Florence & Ursula

Over a decade ago, I dove head first into nursing school.  Once I decided that healthcare was the path for me, I didn’t look back.  As I pursued my license over the course of the next few years, there was little distinction between where my textbooks ended and I began.  I still love my nursing ‘hat’ (only figuratively speaking of course- no one REALLY wears those), and the job that comes with it, but if I’m serious about becoming an author,  it’s time to educate myself.

Last summer I started buying books on the subject of Children’s Literature.  Never one to enjoy buyer’s remorse, I tried to be studious and research each purchase before buying.  I found my way to the 2016 Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market and that was a game changer for me.  I’ve always been of the opinion that in order to do anything well, you must know everything about it. (Obviously, ‘everything’ is a bit of a stretch, but you get the picture.)  The CWIM led me to a series of Writers Digest webinars.  The webinars led me to the names of some great ‘how-to’ books.  The books pushed me to change my approach and in doing so I found myself with more questions than ever. (Finally, I felt like I was learning something!) Next I hitched my writing wagon to the blogs of a couple of really fantastic industry insiders. The wave of information that has been coming my way has given new life and energy into my writing.

I love learning.  My mental diet, if you will, is as lean and focused as a runner preparing for a marathon. Now much of my reading, is about writing.  I’m also slowly making my way through the Children’s Section of my local library with purpose.  (My kids each get a book or two and I take some home as ‘homework’, but more on that another time).  Two weeks ago, the most exciting thing happened.  I started, what I affectionately consider, a self-taught, loosely bound course of the History of Children’s Literature.  My search into the origins of the children’s book publishing industry as we currently know it, led me to my greatest discovery yet.  I found my ‘Florence Nightingale’ of Children’s Literature.  I’ve been introduced to Ursula Nordstrom.

No doubt there are dozens of industry-changing individuals who have left their mark on the Children’s Book industry.  (If you have names, send them my way, I’d love to meet them too!!)  But for me, up until this point, reading the letters of Ursula Nordstrom has been a true delight.  Each night I indulge myself a few pages of Dear Genius (L. Marcus), and it’s the perfect end to any kind of writing day.  Reading as she nurtured, nudged, poked and praised some of the greatest children’s authors and illustrators in history, gives glorious insight into the mind of a brilliant and witty woman.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with her, Ursula Nordstrom served as the Director of Department of Books for Boys and Girls at Harper from 1940 thru the early 1970s.  A simple search of her name will introduce you to a ground-breaking woman, and the fantastic list of authors and illustrators she guided to success.  Right now, my manuscript is en route to a developmental editor.  After patiently waiting its turn on her desk, it will certainly come back to me in need of more revisions.  (Not to mention revisions of the revisions, see my next post!)  I got a rush from my first round of editing and revising, at least at the beginning of that process, and my hope is that this time is no different. Following the revisions, my plan is to continue down the traditional publishing path and I hope that somewhere along the way I meet someone who will push me to become a better author as she did for all of hers.  I hope I meet my own, 21st century Ursula.

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

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