Week of July 15, 2012: How I Got My First Picture Book Deal
Monday, July 16: Aimee Reid—A Swimming Pool and an Agent
Little Grey—Summer 2013
There are many moments I remember along my path to publishing my first picture book.
Setting: my daughter's room
She says, “Mommy, when I grow up and you grow down . . .” She went on to describe her plans for us should our roles be reversed. This could be the premise for a picture book, I thought.
Setting: SCBWI Canada East Retreat in Golden Lake, Ontario
Time: Fall 2010
I attend my first SCBWI event and read aloud a rhymed manuscript for a picture book based on my daughter's bedtime words. Emboldened by kind comments, I begin to submit to publishers. Although the piece garners praise, it does not sell.
Setting: My room at the Hyatt Century Plaza in Los Angeles, California
Time: August 2011, One day before the Summer SCBWI Conference begins
I wake up with a new story—a twist on the earlier, rhymed version—fairly writing itself in my head. I grab for paper and a pen and scribble down words until the rush of ideas slows. Now the book is a conversation between a mama and her child. I sense they are animals, but what kind?
Setting: The pool at the Hyatt Century Plaza in Los Angeles, California
Time: The same morning as above!
As my fingers flutter through the water, I am hit by a realization: the characters are elephants! I race back to my room to write and write and write.
Setting: Patio outside the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, California
Time: Monday of the Summer 2011 SCBWI Conference in LA
Rob Sanders and I chat over lunch after meeting each other in Leonard Marcus’ intensive on writing non-narrative picture books. “There’s a conference in Miami in January,” he says. “We always have good picture book tracks.” I look around at the palm trees. I think of sleet and snow. This Canadian girl is interested. “Miami in January?” I answer. “Now you’re talkin’ my language.”
Setting: Pool at the Sheraton in Miami, Florida
Time: After the SCBWI Florida Winter Conference, January 2012
I am swimming. Once again, the water is rippling through my fingers as I review the fantastic conference. Jill Corcoran, agent extraordinaire, walks onto the patio. She's waiting for her plane. We get to talking, and she asks about the critiques I had.
Jill realizes I may be the writer whom an editor had mentioned. She asks to see my manuscript. I retrieve it from my room, and over dinner Jill offers representation. (Read Jill’s version of the event here: http://jillcorcoran.blogspot.ca/search?q=aimee+reid.)
Setting: My home office
Time: Two months after meeting Jill
An email appears in my inbox with a little red exclamation mark beside it: “OFFER FROM RANDOM HOUSE!!!” And so begins my relationship with my incredible editor, Jennifer Arena, of Random House.
Meditation on the Moments:
When Rob asked me to write this piece, I realized there was a great deal to this story but most of it doesn’t have the driving action you might be hoping for. In truth, these moments are highlights in a long stretch of keyboard-typing and staring-out-the-window-brainstorming time. My story unfolded slowly as I steadily learned my craft.
I think even this condensed version of my path to my first picture book contract offers some wisdom, though—besides swim in the pool at SCBWI events!
First, go to SCBWI events. Connect with talented and generous people like Rob Sanders. Learn. Listen. Revise. Write more.
Second, you never know where inspiration will tap on your shoulder, and it can happen in the most ordinary or unlikely places.
Third, you never know when the next friendly face will belong to someone who loves your work and has the power to publish it.
Finally, you can’t plot for the turning points. You can’t will the high points into existence. But you can be ready. You can read. You can connect. You can write and rewrite. You can show up for all the moments in between. They are what make the highlight moments sparkle like the water in a sunlit pool!