Blogerific Rena Jones has agreed to be interviewed here on my site. Thanks Rena! All you wannabe picture book writers should take heed and listen to these words of wisdom from multi-published Rena Jones.
And check out her books.
1) When did you realize you wanted to be "a writer"?
It was probably around 2005 after visiting Glacier NP in northwestern Montana. We spotted some mountain goats on the cliffs and I was inspired to write a story about one of them. My very first story was called Manny the Mountain Goat.
2) How did you send out your first manuscript (I mean how did you know where to send it, how to format it, etc.?)?
I bought several books on writing for children and getting published, so that's where I learned the basics of formatting manuscripts. However, I made the mistake of sending it out to many publishers without doing extensive research first. I found ones that said they accepted my type of story, but I didn't look any further to see what type of books they had published in the past. Big mistake -- I spent a lot of money and burned a lot of bridges in the process.
3) What made you decide to go without an agent?
I'm not sure, to be honest. It just didn't occur to me in the beginning, especially since I was submitting picture books. Obviously, I've learned more about the business since I first began and definitely see the benefits of having an agent.
4) Have you ever thought you'd like to search for an agent now that you are a published writer? If not, why not?
Yes, especially since I have some middle grade novels written.
5) Where do you get your inspiration for your books?
My family loves visiting national parks and wildlife watching, so that's been a huge inspiration. I also live in the mountains and we have a lot of critters roaming around outside. My children are also an inspiration for my writing, especially my boys, who are always coming up with crazy ideas for my stories.
6) Have you ever thought of writing in different genres?
Yes, as I mentioned, I have two middle grade novels written. I enjoyed writing those, but I'm not sure I have what it takes to write YA or adult novels. Picture books seem to be the thing I enjoy writing the most.
7) What is one thing you've learned about writing, publishing, and blogging that you never thought you'd learn?
Oh, I've learned so much since I first started, so it's hard to pick just one thing. However, one thing that sticks out is promotion. It's something you always have to work on and you can't expect your publisher/editor/agent to do all the work for you.
8) What is your favorite time to write and why?
I don't really have a specific favorite time to write, especially because I homeschool my kids and that takes a lot of time. When an idea hits me though, it's hard for me to do much else. I tend to write in spurts, sometimes short and sometimes long.
9) What advice would you want to pass on to all the newbie writers out there reading this?
It's the same advice I give when someone asks me about homeschooling -- I tell them to read, read, read! Read books that teach you how to write for children, read books that show you how to get a book published, read books in the genre you're interested in writing. Join a writer's message board and read old posts and listen to what experienced writers have to say. Be a fly on the wall and soak up as much information as you can, especially before you open your mouth and ask questions. I've had so many questions answered just by doing searches on message boards.
10) What is your favorite thing about Lemur Troops?
My favorite thing about Lemur Troops is definitely Nikki Shoemaker! She is an amazing illustrator. I instantly fell in love with her drawings when I first saw some of her work posted on the 4RV Publishing website. I was so happy to find out she would be doing the artwork for Lemur Troops & Critter Groups. I can't even pick a favorite page -- I love them all!
11) What's your next goal?
I would love to get one of my middle grade novels published, so I'm working on that now. I also have quite a few unpublished picture books I'd like to start submitting. And then there are my other books coming out with 4RV Publishing -- The Marshmallow Man is next in line. I'm really excited about this one. Stephen Macquignon did the illustrations and he's done an amazing job on it.