So, Catherine and I went to our first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators event today. It was a class entitled “I’d Like to Make a Picture Book. Now What?” It was taught by a well-known local author and illustrator, Mark Fearing. He talked about trends in picture books, elements a book should have to be both marketable to publishers, and interesting to readers. In many ways, our book does a good job of all of the things he was talking about, save for the fact that we are an illustrator and author working together on our own, apparently frowned upon in the publishing world. I found the class helpful, if not just a bit discouraging. I know that we’re going about this in an unconventional way – that self-publishing is not the most direct route to take, but I secretly hoped he would tell me it would be easier than I thought. He wasn’t really discouraging, but he didn’t say “Oh, this doesn’t apply to you, of course,” the way I wanted him to.
I was sad for a second, and then I thought, I don’t care. I don’t care if it gets picked up by a publisher, if we don’t get 500 pre-sale orders (though I am totally open to either of those things happening), if it’s not on Oprah’s book club list (unless she’s got one for preschoolers, it definitely won’t make it there). Easier is often not better. I know from experience to go with my gut instinct, and to push through even (or especially) when something feels really scary. Whatever the outcome is, I know that it will not be a waste of time. I know that we’ve made something special, and that in the end, it will have been worth doing.
It was great to hear Mark’s story – how he followed a meandering path to get into children’s literature – and to learn a little bit more about an industry still brand new to me. I have so much to learn, but my level of excitement tells me I’m on the right track.