Please welcome my guest blogger, award-winning children’s author, Jennifer Buchet, as she shares her inspiring writer’s story with us.
Ever since I could hold a pencil properly, I’ve been writing. My early works were mostly abstract cards to my parents and hastily scribbled notes to the North Pole. By the fourth grade, I was creating my very own newspaper. I made sure to include hard-hitting news, a television guide, comics, and a mind-crushing crossword puzzle. Award-winning? Maybe for a 10yr old. Fun to create? Absolutely! I knew then that I wanted to write, that I loved to write, that I just had to write.
In school, I wrote for the school papers, kept angst-filled diaries, and penned a ton of short stories and poems. I even dabbled in fan-fiction before it was cool. Naturally, I declared English as my college major, right?
Nope. I was going to be a marine biologist!
Say what?! What happened to “I love to write, I just have to write?”
The love hadn’t died, but the idea of swimming with dolphins every day sounded way more fun, especially attending university in Florida. Alas, that dream was short-lived and due to a comedy of errors—or really, divine fate—I found myself in the Communications department. Massive biology textbooks were rapidly replaced with video cameras and editing bays. I fell in love with broadcasting and advertising. Writing played its part, as I learned how to craft scripts for screens, an art I rely on to this day when writing kidlit. And it was during this period of my life that I was hired to write for a teen magazine. Not only was I making mini-commercials for college credits, my name was finally in print!
The magazine gig didn’t pay the rent, but it definitely bolstered my self-confidence. After college, I took a job in marketing and advertising. I had marvelous opportunities creating radio scripts, website pages, direct mailers, newspaper ads, and much more. Needless to say, writing was the sun around which everything orbited.
Years later, I left marketing to start a family. While snuggling over all those board books and reading through all those picture books, I realized I wanted to write for children. Since I was already an accredited author, I assumed it would easy to break into the world of kidlit. Easy-peasy, right? After all, I knew I had the “write” stuff. 😉
Nope! Not at all.
Yes, I had the talent. But I didn’t know a thing about writing for kids. And that’s possibly a good thing because knowing what I know now, I may have tried my hand at romance novellas instead! I had loads of marvelous, magical ideas but at this point, I didn’t know how to turn them into perfect stories. So I immersed myself in an in-depth kidlit writing course. I gained a fantastic mentor and connected with other budding children’s authors.
After graduation, I jumped into the query pool again. I wrote numerous fictional and non-fictional stories for Guardian Angel Kids.com. I started my own blog and contributed to another. The more I wrote, the more my author’s confidence grew. But I yearned for more…I wanted to see my name in print again.
I endlessly studied children’s magazines. I highlighted subjects and writing styles I liked, and looked for areas where I could stand out. I started pitching ideas to Cricket Media. I admit, my first queries were rough, but I kept at it and eventually found my nitch. In 2011, I sold my first story to AppleSeeds and soon after, Faces magazine (divisions of Cricket Media). My hard work and persistence paid off as I quickly became a regular feature contributor to both magazines and today, continue to write regularly for Faces.
Should be simple to write a picture book now, right?
You guessed it—nope!
Writing for kidlit magazines is quite different than writing 500-word picture books. Sure, it’s writing for the same audience, but that’s really where the similarities stop. So once again, I’ve immersed myself in kidlit writing communities and courses about picture book writing. I joined the SCBWI and Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge (having recently returned for my third year!). I took courses with Susanna Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic. I participate in StoryStorm. I enter lots of writing contests, and join countless other kidlit-geared activities.
Every story, every page, every sentence or even tweet is one step closer to achieving my next goal. I allow myself to have guilt-free non-writing days, or as Jane Yolen aptly calls them, “idea-gathering days.” I write a lot of crappy first drafts. I joined a critique group. I attend webinars and conferences. And I read lots of mentor texts. Most of all, I have surrounded myself with an amazing supportive community of kidlit authors.
I’ve been writing my entire life. And although it’s a very subjective business, all the bumps and detours, have been worth it.
Because I love to write. I have to write.
If you’d like to know more about Jennifer Buchet’s journey, you can follow her on Twitter @Yangmommy
Thanks, as always, for reading!