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 did it on my own the first time around. It was serendipity that I was living in PEI when I wrote my first children’s novel. At the time (1986), few children’s books existed with island settings — it was just Lucy Maud Montgomery, and me! The local publisher was eager to provide a new book for island kids. It may not have been a bestseller, but it sure gave me the motivation I needed to keep writing.
How did you find your publisher/agent?
My current publisher found me! But I had built a list of publishing credits by writing nonfiction for magazines, and seeking out work-for-hire book projects. I figured these stepping stones would help me learn to research and write nonfiction. The preparation paid off with an invitation from a major publisher to write a book.
How did you handle early rejections?
I saved them, and when I had enough, I picked out the phrases that really bugged me and used them to write a tongue-in-cheek article called “How to Cope with Rejection, or Does this mean you don’t like it?” I felt much better after I sold it for $25 to an online magazine.
What advice would you give an emerging writer/illustrator?
It may sound corny, but ‘Never Give Up’ is the mantra I live by. I believe the only way to fail is to quit. Writing takes time, effort, practice, patience, persistence…and success won’t happen without all of those. But if you really want it, and you’re prepared to stick with it, good things will happen.
What project are you most excited about now?
I’m excited about the publication in 2013 of my latest book with Annick Press, 10 Plants That Shook the World. It has been in the works since spring 2011. The research took me into areas of history that I knew little about. It has been fun having the chance to give input into the illustrative content and design.