Will Write for Cookies
Insight, Inspiration, Information
Our kidlit community is populated with amazing people…writers, illustrators, mentors, agents, and editors. Sometimes, these amazing people wear more than one hat. And that is true for our guest today.
Tracy Marchini is a Literary Agent at BookEnds Literary, representing fiction, non-fiction and illustration for children and teens. Prior to joining BookEnds, Tracy worked as a freelance editor, a Literary Agent’s Assistant, a children’s book reviewer, and a newspaper correspondent. She holds an M.F.A in Writing for Children.
But, she is also a debut picture book author and we reviewed her fabulous CHICKEN NEEDS A NAP yesterday. Please don’t forget to leave a comment on that post to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of her book.
Welcome, Tracy! Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with us here on Picture Books Help Kids Soar. I can’t wait to get to the Q&A, and I know there is also a sweet treat at the end.
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
TRACY: My favorite picture book was Chatty Chipmunk’s Nutty Day by Suzanne Gruber and illustrated by Doug Cushman. There was something about the refrain that I just loved, and has stuck with me all this time.
I also loved Princess Furball by Charlotte Huck and Anita Lobel. The idea of three dresses that fit in tiny walnut shells fascinated me, as well as Lobel’s gorgeous illustrations of the dresses that reflected the sun, moon and stars. (I think even as a kid I liked the idea that you could pack your whole wardrobe in one bag – always ready for travel!)
Finally, I think I still have my copy of The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. (And as a Literary Agent and reader, I still love more subversive picture books with a bit of dark humor!)
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
TRACY: Besides learning craft, patience is one of the greatest things you can learn as a writer. Publishing is a slower paced business and learning to write a good picture book takes a lot of trial and error before you get it right!
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
TRACY: I like to write by hand when I’m stuck on something. So if I’m revising, I tend to break out a notebook and write out my inner monologue until I hit the right fix for a manuscript. Sometimes the result is just a page of me asking myself the same question over and over again – but eventually I hit on an answer that works!
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
TRACY: I agent during the day, so my writing tends to happen in spurts outside of working hours. I’ll take a whole weekend day to do nothing but work on my writing, or I’ll break out a manuscript in the evening.
ME: Why do you write for children?
TRACY: I just love how the world has infinite possibilities for children. There’s an incredible sense of freedom (and opportunity for humor!) when you can write from a number of implausible premises.
As someone who read a lot as a child, I also think that reading itself is a fundamental childhood activity and I hope to write (and as an agent, represent) books that foster a love of reading well throughout adulthood. It does make me a little sad when I hear that an adult doesn’t read (and not just because I’m in the book business!) I can’t help but wonder if they just never found that book that spoke to them as a child.
ME:Also, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. As well as anything else you want to talk about that parents, educators, writers, librarians might want to hear. 🙂
TRACY: Make sure to stay current! Picture books that sold twenty years ago might not sell today, because the market has and will continue to change. Today’s picture books – particularly in fiction – have a lower word count, but still have all the same layers (emotional and physical) that earlier, longer works had.
As an agent, I can always tell when an author has written a picture book but hasn’t read a picture book in a long, long time.
WOW! Thank you so much, Tracy! I love that we have been able to get your take on things from two perspectives…as an author AND as an agent. I know this post is going to be shared quite a bit on social media…your comment about knowing when an author hasn’t read a picture book in a long, long time is going to create a run on the libraries, I think. Although with all of the online kidlit challenges throughout the year, I know that most of us read picture books like crazy.
But I will admit that when I first started writing, before I had taken any classes or joined any writing groups, my head was still back in the picture books I had read to my kindergarten students and my own children, so many years before. I needed a wake up call which I got from online challenges and critique buddies.
Thank you so much, Tracy!
To find out more about Tracy, as an agent and as an author:
CHICKEN NEEDS A NAP is available for preorder at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Target.
And now, a very special treat…actually one of my favorites. Take it away, Tracy!!!!!
TRACY: I’ve been making my own pizza lately and it’s been working really well!
I use this recipe to make the dough: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/pizza-dough-recipe-1921714
and then I cook at 500 degrees for 5 to 6 minutes on a sheet of parchment paper. Then I pull the dough out, add my toppings, and bake it again for another 7 to 8 minutes.
We’ve experimented a lot with trying to get a good crust without a pizza stone, and even though we use a pizza pan to get the dough in and out of the oven more easily, baking directly on parchment paper on the oven rack gives you a great crispy crust that still has a bit of depth/lightness to it.
The recipe makes two 14 inch pizzas, so we almost always have a ball of dough in the freezer now for quick baking!
This is fabulous, Tracy! I can’t wait to try this! You’ve been a delightful guest and we are all very appreciative of your insights.
I’m wishing everyone a wonderful and safe weekend and hope you’ll be back on TUESDAY when my special guests will be the pirates from Henry Herz’ new picture book, CAP’N REX AND HIS CLEVER CREW.
WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
SUSANNA LEONARD HILL
DO YOU WANT TO WRITE PICTURE BOOKS, MG, YA? wELL, FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS…BECAUSE YOU ARE IN FOR A WILD RIDE. Luckily, in this kidlit community, we have a couple of amazing mentors who are always there to help. ..even in the midst of busy book blog tours!
Susanna…thank you so much for stopping by to chat with us today! Welcome to Picture Books Help Kids Soar! The floor is yours!
(And Vivian, thank you so much for inviting me for cookies again! You know what a sweet tooth I have!)
Vivian and I thought that today perhaps we’d have a frank discussion about the writing life. Read the rest of this entry →
Today, dear friends, I’m bringing you a truly special post – thanks to author Jen Garrett. We were chatting the other day about how important it is to have good critique partners and how difficult it is to find them sometimes.
Jen graciously agreed to share some of what she knows about critique groups. And she knows alot. JEN Garrett writes for, about, and around children all day. But sometimes she finds time to do the dishes at her home in Northern California. She also finds time to be the SCBWI Critique Carousel Coordinator for her region, query agents, and read mountains of books. How? We don’t know. You can find more about her at http://www.lexicalcreations.weebly.com
Welcome, Jen! Thank you for stopping by Picture Books Help Kids Soar to chat with us. And before I turn the platform over to you, let’s tell everyone about the giveaway that accompanies this post. Jen has agreed to donate a picture book manuscript critique…and I will donate another. So TWO lucky winners will be chosen and announced on another special post next Monday, August 31st, when I interview Moose, the dog in Maria Gianferrari’s Hello Goodbye Dog. To be entered in the giveaway, please leave a comment and tell us how you feel about critique groups.
And now, take it away, Jen!
Five Ways to Find Your Critique Group
Critique groups come in all shapes and sizes. Some are online, while other groups meet in person. Still others have a combination of online and in person interaction. Finding the perfect one for you takes preparation, determination, and a little bit of luck.
#1 One of the best ways to find a critique group is to meet other writers in person and exchange info. Where can you meet local writers? At local writer events, of course!
Writer events are often advertised in local newspapers and community magazines. You can also ask at the public library, college campus, or look for neighborhood bulletin boards near where you live. An online resource for finding these events no matter where you live is Meetup.
If you can’t find any events in your area, consider hosting one yourself at your local library or a local restaurant. Bring business cards when you attend to make connections with. I found my picture book critique group through a writer’s event. Actually, they found me!
#2 Organizations such SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), CBI (Children’s Book Insider) and other writing organizations often host events that are not widely advertised. Consider joining and/or attending sponsored writer’s conferences and events. If attending the conference provides you with amazing opportunities – such as finding a critique group – then joining the organization will likely benefit you even more.
Online writing organizations such as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and WriteOnCon (Writers Online Conference) provide forums for finding critique groups in your genre.
Hone Your Craft
#3 The more you hone your craft by taking classes and attending webinars, the more you’ll rub shoulders with like-minded writers. An added perk to such courses is meeting fellow classmates who are also serious about honing craft. Don’t be afraid to exchange emails to connect outside class!
Many agents, editors, and authors host online courses and webinars. Here’s a handful of my favorites.
- Children’s Book Academy
- Institute of Children’s Literature
- Writing Blue Prints
- 12 X 12 Writing Challenge
- Kid Lit Writing School
#4 Connecting through social media is another great way to find critique partners. Some Facebook groups are associated to specific challenges – such as Storystorm and ReFoReMo (Read For Research Month). But others – Subitclub and KidLit411, for examples – also have “Manuscript Swap” and “Critique Match Up” groups you can join once you’ve been an active participant in their main group.
Make a Comment
#5 Scroll down on your favorite blog posts, and see who else has commented. I’ve seen people connect through blog comments, but with this idea comes a warning: be careful not to ask for a critique out of the blue. Connect first and make sure they are open to exchanging manuscripts.
Bonus suggestion: Once you find a critique group, don’t be afraid to keep it on a trial basis for a while. If it’s not working for you or if your writing focus changes, then be honest and exit graciously.
WOW…Jen, thank you so very much! I know this post will be helpful to all of our writer friends…I’ll bet plenty of them are bookmarking it right now.
If anyone has questions that haven’t been answered in the post, you are welcome to put them in the comments. Jen and I will try to answer them…or will try to find someone who can. And don’t forget leave a comment, telling us if you are in one or more critique groups and, if you are, how they have or have not helped you and why. There will be TWO lucky winners of a picture book critique…I’m donating one and Jen is donating the other. So please spread the word far and wide…this is a topic we all need to think about.
Have a great week! Those of you who follow me on Facebook already know that I’m going in for some emergency eye surgery Wednesday morning. I need these peepers in top condition so I can keep writing and blogging. I’ll see you back here on Friday and Saturday when Susanna Leonard Hill will be back in the house with another book blog tour!