Welcome back to KidLit Oasis, everyone!
I hope you all had a great summer and that you're excited about fall. I have so many fabulous guests lined up and giveaways planned for you, I cannot wait to spread all the excitement!
I am happy to be back as the new blog season is finally here, and we're kicking it off with a fun celebration. My guest, Author Henry Herz, is stopping by to talk about his latest picture book release, I AM SMOKE. Today is extra special, too, because it's the book's birthday! Hooray! Congratulations, Henry!
Okay, I can't wait to hear what Henry has to share with us and I'm ready to get the scoop on this book which is already making a splash.
So, let's get started...
Welcome, Henry Herz! Thank you for joining us on the blog. Please briefly describe your journey to publication.
A: Years ago, I wanted to share my love of fantasy with my young sons. They were too little for watching most of the fantasy movies. Struck by inspiration one day, I came up with a way to share the joy of entering the magical realms of fantasy. I would write a fantasy book for them. That decision had two unintended consequences.
First, I did not anticipate was that my boys would give me feedback on the story. They devised some of the character and creature names, and made plot line suggestions. And who better to help make the story appealing to kids than other kids? So, the goal of interesting my sons in fantasy transformed into also encouraging them to write.
Second, I discovered how much I loved writing for kids. We ended up self-publishing that book. I was hooked. I joined SCBWI, joined a critique group, and kept honing my writing until I sold my first picture book, MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES to a traditional publisher, Pelican. I kept at at and continue working on my writing skills. I AM SMOKE will be my tenth traditionally published picture book. In the last couple of years, I have written two middle-grade novels (on submission) and a number of adult short stories in the fantasy, science fiction, and even horror genres.
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: I suppose it's a tie between the pain of waiting and the agony of rejection. Those of you who are not authors may not be aware that authors endure a potentially soul-crushing amount of rejections. Even short stories and books eventually bought by a publisher may suffer multiple rejections from other publishers first. Authors must develop a thick skin and recognize that a rejection is not necessarily a critique of their writing. A publisher may decline a manuscript because they already have something like it, or the topic is not suitable for their current needs, or they don't feel there's sufficient market potential.
Waiting to hear back is another challenge of being a writer. Whether you're submitting directly to a publisher, or querying an agent, you can be facing a wait of weeks, months, or even years. Yes, I once got a rejection years later, after I'd already sold that manuscript (and a second one) to another publisher. Waiting is an unavoidable part of the game. The trick is to distract yourself by staying busy—write more stories or novels in the mean time.
As for what is most rewarding, it's a three-way tie—this time between the thrill of getting a signed contract from a publisher, seeing a illustrator bring my story to life, and receiving artwork drawn by young children inspired by my book. We don't do this for fame and fortune. We do this to bring smiles to kids' faces and to inspire them.
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: For writing novels, there are two resources I really find helpful. SAVE THE CAT WRITES A NOVEL by Jess Brody is a novel-centric adaptation of the screenplay-focused original, SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. Jess analyzed how the beats of successful novels are organized. Her book provides a template, a starting point, which was invaluable when I had never before written a novel. It helps you create an engaging story arc, with good pacing and tension.
Another excellent resource for writers is WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL HANDBOOK by Donald Maass. It asks the author a number of questions to help you flesh out and better understand your own characters.
My revision process is straightforward. I share my first draft with a critique group, consider their feedback, and update my manuscript based on which advice I choose to take. Once the manuscript has been run through the “meat grinder” of one or two critique groups, then I share it with beta readers to get their perspectives. Outside pairs of eyes are so valuable, because the author unavoidably has blinds spots. What is clear to us may not be obvious to most readers. What is funny to us may not work for readers. The process is akin to sculpting. We go over our manuscript again and again, striving to create an engaging story arc featuring characters who feel real and fully fleshed out. The dialog, thoughts, and actions of the characters as they face challenges and transform in a meaningful way must evoke emotion that drives the reader to keep turning pages.
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 creative nonfiction picture book from Tilbury House, I AM SMOKE, launched September 14, 2021. Upcoming events and book launches include:
-Moderating a DragonCon panel with actors from Netflix's Norsemen series.
-Launching my contemporary magical realism early chapter book, THE MAGIC SPATULA from Month9 Books.
-The middle-grade #ownvoices anthology from Albert Whitman & Co., COMING OF AGE: 13 B'NAI MITZVAH STORIES, will feature my sci-fi/humor short story, Bar Mitzvah on Planet Latke.
-The adult horror anthology from the Denver Horror Collective, THE JEWISH BOOK OF HORROR, will feature my short story, Demon Hunter Vashti.
-The young adult horror anthology from Blackstone Publishing, THE HITHERTO SECRET EXPERIMENTS OF MARIE CURIE, will feature my short story, Cheating Death.
-Highlights for Children has purchased two of my stories, but I don't know when those will come out. See topic of patience above.
Thank you so much, Henry -- it was a pleasure to have you as my guest! Best of luck on your journey, congrats again on all of your success, and I look forward to your future projects!
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I hope you enjoyed this interview — join in the celebration and leave us a comment. Social media shares are greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Connect with Henry Herz:
To purchase IAM SMOKE click on the book cover
Henry authored 11 traditionally published books for children: MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES, WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY, MABEL & THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH, CAP'N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW, HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS, ALICE'S MAGIC GARDEN, GOOD EGG AND BAD APPLE, 2 PIRATES + 1 ROBOT, THE MAGIC SPATULA, and I AM SMOKE.
Henry Herz authored over 25 traditionally published short stories, including for Daily Science Fiction, Blackstone Publishing, Albert Whitman & Co., Highlights for Children, and Ladybug Magazine. He edited three anthologies: BEYOND THE PALE, COMING OF AGE (Albert Whitman & Co., MG #ownvoices), and THE HITHERTO SECRET EXPERIMENTS OF MARIE CURIE (Blackstone Publishing, YA horror).
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 picture book, Sunday Rain, was featured in The New York Times and Parents magazine, and her upcoming one, The School of Failure: A Story About Success, will be released in May 2022 in the U.S. and China.
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.