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7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Susan Stockdale

1. Write down every book idea you have as soon as you have it. Otherwise, you’ll forget what might have resulted in your (first) Caldecott, Newbery, or National Book Award. Keep a pencil and paper nearby - in your purse, your briefcase, your car. Transfer your ideas to a “book idea” folder in your computer or journal. Then when you’re searching for your next book topic, you’ll have many choices at hand. GIVEAWAY: Susan 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: missnelso04 won.)

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Susan Stockdale, author of the picture book STRIPES OF ALL TYPES) 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.

GIVEAWAY: Susan 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: missnelso04 won.)

bring-on-the-birds
susan-stockdale-author-illustrator
stripes-of-all-types-book

Susan Stockdale is an author and illustrator of children’s picture
books that celebrate nature. Her 2013 book, STRIPES OF ALL TYPES,
brings to life a patterned parade of striped animals, showing young
readers some of the many reasons stripes are found so often in
nature. Her last picture book, BRING ON THE BIRDS
, was an
ALA Notable Children’s Book and won a Parents’ Choice Award.
Stockdale’s bright, bold animal imagery is featured on puzzles,
notecards and other products sold worldwide. She is currently
working on a picture book about spotted animals.

1. Write down every book idea you have as soon as you have it. Otherwise, you’ll forget what might have resulted in your (first) Caldecott, Newbery, or National Book Award. Keep a pencil and paper nearby - in your purse, your briefcase, your car. Transfer your ideas to a “book idea” folder in your computer or journal. Then when you’re searching for your next book topic, you’ll have many choices at hand.

2. Save every draft you write, no matter how pitiful. Better yet, scan drafts into your computer and organize them in a folder. These will come in handy when you put together presentations about your creative process. Your most pathetic manuscripts will provide the best demonstration of how you transform your work.

(Why you should only query 6-8 agents at a time.)

3. Dance between drafts. Have you read the reports on how bad it is for your health to sit for long periods of time? Apparently, it shaves years off your life. Stop writing, crank up the music and move, or take a quick walk around the block or your house. It’s good for the body and soul.

4. Thank those that help you. I consult regularly with science experts to vet my nonfiction manuscripts and illustrations for factual accuracy. I acknowledge them in my books, of course, but I also send them a personal thank you note along with a copy of my book. Many of these experts have told me that this demonstration of thanks is rare. One said that in his 30+ years of helping authors like me, he’d never received a formal thank you letter like the one I sent him. Your thanks will be appreciated and will make the experts happy to continue working with you.

5. Write a letter to the boss of those that help you. Let that person know about the wonderful assistance that was provided to you and copy the expert on your letter. Wouldn't it be great if you helped this expert get a pat on the back from his/her boss – or even a raise?

(Why writers should put their e-mail online for all to see.)

6. Keep your promotional material updated. Before each new book comes out, I prepare an updated bio and summaries of the book of different lengths (50 words, 100 words, etc.). I also have a high-resolution headshot taken. It’s so helpful to have these items ready for any promotional requests. It also might help prompt you to think of marketing ideas.

7. Keep your website updated, too. Add any new book review excerpts, awards and appearances as soon as they appear.

GIVEAWAY: Susan 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: missnelso04 won.)

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