It's time for another awesome debut author interview -- illuminating the pathway of a first-time author who got their book published. Blog interviews like these are designed to show what writers did correct and how their books came to life. Today we meet picture book author C.L. Clickard and her book VICTRICIA MALICIA: BOOK LOVING BUCCANEER (2012, Flashlight Press).
C.L. Clickard was born in Michigan. Having worked as a copywriter, pressroom manager, marketing VP and colorguard instructor, she credits her dazzling career success to a firm belief that dragons exist and that competitive baton twirling should be an Olympic sport. Her book, VICTRICIA MALICIA, is about Victricia Malicia Calamity Barrett, who was born into a close-knit family of pirates, given a scary name, a black blankie, and a pet parrot. She is taught knot tying and how to count doubloons and learns to read from Ye Olde Pirate Creed. Unfortunately, none of these lessons captures her interest. She is fond of books and landlubbing, and proclaims "I Dry Land" on her shirt...
Publishers Weekly said of the book, "Rollicking, sea-chantey verse and slapstick humor make this a promising readaloud."
What is the book’s genre/category?
Picture book – narrative / humor.
Please describe what the story/book is about.
Misfit Victricia Malicia uses her oddball, bookish ways to rescue her pirate family from a voracious sea serpent and wins the chance to make her landlubbing dreams come true.
Where do you write from?
Next to the koi pond in my personal hideaway on the outskirts of Gainesville, Florida.
Briefly, what led up to this book?
I’m a lifelong word addict. When I read my first Dr Seuss, heard my first Gilbert and Sullivan, I was hooked. I wanted to live in the books I read and if I couldn’t do that I’d settle for writing them. Meanwhile, however, I needed to pay the bills and keep a roof over my head. So I was living the half-life that is a writer’s existence in the corporate world. From advertising copywriter to newsletter editor, I kept my hand on a keyboard, but not in a particularly satisfying way. Creative sidelines helped stave off my cravings: designing puzzles and word games, writing a children’s travel blog and weekly children’s newsletter. But nothing quite scratched the itch like getting inside the heart of a good story. So, I stopped wanting to write a book and actually wrote one.
What was the time frame for writing this book?
I wrote most of Victricia Malicia while on a three week holiday in Egypt and Jordan. I’d signed up for Picture Book Bootcamp with Lisa Wheeler and needed to send her a manuscript for critique 30 days before the workshop. So I flew out of JFK with only the first stanza of Victricia Malicia and a sheaf of notes not unlike the hieroglyphs I was going to see. I sweated over the story whenever I wasn’t gaping at temples and sarcophagi. Maybe the sphinx lent me a morsel of her wisdom because three weeks later I arrived back in the states with all the tacky mummy souvenirs I could carry and the finished manuscript of Victricia Malicia.
What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
For me the biggest lesson was patience, patience, patience. I’m still learning that. Coming from the advertising world where a 24-hour delay can make or break a campaign and everyone functions in over-clocked mode, I’ve found the slower pace in the publishing world challenging. But while I sometimes long for quicker decisions I’ve found the stillness in the middle, while publishing wheels are slowly turning, is a great creative space for me to play in.
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Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
Joining SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and attending their conferences gave me essential industry skills: how to get my work read without stalking an editor, why query letters should never contain bribes, and more seriously, how to swim to the top of the slush pile. Attending Lisa Wheeler’s Picture Book Bootcamp provided invaluable revision tools. Finding a critique group that won’t let me settle for good when they think great is possible has been a boon as well. Most importantly I couldn’t have done it without listening – to every piece of advice, every morsel of feedback even when I wholeheartedly disagreed and fed their comments to the shredder. All of those freely given responses helped me whittle away at the dead edges in my writing so my voice could be clearly heard. I’m indebted to each of those kind, and not so kind, readers.
On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?
Moving from Michigan to Florida in the midst of publishing Victricia Malicia was a definite speed bump. Building a new network of media contacts, connecting to local schools and libraries, reaching out to indie bookstores, all those necessary promotion activities were complicated by my tendency to get lost driving home from the grocery store. So I’d say total life uprooting while promoting my first book wasn’t the wisest choice, but "When life pours the wine we can but drink."
Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing the build a platform and gain readership?
When I signed the contract for Victricia Malicia, the only platform I was familiar with was the diving platform at my gym. I’ve grown a little wiser since then and I’m working with a wonderful consultant to define and build my platform, maximize social networking and other promotion fun.
Best piece(s) of advice for writers trying to break in?
Stop asking “Is my writing good enough?” and start asking “How can I make it better?”
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I firmly believe that dragons existed, competitive baton should be an Olympic sport and dilemma should be spelled with a N.
My trinity of all time favorites would have to be: Stranger Than Fiction, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Shaun of the Dead…. or maybe Harvey … or Bell, Book and Candle… Aagh. Don’t make me pick.
www.victriciamalicia.com is a great resource for teachers, librarians and parents. It’s stuffed with activities, worksheets, crafts, puppets, story hour scripts, even a library treasure hunt all downloadable and free. If you’re looking for more detail about my writing career you can stop in at www.clclickard.com or find me on Facebook/Twitter.
Victricia Malicia has just been released in Germany under the title Pia Piratissima, so I’m celebrating Oktoberfest early this year. I’m delighted to be working with Holiday House on my next picture book, Magic for Sale, publishing date TBA. And I currently have a middle grade novel in the hands of one of my favorite hope-to-be-my-agents, so I’m typing this with fingers crossed.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- The Differences Between Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction.
- "How I Got My Agent," by Middle Grade Author Allan Woodrow.
- A Young Adult Query That Worked -- See It Here.
- 6 Tips on Writing Picture Books (That Just May Warm Your Heart).
- Literary Agent Interview: Quinlan Lee of Adams Literary.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Author Platform.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.
Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
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