by Bryan Patrick Avery
In magic, some of the greatest rewards come from taking risks. Magicians like Eric Jones, David Blaine, and the late Daryl all have built reputations in magic by taking the biggest risk of all – making the magic happen in the spectator’s hands. There are, of course, many thing that can go wrong. But when things go right, the impact of the effect is heightened.
The same is true of success in the field of writing children’s books. There’s not much success to be had if we stay in our comfort zones. It can be tempting to sit at our desks and write in solitude but we all know that publication is only a possibility if we are willing to send out creations out into the world. I usually use this space to highlight a few books I think can help us on our journey to becoming better writers. This month, I’d like to offer you a few real-world risks that you can take to help you on the journey to getting published.
First, if you haven’t done so already, join SCBWI. In SCBWI, you’ll find a group of writers just like you. Some are just starting out, some have achieved a bit success, and some are incredibly successful and well know. SCBWI will afford you the opportunity to learn and grow while helping others on their journey. If you’re already a member, take advantage of the many local and national events to network, learn, and hone your craft. You won’t be sorry.
Another great risk to take is to set a goal to push yourself. Earlier this year, I participated in StoryStorm. Formerly known as Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo), Storystorm was started by author Tara Lazar (7 Ate 9, The Untold Story) as challenge. The challenge? Create 30 story ideas in 30 days. Sound daunting? Maybe a little. But with daily blogs from authors, editors, and illustrators to help you along the way, it’s achievable and quite rewarding.
Because learning is a life-long pursuit, another risk you may wish to explore is taking a writing or illustrating course. There are many available but I’m partial to the courses from the Children’s Book Academy. In addition to top notch instructors, CBA has some of the most supportive students. Many of the courses include critique groups made up of other students. Though it may be a bit scary to share a work in progress and request feedback, it will help you grow as a writer. In addition, there is an opportunity to get feedback from the instructors during weekly webinars. Imagine getting feedback on your story’s pitch from an editor at a major publishing house. I’d say it’s worth the risk.
Perhaps the best part of the CBA courses is the Golden Ticket contest. At the end of the course, students are able to post a pitch for review by a group of agents and editors. If their pitch is selected, the student gets to bypass the slush pile and submit directly to the agent or editor. A number of students have found their agents or sold their work to editors as a result of winning a Golden Ticket.
As you can see, there’s an upside to taking some risk in pursuing publication. Still not convinced? I’ll share my personal journey with you:
In 2015, at the suggestion of a friend, I joined SCBWI. I had never published a children’s book before. Determined to take advantage of the benefits of SCBWI, I went to a mixer in December of that year where I met Hillary Homzie (Queen of Likes, Pumpkin Spice Secrets). She encouraged me to take a course at the Children’s Book Academy (I’ve now taken several) where I met Dr. Mira Reisberg. Mira mentored me and helped me grow as a writer. Through some CBA students, I learned about Storystorm which I participated in this past January. One of my 30 ideas was a story about a historical event my grandfather was a part of during World War II. During the CBA Picture Book course this year, I worked on the story and submitted it for the Golden Ticket Contest.
My pitch was selected by three editors and one agent and just last week, I signed a contract with a Clear Fork Publishing for my story, The Freeman Field Photograph.
As you can see, myrisks paid off. Yours will too. And that’s pretty magical!
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature a surprise reprise from over nine years of archives.