Happy Tuesday, everyone!
This week, my guest on KidLit Oasis is author and illustrator Amanda Davis, and I can't wait to hear more about her journey as a writer that led to the release of her debut, 30,000 STITCHES. Plus, a chance for you to win a copy of the book!
Welcome, Amanda! Thank you for joining us on the blog. Please briefly describe your journey to publication.
A: Hi Rosie, thanks so much for having me on the blog! I’m excited to be here to celebrate 30,000 STITCHES together! My love for art and writing stems back to my childhood. My father passed away when I was twelve, and I turned to art and writing to cope and process my emotions. This is what led me to teach art and later write and illustrate children’s books. I want to show kids the power in our stories-whether through writing, reading or visual art. In 2012, I took a continuing education course at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston called, Illustrating Children’s Books, with illustrator, Ilse Plume. This course was eye opening for me and kick-started my career in kidlit. I realized that children’s books combine all three of my passions: art, writing, and stories. After completing that course, I dove headfirst into the craft of writing and illustrating for children (while balancing my job as a full-time high school teacher). I joined SCBWI, 12x12, and found a local and online critique group. I tried to soak in all the knowledge I could about the kidlit industry. I began to query literary agents and editors with a few of my stories. Looking back, I probably queried those stories too early, but hey, that’s part of the learning process. The story that finally landed me an agent and later a deal is my debut creative nonfiction picture book titled 30,000 STITCHES: THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE NATIONAL 9/11 FLAG, illustrated by the amazing Sally Wern Comport and due out with WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group on May 4th.
I first learned about the story back in 2011 when I facilitated an art lesson around the story of the flag with my art students for the tenth remembrance of 9/11. The story lingered in my head, but needed time to flourish. Later, after visiting the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in 2014 and being overcome with emotion at the artifacts and the stories, it was a reminder of the importance of telling this story of the flag.So, I decided to try my hand at crafting a manuscript for it. I have a background in journalism, so it was a delight getting to research and interview primary sources for the story. From the Ground Zero Superintendent to Flag Tour Staff, the people who I spoke to about the flag, were incredible. Once I had the story polished up, which was many months later, I began to query agents and editors. The process of landing an agent and book deal was filled with ups and downs. I had many passes along the way but most were positive and many had personalized feedback, so I knew I was on the right track. I even got a few requests to revise and resubmit. I submitted to WorthyKids by snail mail through the slush pile and after many months of not hearing back, I took that as a pass.
I continued to query the story and later, connected with agent, Melissa Richeson who signed me for the project. Seven months later, an assistant editor from WorthyKids contacted me to ask if the story was still available. Of course, I said a big and enthusiastic YES, connected her with Melissa. The rest is history!
Long story short, it took me about nine years to get my first picture book traditionally published! It can be a long and winding road to get there, but if you keep pressing ahead, you are bound to meet your destination.
Q: What do you find most challenging in this business, either on the creative or publishing side of things? What do you find most rewarding? What helps you stay motivated?
A: Oooh, good question! There are many, ha! I think one of the biggest and most consistent challenges has been getting varying feedback from agents and editors when querying them with my stories-especially with nonfiction. As with any art, writing and illustrating are subjective. Each agent or editor has particular tastes and will have different opinions on how to make your story stronger (or you get little feedback at all). For example, when querying 30,000 STITCHES, some agents and editors wanted to see more of the factual information from the back matter directly in the text while others wanted to keep it more sparse. It’s hard to wade through these reactions and know exactly what to do. I remember putting so much pressure on myself to get the revisions right and thinking “this is my one chance!” In the end, many of those revisions didn’t end up landing me a deal but did lead me to a version of the story that sold to WorthyKids. I think so much of what we do as creators is about taking risks, following our gut, crossing our fingers, and hoping for the best. On the business side of things, often times there are many factors that are out of our control, which can be also frustrating. For example, maybe a particular editor just recently acquired a similar story so they pass on yours, or perhaps their profit and loss statement doesn’t fall in your favor, or maybe they’re looking for very specific stories to balance out theirtheir list. Each of these scenarios has happened to me. So, with so many unknowns, all we can do is keep writing, revising, and lean into our critique groups and, loved ones for support. We must continue to remind ourselves to find the joy in creating and know that the more stories we write and illustrate, the better our chances will be that one will resonate strongly with an agent or editor. Most importantly, children need our stories. And, for me, if positive thinking and self-talk aren’t doing the trick, I turn to my rescue pup, Cora for comfort. She’s always willing to lend a listening ear. :)
Q: Could you share any craft tools or techniques that you find most helpful to you when working on a project? What does your revision process look like?
A: My revision process for my writing is much like my revision process for my art. Many versions, and much research. My first drafts for my writing are like my rough sketches for my illustrations-loose and organic. As I get feedback, I begin to revise and the images and words get more refined. I thought it might be fun to take a look at revision from the illustration side so I included a few examples from the illustrations I recently did for The Writer’s Loft, Friends and Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children anthology. Before even putting pencil to paper, I had to do a lot of research on the creatures of the deep sea such as, vampire squids, angler fish, and sea pens. Finally, once I had a solid idea of what the creatures looked like, I put pencil to paper and completed a rough sketch. Same thing for my narwhal illustration. You can see the different versions and how the images evolved. With the narwhal illustration, the original poem started off sad but then the author was asked by the editors to brighten the mood, which in turn shifted my dark and dreary illustration. I had to flex and mold my image to fit the cheery new poem, which meant a brighter color palette to create a joyful mood and revising the expressions and positioning of the narwhal characters. When writing, my revision process tends to be the same, it’s important to stay open and loose with first drafts, not get too attached to any version, and of course, leave room for the illustrations.
Q: What's coming up for you next? Please tell us about any new releases, exciting news, upcoming events or anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
A: Yes! Tonight is my first launch event at The Silver Unicorn Bookstore! I’m super pumped to be in conversation with members of the flag tour staff as we discuss their role with the flag and reflect on the upcoming 20th remembrance of 9/11.
You can register for the event HERE! If you register, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a five-pack of lovely notecards featuring art by Sally Wern Comport from the book. The winner will be announced at the end of the event and must be in attendance to win. I hope you all can join us!!
30,000 STITCHES celebrations continue throughout the month! The complete schedule can be found HERE or see below for the full list. Allevents are virtual, FREE and open to all! Follow along my virtual blog tour for more giveaways and interviews as well! It’s been such a blast chatting with you, Rosie. Thanks again for having me, and best of luck on your own creative projects!! Cheers!
G I V E A W A Y! ! !
Amanda is offering a copy of 30,000 STITCHES to one lucky winner who leaves a comment on this post!
(Social media shares are encouraged and greatly appreciated, too.)
Connect with Amanda Davis:
Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness. Amanda is the author of 30,000 STITCHES: THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE NATIONAL 9/11 FLAG and has poetry and illustrations featured in The Writers’ Loft Anthology, FRIENDS AND ANEMONES: OCEAN POEMS FOR CHILDREN. When she’s not busy creating, you can find her sipping tea, petting dogs, and exploring the natural wonders of The Bay State with her partner and her rescue pup, Cora.
Pre-order a signed copy of 30,000 STITCHES HERE!
Penny Taub won a copy of Amanda's book.
About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a
award-winning children's author, speaker, and writing coach on a mission to inspire children not only to read and write more, but to use their creativity, follow their passions, dream big and believe in themselves.
Rosie visits schools and shares her inspirational journey as an immigrant from Bulgaria and how she became a published author, encouraging kids to persist, push through rejections, and hold a high vision for themselves.
Rosie's upcoming picture book, Sunday Rain, will be released in March 2021. It's a story that celebrates imagination, the love of books, and new friendships.
Check out her Critique Services here, her Workshops here, and her school visits page here.
Rosie is represented by Jessica Schmeilder of Golden Wheat Literary.