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How We Snagged Our Book Deals: Conferences! (part 2)

Thinking of attending a writing workshop? Unsure if it will be worthwhile? Today we are highlighting authors Moni Ritchie Hadley, Corey Finkle, Donna Barba Higuera, and S.K. Wenger, who share insights on the opportunities they found with writing conferences. Because of the positive effects that our world is seeing with the vaccines for COVID-19, we are feeling hopeful that in-person workshops and events wait on the horizon. We hope the experiences of these four authors will inspire you to begin making the connections of your dreams.

Moni Ritchie Hadley is author of THE STAR FESTIVAL, illustrated by Mizuho Fujisawa and published by Albert Whitman. Moni found her editor and publisher with a Golden Ticket from the Children’s Book Academy, an online, multi-week picture book course led by the wonderful editor and publisher, Dr. Mira Reisberg. At the end of the course, authors pitch their book in a showcase for select editors and agents. Moni’s pitch for THE STAR FESTIVAL caught the eye of Albert Whitman editor, Christina Pulles, and the rest is history! Her book was published on April 1, 2021.

Moni’s advice for writers is to study! Classes are a great way to hold yourself accountable. Keep writing new stories. Put the old ones away for a while and approach them later with fresh eyes.

Corey Finkle is author of YOUR FUTURE IS BRIGHT, illustrated by Shelley Couvillion and published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers on April 13, 2021. Corey met his publisher at a writer’s retreat in 2015. Years later, Corey’s agent pitched that editor one of Corey’s manuscripts. Even though the editor turned it down, the editor had an idea for a rhyming project. Because he knew Corey and had become familiar with his writing style, the editor asked Corey if he’d try it. Corey said, yes, and that project became YOUR FUTURE IS BRIGHT.

Corey’s path to publication seems like every writer’s dream of being discovered. But it is actually one of perseverance. He says, “Before I signed with my agent (Sean McCarthy of McCarthy Lit), I queried ALL THE TIME. I got close so many times. At one point I had six agents and one editor interested in one of my books at the same time, with nothing ever happening. After that 2015 writer’s retreat, I was allowed to submit some manuscripts directly to publishers. One of them liked a story so much that he asked who was on my ‘agent wish list.’ Since I had never had a list like that before (my wish list was exactly one item long—whoever would be willing to sign me), I sent the names of seven or so agents I admired. The publisher said he knew a few of them, and would contact them for me. That is how I went from querying hundreds of times with no offers, to having three offers at the same time within a week." And it all started with that writer’s retreat.

Donna Barba Higuera is author of EL CUCUY IS SCARED, TOO!, illustrated by Juliana Perdomo and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers. Donna met the editor for her debut book, LUPE WONG WON’T DANCE, from Levine Querido at a first-pages round-table discussion at an SCBWI conference, proving that these small, in-person meetings can open doors. After this, Donna’s agent urged her to try working on picture books as well. Like Moni, Donna decided to attend the Children’s Book Academy online course. During this course, she worked on a writing prompt, What is the thing that scared you most as a child? Try to make it less scary, even relatable. EL CUCUY IS SCARED, TOO! was born. Donna wrote her story in a way that would be less scary for young readers, and soon after that story hit its mark with an editor at Abrams Kids.

About her experience, Donna writes, “People often think finding an editor or agent is ‘luck.’ I believe that luck only happens when opportunity meets preparation. All the luck in the world won’t help if you haven’t done the hard work to be prepared.”

We are so happy that Donna wrote her stories and are thrilled to share in the excitement of all her hard work. EL CUCUY IS SCARED, TOO! hits the shelves on July 13, 2021.

S. K. Wenger is author of CHICKEN FRANK, DINOSAUR!, illustrated by Jojo Ensslin and published by Albert Whitman. Shaunda didn’t meet her editor in person, but followed up on a submission opportunity after The Great Critique event, which was hosted by her UT-ID chapter of SCBWI in 2019. During the event Shaunda brought her manuscript to a critique meeting with other writers from her area. After the group critique, she incorporated their feedback and then repeated the process with other groups. Nearly two months after The Great Critique wrapped up, Shaunda submitted her polished manuscript to editor Christina Pulles, hoping it would fit Albert Whitman’s list.

It did. Christina Pulles and Sue Tarsky were big fans of CHICKEN FRANK, DINOSAUR! from the start. However, it took several more rounds of edits including a revision that shaped the manuscript into a new structure before CHICKEN FRANK, DINOSAUR! was accepted for publication. Based on her experience, Shaunda’s advice is to experiment with a story’s narration style. Even though her manuscript was polished, it still went through a major overhaul. "Authors talk a lot about patience and persistence in this business. My experience shows that patience and persistence aren’t only needed by authors. They're also needed by the editors and agents who believe in our books as much as we do."

Readers of CHICKEN FRANK, DINOSAUR! won’t have to wait too long . . . this book will be available October 1, 2021.

Resources to check out

The remainder of 2021 holds opportunities for attendance at many events--both big and small. We hope you will find a way to attend a few that match your interests in order to move you closer to your goals. A few websites that provide links to conferences and other events are listed below. Feel free to share others we missed in the comments.

Picture Book Summit:

SCBWI (with regional and international events):

Writer’s Digest Workshops:

The Children’s Book Academy:


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