Crossroads.

A few months ago, I came to a seemingly clumsy crossroads. I love blogging, and picture books are still one of my favorite subjects… but I’ve covered a lot of ground in the past couple of years and I don’t really have anything new to report.  (Still writing, revising, submitting and waiting.) I feel like I’ve run out of topics that would be helpful and informative and I loathe the idea of writing without substance. So, I stalled.  I’m incredibly grateful for Paper People, those interviews have kept me connected but once a month isn’t enough. I love writing to adult audiences as much as I love working through picture book revisions and I’ve really been missing it.  I thought long and hard about revising my content here, to make room for other musings, but it never really felt ‘right.’ I want to broaden my topics and write from my personal & parenting experience but couldn’t figure out a way that blends the two naturally.

Well, fast forward to the end of August, after a particularly powerful lunch with a friend, I had a message waiting in my inbox.  If you believe in coincidences, I can see where this might fit into that category, I prefer to think of it as incredibly serendipitous.  Long story, short, at the nudging of a (different) friend, I applied and was accepted as a contributor for Lafayette Mom’s Blog! I’ve been a follower and a fan of theirs for months, and I’m thrilled to have another writing outlet and find myself surrounded by like-minded mommas.  (Not to mention I have something to add to my cover letter’s now!)   

One of the things I’m most excited about it to have a platform to share my love of literacy, supporting local authors and shining the light on the up and comers of the kid lit industry.  I do imagine there will be a lot of crossover content, and I can’t wait! I hope you’ll click over and check out their website, even if you aren’t local (or a mom!)  I’m already overwhelmed with ideas and hope I can bring some of them to fruition.  I also feel energy and inspiration pulsing again, in the way that creativity begets creativity, writing helps me to write more! Now I have deadlines and decisions in front of me, and a whole world of topics waiting to be covered. I hope you’ll stick around; Magnolias & Manuscripts will always be my first love.

Would you believe it? Just sitting down to write this post lit a small but very necessary fire under me! Stay tuned for the October edition of Paper People, it’s going to be epic!

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

 

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Paper People: Randi Mrvos

Just over one year ago, I was fortunate to celebrate the release of a friends debut picture book and be a part of her ‘book launch team.’ It was a wonderful experience and it gave me the chance to pay her back for the kindness she had shown me, not to mention watching someone actually cross the line from pre-published to book-in-hand, true, blue published author. You know how they say ‘time flies when you’re having fun’? Well, time flies when you’re writing picture books as well and here we are, celebrating her Book-iversary! I love how this conversation came full circle, with an interview before, a book review during and another interview after! Read on as my friend, Randi and I talk about all that she’s learned with MAGGIE.

 

Randi, thanks for being here! I start all of my interviews the same way (blame it on my southern roots.)  So, before we get started, can I get you something to drink? I’d love a cappuccino, please.

Mmmm, a woman after my own heart.  So as we settle in here, I’ll get everyone else caught up to speed. I first interviewed Randi last July when her debut picture book MAGGIE AND THE SUMMER VACATION SHOW AND TELL was about to release.  If you aren’t familiar with the book, it’s a charming story about ‘keeping up with the Jones’ and the struggle to find contentment in our own possessions/experiences.  Randi, I have to ask, because I so often struggle with this and hear of others feeling the same.  Did you live out MAGGIE’S struggle at any point in the process? Did you ever find yourself comparing your writing journey to others? How do you combat this struggle? Being published by a small press, I constantly compared myself to others who had been published traditionally.  They had better opportunities of being featured in the local newspaper, getting book reviews, and having libraries buy their books.  I wasn’t jealous, but I struggled with getting the attention I thought my book deserved.  So, I had to remind myself that this was my journey, this was my book.  I found solace in knowing that Maggie is a powerful and heartfelt book.  It awards readers with a story that shows kids about animal rescue and how to deal with peer pressure.

Oh, it does all that and so much more. I know that MAGGIE had a windy, bumpy road to publication. (You can read about it, and the first interview I did with Randi here.)   I know you’ve spent the better part of the past year with your efforts and energy focused on marketing and book promotion.  Was it difficult to continue writing during this process or did it spark your creativity? As soon as my book was accepted for publication, I dove into researching how to promote a book.  For months, I lived and breathed marketing.  Though I wasn’t able to spend time on developing new stories, I was able to tap into my creativity by designing bookmarks, composing announcements, and creating unique tabletop displays for book signings.

How did you find Cactus Moon Publishing? Did you know they would be a good fit or was that just a stroke of good luck Actually, it was hard work and luck.  I submitted Maggie to 50 agents, but without any success.  I put Maggie on the shelf while I worked on other projects.  Several years later, I decided to hire manuscript editor Mary Kole.  We worked on several stories, including Maggie.  That’s when I realized how much I loved the story.  Maggie was revised and then submitted to five more agents, one of them being Melissa Carrigee.  She loved the story, too.  Fortuitously, she had just become the creative director for Cactus Moon.

I know that there are pros & cons to working with any publishing company, but you can speak to the indie publisher experience. For instance, I remember you had a say in picking the illustrator, which is something authors seldom get to do. What were the perks of working with a small press? Is there anything you would do differently? There are pros and cons to publishing with a small press.  On the positive side, publishing with an indie press is generally much faster than with a traditional press.  We’re talking nine months from acceptance letter to the production of the book.  I also had the good fortune to choose an illustrator, to select the font and page layout, and to design the book cover.  This is unheard of with traditional publishers.

On the downside, small presses usually cannot pay for much marketing or for the Kirkus and School Library Journal reviews.

If I had to do things differently, I wouldn’t have gone whole hog on spending.  My publisher was not able to reimburse me.  Now I know the importance of making a budget and only buying marketing tools that have been proven to work.

I was lucky enough to be a part of your book launch team! How much work went into planning out your ‘book launch’ strategy? How did you decide where to spend your energy? What were some of your biggest marketing lessons? I spent months on developing the launch and putting together the perfect team.  Most of my energy was spent on getting the word out on social media.

One of the biggest lessons I learned was to listen to my heart.  You see, some people told me I should use Pinterest and Instagram to promote my book.  And I did, but those platforms did not bring great results.  My advice would be to market a book in a way that feels comfortable, organic, and naturally right for you.

As of August 23rd, you’ve been a published author for one whole year! Happy Book-anniversary! Seems like we should be toasting something other than coffee! I suppose I should have a glass of champagne!

Cheers! Do you remember the first time you saw MAGGIE on a bookstore shelf? Tell us about that moment! I was so excited to see Maggie in the children’s section of a prominent bookstore in my hometown, Lexington, Kentucky.  My baby was sharing a shelf with kindred picture books!  Shh…don’t tell anyone. I turned the cover facing outward to take a picture of the amazing cover and left it turned out so people could discover it.

Book on a shelf

What’s been the most surprising thing about making it to the published side of the industry? I was surprised to feel depressed and sad after my book was published.  While there is no greater joy than holding your book, I felt like a failure in terms of marketing.  I had hoped to sell more books.  I also felt let down by some friends.  It was shocking and disappointing.  However, times like these taught me lessons about people and showed me my true friends.

I know that you’re hoping to find an agent in the near future. (Lucky you, you have plenty to put in the ‘publishing credentials’ section of a query.) What’s your research process like? What are you looking for in an agent? My research consists of googling literary agents and going to the Manuscript Wishlist.  Writer’s markets books and guides can’t stay up to date as fast as the internet.  In terms of an agent, I’m looking for someone who is supportive, optimistic, gets my humor, and appreciates my voice.

Do you have anything else coming down the pipe?  Where can we find and follow you on social media?     Yes!  I’ve written a humorous kid’s book and a lyrical picture book.  And they’re both about cats.

It would be awesome if the fans of Magnolias and Manuscripts would connect with me on LinkedIn  and check out my blogs The Maggie Project and Children’s Writer’s World along with my website. I promise there is something valuable and fun for everyone.

You’re definitely one of the hardest working women I know! Thanks, so much, for taking the time to visit with me! My pleasure!

 

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP

The Waiting Place.

“Waiting for the fish to bite

Or waiting for wind to fly a kite

Or waiting around for Friday night

Or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake

Or a pot to boil or a Better Break

Or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants

Or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting.”

 

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again… the pursuit of publishing is not for the faint of heart! The rejections will knock the wind out of your sails, sure, but by far the most challenging ‘nearly-make-you-lose-your-mind’ part is all… the… waiting. To be fair I don’t even know about the kind of waiting that comes when a book is ACTUALLY being published, which is a whole other breed of monster I’m sure (which I imagine feels a lot like a 24month pregnancy.)  I’m only talking about the waiting that comes after you finally hit ‘send.’

I’ve been doing my research, right? I believe I have ‘enough’ picture book manuscripts that are ‘ready’. (Though who ever really knows how much is ‘enough’ and when something is really ‘ready’?) I also have been paying close attention and have had an opportunity to submit a couple of those manuscripts to editors that are looking for something similar to what I have to offer.  So, I feel better about my chances than I have in a while. (I’m also having a déjà vu.) Taking it one step further, I had an exciting local opportunity that presented itself but was not without its own waiting game. Here I am, twiddling my thumbs, checking my inbox 157 times a day, each time simultaneously bracing for a rejection and hoping for a ‘revise and resubmit’ or maybe even a “Hey, I like this. Let’s talk!”  It’s enough to drive a girl crazy, I tell ya! Thankfully, I remembered the wise words of Dr. Seuss,

“NO!

That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape

all that waiting and staying.

You’ll find the bring places

where Boom Bands are playing.”

The short version of a long story? I didn’t find ‘boom bands’ but I did find a paintbrush. Here’s what I’m working on…

piggy bank, etc

Both the piggy bank and the heart are symbols of some of my favorite works- in-progress. With the help of a few good songs, leftover craft paint and a quiet weekend afternoon, I channeled all of my ‘waiting’ anxieties into these projects. It didn’t completely erase the bouts of impatience, but I’m checking my email a lot less, and I reset my focus. For one I got my BIC and wrote this long overdue, post. (Am I right, Ali?)  I often forget, and eventually remember that creativity, away from my laptop is the best salve for an anxious itch. If you find yourself in a similar restless place, for whatever reason, try channeling those energies in a totally different direction! You might not find an answer, but I can almost promise you’ll have fun.

Want some good news? I have another great Paper People Interview coming your way. Next week, Randi Mrvos will join me again. The last time we talked her debut picture book was releasing and she’ll be joining me to talk about all that she’s learned in the past year.  If you want a refresher, check out my first interview and review of her delightful book MAGGIE AND THE SUMMER VACATION SHOW AND TELL.

 

Ps- I’m 1 for 3 on good news replies.  Eeek!

(Oh, and in case you didn’t know Dr. Seuss quotes are found in OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!)

Thanks for reading, come back anytime!

-JP