Hello, fantastic readers!
Once again, welcome to the Oasis ― it's great to have you visit! This is 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 for a lovely chitchat because today we have another accomplished creative on the KidLit Oasis series... Children's Author, Editor, and Publisher, Alayne Kay Christian is here to share some wisdom, insight, and inspiration with us! Plus, check out the giveaway at the end of this interview.
Welcome, Alayne! Thank you for joining us on the blog. Please briefly describe your journey to publication.
A: Thank you for featuring me on your blog, Rosie. Wow! It would take an entire book to tell my whole journey story. It has been a long journey. I will do my best to be brief. At this point, I have several published books, so I will try to talk about my journey up to my most recent release An Old Man and His Penguin: How Dindim Made João Pereira de Souza an Honorary Penguin, illustrated by Milanka Reardon.
My journey to publication started with my first picture book, Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa, which was released in 2009. It won some awards and got great reviews, so I thought for sure, this kid lit writing thing was going to be a breeze. I was wrong. I spent the next several years taking children’s book writing courses, attending SCBWI conferences and workshops, and getting involved in the online writing community. In 2013, I was on top of the world when I signed with an agent (my choice out of three agent offers). I knew for sure that I was going to conquer the kid lit world now! Well, once again, I was wrong. In 2015, I parted ways with the agent. That set me back for a couple of years. I did very little submitting, but I continued to write, study children’s book writing, and work to grow my online presence. I also started a professional critique service and wrote an independent-study picture book writing course, Art of Arc. I also started working as a critique ninja for Julie Hedlund’s 12 X 12, which I did for three years.
In 2017, my chapter book series Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy was launched with Trying to Make it Rain. I continued to study children’s book writing and submit. In 2018, I helped my husband relaunch Blue Whale Press and became the acquisitions editor and creative director. I also spent a year going back and forth with an agent who I thought was going to sign me for sure. Once again, I was wrong. We even had what I thought was the call. But it turned out to be a “let you down easy” call. She loved one of my stories, but didn’t fully connect with the others I offered. That set me back for a while. But I had so much going on with Blue Whale Press and my other writing related work that I didn’t have time to fall into negative thinking. In 2019, I started offering affordable children’s writing webinars. But even with all of the above, I also continued to study, write, and submit. It took thirteen years of hard work, but more than anything, perseverance, to be able to share the following wonderful news. By 2021, I will have four published picture books and two chapter books. And I recently received a rewrite and resubmit request on a picture book that I feel really confident about.
I tried to include what I consider to be major parts of my journey to demonstrate that it’s not necessarily just about writing and submitting. It’s about learning, growing, and finding ways to apply your knowledge and creative energy when it sometimes feels as though all has failed. And like in the stories that we write, finding ways through our darkest moments will lead us to a satisfying ending.
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: On the business side, I would say the gatekeepers—those who decide to offer an agent or publishing contract—is a huge challenge. That is one reason I sometimes find it difficult to be an acquisitions editor. I understand what it’s like to be on the other end of that. So, related to the gatekeepers, which so often leads to disappointment and self-doubt, the biggest challenge is believing in yourself and your work when it seems no one else does. On the creative side, the biggest challenge is nurturing a creative spirit that gets trapped in negative emotions that stem from the business side. Negativity does not nourish the spirit.
The most rewarding thing for me in the business is helping other writers and illustrators. But on a personal level related to my own writing, the biggest rewards come from touching the hearts and minds of people of all ages with my books. On the creative side, the most rewarding is learning and growing and realizing how far I have come since I first dove into kid lit writing. Oh, and I love seeing my words come alive through illustrations. When that happens, I sometimes can’t believe I wrote the story because the art has enhanced it so much. Thanks to artists Milanka Reardon, Polina Gortman, Blake Marsee, and Brian Martin for working your magic!
I stay motivated by being in critique groups, having writer friends that I can ask for help and commiserate with, and allowing myself the space to take a break sometimes from writing and submitting. Sometimes, all it takes is spending time doing something else to find answers to my blocks on works in progress and to get new ideas flowing. At that point, I feel refreshed and motivated to get back to doing what I love—writing.
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: At this point, my writing and revising almost come automatically. I’m a pantser not a plotter, but over the years, I’ve learned the value of understanding arc and storytelling structures. I believe that studying picture books or chapter books (or whatever age group you write for) is one of the most valuable tools to a writer. But, what I found when I was first starting out was I was reading picture books like crazy—about fifty a week. Experienced authors, agents, editors etc. often advise writers to read, read, read. But for me, just reading didn’t do the trick. I initially thought I would learn by osmosis. It wasn’t until I learned the importance of a powerful beginning and hook, an engaging tension-building middle, a satisfying ending, an emotional core and all the storytelling elements that achieve all of the above that I was able to analyze published picture books and learn from them. It also helps me analyze books that have other storytelling structures. So, I would say, read books about story development, follow blogs that offer writing tips, do searches when you don’t understand something you hear or read about story structure, take courses if you can, and join a good critique group. As you gradually gain knowledge and use that knowledge to analyze mentor texts and your own work, you will gain even more knowledge.
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’m excited that Blue Whale Press became an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing on April 15, 2020. I believe there are lots more good things coming in the future.
My next picture book The Weed that Woke Christmas: The Mostly True Tale of the Toledo Christmas Weed, illustrated by Polina Gortman will be coming out in the early fall. It is the story of a small gesture that turned into a phenomenon that was seen around the world. Partly truth and partly fiction, it is based on the inspiring true story of how the Toledo Christmas Weed helped spread the giving spirit far beyond its traffic island home. All Weed wants is to be seen, but people are in too much of a hurry to notice each other, let alone Weed. Weed watches, wishes, and waits until finally someone does see it. With the help of a little girl and others, Weed discovers that there is something far bigger and more important than a little weed being noticed.
The next book in the Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy series, Cowboy Trouble, illustrated by Blake Marsee, will be coming out later this summer. In this book, Aunt Rose is getting married, and guess who she’s asked to be her flower girl. Sienna’s sadder than a coyote without a howl. “I’d look mighty silly in a dress. I’d trip over my own feet in them fancy shoes. And I ain’t much good at manners neither.” Ma signs Sienna up for cowgirl charm school where Sienna discovers she’s even worse at being elegant than she thought she’d be. To make matters worse, Billy Bob and his band of bullies see Sienna in her charm school clothes and raise a ruckus. Maybe Sienna can teach those cowboys a thing or two about manners and poise. But can she learn enough at charm school to walk down the aisle without embarrassing herself and Aunt Rose?
My fourth picture book Faith Beneath the Bridge will be brought into the world by Clear Fork Publishing in 2021. Homelessness can be harrowing for a young girl, but Faith dreams, a boy cares, a snowfriend listens, and together they make the kind of magic that only hope, kindness, and friendship can conjure.
I’m hoping to share news about my fifth picture book in the near future. When time allows, I will be working on creating more webinars, writing courses, and updating Art of Arc.
Thank you, Alayne! it was great having you as a guest and hearing from you, especially when you share insights coming from two very different perspectives since you've been, and still are, sitting on both sides of the table. Wearing many hats in this business certainly makes for an interesting conversation and I'm glad we're able to give our readers this special behind-the-scenes.
Dear readers, please support our featured authors/illustrators by following them on Twitter, requesting their book through your local library, posting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and of course, purchasing their books. Don't forget to support your local indie bookstores, too!
I hope you enjoyed this post — comments and shares are appreciated. Thank you!
Connect with Alayne Kay Christian:
Alayne Kay Christian is the acquisitions editor for Blue Whale Press and an award-winning children’s book author. She is the creator and teacher of a picture book writing course Art of Arc. In addition, she shares her knowledge with writers through free and affordable webinars at Writing for Children Webinars. She has been a picture book and chapter book critique professional since 2014, and she worked as a 12 X 12 critique ninja for three years. Alayne has spent the last thirteen years studying under some of the top names in children’s literature. Alayne’s focus at Blue Whale Press is content editing, creative direction, and working with authors and illustrators to coordinate the path to quality books.
G I V E A W A Y ! ! !
Comment on this post by midnight on Monday 6/22/20 for a chance to win a copy of An Old Man and His Penguin (US only please). Winner will be announced next week.
If you'd like to support my work, please pre-order a copy
of my upcoming picture book, Sunday Rain.
(This is the new book cover, but you may not see it updated online yet.)
And the winner is . . . Lisa Perron!!!
6/19/2020 05:05:09 pm
Wonderful interview Alayne! Love your comments about studying the craft and continuing to learn and grow. Congratulations on the the imprint and new book!
6/21/2020 06:38:14 pm
Thank you, Jackie!
6/21/2020 08:15:43 pm
Great interview! Thank you!
7/2/2020 05:38:45 pm
So glad you liked it, Rebecca.
6/21/2020 08:56:10 pm
You are on a roll Alayne! Faith Beneath the Bridge sounds amazing too. Congratulations on all your success!
7/2/2020 05:39:46 pm
Thank you so much, Nadine. And thank you for taking time to read the post.
6/21/2020 11:17:05 pm
Thanks for this great interview, Rosie and Alayne!
7/2/2020 05:40:39 pm
Thank you, Lisa.
6/22/2020 05:03:08 pm
What an interesting journey! I enjoyed reading this interview with Alayne and appreciate her insights and encouraging advise. Thank you!
7/2/2020 05:41:28 pm
I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Kathy.
6/22/2020 06:23:15 pm
I sure enjoy your blog Rosie! Thank you for inviting us to learn more about Alayne's journey to publication in kidlit!
6/23/2020 01:00:05 am
6/27/2020 02:18:25 pm
Wonderful interview. Honest and inspiring. A good reminder that perseverance pays off.
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About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a multi-published, award-winning children's author and kid lit Writing Coach. She's the creator of Picture Book Mastery System™ that is proven to help emerging children's writers advance their career and get closer to their publishing goals.
Rosie's latest picture book, Sunday Rain, was featured in The New York Times and recommended by Parents magazine. Her upcoming picture book, The School of Failure: A Story About Success will be released in the spring of 2022 in both China and the USA.
Rosie also loves to visit schools and her interactive workshops empower students to unleash their creativity and grow in confidence through reading, writing, and creating. Teachers and librarians love Rosie for her bubbly, upbeat personality which captures students' attention, encourages them to think creatively, and motivates them to pursue big dreams.
She has been featured on TV, radio, podcasts, and print media, and also speaks on women's and moms’ topics, sharing her journey from a Bulgarian immigrant to a published author.
Find out more about Rosie's online courses, mentorships, and her work by visiting her website: RosieJPova.com
Check out her Critique Services here, her Workshops here, and her school visits page here.
Rosie is represented by Jennifer Herrington of Harvey Klinger Literary.