At the beginning of October, I attended my first in-person writing conference and it was glorious. I met other writers and illustrators in my local community, was invigorated by networking with fellow kid lit creatives, and learned a lot. A win!
My personal conference takeaway:
If something you create is precious to you, love it enough to listen to feedback and make changes so that the whole world has a chance to share in your special thing. This can only happen by letting go.
Here’s what happened: As you know, Birthday Ranch is a middle grade (MG) manuscript (ms), meaning that it is intended for independent readers who are between 8 and 12 years old. It is 30,000 words. so the reader’s focused attention span needs to be developed.
I paid to have the first bit of Birthday Ranch critiqued by a kid lit agent at the conference (which I highly recommend) and her feedback was that my ms would be better as a chapter book rather than MG.
I’ve read that chapter books are harder to sell because they are for a slim segment of readers
This would mean a complete re-write
Preceded by researching and learning how to write for this age group
I have seen social media calls for “younger MG” to help bridge chapter book readers to MG books—I could miss out on this opportunity by rewriting as a chapter book
This was expert advice from an industry insider, a.k.a. business knowledge
I had a deep-down feeling that my ms would be better as a chapter book, which was confirmed by the above-mentioned expert
A tough decision, right?
Please comment what you would decide!
This is the kind of problem that I want on my journey to publication: a decision to make based on sound information, rather than spitballing on my lonesome. To get to this point, I’ve learned that it is vital to define what you want as a creative person:
Do you want to craft a masterpiece to gift to the world?
Do you want to create as self-care or community building?
Do you want a commercially-successful career selling what you create?
It can be any or all, but until you know where you are going, you won‘t know what map to follow. I used to think that I just wanted to be published, to know that I was good enough. I remember seeing my byline for the first time on a rack of newspapers one morning and after the elation subsided, I knew that it wasn’t enough. Neither was my byline in a local magazine, nor in a national magazine, nor on my picture book that was published when I was working too hard on my career to market it.
Now I know. I want a commercially successful career—the career I should have focused on—as an author. I would love to also have an impactful career as an author, but what I can control is working toward making a living writing books. And to accomplish this, I should probably listen to the industry professional’s advice. After all, she undoubtedly knows a lot about the chapter book market.
I know how difficult it is to create something and then let it evolve with outside input, both as a writer and a mother. For me, allowing that trusted input to add in the nurturing is the right decision.
And now, here are some POWs (pearls of wisdom) from the conference: