author

Processing: quickest rejection yet

First, let me catch you up to speed a bit. I currently have about 10 picture book manuscripts that I’ve written in the last year. Two of these I have submitted a few places. I am unagented, and up till now I have focused my submissions more on editors, at first because it just seemed like a starting place, and then because I began to get good feedback. I went back and forth with an editor at a fabulous publishing house for a few rounds of revisions on one manuscript, and during that time I stopped submitting it (rookie mistake), even though I didn’t have a contract. Her feedback was immensely helpful and I have zero doubt that it made my story stronger. Ultimately after about six months, though, she passed. I stretched that manuscript every which way trying to improve it after that. But the stretch shows and the story is tired and I’ve tucked it away for the time being. A break will do us good, and I’ll come back to it in the coming months.

I have likewise received a couple of nibbles on the second manuscript I submitted; the encouraging not-quite-yesses and champagne rejections: editors that ask for revisions, dream agents that say not yet but to keep submitting to them. And in this business, when you get those responses, you, or at least I, do break out the champagne (okay, prosecco) to celebrate. I brought the second manuscript to Picture Book Boot Camp with me and to a critique at NESCBWI, and the feedback from both places launched a new round of revisions.

The story is ready for a new round of submissions and check-ins with the editors that asked for revisions. I began by submitting it to some agents that had been recommended to me this morning. Because of the short nature of picture book manuscripts, typically you either copy and paste the entire text within the body of your submission or attach it as a word doc or pdf. One of the agencies had me fill out a form and not include the text, though. It said something to the effect of if they were interested they’d request the manuscript. Again, this is unusual with picture book submissions.

Well I heard back from them in less than two hours that they were not interested in moving forward with representation. I.e. they didn’t even want to read the story! Oof! I guess it’s kind of a relief to hear back that quickly. In most cases it takes weeks and months to get a response, and in some cases you never hear back. But it also stinks.

What do I do after such a speedy, disheartening rejection? Well, I cut myself a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie (if you’re interested in my baking escapades you should follow me on Instagram), made a cup of tea, indulged in both. I wrote this blog post, because I promised I would include you in my process, and, as I expected, it’s already helping me.

And now I will get back to my lists and figure out who to submit to next. Onwards! 

Strawberry rhubarb pie

My imperfect but tasty pie came to the rescue!

 

 

Processing: an invitation

Spreading my wings at the Eric Carle Museum

In the last month I’ve attended Picture Book Boot Camp with Jane Yolen, spoken on a high school Creative Careers Panel, gone to NESCBWI Annual, and spent a day in Augusta at Reading Round-Up. In between I’ve worked on picture book revisions, and written some drafts of new picture books. I’ve also received notes from friends and acquaintances asking about next steps they should take as they write, prepare to publish, or think about marketing.

 

While I’m still processing all of these experiences, together they’ve made me think about how I tell stories. How I write my manuscripts, of course, but also how I write about my experiences here and on social media.

 

I noticed a common thread woven through the events of the past month, not a main theme, but a repeated sidenote: what we see of an artist’s experiences represents their successes. But even the most successful authors (and yes, I do mean J. K. Rowling), have faced loads of rejections and setbacks in their careers.

 

I’m at the beginning of my writing career, and I don’t have tons of books to celebrate. Maybe (hopefully!) someday, but not yet. I have one, and believe me, I continue to celebrate the heck out of it! The truth is I haven’t encountered the bulk of my rejection letters. The majority of them lie ahead.

 

And I think I’d like to share them with you.

 

The world of children’s book publishing is full of mystery, even to those of us in the thick of it. I have worked on both ends of it, and there remains so much I need to learn! At the same time readers, teachers, librarians, and other writers enjoy hearing about an author’s process and journey, especially the obstacles. After all, we share a love of stories, and any good story includes a good challenge. So while I can’t yet offer you news about my next book contract (I don’t have one), I can let you in on my process. I can include you on my journey. Maybe it will be useful to you. More likely it will prove helpful to me.

 

So let’s make it official: welcome. I am an unagented, traditionally published children’s book author, a librarian, a historian, and a mom. I’m scared to make public a path that includes sometimes personal and sometimes even bitter disappointments. At the same time one of the most important things I’ve learned so far in my career is that there are rejections worth celebrating, and closed doors that lead to open doors. We’ll talk more about those another time. For this next year I will try to offer you an honest glimpse of what it’s like to write, submit, revise, learn about a peculiar and secretive business, connect with readers, and find triumph in unexpected places. I invite you along on my steps and stumbles.* Here goes nothing!

photo of young boy on rock ledge at Acadia National Park

Braving the path. Okay, my kiddo, not me, but he’s much braver, anyway.

 

*I reserve the right to end this experiment at any time and hide back in my writing/waiting hole.

11 Meaningful Gifts To Give A Children’s Book Author Or Illustrator

photo of Author Alexandra S. D. Hinrichs with a giant book around age 3

Author Alexandra S. D. Hinrichs around age 3 with a giant book

Today is my birthday, and I have decided to share my wishlist of amazing gifts that you could give me or any other children’s book author or illustrator. I know you’ve been wondering. So here you go, my friends.

11 Meaningful Gifts To Give A Children’s Book Author Or Illustrator

  1. Stop by your local library and ask if they have their book. If they don’t because it’s checked out, great! But if they don’t yet own a copy, ask them to order it. If librarian tells you to add it to a suggestion box, please do! Chances are, it will be ordered.
  2. Stop by your local bookstore and ask if they carry their book. If not, ask them to order it.
  3. Stop by your local elementary/middle/high school and ask if the book is in the school library. If not, ask them to order it.
  4. Write a review of their book on Goodreads, Amazon, or another online platform of your choice.
  5. Add their book to your Goodreads to-read list. They won’t be offended if you admit if you haven’t read it yet. They’ll be delighted by the addition! Those numbers matter!
  6. Tell a friend about their book. Heck, tell a stranger about their book.
  7. Turn to social media. Post or tweet about their book. Like their author page. Suggest people like their author or illustrator page. Share a post they have written. If their book is new (and they have made one), visit, comment on, and/or like their SCBWI Book Blast page!
  8. If that author does school visits (hey, New England & tri-state area, friends, I do!), tell your school’s PTO, principal, and/or teachers that you think the author would be a fabulous choice for a school event. The NUMBER ONE way that authors schedule school visits is through word of mouth! That’s you, friends!
  9. Purchase their book to gift to a child in your life.
  10. Purchase their book to donate to a classroom, school library, public library, or literacy drive.
  11. Read their book to a child in your life. Read any book you love to a child in your life. Continue that circle of connection, communication, and compassion that occurs when you read aloud to someone.

 

Image of Therese Makes a TapestryDo you have any other ideas? Share them below! Thank you for your birthday wishes!

photo of Alexandra S. D. Hinrichs signing books at The Briar Patch in Bangor, ME

Book signings, reviews, and teas, oh my! Plus a note on teachers.

It has been a busy couple of months around here. Thérèse Makes a Tapestry officially launched on March 8th, and I’ve been thrilled with the response. From positive reviews to feature articles, and even a t.v. interview, people have been receptive and excited. The biggest treat has been the events with family, friends, and new readers.

In Bangor, ME The Briar Patch hosted a launch party and book signing, complete with a collaborative weaving project thanks to the generosity of One Lupine Fiber Arts. It was so well attended that the bookshop sold out of copies of Thérèse! (Never fear, they’re back in stock!)

photo of young girl weaving at book launch for "Thérèse Makes a Tapestry"

Photo courtesy of The Briar Patch

The finished weaving. I love the colors and textures!

The finished weaving. Love the colors and textures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of book signing for "Thérèse Makes a Tapestry" in Princeton, MA

A good natured crowd in Princeton, MA! (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

 

In my hometown of Princeton, MA the Cultural Council and Princeton Public Library sponsored yet another launch party and book signing. I felt stunned by the turnout of family, friends, those friends who have become family over so many years, and teachers.

A special note on teachers. I’ve been fortunate to have some wonderful teachers over the years, the kind that every child and young adult deserve to have. The kind that taught and pushed and guided and applauded and listened, and most of all believed. The kind that made you want to be and become your best self. The kind that not only witnessed some of your darkest moments, but that buoyed you up rather than giving up. I felt overwhelmed to see those same teachers come out and support me years, even decades, after I’d left their classrooms.

Poet Susan Roney-O'Brien with Alexandra Hinrichs (

Poet Susan Roney-O’Brien with Alexandra Hinrichs (photo courtesy of Bruce R. Dean)

One of those teachers had organized the book signing that day. When I was in fifth grade, my soon-to-be sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Susan Roney-O’Brien, took me under her word-feathered wing. She and a fellow local poet, the late (and oh so great) Juli Nunlist, ran a series of workshops for young writers out of Juli’s red barn studio. Together they nurtured my writing. They taught me lessons in storytelling and friendship I’ll never forget. Mrs. O helped me publish a chapbook of poetry in eighth grade, and put together a reading and book signing then, too. She said yes to any project I brought forth to her over the years, and has always been ready to listen, read, and talk. It is in large part thanks to Mrs. O’s guidance and mentorship over the years that I am an author today. Her poetry is remarkable. Read her new book, Legacy of the Last World, and you’ll see what I mean.

 

Photo of Alexandra Hinrichs making the finishing touches before guests arrived

Finishing touches before the guests arrived! (photo courtesy of Literacy Volunteers of Bangor)

This past weekend I designed a table for the 2016 Annual Literacy Tea held by the Literacy Volunteers of Bangor. What a fun event! Every table is themed around a children’s book, and I thoroughly enjoyed designing a table for Thérèse Makes a Tapestry, not to mention seeing the enormous creativity among all the other tables. Over 300 people attended the tea, including volunteers and students. Lest there be any doubt, children’s books and tea parties are meant for each other. The fact that this one could help raise money (nearly $20,000!) for an organization that does such important work made it that much more fabulous.

In other news, I wrote all winter and have a couple of picture book manuscripts to show for it. Fingers crossed for next steps.

Listening to Mark Scott Ricketts read his book "Adventures in Vacationland."

Listening to Mark Scott Ricketts read his book “Adventures in Vacationland.” You should have seen all the table designs. They were outstanding! (photo courtesy of Literacy Volunteers of Bangor)

photo of Thérèse Makes a Tapestry themed table

A peek at my Thérèse Makes a Tapestry-themed table