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.
What was your first book?
Meeting Miss 405 was my first children’s books, published in fall of 2008 by Orca Book Publishers. This came after writing and publishing short stories and articles for adults for many years. I was very fortunate that MM405 got lots of great reviews, was nominated for a few awards, and won the BC Chocolate Lily Award in 2010! It was hard to quit, after that. And I was thrilled to discover I had found a genre I most loved to work in.
Did you have a mentor in the publishing world, or did you do it all on your own?
I doubt that anyone could do it on their own. I’ve had lots of support, guidance and encouragement from numerous writers, editors and readers. And when I started exploring the world of children’s books, kc dyer put me on to the Compuserve Kidcrit critique group, moderated by author Marsha Skrypuch. Everyone there who read and commented on my early children’s fiction helped immeasurably.
Do you have a favourite publishing moment? A career highlight?
Okay, I will confess. Soon after MM405 came out, I visited Invermere and did a school visit there. Later that day I visited the nearby hot springs with a friend. A young boy ahead of us down the corridor saw me, stopped in his tracks, pointed and cried excitedly, “There’s the author!” I felt a hundred feet tall. It was a very cool moment.
Recently I learned that two of my books will be published in Asian and European markets. That has been a thrill.
How did you find your publisher/agent?
When I was pitching MM405, I sent query letters to six publishers. One (one of the American biggies) sent me a long and detailed response, telling me that five people at her office had read it, all loved it, it was a lovely story, beautifully written… BUT… you guessed it, it wasn’t for them. One sent me a form letter addressed to Louise Petersen. One let me know they were moving from publishing to distribution (this was Raincoast, during their early Harry Potter years). And one never responded. Sarah Harvey at Orca called me to say she’d read my chapters, liked what she’d read so far and invited me to send her the rest. And I’m glad I did. Orca has provided a wonderful home for my work and are heaven to work with. (Which all goes to support my point re. objectivity, below.)
How did you handle early rejections?
I cried and ate lots of chocolate! Perhaps not every time, and that was many years ago when I started writing short stories for adults, and took it all very personally. No longer. Although I do know rejections are about the work, not about ‘me’, I also believe now that there is no such thing as an objective view of what’s good or not good. It’s just what suits that particular market at that time. These days I usually have a Plan B when I send anything out, and move on to that when the story boomerangs back into my mailbox.