WHAT A YEAR IT HAS BEEN!
Below is a timeline that is the most interesting and the best way to present what went down in my writing career... with a few very important shout-outs at the end.
September - November 2020
In short, this really is quite incredible what has transpired so fast. I am proud I have found a passion, something I know I am good at. Even in the short period of time I was querying by myself, it is clear there is interest to publish the stories I am writing.
I know I've said this a lot, but it needs to be said again. I would not be where I am today without Rosie Pova and the Writing Workshop of Dallas crew. They single-handedly taught me what I needed to know, what I needed to do, and created a very easy process for me to understand and follow. Yes, the stories are in my head and are my own, they are my own imagination and stem from my own creative mind. However, I didn't know where to start or the first thing about the publishing industry and they showed me the way. I am forever grateful to Rosie and Blake who have believed in me from the very beginning. I also need to say thank you to my agent Jeanie for investing her time and energy on my success. It feels pretty awesome to have such great people believe in me and even better that I can call them friends.
I can't wait for the ride to continue, my new manuscripts to come to life, and eventually, the joint book signings with Rosie! It will be such a thrill to see my books on the shelves one day.
Thank you all for your continued support and interest. It means the world to me.
All my love, luck, and healthy wishes to you all in 2022.
As 2021 comes to an end, I was reminded by a friend yesterday about how lucky I am to have found a passion and career that links my time as a dive instructor and sailing captain to my current life as a working mom and author. It seems like a different life when I reflect on our time living and traveling all over the world on yachts. During that time, I had a very unique perspective, literally working under the water as a dive instructor. I witnessed the problems of plastic and trash found in our oceans first-hand. I saw the littered shores in Patong Bay, Thailand and the coast lines of Malaysia. I saw more and more trash accumulating on reefs in places like the British Virgin Islands and even the shores of Figure 8 Island, NC and Siesta Key, Florida. I watched as a turtle tried to eat a plastic bag on numerous occasions, more recently, with my children snorkeling in the Dominican Republic. These experiences made a huge impact on me and inspired me to do something about it. One of the hardest things for me was figuring out what to do or how I could make a difference. I am very fulfilled knowing that I found a way to tie these unique experiences of my past to my now, in hopes of making a difference for our future. I can't wait to share these experiences through my children's picture books. So much good is coming in 2022!
*Picture above is of my oldest daughter in Siesta Key, Florida with a quote that really speaks to me. "The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it". -Robert Swan.
Photo above of S/Y Yanneke Too, Phi Phi Islands, Thailand, 2009.
In my years post-college, I worked on yachts all over the world. Honestly, the structure of daily life, the planning, the training, and the insanely hard work and long hours in the industry gave me incredible tools to take with me in my life. This picture is of my last “superyacht” home, S/Y Yanneke Too. We were based in Phuket, Thailand at Yacht Haven Marina and cruised through the Phi Phi and Pulau islands of Thailand and Malaysia. As chief stewardess and private dive instructor on board, standing watches as a licensed captain, things were always happening. And boy do we have some stories to tell.
So many ideas for my children’s picture books come from my time working on yachts, traveling the world, living among different cultures, experiencing new traditions, and learning to appreciate each moment.
This picture was a good moment. One of my final sunrises on watch. One that I’ll never forget. One where a little flying fish jumped up from the sea and landed right on deck after I took this picture. She flip-flopped around. We had a moment together before I saved her. I’ll name that fish Fiona in my next picture book, give her a voice, and help explain what is happening in our oceans from plastics to entanglement, all from her perspective. I can't wait to write it!
Happy (almost) Thanksgiving! There is a lot happening behind the scenes, so here is a very unorganized update of what has been going on recently!
This is only a little snapshot of what is happening behind the scenes, which is all fantastic and wonderful and so thrilling, but I still need a good solid publishing deal. I've asked all of these people if they care that I haven't signed a publishing deal yet, all of them say they do not care, they are just interested in hearing from an author on their journey and so thankful to have me speak! If I have pre-order or a way to order my books or if they are available, they will happily circulate to their audiences and support me. How amazing is that?! I am so humbled and thankful, and I just hope I can deliver an inspiring message to each different audience I speak to. Honestly, sometimes I am frustrated by this process and even doubt myself, but I think the important thing is to be real and maybe that is what is attracting people to ask me to speak at their events? Whatever the reason, I'm honored, excited, nervous, and I hope I will have books they can buy and that I can physically sign at the events. Nonetheless, I am planting a lot of seeds for when the time comes, whatever publisher decides they like me and my books, we can hit the ground running.
One last update, my agent has all six of my manuscripts out on submission and we are nearing the time when *hopefully* we start getting some good solid offers from publishers who have distribution here in the USA. I feel that is a very important piece of this publishing puzzle, to make sure my friends and family and network can actually physically go into a store and buy my books.
Thats it for now. I am so thankful for each and every one of you, for the different ways you are supporting me and for the ways you will support me in the future. It means the world to me.
Stay tuned for lots of excitement ahead... I know it's coming!
The hurry up and wait game continues...
Typically, publishers and editors take 8-12 weeks at minimum to reply to submissions, sometimes with an offer, and then negotiations begin. I have been on submission since September 15 with my agent at LLA... which brings us to 7 weeks out. The waiting game continues and there is so much that is happening in the background, behind the scenes. Hard work, persistence, late nights, rejections, sacrifices, discipline, criticism, doubts, doubters, failure, risks... with all of these, success will come. Hopefully, we will have some exciting news to share in the next few weeks. I am forever grateful to my agent Jeanie who is tirelessly working on submissions, marketing plans, PR pitches, researching the right editors to submit my manuscripts to, and keeping us insanely organized. Jeanie told me yesterday, "it is now a waiting game and a mission to tag the right editor." It will happen.
Stay tuned... thank you for the continued support!
So many questions have popped up about our recent trip to New York with kids: our itinerary, how were the crowds, where did we stay, proof of vaccination, how did the kids manage, etc... so I figured I'd just include all of that information here for you all as a resource if you plan to travel to NYC with your kids anytime soon.
Did you feel safe flying?
Yes. We have flown multiple times during the pandemic with our children. Put a mask on them, wash their hands a lot, keep your distance from others when possible, and have fun!
What were the procedures for Broadway?
It wasn't that bad. Each person attending the show had to show proof of vaccination, or medical / religious exemption. For children under the age of 12, you need a negative PCR covid test OR a negative antigen at home covid test within 6 hours of the show. Everyone had to wear masks at all times anywhere inside the theatre. More info can be found online here for various shows. The theatre was sold out and the show was incredible.
How did the kids dine in restaurants with you?
Most places only require proof of vaccination for the adults at restaurants and you must be masked until you are seated. If you are not vaccinated, you will have a bit of trouble dining inside in NYC. We also had proof of negative covid test for our kids, so we had that as extra backup.
How were the crowds?
I feel like it was less crowded than usual, but we also normally only gone to NYC around the holidays. Times Square was the most crowded area we visited, but it wasn't that many people.
What was the kids favorite thing you did?
Seeing the Lion King was, hands down, their favorite thing we did over the weekend.
What restaurants did you go to with the kids?
We took the kids to Vicolina, Serendipity3, and Tavern on the Green.
Vicolina was amazing Italian food, and where we celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary with the entire family and my friend and her family as well. We had the back room, so the kids being excited and loud wasn't too much of a problem. We had a table for 12 this night.
Serendipity3 was a very fun atmosphere where the kids were able to order burgers, mac n' cheese, and the most outrageous ice cream deserts you've ever seen. They have a minimum of $17 per person minimum to spend at this restaurant, so don't go there expecting to only get ice cream to split amongst your table. Our family of four ordered one sundae for desert after dinner and between the four of us, we couldn't finish even half of the sundae.
Tavern on the Green was so fun and a unique atmosphere, of course also a beautiful location in Central Park. They can accommodate big tables of people, we had a table for 14, as we went with the entire extended family who had come in town for a celebration of life ceremony. The kids loved watching the chefs cook as they have a huge open area where you can see the entire kitchen operation. The chefs were so nice and friendly, smiling to the girls and showing off some of their knife skills. They have three areas you can dine: outside, which is OK for non-vaccinated people, inside in the glass room, or inside in the old traditional building of the restaurant. All indoor spaces are for vax'd adults or kids with vax'd parents. The food was amazing for adults and kids. The kids menu even had toys / puzzles you can order to be brought to the table to entertain the children.
What were the kids favorite shops?
We went to Rockefeller Center area which had a lot of highlights: American Girl, FAO Schwarz, LEGO, Saks 5th Avenue, NIKE, and Bloomingdales to name a few. American Girl had a game zone where the kids can play basketball and video games, all free. They also have a cafe to eat, an area to get your ears pierced, and an entire salon if the girls want to get their hair done.
FAO Schwarz had toys everywhere to play with. Josie loved playing with a remote control car, Sadie enjoyed the magic show, they got glitter tattoos, launched in a rocket ship, and enjoyed looked at the huge candy section at the bottom of the store. LEGO was very cool to see all of the huge creations like a NYC Taxi Cab, the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, as well as an area to create your own LEGO character and building stations. Hand sanitizer was everywhere. We went to Saks 5th Avenue to get perfume testers for the girls. They thought that was really special and enjoyed smelling all of the different perfumes. Apparently there is a vial shortage right now, so not all counters were able to give out testers, but if you ask, many counters did. We were able to spend hours in Rockefeller Center with the kids having a blast, and we didn't spend a dime while shopping the first day. There are so many more awesome experiences that you can do in that area, and the best part is you don't have to spend money to have a blast.
What was one more "must do" for the family?
The Edge. The Edge at Hudson Yards and seeing "the Vessel" was a very cool experience for all of us. Going into the Edge was like a Disney attraction. They checked vaccination status and you had to go through a line and an indoor maze that reminded us of Space Mountain. Reserve your tickets in advance You go into an elevator and get taken up (120 floors?) and walk out - it feels like you are walking in the clouds, on top of the city. If you are afraid of heights, this maybe isn't the place for you. They also have an area in the observation space that has a clear floor, where you feel like you are standing very high in the air, I had a hard time stepping foot on it, the kids laid down and felt like they were flying. Gives me the "heebie jeebies" just talking about that part. It was incredible views of the city.
One more thing to mention, if you are planning to travel internationally anytime soon, check your passport expiration date and pay for the expedited service. We are traveling internationally as a family over Christmas and New Year's, Josie and I both had to renew our passports this year. We paid for Josie's to be expedited at the suggestion of the US postal service worker at her in-person renewal visit. We got Josie's passport back within a month of applying for it with no issues. My passport has been "in process" at the passport agency since August 5! I mailed my passport in to get renewed in preparation for our trip at Christmas, and it is still "being processed". I have called the agency, waited on hold on the phone for over an hour, paid for the passport to be expedited, and they haven't even processed my payment to get my passport expedited now. It's still "in process". I know I have a bit of time but I don't wan to mess around anymore. The bottom line is, if anyone needs a passport renewed, the wait times are insanely high and weeks and weeks and weeks of processing time due to covid, the best advice I can give is pay to get it expedited from the beginning! Save yourself the stress!
That's all for now! Hope this was helpful to those who had asked for advice and tips for traveling with kids.
Hoping to provide an update on the books soon!
Quick update on what's been happening behind the scenes...
It's a very long process and I have to remind myself to just keep swimming! I know I will get the right deal eventually and I know that each step I take will get me closer to the goal of publication. This was a really big milestone for me 🎉
This photo was taken at sunrise after a hike up to the top of Spyglass Mountain in the British Virgin Islands with my husband Sam. At the end of the programs, we write our goal cards. One of my goals was to write a book.
My writing journey started over a decade ago with the desire to write a book. The goal morphed into writing children's books when I became a mom, almost 7 years ago. When covid hit, those who had heard me say "I want to write children's books" over and over again had heard enough of me saying "what if" and not actually doing anything about it, especially my husband. So, Sam gave me the not so subtle nudge to finally do it. I had the time. I had the ideas. I found the class. I started writing, and I loved it. I wrote more, loved it more. My free time was dedicated to writing. I ended up writing six manuscripts, but I have tons of ideas in my head.
Fast forward to late April, early May, I thought, maybe someone will want to publish my stories? So, I started walking that path. Submitting or querying publishing houses and agents is a very detailed, time consuming, and complex process on its own. But, I went for it. Publishers started responding. A few contracts came my way. I didn't know what to look for and found out pretty quickly that I needed help reviewing contracts before I sign them. Rights, Distribution, type of printing, illustration discussions, the list goes on and on and on. I am not a literary lawyer and I know absolutely nothing about publishing. I found some great people in the industry to help guide me, I hired a literary attorney to help review, the whole time knowing that I really ultimately needed to be working with an agent because my personal situation was getting pretty complicated.
After querying more agents than I'd like to discuss, I found one who loves my stories, believes in me and wants to work with me. Jeanie with Loiacono Literary Agency decided to sign me on and all six of my manuscripts! Whoo Hoo! I am getting a lot of questions. The most common is, what does it mean to have an agent? This means LLA will help edit the manuscripts and put together submission packages to query publishing houses that I wasn't able to submit to myself. She will negotiate the contracts on my behalf and help guide me to making the best decision for me as an author. I was taking care of the submission process before on my own, but now Jeanie and her agency will take care of that entire process. So to clarify, the announcement about LLA signing me is about them believing they can sell my stories to a publishing house. I still have that very big step to go. LLA is an agency, not a publishing house. It's a HUGE RELIEF for me, a big reason to celebrate, and one step closer to getting my books into the hands of children worldwide.
Thank you for the continued support and excitement. It's a wonderful outlet for me and a big weight off my shoulders to have experts working on my side. Time seems to be a bit scarce for me lately as I'm starting back with Global Expeditions Group next week. I'm also currently in season as the head JV field hockey coach at Collegiate. (Go Cougars!) A lot of friends think I'm crazy, but I have found things I love. I'm busy doing things that fulfill me in different ways... and it's great. Fueling the passion!
More to come...
It's been a long summer of crazy highs and lows for me on this journey to publication. I thought I'd share some incredible resources I've found along the way while navigating these really big decisions. At times, I've felt completely frozen and unable to decide which avenue will be the best for me; making what seems like impossible decisions. So, in case you find yourself in my position needing good, honest people's advice and help to review publishing contracts, agent contracts, or need to get a literary lawyer involved to help with negotiations, here are the BEST OF THE SUMMER 2021 (in my honest opinion) because, guess what, I've had to use them all 🙃
In no particular order...
The best pitch / query / critique services for Picture Books: Sara Kruger
You can get in touch with her on twitter @sarakruger and she will work with your pitches, query letters, and also offers full PB critique's. She's fast, honest, and doesn't cost too much money. I haven't found a critique group yet, so she was very helpful to me when I needed another set of eyes. She's really good at what she does!
The best mentor / writing coach: Rosie J. Pova
You can reach Rosie via her website www.rosiejpova.com or on twitter @ROSIEPOV She is very professional, to the point, incredibly knowledgeable about the industry and will pour energy into her students. She is well connected and offers honest feedback. She offers classes online with Writing Workshops of Dallas and also one-on-one mentorships. You can't go wrong working with Rosie!
The best picture book literary attorney: Melissa Edwards
If you find yourself in a situation where you need someone to review or negotiate a picture book publishing offer and you don't yet have an agent, she's your gal. Well, for one thing, she's a picture book agent, so she knows what she's talking about. Throw in there that she's also a literary lawyer, and you have a double bonus. You can hire her just for a contract review or to negotiate with the publisher on your behalf. Up to you. You can find her on twitter @MelissaLaurenE or her website: www.melissaedwardsesq.com
The best publisher offering great advice: Eric with 5310 Publishing
You can find Eric on twitter @eric5310pub He offers an amazing amount of helpful information to authors when it comes to contracts. He will review a publishing contract or an agent contract and offer advice for what is the "norm" in the industry. He posts about things to look for, average royalty rates, copyright, insurances, morality clauses, etc., things that maybe you might not know to look for. I had no idea about any of this. He is a wealth of knowledge.
The best picture book course: Writing Picture Books from Creation to Publication with Rosie Pova and Writers Workshops of Dallas
If you feel like you have a story inside of your head and you don't know the first thing about writing a picture book or how to get it on paper, this course will help you do it. It gives you the foundation and tools you need. I was lucky enough to take this course back in January and absolutely loved it. I enjoyed working with my critique group and watching other's stories transform from idea into polished manuscripts. You won't regret it! Bonus, there is a class that starts August 30, 2021! You can apply online here.
The best pen to write with: Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball
That's the best pen I've been able to find 🤪And bonus, they come in a pack of 8 different colors for those of you who like to color code agendas & planners and manuscripts like me!
That's all for now. Stay tuned for some more updates on all things publishing and updates on my endeavors coming soon. I hope the #writingcommunity will find some of the information in this post helpful. I sure could have used this back in May!
Hope everyone has a great week 💙
Thank you for your calls, texts, voice messages, and the love and encouragement over the past few months, especially the past few weeks. You all have given me offers to host book signings, offers to host me as a visiting author at schools, offers to sell my books in your stores, buy my books in bulk for corporate gifting, seriously your love is overwhelming! I can't wait to take you up on all those things.
At the moment, I'm taking my time while I make some really big decisions involving multiple manuscripts of mine. I can't wait to share more news when I can. Until then, please know much much I am feeling the love and I can't thank you enough! This is both a long process that feels painfully slow some weeks, but also, in publishing world standards, this is happening lightning fast for me. Thank you for following along this crazy ride with me! Rosie, Blake, Joni, Dallas Writers, you continue to be the best professional support system ever!
Blair has travelled extensively all over the world. She and her husband enjoy taking their kids on big adventures together. Blair writes children's picture books for all ages! Most of her stories are inspired by life events. They feature kid’s curiosity, love of the environment, laughter, and fantasy.