How do you make a manuscript stand out in the slush pile? Can I choose my own illustrator? What are the red flags to avoid in a submission cover letter? At the Mazza Summer Conference aspiring children’s book writers had the opportunity to ask these questions and more of some of the industry’s top editors, agents, authors and illustrators. Led this summer by author Sherri Rinker and Melissa Cain, Ph.D., professor of education at the University of Findlay, the writing strand included a series of pullout sessions during the conference that are designed for people who are interested in writing for children.
Rinker, whose debut book Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site spent 214 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list, gave participants an inside look at the people and the process involved in publishing a picture book by scheduling Skype interviews with her colleagues in children’s book publishing. Melissa Manlove, an editor at Chronicle Books said that writers should study picture books, know their audience and have several stories written before submitting a manuscript to a publisher. Further, Lori Kilkelly, named one of 20 top children’s book literary agents this year by Publisher’s Marketplace, suggests having at least three submission-ready picture book texts.
“We’re looking for career writers,” said Kilkelly, “people who are dedicated to the craft and have done their research.” Many of the speakers and Rinker spoke about finding an editor who really loves the manuscript and is willing to put their energy into publishing the book as well as the relationship that develops between a writer and an editor.
Participants in the writing strand included beginners looking to break into the industry as well as writers who had attended Mazza’s writing strand in the past looking to hone their craft. In addition to asking advice of professionals in the field, via Skype they met published authors and illustrators like Brandan Wenzel, author and illustrator of the upcoming book They All Saw a Cat; Barb Rosenstock, nonfiction Caldecott honor author, Molly Idle, also a Caldecott honor author and illustrator and Drew Daywalt, New York Times bestselling author of The Day the Crayons Quit. Participants heard about how they found their way in the industry and what they’re working on next.