So incredibly excited that I got a "YES" to publish that I had really really been hoping and praying for. I can't wait to inspire the youngest generation of ocean activists one children's book at a time! Much more to come, but for now I get to appreciate the moment and pop this bottle tonight with four generations on our favorite island! 🥳 So much excitement! Thank you Rosie Pova and Dallas Writers , no words right now...
In the beginning of this, I kind of thought I wanted to try and get published and submit manuscripts all on my own, without an agent. I found out pretty quickly that a lot of publishers don't even allow unsolicited submissions; that you only get a chance to publish with these houses if you have an agent or a referral to submit your work. I wasn't afraid of the rejections I knew I would get, so I wanted to do the work myself and figure it out. Now I'm in a bit of a pickle. If you get an offer from a publisher without an agent, you need an agent or a literary lawyer to help comb through the details and negotiate for you, unless, of course, you know what you should be looking for in these 20+ page contracts.
For whatever reason, the publishing houses are responding to my queries, which is great! However, I have ZERO background in literary law, and I am now moving to the negotiating stages of my contracts, without an agent or a lawyer. So, that’s my next step in this process: get an expert on my side.
I have written offers on two different stories with two different publishing houses. One house has a third story in acquisition and another house has requested a revision and resubmit on a 4th story. Things are getting pretty complicated and I will be making some pretty big decisions here in the next few weeks about which way to go. The two written contracts I have right now expire in mid-August, which is rapidly approaching.
If you have any leads or advice on Literary Lawyers, please reach out to me! In the meantime, I'm channeling as much positive energy as possible from Figure 8. I have a few leads on amazing agents who might want to take a chance on me but there are no guarantees at all. If there is one more thing to say to whoever wants to bet on me and be on my team, it is this, "I will NOT let you down!"
How did this workshop help you grow as a writer? I think that being in person, writing one-on-one with no other distractions was very helpful to me. I am a working mom and is hard to find uninterrupted blocks of time where I can work on my career as a children’s writer that isn't only at 4:00 AM. Over the weekend, I grew in every area: my editing skills, formatting, my comfort level of being silly when reading out loud, the creativity in my writing, and trusting my own imagination. I have a clear picture of my next realistic steps to grow.
What did you find most valuable? Hard to answer this one! I think having Rosie's uninterrupted attention on growing me as a writer! She and I had so many hours working on my craft, talking me through every step of the way. Rosie has 16+ years of experience in this industry and she is very successful. She shared her journey, the ups, the downs, the successes, the downfalls. Honestly, the most valuable thing about the weekend was our uninterrupted hours and hours we spent talking, critiquing, Q&A sessions… working on me. I am so thankful and fortunate.
Would you recommend it to other writers? 100% without a doubt, YES!
What would you say to someone who is considering working with me as their writing coach? Whoever can get Rosie's undivided attention to coach them for a full weekend should consider themselves unbelievably lucky and JUMP at the opportunity. You would not regret it at all. I learned so much and it was an incredibly fulfilling weekend for me. I enjoyed every minute of our time this past weekend together.
Overall thoughts: My choice to work with Rosie Pova was the BEST decision ever. I researched a lot of classes. I looked at so many options online and ultimately decided to work with Rosie at the Writers Workshop of Dallas. Her class gave me the tools, the foundation, the skills, and outlined exactly what I needed to do to succeed. I completed the Children's Picture Book course (LOVED IT) alongside a 3 month individual mentorship (so hard but LOVED IT). She invested her time in me, most importantly, she believed in me. It took time for me to prove to her and show her my dedication and passion for writing. But she stuck with me, she worked with me, and she really took me from not having a clue what to do… to being very close to being published. And not only with one story… but with six stories. I think that alone speaks volumes to Rosie and the value I got out of working with her! At the end of our initial 3 month mentorship, I knew I wanted a body of work ready to query so when she offered to continue working with me, I signed on for another 2 months and accepted her invitation to spend the weekend writing in Dallas for an intense on-one-one writing workshop. I have those six manuscripts ready to rock and I am forever grateful to her for her time, wisdom, knowledge, and encouragement on this journey. It’s been a wild ride… and I’m just getting started!
Oh gosh... so much! I have a lot of editing to do from our critique sessions. I have a lot of "unpacking" to do mentally. I am going to make sure my notes are organized and probably type up an outline of my major takeaways from the weekend. I need to create new accounts for my social channels (instagram and facebook) and work on my brand. I really do have a lot to do but I will take it step by step. I think the hardest thing for me is to realize that this whole process just takes time. Querying six manuscripts simultaneously is no joke but this dream is definitely becoming a reality for me. Stay tuned...
Chasing a dream isn't always easy. I'm nervous. I'm excited. I'm ready. I'm ready to learn. To write, edit, re-write. I'm ready to work hard. I'm ready to get all the negative and the positive feedback. Tomorrow, I'm headed to Texas to work with Rosie Pova for the weekend. OMG! It's very exciting. She is investing her time in me, she believes in me, now I just need to focus, and get on that plane! Did I mention I'm nervous!? If you had told me in December that in June I'd be flying to work with a famous children's author, I wouldn't have believed you! But, it's happening and here I go! This weekend is a really big step in the right direction for me!
In a normal year, Sam and I would be spending a significant part of our summer in the British Virgin Islands. Like most people, Covid changed a lot for us. I'll spare you the nitty gritty, but neither one of us are going to the islands this summer which is super strange for our entire family.
When heading back to the islands, I would look forward to waking up with the sun shining and falling asleep to the sound of water hitting the side of the boat. I am always so excited to "unplug" from our fast-paced culture and move to the simple life at sea. It's a chance to step back to enjoy your natural surroundings without the constant social buzz surrounding you. It’s a chance to connect with students and staff from all over the world and get to know each person for who they are. It's a chance to experience the magic of living alongside the marine life and connect with nature. It’s a very fulfilling experience that is hard to describe. We have absolutely loved spending every summer in this way since 2008 and will miss our time in the islands this year. These experiences have shaped us into who we are as people and as parents, today.
Living in remote places for a lot of our life has changed our perspective on raising our kids. So much so, that we are a no-screen family. We disconnect whenever we can. *Our kids ARE allowed to watch pre-downloaded movies or shows but only when we travel. We DO have the occasional fun movie night as a family or let them watch a show on very rare occasions.* Are we doing our kids disservice? I personally don't really think so. One thing I do know is that we are doing our best as parents and that our kids are happy.
Anyway, we try to bring the remote life to shore, simply because we love it. And this is the exact topic of the next children's book I wrote. I wrote it from an "unplugged" child's perspective, inspired by the life of my own children. I can't wait to start querying this particular story next week!
Thanks for following along! Your support means the world to me.
I'm working on my next story. I am still working with Rosie. She really has her ways to encourage me write. I get stuck though. I get really stuck on developing a concept or I totally overthink and overcomplicate the storyline. I have to let the ideas rest and simmer for a while, but working on these tight deadlines, I struggle by getting in my own head wondering, how can I come up with another something great in such a short time? At some point I feel like I have completely drained my creativity reservoir and just want to cry! So, what do I do? I go to Barnes and Noble or the library as much as I can and I read as many children's books as possible. Some books have something to do with the subject of my next book, some books have absolutely nothing at all to do with the story I am writing. It is very helpful for me to give my own brain a rest and enjoy beautifully illustrated stories on the shelves. While reading, more often than not, an idea will pop into my head, completely out of the blue, that will inspire an idea or concept in my own book.
This week I had a big deadline where a draft was due today. I felt very crunched for time and I was totally stressing about it. There was so much pressure, especially because I let my husband and my kids read a draft last night that I had worked on for hours and hours and hours and they didn't get it. They didn't get it at all. I had totally overcomplicated it and they didn't like it. I was mad, sad, didn't know what to do, so I asked my husband to wake me up at 4:45 am when he went to the gym.
Maybe not the best idea, but it turned out great, this time. After a good night’s sleep, and time away from the story, I woke up at 4:45 am feeling nervous but ready to rock a completely new concept on the same subject. I had done the research, knew generally what message I wanted. I'd developed my characters but just needed to write it. And, success! Before I took my kids to school this morning, I was able to read the completed new draft to the girls and my husband. They LOVED it. All three of them.
I don't know if there is a moral to this blog story or not. Maybe when there's a will, there's a way. There's really something to walking away from a concept, letting your brain rest, and then coming back with a fresh perspective. Determination, hard work, positivity, and a lot of creativity will get you there.
And of course, feedback can be brutal. So brutal! But it's so important to listen and take it as constructive criticism. I'm always finding ways to make myself better, although sometimes it’s very difficult to hear honest criticism, it is invaluable to your personal growth. You don't have to agree with what they say all the time, but it's important for you to listen with an open mind.
Thanks for following...
It's an exciting time in my journey! I have started to receive some positive feedback on all three of my stories from the publishing industry. I met with a publishing house this morning and I left feeling very positive about our conversation. Mostly because they seem very genuine and they were interested in me as a person: my life, my children, and my goals. I have also had a few other email exchanges with another publisher and agents, but more to come on all of that later. I have to be patient and know that good things will come with hard work.
Starting Monday, I am going to begin writing my next story. I will spend the weekend at the bookstore with my children, getting inspiration from lots of time outside, and writing a list of at least ten marketable story ideas. I have a working list already that started way back in 2006, but I'm always waiting for something to jump out and inspire the next story. Stay tuned. I sense a lot of sleepless nights ahead of me.
In other very exciting news, I was asked to go to Dallas, TX this Summer to meet Rosie Pova and work one on one in person with her. I am thrilled and honored for this opportunity and I cannot wait for our time together. She has been a tremendous help already to me on this journey to publication and it will be fantastic to meet her.
Please send me all of your positive and creative energy. I'll need it these next few weeks!
During a snorkel off the coast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, I had a big "teachable moment" with my daughters who are six and four years old. We were snorkeling right off the beach at our resort and had the magical experience of swimming alongside four sea turtles completely wild in the open ocean. My kids shrieked with joy and excitement as we watched these beautiful animals glide through the water, pop their heads up to the surface for air, dive back down to feed on the algae and seaweed underwater. The girls were completely in awe, as was I. And then we saw plastic bags floating in the distance near one of the turtles. The girls immediately shrieked for a different reason, they knew we needed to get the bags out of the water and away from the turtles right away. The turtles think the bags are jellyfish and mistakenly eat them. So, we quickly swam over to remove the plastic bags from the ocean and were on the lookout the rest of the snorkel for anymore trash that needed removing from the ocean.
The girls were very proud of themselves for helping save the turtles and they saw an immediate affect that they had on those four sea turtles. They learned that even though they are small and young, they can make a big difference in the world.
The girls had an incredibly fun time in Punta Cana with our family: they participated in trapeze lessons, Zumba, putt putt, tennis lessons, swimming a ton in the ocean, pools, and kids water parks. When we asked them what their favorite part of vacation was, both of their answers were, "saving the turtles."
It's so important for kids to understand at a young age that they can make a difference. We are so proud of our girls for caring so much about our planet already.
It's so special to me since this is the subject of one of the books I have written and I am on my to getting it published. It's incredible to see the impact that this message has had on my own children already and I can't wait to see where it takes us!
Thanks for following along.
Ok, so I've written and polished three stories. That's a HUGE accomplishment on its own... but now I have another big goal ahead of me, to be published. I have to begin what is called the "querying" process. This is another concept I had no idea about... but have learned quickly that it will take time and a lot of thick skin! I say thick skin because apparently, I am going to get a lot of "NO's" and that is something that I just will have to get over. I am leaving my pride at the door, I actually left it there a long time ago, and I am pursuing this next goal with excitement. I am also working on my 4th story and will continue to write and query until someone picks me up.
So, where am I now in this process? I have spent the past 3 weeks researching agents and publishing houses tirelessly to see who would be a good match for me. There are manuscript wish lists for agents and some publishing houses post what they are looking for as well. Not all publishing houses accept un-agented submissions, but some do! Everyone has told me it won't be easy and that it takes time. That couldn't be more true! I have found matches that I personally think are perfect for my story and their publishing house, but who knows what they will think! Time will tell. Some agents and publishing houses don't reply to queries ever. Some take up to 6 months, from my experience, I'd say most ask for about 8-12 weeks to reply.
I'm already well on my way. I have received my first few "no thank you's, your story doesn't match what I'm looking for right now". The first ones were more exciting to actually hear from someone! The next few stung a little as the "no's" are flowing in. But, all it takes is one YES, and I know I'll get there. If there is one thing I've learned in life, just because one person or a few people say no, it will not deter me from my goal. I know my stories are good and will make children and families laugh together, help spread environmental awareness about plastics in the ocean, and bring joy to homes and classrooms. Rosie taught me to have 5-7 queries out to agents and publishers for each story at a time, this is a lot to manage, but I currently have about 40 queries out there. That is the magic number I will work with until I get that yes.
Thanks for the encouragement and following along for the ride... I always get my strength and determination from the ocean and salt air... so I'm thrilled we are headed to the Dominican Republic tomorrow. Send me all the positive vibes, please! Cheers y'all!
It all started back a long time ago really. It was a lot of years of "Can I do this" and "I want to do this one day" and "I know I could be great" ... but what actually pushed me to learn HOW to do this was an incredible community of writers led by an incredible author and mentor Rosie Pova. I had NO idea what I was getting myself into when I joined an 8-week class with Rosie along with a 3-month mentorship. All I knew is that I was going for it. In the middle of an ongoing pandemic, what better time to finally bite the bullet and just FOCUS ON ME and MY GOALS?!
So, I found out pretty quickly that I knew next to nothing about writing children's picture books ... or the publishing industry, AT ALL! The 8 week: Children's Picture Books from Creation to Publication class started with weekly lessons. Each week touched on a different area that helped inspire new ideas and character development. Every week, no matter the lesson, Rosie had us reading reading reading, and reviewing. I was able to go to our local Barnes and Noble and spent so much time reading children's books in the cafe. It's important to know what is selling currently to know what publishers are looking for. So, I read and reviewed each week. I found new books that I love, new books that I know my children would love, and some books that I didn't really love!
I feel like the most important and helpful part of the course was the feedback from the other authors in the class. You could take it or leave it, but the peer critiques were such a fun part! I loved seeing their ideas and watching their own stories come to life each week. There were some hard weeks in the class though. I did have trouble pushing myself to write in prose. I tend to write and think in rhyme and I really struggled at first to just get the first draft down on paper. Once I sat down uninterrupted I forced myself to put the pen to the paper and just start writing. It got easier as time went on...
Overall, I found it an unbelievably helpful first step in my career as an author. We will see how I use the tools I learned in the course independently without my peers giving me their feedback! If it doesn't go well, you can definitely bet that I will be back in another writing class as soon as possible! Thank you so much to Rosie and Writing Workshops for providing such a jumpstart for me!
The next step in my journey is the querying process... stay tuned! Thanks for reading!
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.