writing tips

The Picture Book Journey: You Can’t Do it Alone

I don’t remember the exact date on which I began writing picture books, but I know it was after the birth of my first child in 2012. We read to him every day, and as I read, I thought: “I bet I could write a picture book, too.”

I wasn’t coming to creative writing completely out of nowhere. I had written novels and short stories as a teenager. I had a handful of poems published in literary journals during my college and early graduate school years. I had taken a college course on writing short fiction as an undergraduate, and I had read a book about writing for children from cover to cover.

So, I thought I had some clue what I was doing. But I could write a whole series about the things I DIDN’T know about creative writing in general and picture book writing in general.

For me, the biggest thing I didn’t know was that I needed a community. You cannot become a writer by yourself. You need critique partners. You need mentors. You need a cheer squad. In short, you need peeps! 

I had read enough about writing to know that everyone says you need a critique group, but I somehow thought that I was different. Like, I was a good enough writer that I could do it without a writing community. 

Ha ha ha ha ha! 

I sent my first query to an agent a little over five years ago, in November of 2013.  It’s only in the last year that I’ve ever had encouraging responses or revise-and-resubmit requests from agents or editors.  What changed? While I’ve grown in a lot, probably the biggest and most important change is that in the last year, I became part of a community of picture book writers.

So that’s my tip to anyone reading this blog who thinks “I’d like to write for children.” I bet you can! But it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take hard work. You’re going to have to learn  your craft. And you’re going to need to find your peeps.