Hello and welcome back, dear KidLit Oasis Readers!
My guest today is my friend, critique partner, and agent-sister, Author Annemarie Riley Guertin! It's a pleasure to celebrate her newest book realese and I can't wait to share it with you! I'm also excited about our chat because Annemarie brings a very different perspective with her publishing experience, as she had a very interesting road to success. Her breakthrough was amazing as you're about to find out.
Her journey to publication can be described as fast and fabulous, which is not what we usually hear in this business, but she did it! So let's dig in and see how she made it into children's publishing!
Plus, Annemarie is generously offering a choice of either a non-rhyming picture book critique or a copy of her new picture book, ABC Rise Up and Be! to one lucky winner. (See the details on how to enter the giveaway after the interview.)
Welcome, Annemarie! Thank you for joining us on the blog. Please briefly describe your journey to publication.
A: Thanks for having me! My road to publication began in April 2016 when I decided to write my first-ever children's book. Little did I know that my attempt would quickly become my first published work. I was teaching first grade at the time, and I was having a bit of difficulty finding lesser-known folktales to read aloud to my students. Every time I pulled out a book, I was met with, "We read that last year." So, in my quest to find new material, I poured over anthologies from the early 1900s that contained dozens of folktales and fairytales (my aunt handed down her collection to me). As I was thumbing through them, I came across the original version of How the Finch Got Her Colors and decided to put my spin on it. That was how my book How the Finch Got His Colors was born.
After I wrote it, I joined SCBWI, and that is where I met my dear friend Sarah who graciously mentored me through the whole publishing process. Sarah helped me edit Finch, craft my query letter and marketing plan, and get everything ready for submission.
After everything was set, I began to research houses that were open to unsolicited manuscripts (I did not have an agent at the time). I scoured the internet and the SCBWI PAL list and wrote down all the publishers I felt would be a good fit for my story. I started out small by sending Finch to just six houses. I wanted to see the kind of feedback I would receive before subbing more widely. To my surprise, by June 16th, just two months after I subbed it, I received four offers of publication! Since I did not have an agent at the time, I hired a lawyer to go through each contract with me. We ended up signing with Familius, and the rest is history! My story is not the norm―lightning in a bottle, really. I know that people spend many years in the trenches. I feel really blessed.
Yes, my first shot was a lucky one. I know that. But that’s not to say my path has not had its challenges, too. I have had my fair share of rejections. I have had my first agent quit the business. I have made it all the way to acquisitions several times, only to be turned down at the last minute. But you can't let the bumps along the way deter you. If we choose to give up and not persevere, our books will never make it out there. So, keep on striving. The world needs to hear your story.
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: The most challenging thing about this business is the wait time. It can take months (up to a year) to hear back on a submission you’ve made. I think the other thing about this business that can be a challenge is when you don’t hear back at all. That can be disheartening.
The flip side to this question is the reward that you get when you do hear that YES. There is nothing like knowing that your written word will be out in the world, touching the hearts and minds of young children. It’s a pretty amazing feeling, and that is what keeps me motivated. It never gets old.
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: This may sound very basic, but when I used to teach writing (former elementary teacher), I always had my students fill out a story map prior to crafting their stories. The story map is a simple sheet of paper where one plans out the characters, setting, problem, plot events, and resolution parts of a story. I have a similar template on my computer and use that to jot notes for each picture book. Once I have that set, I begin to craft my story. I will say, though, even with that structure in place, my writing doesn’t always go according to plan. This is why it’s crucial to have critique partners. Sometimes I get so focused on creating a solid beginning and ending that my plot falls entirely flat. My critique partners are vital in helping me to identify the weak spots in my story and tighten them up.
In terms of the revision process, sometimes it is easy―a tweak here or there, and sometimes it’s a beast. I have one story sitting in my WIP box that has been there for almost two years! I just can’t seem to get it right, and that’s ok. It will happen when the time is right. With stories that work off the bat, I take notes from my critique partners, agent, editor, etc., and let their words soak in. If they resonate, I make the necessary changes. It really depends on the feedback that I receive.
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: I have so many forthcoming projects. I have 6 books releasing in the next 3 years, and I hope even more than that!
1. Thundermaestro (Familius, Spring 2022)
2. Finding Mr. Trunks (Familius, Fall 2022)
3. A deal that I can’t announce just yet… LOL (Coming Summer 2022)
4. 123 Counting on Community (Familius, 2023)
5. Monsters Hide and Seek (Familius, 2024)
6. Turn on the Night (Hurn Pub Kids, 2024)
And many more projects in various stages in publishing.
Wow! Congratulations on all your success, Annemarie, I'm so happy for you and glad that we're on this journey together! I can't wait for all of your upcoming books, and I know there will be many, many more!
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Click on the book cover to order your copy of ABC Rise Up and Be!
Annemarie Riley Guertin is a wife, mother, teacher, and author of several books for children. As a middle child, she found her love for writing very early on, crafting everything from notes about running away to poetry. It wasn't until 2016 that she began her career as a professional children's writer. Annemarie holds both a bachelor's and master's degree in education (summa cum laude) from Wheelock College and Fitchburg State University. She teaches Early Childhood Education at Methuen High School in Massachusetts, where she lives with her husband Michael and their two children.
G I V E A W A Y! ! !
Leave a comment on this post to be entered in the giveaway for a chance to win your choice of a picture book critique or a copy of Annemarie's new book.
(Please indicate your preference in the comment.) Good luck!
Sharon Coffey wins a copy of ABC Rise Up and Be!
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.