Spaces that Inspire by Maria Oka
Being a stay-at-home mom of three littles, I rarely get to write outside of my home. Instead, I keep my laptop under a chair, and in the quiet moments of the day (HA), I pull it out and write. Or occasionally, I sit in my girls' room while they play (always happily of course) and type while lounging on the floor. In an ideal world, I would have a couple hours a day to sit in a charming bakery and write (and snarf goodies), but that is not my reality.
Now for a little backstory: eight and a half years ago I got married. Since then I have had three kids, and moved six times (glutton for punishment). Decorating has never been my strong suit, and unfortunately, sometimes that means that it's hard for me to feel happy and inspired in my own home. We recently decided to stay in our little two-bedroom apartment for awhile longer (we live in LA...no other explanation necessary). As a consolation prize, I decided to beautify my spaces. (This does not come easily for me...I've taken a few weeks off of writing, spent way too many hours on Pinterest, and shed a few tears).
The results are helping me feel inspired, and I can't wait to sit in my own spaces and get back to writing!
(Please forgive the sideways pictures and empty frames...I am *patiently* waiting on a few prints I've ordered).
Putting a picture book on my front room shelf kind of happened by accident. I had pulled Extra Yarn (Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen) out of the girls' room a few weeks ago to study the pacing and the brilliant storytelling. I noticed it peeking out from behind my chair while I was putting picture frames on the shelves, and I threw it into the mix. I LOVE it. Especially since this is my primary writing space.
Now for the Girls' Room:
Unfortunately I don't have any "before" pictures of their room room, but my girls' books used to be crammed onto one small, overstuffed shelf. My new shelf makes me want to read more (and write more!) and explore each of their books again and again (it also gives me SIX extra storage bins for toys, library books, soft cover books and magazines).
Plus I get to showcase some especially beautiful books.
Phew! After all that inspira-decorating I'm feeling ready to dive back in and write! What spaces do you write in? If you feel up to it, I'd love to hear how YOU get inspired in your spaces.
Once you have a book contract in your hand, you can sigh a breath of relief, break down and cry happy tears, or jump for joy. It may feel as if you’re at the end of a very long journey, but, in truth, it’s just the beginning. A turn along the path.
Some of you have made that turn and have a book contract. Some of you are still writing toward that goal. Take heart. I believe you will reach it if you study, read, write, and learn the business side as well as the art side of writing stories.
I know how you who are waiting feel. As some of you may recall, I had a 7 year drought in which not one book contract came my way. Before my first book came out in 1995, I worked ten years toward my goal. (That’s actually a “breaking into the business” average for many writers.) Luckily, I now have 6 contracts. Beginnings.
What happens then? I'd like to share what some of my beginnings have been lately, because if you’re not there already, I trust you will be.
After you sign your contract, patience is as important as ever. You will wait for your agent (or yourself) to negotiate the contract, then you will wait for the first half of your advance (unless you've negotiated the full advance...a magical feat), then you will wait for your editor to find the perfect illustrator (Once in awhile your editor may ask for your thoughts about an illustrator. Most will not.), then you will wait for the rough sketches and notes from your editor about the text. Yes, there may be changes to that perfect text. Your editor may have asked for changes before she/he accepted your manuscript or your manuscript may be so near perfection that the request for little changes comes later.
Here’s a quick look at one book’s timeline. Lost. Found. arrived on my editor’s desk March 29th, 2013, the day he flew back from the Bologna Book Fair. He made the offer on April 4th after my editor emailed him that several other editors had expressed interest. My agent negotiated for some time and the revised contract was received in August. (You don’t get a check until after the contract is signed, sometimes several months after the contract is signed. Patience. ) I don’t recall when the brilliant illustrator Matthew Cordell agreed to bring my characters to life, but he started sharing images on Facebook in June 2014. Matthew loves to share! The proofs were ready in February 2015. It’s a nice serendipity that Lost. Found. made its debut at the 2015 Bologna Book Fair, two years after my editor made his offer. The cover was proudly displayed and Chinese rights sold. The publication of Lost. Found. was moved up three months; things have moved quickly. Two and a half years. Often, things move much more slowly.
The past few months I’ve been interacting with all four of my editors. I’ll share a bit of what’s been happening, as you may be at your beginning...or may be soon.
Lost. Found. is the first book of the six, coming out November 3rd, 2015. Not that far off! I’m in the process of filling out a 5 page Author Questionnaire, with questions ranging from “Do you have any contacts in the national media?” to “What is your favorite kind of chocolate?” Next week I’ll connect with the Roaring Brook Press publicist, who my editor tells me is Super Woman. Most importantly, I must figure out what I can do to help spread the word.
The second book is coming out in the fall of 2016. Last week I studied my amazing illustrator’s rough sketches and the notes from my editor. And I let go of my most adored secondary character, mostly due to my illustrator’s needs. It’s okay, really. Indeed, these difficult changes sometimes turn out to be blessings in disguise. Always remember that letting go is part of the journey.
For the picture book coming out in February 2017, I’ve also been looking at sketches and reworking the text to complement some of the illustrations and to fit a United Kingdom edition (It was written for an American audience, but bought by a UK publisher.) Some changes are “Mummy” instead of “Mommy,” “Blossom” for “Blossoms,” and a few animal/nature changes to fit the British Isles.
Also in February 2017, two board books will make their appearance, my first board books. The final changes for those books happened about two months ago. The changes included a new editor due to a family situation with my original editor. Remember the mantra: Learn to let go. I thought I had my animals for Bath Time and Nap Time completely done. But no. I spent hundreds of hours researching to verify how baby animals slept and napped and I changed some animals as I researched, making the books more fun and kid-friendly along the way...and letting go.
There you have it. Just a peak at one author’s beginnings. May you be there soon!
An award-winning picture book author, Marsha's Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books course has helped many published and aspiring writers to write stronger characters. Check it out here: http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/writing-character-driven-stories.html or visit Marsha at www.marshadianearnold.com.
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