This is Ana Crespo's official blog.

I don't blog often. Most of what is going on in my career can be found through my official FB page and official Twitter account. But, every once in a while you will find something interesting in here. For more information about me and my work, visit my official website. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How I Got a Book Deal (part 2)

(Read part 1 first.)

So, as I said, I signed up for the individual critique session and picture book writing workshop of the RMC-SCBWI 2013 Annual Conference. Signing up for them was probably the best decision I could have made for the advancement of my desired career as a children’s book author. Obviously, there was a great amount of luck involved as well.

If you have ever attended some of these conferences and registered for some of these opportunities, you know that there are quite a few people offering critiques. Usually, there are agents, editors, and other writers. You don’t get to choose who will critique your work, although you may ask for a certain someone and hope your wish will come true. Mine did.

I was hoping to have an agent or an editor review my work. At that point in my career pursuit, I did not want an author. I felt I needed to hear the “sorry, this is not for you” or the “you might actually have a chance” from someone who is making the decisions. The agent who would be offering critiques at the time (it later changed) had already seen my work, so I asked for and hoped I would be paired with Kelly Barrales-Saylor, the Editorial Director at Albert Whitman & Company. And I was!

Now, if you are lucky to have an individual critique session with an editor, you should be better prepared than I was. As I sat down, bracing myself for the worst, she mentioned my work was interesting and asked how I came up with the idea for THE SOCK THIEF. Blank. I did not know how to answer the question. Seriously!? How I came up with an idea is a pretty simple question. Ask me now and I can answer it, but at the time I was too nervous. 

Noticing I had nothing to say, she started the critique. It was a great critique, very much to the point - showing the weak aspects of the story, suggesting changes, asking appropriate questions. And I jumped in! I came up with solutions on the spot to solve some of the issues. It was a great experience. 

During the picture book writing workshop, also presented by Kelly,16 participants shared manuscripts and listened to the editor's comments and those of other participants. I don’t know what it was, but her comments – about my manuscript and others – really opened my eyes to the importance of a productive partnership between text and illustration.

Before, I felt like I had to explain everything in my text. It turned out that my stories were packed with details and there was hardly anything left for the illustration to add to the plot. That workshop gave me a new perspective and completely changed my point of view.  Now, I feel I found a voice, although it can always be improved.

Needless to say, I left the conference hopeful. At home, I worked hard on THE SOCK THIEF manuscript. I changed the order of the story, added more fun to certain parts of the manuscript, and cut a whole lot of the descriptive parts. THE SOCK THIEF (about a creative Brazilian boy who needs a soccer ball, but can’t afford one) was 270 words shorter and a whole lot better.

On October 8, 2013, just a week after the conference, I wrote the best query letter I have ever written. It highlighted the changes I made to the manuscript, showing I had followed her advice. The description of the book was amazingly succinct (I have such a hard time with those!) and intriguing. I really felt good about it. Then, the response came – just two days later – that she liked it and would be presenting it to their acquisitions board. And the wait started. 

On November 1, I received an e-mail saying they were interested and, ten days later, came the offer memo. I had lots of questions before I accepted the offer. The contract came in January and, again, I had lots of questions before signing it.

THE SOCK THIEF (tentative title) is due to come out in the spring of 2015, through Albert Whitman & Company. Now, that the legal issues are out of the way, the fun part starts – the actual development of a book. And I just can’t wait!

Visit Albert Whitman & Company's website and "like" their Facebook page for the latest information about their publications.

2 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Ana! I love the suspense you built with the 2 part blog. I've had the question 'Where did you get the idea?" in an SCBWI crit with an editor too. And I reacted pretty much the same way you did. I'll be prepared next time (and then no one will ask me!). Can't wait to see your book in print.

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    1. Thanks, Dana! I think one of the funny things is that editors are younger and younger everyday (certainly younger than I am) and I still feel so much like a child facing a teacher in situations like that... I agree with you - the question will never again be asked, but we will always be prepared!

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