you are published, you can write off travel expenses for research!
  • If you're working on two different types of book, e.g. a picture book and a novel, it works better for her to not work on both in the same writing session (different mindsets).
  • It's hard to get an agent if you haven't sold anything. She got one after selling her first book. It's generally best to have an agent in NYC because that's where everything happens.
  • She mentioned a website - He's a well-known children's book reviewer. When I tried it the website was down.
  • She plays music while she's writing and chooses music based on what suits the mood of the works she is doing.
  • For her, research ends when the information starts repeating itself or when she gets a gut feeling it is time to start writing.
  • You have to work hard and be persistent. He worked for seven years in NYC before getting a deal (which for him worked out very well because his first deal was the Series of Unfortunate Events books).
  • Don't make getting one project published the sole focus of your life. Do it on the side and continue to work on other things. There are people who are published who do quality work and those who don't, but what they have in common is they worked hard and were persistent.
I was only able to go to those four sessions, so I didn't get any input from Linda Sue Park or Jerry Pinkney.


  1. Thanks for that, Linda. I always love getting hints and tips from those in the industry.

  2. It's good to hear what's up in the outside world. Sometimes my goals seem really out of reach and then I read a post like this and remember it just takes a lot of persistence. Thanks, Linda!

  3. Thank you, Linda. I love hearing what authors say about their writing. What a great opportunity for you! Jessica Day George is awesome. She always cracks me up.