How did CWILL BC members get their first big breaks in the publishing world? In this series of interviews with local writers and illustrators, we ask what advice they would offer and what mistakes they would never repeat — an inside look at the publishing process, from the creators’ point of view. Please feel free to tell your own publishing tales in the comments section below.
Did you have a mentor in the publishing world, or did you do it all on your own?
I can think of so many mentors, such as every teacher and librarian who encouraged both a passion for reading, but also telling me that is was great to write my own stories. In particular I have to thank Canadian writer/storyteller Ivan Coyote. I was lucky enough to have her as an instructor for a creative writing class. She encouraged me to start sending my writing out. When I told her I was afraid I might be rejected, she pointed out “I hate to tell you this, but you’re already not published. The worst thing that will happen is that you still won’t be published.” That was exactly the kick in the butt I needed.
Do you have a favourite publishing moment? A career highlight?
I recently participated in TD Canada’s Children’s Book Week. It was an exhausting week of back to back presentations, but the opportunity to be in front of so many children and teen readers and writers was fantastic. I loved hearing how excited they were about books and at the end of the presentation they would rush forward to get their notebooks signed. It was as close as I’ve come to feeling like a rock star. The kids also asked great questions including two of my favourites: “Do you need security when you go out?” and “In your day, was there disco?”
How did you handle early rejections?
No one likes rejection. Initially I took every rejection personally, what they were saying is that I wasn’t a good writer. I’ve come to realize that the truth is that rejection is their way of saying this particular story isn’t the story for them. It might be the subject matter, or the fact they have other books that are very similar already planned, or that your writing style doesn’t fit with their target. If you go onto Amazon and look at any book, including wildly popular books, there is almost always someone who didn’t like it. Reading is a very personal experience. I’ve gotten much better at accepting that I can’t please everyone.
What advice would you give an emerging writer/illustrator?
Read. Read. Read. Read. Books are the best teachers. Look at books you love or dislike and figure out what made them work (or not).
What project are you most excited about now?
I am always most excited about whatever project I have currently on the go. I have a new book out in December 2012 called The Almost Truth. It is the story of a teenage con artist, who when she discovers she looks like the age enhanced photo on a missing child poster decides to pull the ultimate con. Until she begins to suspect she may actually be the missing child. I can’t wait for this book to hit the shelves!