She started submitting novels to publishers in 1983 and had her first novel published by a mainstream publisher six months ago. Jean Mills the author of a novel for young adults called Skating Over Thin Ice talked to us about her journey to become a published novelist at the recent Packaging Your Imagination Conference in Toronto. She was part of a panel of newly published authors who told us how they broke into the very competitive world of books for children and teen audiences.
Although Jean had self-published three of her young adult novels on her own and had two others published by an education company, Skating Over Thin Ice was the first to be accepted by a mainstream publisher. Publishers often told her, “Your work deserves to be published,” but they didn’t want to publish it. Jean never gave up. She kept on doing all kinds of writing, building up her writing credentials and making contacts in the writing world to help her get her foot in the door. Jean said she almost quit many times but supportive friends kept her going. She told us to keep our dreams of being published always in our sights, to never stop writing, to attend professional events and workshops and to treat ourselves as professional writers even if we are unpublished. You can read the full story of Jean’s thirty-five year writing journey here.
S.K. Ali whose first novel Saints and Misfits was published by Simon and Shuster in 2017 decided in 2006 that she wanted to write a novel. For the next ten years she worked on her book about an American Muslim teenage girl coping with all kinds of real world issues. She even started a blog where she wrote posts in the voice of her main character so she could get to know her better.
A school teacher with a family of her own S.K. went faithfully to a coffee shop every Wednesday after work to write. She admitted sometimes she was so tired she fell asleep at the coffee shop but she always showed up. She treated writing her novel as a job that required her committment.
She had critique partners who helped her shape her novel Saints and Misfits and had young teens both Muslim and non-Muslim read her manuscript and give her feedback. She determined which large American companies she wanted to have publish her book and devoted more than a year to finding just the right agent to represent her doing research on each one, creating spreadsheets and figuring out the best way to approach each one. She worked on her query letter for another year, making sure it had all the right elements, getting help from websites that specialize in query letters. She relentlessly researched the publishing world for teen novels looking at publishing trends and figuring out exactly when the right time might be for a manuscript like hers.
Both these women persisted. They worked incredibly hard. The fact they both had books published isn’t because of a miracle. It is because of their dedication, their belief in themselves and their relentless pursuit of their dreams.
Do I have that kind of persistence? I’m not sure.
Other posts. ………