This is my third year publishing books for young readers. After having one book published in 2019 (Midsummer’s Mayhem, my middle-grade debut) and 2020 (Seven Golden Rings, my picture book debut), this year I have six books coming out. Between February and September, I have two novels and four picture books releasing into the world!
I never intended to have six books published in a single year. This happened through a combination of coincidence, timing, and luck, and because I write a lot and have an agent who is willing to submit a lot. I wrote and sold a couple of these books in 2020; others, I wrote much earlier. Some were a struggle to write; some flowed out of me. But all these stories reflect some aspect of me and what I care about, and I’m delighted that they’re all coming into the world this year.
Red, White, and Whole, my middle-grade novel in verse, published in February with Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins. This book of my heart is set in 1983 and is about 13-year-old Reha, who feels torn between the worlds of her parents and her friends at school. But then her mother is diagnosed with leukemia, and Reha’s life turns upside down. She believes if she can be the perfect daughter, the daughter her parents want her to be, she can somehow save her mother’s life. This is a story about being caught between here and there, before and after, and finding a way to be whole.
Because I was already committed to writing another novel, I thought about this book as my “Friday night date” for months in 2019 before I actually sat down to write it. And once I did, it flowed out of my head and heart and fingers in a six-week rush. We sold this book in a pre-empt during a few heady days in February 2020, and when my publisher told me they wanted to release it less than a year later, I was floored, especially since I already had a summer 2021 novel scheduled. But of course, I agreed.
I wrote Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers, part of Charlesbridge’s Storytelling Math series, over a few months in summer 2018. The story of a little girl who wants to make special bracelets using patterns for her three older brothers for the Hindu holiday Raksha Bandhan, this book was sold in fall 2018 with the understanding that it might come out in 2020 or 2021. The schedule of the illustrator (brilliant Chaaya Prabhat) and the publisher made April 2021 the right choice.
Much Ado About Baseball, my second novel and third book of 2021, came out in June with Yellow Jacket/Little Bee Books. It’s about Trish and Ben, 12-year-old math competition rivals who find themselves on the same summer baseball team. They can’t stand each other, but they need to work together to help their terrible team and must contend with brutish opponents, mysterious math puzzles, and sneaky magic along the way. This book is a companion novel to my debut, Midsummer’s Mayhem, set in the same town during the same summer but featuring different characters. Writing this story was a challenge, both because I chose to write it as a dual-POV book, and because I had a hard time figuring out what the magical people wanted. We sold this book in 2019 on proposal (a synopsis plus a few chapters), and as I mentioned in a recent post, writing the synopsis helped me figure out the story and get it done on schedule.
Where Three Oceans Meet, my next picture book, is coming on August 24 with Abrams. It’s about a girl who travels with her mother and grandmother to Kanyakumari at the very tip of India, where people say three oceans meet, and what she learns along the way about the love and strength that mothers and daughters share. This story poured out of me in summer 2018, and we received an R & R (revise and resubmit) request from my editor that fall. Her suggestions resonated so strongly with me that I revised and sent it back right away. This book was originally supposed to publish in 2022, but thanks to the quick work of the remarkable illustrator, Archana Sreenivasan, and the publisher’s schedule, it was moved up to 2021.
My Little Golden Book About Kamala Harris releases August 31. In November 2020, I was approached by the publisher asking if I’d like to write this book—and of course, I leaped at the chance! The deadline was December, and I’d never written a picture book biography before, but I scrambled to do the research and write it. This book was on a very quick schedule, and the illustrator, Ashley Evans, did an incredible job in a very short time. I’m delighted that it’s coming out in August!
The Secret Code Inside You releases September 14 from Little Bee Books. Written in rhyming verse, the book is a child’s first introduction to DNA that also touches on how our choices make us who we are. It is gloriously illustrated by Steven Salerno. As a physician, I’m fascinated by science, especially as it relates to the human body, and I’m excited to share my love for scientific topics with kids. This is the first picture book I ever wrote! I drafted this book way back in 2013, and it took years and years (and years!) to get it right. We sold it in 2019, and now it’s finally making its way into the world.
So what are my recommendations for publishing multiple books?
- Write a lot. Have multiple projects in your head (or at least on your laptop). Take notes so you don’t lose your ideas.
- Make sure the competitive works clauses in your contracts don’t restrict you. You should discuss this with your agent if you’re a prolific writer and want to be open to publishing multiple books in a year.
- Fulfill your obligations. Turn things in on time. You can’t control what your publisher does, but you can make sure you’re not the reason a book gets delayed.
- When opportunity knocks, say yes!
- Be patient. Some books take a long time to write and to publish, and that’s okay, too.
- Write what you love and love what you write. You can’t predict the market. All you can do is be true to yourself.