Madeleine L’Engle says,
“When I tell my stories, I may be alone at my computer, but storytelling is always an act of community.”
The writing community–and in particular, the kid lit community–is truly one of my favorite things. The folks who write for kids, who dedicate themselves to countless hours alone, doing the hard work of storytelling, are some of the greatest, most generous people I’ve ever met. I love hearing from fellow writers, and love connecting via social media and email.
And, of course, I love supporting other writers along the journey! Without the generosity and encouragement of many, many writers along the way–those farther along the publication road, those right beside me, and those just enjoying the view–I know I wouldn’t be where I am today. However, because my schedule is busy going on busier, I’m not always able to offer feedback on manuscripts or comprehensive advice on finding an agent or getting published. (I wish I could, though!)
Since I can’t give the individual time I’d like, I gathered some of the great resources that I used during my early days of seeking feedback, finding an agent, and navigating the tempestuous sea of publication. Hopefully these will be useful for you as well!
Finding a writing community is one of the best things you can do for your career–and sanity! Here are some of the communities I’ve used and loved. (Please note, these are mostly kid lit specific. But I guarantee there are groups, associations, and online tribes for any and every genre!)
SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) – Especially for kid lit creators, this international association is a goldmine of resources, encouragement, events, and learning. There are local chapters as well as the larger association, and it is, in my opinion, definitely worth the membership fee!
Write On Con – This awesome online kid lit conference happens once a year, usually in February, and is outstanding AND affordable! (Very, very affordable.) You can get your work in front of agents and editors, network with other writers, learn amazing craft skills, and have fun–all while wearing your pajamas.
NaNoWriMo – This one is for all writers, not just kid lit. It’s a great community of people around the world who band together and commit to writing a novel in a month. You get pep talks from incredible authors, support, forums, and lots of cheerleading. Not to mention cool swag!
Young Inklings – This is a great resource for kids and teens who are interested in writing. Young folks can be mentored by authors, and even get their work published and bound! It’s very cool.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media for building community, too! Yes, there are definitely pitfalls and time sucks associated with social media. But if you can learn to manage your time and make intentional, invested connections, the payoff can be huge. Here are some useful hashtags to keep an eye on. (Note: this is by no means comprehensive, and I’m sure it will be outdated the second I publish it. But it’s a place to start!)
I’m no longer active on Facebook, so I am woefully out of touch with what the cool kids do here. But I know there are groups for kid lit writers, especially female kid lit writers, that can be found. In fact, I found both of my wonderful critique partners through the FB group Binder Full of YA Writers. I believe there is a Binder Full of MG Writers, too. You’ll have to do some digging on your own for these, though! Sorry!
Useful Websites for Writers
There are roughly a bajillion websites that offer advice on craft for writers, so this is a VERY short list, and is strictly websites I have actually referenced.
Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my favorites, and her blog posts on craft are PURE GOLD. I reference her posts on revisions a lot in particular. Here is her website. Enjoy.
Likewise, Margaret Atwood has some great resources listed on her site.
Finding an Agent
People ask me advice on finding an agent all the time. I’m flattered you think I have all the answers! Ha! But the truth is, the only trick to finding an agent is this: hard work and persistence.
Not only do you need to write a really outstanding manuscript, you then need to do the equally difficult task of researching tons of agents, reading interviews, reviewing their manuscript wishlists and submission guidelines, crafting a stellar query letter, and overcoming your anxiety about sending your work out and (definitely) facing rejections.
Here are a few sites that helped me as I was researching agents and preparing my query.
Query Tracker – This wildly useful site allows you to search agents, see their client lists, understand their preferences, and even gives you (for a membership fee) insights into their average response times, the number of queries they receive, etc.
Query Shark – Crafting a query letter is hard. Sometimes, it even feels harder than writing the book itself. Query Shark is a seemingly endless supply of query letter samples, complete with what works, what doesn’t. You can even submit your own query for critique. But watch out–this shark bites. (But only in the name of helping you do your best work!)
Manuscript Wishlist – Agents and editors post their deepest manuscript longings. That’s right. You get to know exactly what your dream agent is looking for–straight from the lips (err, fingertips) of your dream agent!
Publisher’s Marketplace – For $25 a month, you can have a pretty comprehensive insider’s view of the publishing landscape. This site publishes all deal announcements, so you can see what agents have sold, get an idea for the types of books editors buy, see some clues as to the size of the deals made (though this is a very allusive topic), and see rankings for editors, agents, and publishers in any genre. It’s incredibly useful when you’re in the final stages of nailing down a list of agents to query.
Things I Haven’t Tried But Hear Are Great
As mentioned, there are a bajillion sites out there to help writers. Which means I can’t possibly list them all–or try them all. So here are some things I have never been involved with, but I hear are very useful. Do with them what you will.
I know the process of finding an agent and/or deciding what publishing route to take can be overwhelming. But hang in there! You’ve got stories to tell–otherwise, you definitely wouldn’t have read this far. 🙂 Fight for your dreams! (Trust me, sometimes the hardest fight is against your own insecurity/laziness/fear. BUT YOU GOT THIS.) Good luck!