Q. How did you decide to become a writer?
A. I was a shy girl, but I liked my own company. Writing things down in a diary made them seem more real to me, though I didnt write down everything. As a grown-up, Im writing about some of the things I noticed as a child but didnt have words for then.
Q. Do you write every day?
A. Yes, even on weekends and holidays. Ive learned to like the quiet and routine, and I dont waste time trying to pick up a thread Ive put down for too long. I learned to discipline myself when I had a baby who never seemed too keen on sleeping. If she took a ten-minute nap, I wrote for approximately 9 minutes and 55 seconds.
Q. I have an idea for a story. What do I do next?
A. Write and rewrite and rewrite some more. Look for a good critique group, with writers who will give thoughtful, honest responses to your work. For over ten years, Ive met with three other writers to read each others work, argue, encourage, and gossip a bit.
When you think your words are just about perfect, put the manuscript away for a while. Take it back out, cut and add, and now you might be about ready to send it out.
Q. Do I need to send pictures with my story?
A. Writers need to arrange their words well, and the editor gets the fun of matching the story with an artist. Most editors know many more illustrators than we do. Sometimes Ive consulted with an illustrator and sometimes I havent seen even a sketch until the book has been finished. Its a bit strange to collaborate from a distance, but it usually seems to work.
Q. Where should I send my manuscript? Do I need to send a query letter?
A. Study books and publishers catalogs to determine a good home for your manuscript and check market guides so youll know what each publisher wants to see. Often, picture book manuscripts are short enough that editors will consider them in their entirity, but some do request a one-page query letter. It may seem silly to summarize a three-page manuscript, and writing a synopsis of something long-labored over can make the toughest stomach turn, but if an editor is unlikely to open anything but the slimmest envelope, it must be done. Short is generally best.
Q. Do I need an agent?
A. One of the great things about the childrens book field (besides readers that offer hugs) is that its more open than the adult market to unagented submissions. It means you have to do more work yourself --looking for good homes, sending out the manuscripts, waiting, calling or writing back, waiting some more, and eventually working out a contract. All of this is not fun, but I dont believe any agent would ever have been as stubborn an advocate for my work as Ive been for myself. Just ask for lots of stamps for your birthday.
Q. Whats your favorite book?
A. If I really, really had to pick just one, Id have to say Louisa May Alcotts Little Women.
Q. Do you have any hobbies?
A. I love my job, so writing, reading, and daydreaming take up a good part of my day and evening. In the summer I like to swim, and in the winter I cross-country ski with my dogs for company. My daughter and I like to hang out and laugh at our cat all year long.