I’m the coordinator of events for my local school system and recently invited an author to visit several of our schools. My concern is that we would like to make the author as comfortable as possible, but don’t want a “laundry list” of unreasonable requests. I’ve heard stories about demanding authors who must have “new toilet seats” installed especially for them, bowls of “M&Ms” in special colors and even one occasion where the author requested that all children face east with their left eye closed and yellow crazy straws taped to their foreheads. Should we take a chance and ask the author or just do what we think is best?
Miss Peaty A.
Harper Valley, AR
Dear Miss A,
Being a veteran of school visits, I can tell you that most authors do indeed have demands that would make you pull your hair out. I’ve been back stage many times and I am always amazed at how teachers & librarians cater to their every whim. It’s pathetic! My advice would be to NOT ask the author! Don’t open that door! Instead, Miss AP will share with you her simple yet classy requests for her own visits. You can tailor this list to meet your school’s own budgetary needs:
- A tall tumbler of sparkling pink wine over ice (can be substituted with a cheaper variety like those fruity wines and just as tasty!) with a bendy straw and one of those cute little umbrellas. And of course, the Principal or head Librarian standing by to refresh the beverage in 5 minute intervals. We get very thirsty while reading!
- A nice chair with 100% cotton duck upholstery and a high thread count in a lovely shade of purple (to match my favorite “story reading” muumuu). Encrusted jewels on the chair are optional.
- A qualified Librarian nearby to turn the pages in a timely manner.
- The room should maintain a nice 72 degrees to keep Miss AP from sweating or freezing. Bad for my vocal chords!
- And last but not least, a bowl of crisp $20’s at hand’s reach to pick out one’s own payment, based on the success of the event.
[Some authors have special needs depending on their particular presentation. It’s always nice to ask in advance if they have any special requests and arrange for a contract to ensure both parties a successful visit. For some really excellent advice on making your author comfortable and your event a big success, check your author’s website or visit these really terrific sites below. There is also some good info on how to have the author’s visit pay for itself.]
Dear Miss Arty-Pants,
I have wanted to write and illustrate children’s books since I was a little girl. I joined SCBWI, and I have attended every illustration and writing event in a tri-state area for the past three years. This year I also went to the SCBWI conference in LA as well as the one in NY. I have schmoozed and networked with every editor, art director, agent, and published writer or illustrator I have ever encountered. I have read CWIM cover to cover, and created an extensive relational database of children’s publishers and agents. In short, I feel like I have done everything possible to achieve my goal, so where’s my book contract????
You may want to check with the post office, as it is obvious that you should indeed have a contract by now. Perhaps your mail carrier is on strike? Once you’ve cleared up your postal issues, there is clearly nothing more you can do, so if I were you I would probably just take a relaxing bath or go to the mall — and rest easy, your book contract should be arriving any day now!
[ Miss AP loves going to conferences and she schmoozes with the best. But there's glaring omission in your list of activities! Have you written and/or illustrated a book? Are you a member of a serious critique and support group with like-minded people who have similar goals? In addition to attending networking events, are you consistently practicing your craft? In The Biz we call this ‘butt-in-chair time,’ and it is non-negotiable. ]
What is the SECRET to getting published?
I've done a lot of research, and written to children's book
authors to ask them. Everyone seems to give me the run-around.
All they say is that I have to write a great story and find
the right editor at the right time. A needle in the haystack-
blah blah blah. All I want is a straight answer. I've had
a lot of free time these last couple of years and thought
up some good stories and drew some funny pictures. I'll be
out on parole in two months and want to get started in my
new career right away. Please help!
Carl "The Snake" T.
Clark County Penitentiary
Dear Mr. Snake,
I know just what you mean about published
authors and their so-called advice. I, Miss Arty Pants,
am here to give it to you straight.
The big secret that no one will tell
you is: Three white candles.
They must be pineapple scented, 6inches
tall, and 4 inches around. You have to light them on
the first full moon of the month as long as it's
on a Tuesday, and the temperature is above 40 degrees.
The pollen count must be low, and there absolutely must
(this is the most important part) be a light wind from
the east. Tuck your manuscript and sample art under
a plain white paper towel with the words "publish
me" written in green ink. Drink a large glass
of water, put a stamp on your envelope and take it to
the nearest post office (with the manuscript and art
inside!). Then sit back and relax as the contracts and
checks start rolling in!
[ While Miss
AP might think that candles are the secret, the
truth is there is no secret! Lighting candles might
help you feel calmer when you send your package
out, and many authors have their own rituals to
give them "luck", but there is
no guarantee it will get you published. For tips and
tricks to present your work in the best light and
better your chances, check out these sites: ]
I just finished my 1st picture book,
and I'm ready 2 send it off 2 my list of publishers.
The only problem is I'm young! I heard that most writers
R old retired house wives. My birthday is next month. Should
I wait till then to send it, or do I have 2 wait till I'm
Tina G. R.
Ride your bike to the nearest department
store and head straight for the "muumuu"
section. You can tell you've found it when you
see all the women wearing large purple hats and sequined
shirts that match their sweatpants. Find a nice muumuu
that fits your personality and have a professional portrait
taken. You can submit this photo with your submissions
so that the editors can tell that you're a real
writer. While writing children's books is not
limited to the retired housewife (and grandma), it doesn't
hurt to give the impression that you are one. This will
give you the best chance at getting your foot in the
door! I've been to many Children's Book
Writer and Illustrator conventions and
found that the wackier and older you look, the more
important you seem. Agents and editors will flock to
you to see if you have any manuscripts to share. I even
had an editor follow me into the bathroom one time and
hand me his card under the stall!
[ There is no typical writer or
illustrator type, and while mature folks seem to make
up the majority of the published, it is definitely not
limited to them. A terrific writer or illustrator can
be published at any age, but time put in can make anyone
better. Even the brilliant!
Visit the site below for a comprehensive
list of links to publications, contests, conferences
and clubs specifically for young aspiring writers. ]
I just bought myself a new work desk.
I plan on writing and illustrating a whole bunch of books
in the New Year! My problem is this: I can't decide
which side to put my coffee cup on. I'm right-handed
and would like to place it on the right side, for ease of
use, but then I'm too busy typing and drawing with my
right hand. The next thing I know, my coffee is ice cold.
If I use my left hand, I tend to spill it on everything. Please
help! What do all the famous book artists do?
Dear Miss Bux,
I've struggled with this dilemma
myself, so I contacted a few of my famous friends and
they gave me tips on how they accessorize their desks
for stylish ergonomics. One friend of mine simply keeps
a brushed stainless steel insulated cup on his desk
filled to the brim, yet safely secured with a sippy
lid. Another friend of mine keeps a beautiful red Italian
espresso machine in her studio! She said she takes a
break every half hour to have a demitasse (laced with
a twist of orange peel). Some friends swear they don't
touch anything with caffeine unless they are going for
technique (that shaky line art!) Whatever you do, make
sure NOT to rest your cup on your work. Coffee rings
might be mistaken for a character in your story!
[ For some stylish coffee drinker
accessories and other fun things just for writers and
illustrators, check out the links below. ]
I've done a lot of research on the "do's" and "don'ts" of cover letters. It all sounds so formal. I would like to just use sticky notes. I think it would say to the editors or agents that I'm laid back and fun to work with. I went to my local stationary store and was overwhelmed with the array of sticky note pads. I really wanted to get the one that looks like the letter "M" for my last initial, but wondered if something crazy like neon colors would say more about me. What do you think would be the best presentation?
Dear Mr. Mann,
When I meet with my agent over tea,
we chuckle about how cute it is that people fuss so
much about the details! I don't know what all
editors and agents like, so I'll just tell you
what my agent said. He prefers erasable sticky notes,
so he can recycle them into rejection or acceptance
letters. Its always nice to throw in a few extra
for good measure(editors and agents love freebies).
I'm partial to glitter on anything, and I find
that it really adds something special. Look for glitter
pens to write your notes with or some of those cute
sparkly stickers. Good luck!
[ Hey, Miss Arty-Pants is kidding!!
Although the type of paper or font will not sell your
work, a good cover letter might. If you don't
know an editor's or agent's personal taste
(and even if you do), it's always a better choice
to put your professional foot forward and keep it simple.
Standard fonts and nice white standard paper works fine.
20lb stock is richer and holds up well to most printer
inks and copiers. ]
I'm so excited! I just finished my first
picture book dummy and I'm ready to send it out into the
world. I wanted it to be really impressive, so I went
ahead and completed all the art for the book. It took
a very long time! I even picked out all the fonts, type
set it, and had it bound by a professional. What I want
to know is, should I send an itemized list for reimbursement
with the dummy, or wait until I'm in negotiations?
O. Vera Cheever
Your question is very timely! The
current trend is to send the itemized list and video
tape it for insurance purposes. (Be sure to keep a copy
in your safe, so the publisher can't claim to
have lost it). I would also like to address how to make
a dummy. I bet your dummy is beautiful, but you may
have put in a little more work than necessary to get
your point across. I suggest doing some research on
how to prepare a simple
yet professional dummy, and spend your energy deciding
what you're going to do with all the money you'll
be making instead! Some writer/illustrators can make
as much as $500 a year!
[ When preparing a package for
submission, it's wise to spend your time on making
sure your story is at its best and your dummy sketches
are professional. Professional means finding that happy
middle ground between clean and not over-the-top. Editors
are simply looking for a great story and art that they
love. An over-prepared dummy will not make a poor story
better and is only a waste of your time. ]
Dear Miss Arty-Pants,
I live in a cabin deep in the woods
with only forest animals as my friends. I find it very peaceful
and inspiring. I’ve written and illustrated several
picture books based on the adventures of my animal friends.
I’ve read my stories to them and they all say I should
get them published! Especially Rabbit, he said would help
with the marketing. Where is the best place to start?
I appreciate any info you can provide.
A Forest, USA
First of all, I must say how much
I love animals myself! Secondly, do yourself a favor
and get yourself on-line! You need some human friends.
I’d suggest either getting a computer, or hopping
on down to your local cyber café. You need to
visit a website called Write
4 Kids. It’s an excellent resource for beginners
and also has a great chat board where you can talk with
other writers, both published and newbies, about writing
and illustrating children’s books. Good luck!
[ Although not for everyone,
we here at Yellapalooza strongly suggest finding a critique
group either locally or cyberly. Not only is it helpful
in getting feedback on your writing and illustration,
but it can also be a wealth of support for all the bumps
on the road to publication. Check out our links
page for websites that advertise crit group openings.
Also be sure to check out Agy Wilson's article in the
on forming on-line critique groups. ]
Miss Arty-Pantsİ2006 is a humorous
monthly feature prepared especially for Yellapalooza and
does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the general public
or all the members of Yellapalooza or Yellapalooza friends.