I can finally shout it from the rooftops! My debut picture book, Vampire Vacation, illustrated by the incredible Micah Player, will be out from Viking/Penguin Random House in 2022!
Now, technically I wrote my first picture book when I was eight years old. I even illustrated that bad boy. As you can imagine, it was quality work. Thankfully, my writing improved from there.
I started out writing literary fiction, then switched to YA, and at one point even attempted—get this—a mystery/thriller. Somehow, my adult self never considered writing for kids. Until, that was, I rediscovered the magic of picture books when I got pregnant with my oldest and started reading to my belly. Then, like an idiot, I thought: 500 words or less? This will be EASY!
Let’s all take a moment now to laugh at Past Laura and how naïve I was. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
That was back in January 2015. My book will hit shelves in summer 2022, seven and a half years later. The path to publication is truly like running a marathon. Speaking of which…
I’m going to go back to last year—January 2019—when my husband and I both decided to set fitness goals for New Year’s. I ran track in high school (badly), and decided I wanted to get back into running and have a semi-respectable 5k time by summer. He decided to run a half marathon in April and a Spartan Super in August. (Way to be an over-achiever!)
My training consisted of hitting the treadmill for 20-30 minutes a few times a week. My husband was up at 5 a.m., running outside in frigid temperatures. First 3 miles, then 6, then 10, then 13. We live in very upstate New York, which is basically Wisconsin, and the guy’s beard was literally frozen when he finished those runs. As in, tiny icicles were hanging from his face. Now that’s dedication. Frankly, that’s also the type of grit you need to be a writer.
No one writes their first book, immediately queries an agent, and gets a book deal two weeks later. Literally no one. (Okay, maybe super famous people. But that’s it.) You’ve got to be in it for the long haul. You have to be willing to put in the work, have the drive to keep pushing past obstacles, and have the resolve to not quit… even when it feels like it’s never going to happen.
My husband and I both achieved our New Year’s goals. Of course, in his race, he ran 8 miles further than me, with faster mile split times, and oh also he ran a second race where he had to climb over walls and jump over fire and stuff. I could never have gotten myself into the shape he did that quickly. I could never run 10 miles at 5 a.m. in the freezing cold with a frozen beard. Not that I have a beard, of course. I digress. But I think this raises an important point about not comparing yourself to other writers. Everyone’s path is different, and there’s so much in publishing that’s outside of your control. Say you just wrote a great book about an aardvark who wants to be a lion, but suddenly, the market is teeming with aardvark books. Totally beyond your control!
Fun story: I live in a rural area, and on more than one occasion while out for a run I have come across deer standing on the sidewalk, blocking my path. Actual deer. With antlers. On the sidewalk.
The first time this happened, I paused for a moment to assess the situation…
“Hi there, buddy. Please don’t charge me, okay? I’m just listening to T. Swift and trying to get fit. We cool?”
…and then, I ran right past that deer. (He looked at me all nonchalant, like he was just out for his evening stroll.)
Keep pushing, friends, no matter what weird, crazy obstacles pop up in your path. If you’ve got the determination, you will succeed.
I mean it.
You can do it!
It might take a while. It might take you longer than some of your writer pals, but maybe they’re running a 10k in Tallahassee and you’re running a 10k in Bemidji with a Popsicle beard. Those are two totally different races.
Bottom line: keep on keepin’ on. When you reach your personal goals, whatever they are, all those rejection letters and shin splits will be worth it.