It's my dream to publish a children's picture book that gives a next-level understanding of Santa and the real reason for the Christmas season. To make it happen, I've been working day and (mostly) night to get up-to-speed on the kid lit publishing scene. We're talkin' kids down at 7:45 p.m., mommy's laptop open from 8 p.m. to midnight. (I have a very understanding husband.)
So when I saw that pro literary agent Marisa A. Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Literary Agency was leading the March 25th Kansas City Writing Workshop on "How to Get Published," I signed up and booked my flight without delay.
It was an awesome experience. I got to meet energized and committed aspiring authors, connect with published writers and hear about their upcoming projects, and chat with three literary agents about my book idea.
Here are the top 5 things that I took away from the day-long workshop:
- Know why you are writing: Marisa Corvisiero encouraged each workshop attendee to ask themselves a basic question: Why are you trying to get published? If the answer is to make money or become famous, that's not gonna do it. Your reason is everything. It is your constant call-to-action and source of inspiration. For me, writing has always been about uncovering truths, increasing understanding and finding magic. It's what lights me up and keeps me up at night working. Corvisiero suggested writing your reason down and posting it in your work space, as a constant reminder. Love this idea.
- Make yourself visible: If you want to grab the attention of an agent, you need to get yourself out there. It's not necessary to be everywhere, but some things are non-negotiable. A web presence and a Twitter or Facebook account are essential, Corvisiero said. In Create Your Writer Platform, the go-to book on platform for aspiring authors, leading industry voice Chuck Sambuchino says your website must be in your name. Corvisiero reiterated that at the workshop, adding that board positions are great to note in your query. These are the epitome of platform, as these posts allow you to reach an audience directly from a position of leadership and influence.
- Research, research, research: Which agents fit you and your work best? What are other authors in your lane doing to raise their profile? What groups are good to join to make connections and learn about the industry? "Use The Google," Corvisiero advised repeatedly (jokingly, but quite seriously) throughout the workshop. Immediately following the event, I used The Google to search for illustrators that align with my Christmas book vision. I further researched agents I met in person. I also learned more about the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators and became a member. And on and on and on. Pulling a single thread on Google uncovers invaluable resources, deepening knowledge click-by-click.
- There are rules, and they matter: Whether it's submission guidelines, query letters, synopsis summaries or story plotting, there are rules to be followed. Tried-and-true conventions and formulas aren't there to stifle creativity. They ensure that you connect with people and deliver on promises - to readers and to the people who can help you connect with them. I've always found great comfort in writing frameworks. Structure is your friend. Story and voice can never come through if you don't fashion your words professionally and purposefully.
- You need a plan: Corvisiero is a big proponent of charting a path forward. As a serious planner myself, this was music to my ears. When I look back to October 2016, when I finalized my picture book manuscript and started sending out queries, and then I fast-forward to today, I can see lots of progress toward my goal. This inspires me to keep at it. There's always more to do. Strategic next steps for me, following the workshop, are joining the 12x12 Challenge to pen 12 picture books in 12 months, and connecting with a Chicagoland critique group that focuses on kid lit. I can't wait to get going on these things and continue refining my craft.
So a huge thanks Marisa Corvisiero and to everyone who worked so hard to make the Kansas City Writing Workshop (#kcww) a great success. You pushed so many of us onward and upward. Thank you for the encouragement and amazing ideas!