Hello, wonderful readers!
Welcome back to KidLit Oasis ― the place to refresh your spirits, recharge your creativity, and get a literary mood boost!
Now, stretch your smiles wide and get comfy and cozy, because today we have another awesome creative on the Chitchat series... children's author Karla Valenti is here to share some wisdom, insight, and inspiration with us! Plus, she's giving away a copy of her new book, Alan Turing and the Power of Curiosity to one lucky winner!
Welcome, Karla! Thank you for joining us on the blog. Please briefly describe your journey to publication.
KV: Brief does not describe my journey! :) Like many authors, I’ve been writing my whole life, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I was able to take my storytelling seriously. I began by learning everything I could about kidlit publishing and the craft of being a pro storyteller (by the way - two of the most valuable things I did in this regard were joining Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 challenge and becoming an SCBWI member).
Like everyone in this shared journey, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I queried and queried and queried. I was rejected and rejected and rejected (between us, I stopped counting after 500). So naturally, I fretted and despaired and dabbled with the thought of giving up.
And then this little boy showed up in the deepest recesses of my mind to tell me a story of such profound grief that it broke my heart. I had no choice but to sit down and write it. 40,000 words poured out into a MG novel that resulted in three agent offers (elation!). Most importantly though, I was back at my desk writing (which helped when the novel went out on submission and never actually sold).
Eventually (and for unrelated reasons) I parted ways with my agent. Even though I was (sort of) back where I had started, I had a lot more resilience, some important knowledge about the business of being an author, and the courage to put my heart onto a blank piece of paper.
Fast forward many years and I found out about a call for submissions hosted by a global science association looking to partner with an author to write a picture book about Marie Curie. I do not write non-fiction, and there were already many great biographies of Marie Curie.
However, I saw an opportunity to flex my creative muscles and in the process deliver a new perspective of what it means to be a scientist. The premise was simple: the book would not be a biography of Marie Curie, but rather a story about a trait, a skill, a super power she embodied and which played an important role in helping her succeed in life.
Drawing on select moments of Marie’s life, the story would highlight how she used that power (persistence!) in overcoming challenge after challenge—represented by her nemesis, a monster aptly named, Mr. Opposition—to ultimately reach her dreams.
I submitted the story to the science association, and to my great delight, they loved it! I began working with them on an Indiegogo campaign to fund the publication of the book. Before the month was over, we had far exceeded our fundraising goal and Sourcebooks had made us an offer for world rights to the story.
The whirlwind that followed was magical, and “Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence” came out in April 2020. We are now launching book two in the My Super Science Heroes series, this time with a focus on the power of curiosity. The brilliant Alan Turing is our hero, as we focus on select moments in his life that showcase his unfailing curiosity and how it helped him solve some of the most enigmatic challenges of his time (including battling his nemesis, Miss Enigma, who only speaks in code)!
My journey started over ten years ago, and so much of it has been heart-breaking and confidence-shattering. Fortunately, the kidlit community (all the authors and illustrators and storybook makers), is unparalleled in kindness, generosity, and support. Without them, I would never be where I am (I just sold my 7th book!).
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: Most challenging - being patient! Ugh, the worst.
Most rewarding -
1. Working with so many creative and inspiring people.
2.Reading all the beautiful stories coming into the world by so many creative and inspiring people.
1. My critique partners who are incredibly smart, supportive, and invaluable in helping me shape my ideas.
2. Illustrators. All of them. I’m especially grateful to Annalisa Beghelli, whose inspiring artwork graces the pages of the My Super Science Heroes series.
3. My amazing agent (shout out to Ammi-Joan Paquette!) who is a real pro and makes me feel like one too.
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: I tend to overthink all of my stories and also pepper them with darlings (so many darlings!). This makes revisions a nightmare. I have found that the very best thing I can do is fall in love with something new (i.e. write a new story) and put my current WIP away for six months (or more!). I have to put a ton of distance between me and the story in order to be able to see it with fresh eyes and be inspired by it once more.
It also helps that I write both picture books and novels. Jumping between genres is a great way to disconnect from whatever I’m working on and gain a fresh perspective.
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: My debut MG novel, LOTERIA (Knopf) comes out September 7, 2021. Set in Oaxaca, Mexico, this magical realist adventure follows a young girl who becomes an unwitting pawn in a high-stakes game of Lotería being played by Life and Death. If your readers are interested, the book is now available for pre-order on my site (and there’s a great interview by Mr. Schu!)
I also recently sold two new pictures books (which I first wrote in 2014). Moral of the story: keep writing, keep revising, stay in the game!
Thank you, Karla -- it was a pleasure chatting with you and learning more about your amazing journey! Wishing you many more successes and all the best with your books!
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G I V E A W A Y ! ! !
Comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of
Karla Valenti's book, Alan Turing and the Power of Curiosity
And the winner of the copy of Alan Turing and the Power of Curiosity is...
Author Karla Arenas Valenti writes stories for and about kids, taking readers on journeys seeped in magical realism and philosophical questions. Her storytelling is heavily influenced by her Mexican heritage and layered with ideas and concepts she’s picked up in her many travels around the world. She currently resides in the Chicagoland area with her husband and three kids, two cats, and hundreds of books. Karla writes picture books (she is the creator of the “My Super Science Heroes” series) and middle grade novels.
Connect with Karla Valenti
Twitter handle: @KV_Writes
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.