7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Michele Jakubowski

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Michele Jakubowski, author of SIDNEY & SYDNEY) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

(See a list of middle grade literary agents.)

GIVEAWAY: Michele is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: sfullmer won.)


Michele-Jakubowski.jpg         sidney-and-sydney-book

Michele Jakubowski is the author of the children’s book series
Sidney & Sydney (Picture Window Books). Book one, Third Grade Mix-Up,
is now available. Michele is currently working on a new early reader
series for Capstone as well as further adventures for Sidney & Sydney.
She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.



1. Everyone you meet is writing/thinking about writing a book. At first it drove me crazy that whenever I was introduced as a children’s book author the person I was meeting inevitably followed with, “Oh, I’ve been thinking about doing that” or “I’d like to do that someday, too” as if we were talking about visiting Europe or skydiving and not an ever-challenging endeavor. I’ve learned to hold my tongue and not roll my eyes, but it’s still difficult at times.

2. When you write for children every child you meet will want his/her name in a book. The challenge is you’ll meet a lot of kids. And they’ve all got great memories. Don’t make any promises.

3. There is no one correct path. When I first began writing with my sister-in-law we only queried small publishers and eventually found one. When I began writing on my own I wanted to think bigger and spent a long time looking for an agent or publisher. Although I did not find an agent I was fortunate to find an amazing publisher on my own. I also thought about self-publishing along the way. Point being: all of these options were good and while I’m happy with where I’m at today, I never would have guessed it would have been such a long and windy road.

(Learn how to get your kids/children’s book published. Hear from authors.)

4. I live with two great sources of inspiration. I’ve learned to watch my son and daughter with an author’s eye. I think about the way they handle even the simplest of situations and I think that makes my writing more authentic. I’ve become a keen observer of people (or a Nosy-Nellie as my husband might put it) and more than once I’ve incorporated a behavior or mannerism of a child I’ve seen at a restaurant or store in my writing.

5. Publishing takes forever. So far I’ve published two books with two different publishers and both times they took what felt like forever to come out. This is definitely not a field for impatient people.

(Meet agent Jody Klein of Brandt Hochman, who seeks new clients now.)

6. Feedback from your target audience is key. I’ve had reviews written by adults that have made me very happy (and some that have made me not-so-happy) but it’s the feedback I get directly from a child reader that I value the most. I’m also part of a mother/daughter book club and listening to what the girls look for in a book has been invaluable.

7. Write everything down. I came up with the initial idea for the Sidney & Sydney series as I was falling asleep one night. I knew myself well enough to know that I had to get up immediately and write down my thoughts. I had been burned several times before when I thought I’d remember my ideas later. I never do. Now I have scraps of paper all over my house with thoughts on the book I’m currently working on or for future projects. Now if only I could work on my handwriting so I could read all of those great ideas later.

GIVEAWAY: Michele is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: sfullmer won.)


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fiction from wise agent Donald Maass? Two books!
We bundle them together at a discount in our shop.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


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14 thoughts on “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Michele Jakubowski

  1. BellsRoyal

    Things that you said are so true. I’m inspired to write but this time I get to be the helper. My daughter has great ideas and as a way to always keep her interested in writing, I told her that I would co-author with her. I am so excited because character development is coming right along. …We will hind the names to protect the innocent.lol…im talking about her imaginary friends of course. I forgot to mention, my daughter is seven. What a great age to get started…. ..and yes, we have her ideas on tablets, scrap paper ALL OVER THE HOUSE, but lets not forget the drawings to go with it.

  2. Marie Rogers

    I have those pieces of paper, too. I try to gather them near my writing area. Although I may ignore them for ages, when I look at them again, the wheels start to turn. I have some ideas for children’s stories I want to develop, so your advice is helpful.

  3. nicolebogacki

    I’ve always wanted to publish a children’s book, too… hahaha. Actually, I’m in the middle of the painful process of truly finishing the story slash reworking the non sequiturs and looking forward (or not so much?) to shopping the piece around, so I appreciate your advice. I also enjoy devouring the books already out there for my target audience (keeps my imagination going) and simply must check out Sidney & Sydney.

  4. yettee

    Your words of advice ring true. Not only am I starting to read like a writer but everyone I meet and listen to is a potential character in a story. I find the image of pieces of paper scattered all over the house amusing. Which makes me wonder how you organize all of the little bits. I like the idea of being apart of a book club for mothers and daughters. What a wonderful source for insight into their thinking.

  5. 12pencils

    Michele! Congrats on your two published books with more in the works. It really is a long road and you’ve come a long way! The target audience is SO key. I worked in a children’s library for four years and witnessed firsthand the demand for certain titles and series. Kids raced to the shelves at checkout time to snag the latest literary darling. Dozens of names languished on waiting lists until it was their turn to read the IT book. Some went to the floor wrestling over particularly popular books resorting to a back-to-back version of Rock, Paper, Scissors to sort it all out. What I learned during that time was that kids still love books and the grass roots grade school demand is high. I still draw on their likes and dislikes as I write for children today!

  6. sfullmer

    Thanks, Michele! I am a total newbie to thinking of trying to get my writing published, so really appreciated your thoughts… especially about looking for inspiration around you, considering your target audience, and being patient!

  7. Debbie

    My vision is similar to your current success; however, I want to use dogs as my characters — my own personal dogs and experiences. Kids love dogs, and there are so many wonderful stories. I hope to use resources like yours to guide me. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Christa4F

    I tend to write ideas down everywhere, but then I either can’t find them, or I repeat myself, that drives me crazy!! Now my great idea is just a run on sentence. Still trying to find a way to stay organized, then keep it that way, but don’t have high hopes for myself, cause I know myself that well. lol

  9. cdhorbach

    I think the advice to write everything down is spot on! We all think that we can multitask and remember every thought that flits through our brains, but the truth is we can’t. I don’t even want to imagine what I could have done with all of the ideas I have since forgotten because I failed to write them down.

  10. vrundell

    Wonderful advice Michele!. I’ve got the same inspiration in my house, and exploit it whenever I can. It’s always fund to read a new “mom-made” story to the kids.
    Our critique group had a discussion of name differences, Sidney/Sydney being one example, just last week so your title makes me smile!
    Best of luck with your series!


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