Jenna Glatzer is here with us today to share about her journey to becoming a writer. She also willingly proffers up some excellent tips about combining writing and motherhood and about authoring children's books...read on, aspiring writers!
Jenna has authored 17 books, including Hattie, Get A Haircut! (a book I spotlighted yesterday) and has also written hundreds of magazine articles. She has an 11-month-old daughter and she blogs at Hot Diggity.
ME: Tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a writer.
JENNA: I graduated from Boston University with a degree in communications. Straight out of college, I got the job of my dreams: acting in a children's theatre. How cool is it to get paid to play Cinderella? BUT... then I got a panic disorder, which quickly progressed until I was housebound with agoraphobia. I had to find another way to make a living, so I turned to writing.
I've now written 17 books and a few hundred magazine articles, plus more than a hundred greeting cards and slogans for doormats, mugs, aprons, and buttons.... it's been an interesting ride.
ME: Ooh! "Greeting cards and slogans for doormats, mugs, aprons, and buttons"...that sounds fun. How can a mom break into that market? What tips can you share?
JENNA: I actually wrote an e-book on the topic, though I'm hesitant to mention it because the contact info is a bit out of date. It's here: www.absolutewrite.com/greetingcard.htm. Essentially, you write up a batch of ideas and send them out to companies that buy freelance work. Normally, you're not expected to turn in artwork, just the text. There's a wide range of payment for this sort of work, from a pittance to a few hundred dollars for a greeting card verse.
ME: How did you get into authoring children's books?
JENNA: Even before I had a baby of my own, I've just always loved children's books. I would often revisit my own childhood favorites, so it seemed natural to write for children. It's actually tougher to sell children's books than adult books, in my experience, because so many people try that format because they figure it's "easy"-- it's shorter than writing a full-length adult novel, for one thing. But it's probably harder to do well.
I was hired to write a couple of educational books for children, but it took a while before I sold a picture book manuscript. It's a competitive field. Essentially, I just kept sending out my work until someone said "yes."
ME: When it comes to children's books...do you write the text and submit your manuscript without pictures or do you find an illustrator first?
JENNA: Glad you asked, because there's a lot of confusion about that. The writer is not expected to find an illustrator. You just submit the text, and the publisher will hire the illustrator they want to match your book. There are rare exceptions when the author is also the illustrator, or there's a husband and wife team, for instance, but don't ever submit second-rate artwork with your manuscript because you have a marginally talented cousin or something. You need a professional children's book illustrator whose work can match the style of your book, and most people don't just happen to know one of those.
ME: Do writers and illustrators typically split the profit from a book?
JENNA: I'm not sure what the illustrator typically gets paid, because I've never asked-- it's separate from my agreement with the publisher, so I've always felt like it's not really my business.
ME: Do you currently work outside the home?
JENNA: No, I'm a full-time writer and have been for a little more than a decade.
ME: What are your top three tips when it comes to combining writing and motherhood?
JENNA: I don't think I have all the answers for this yet-- I'm still very much feeling my way around, trying to find a way to be a full-time mom and still write lots of books. The way I'm making it work so far is to write mostly after she goes to bed, and to do interviews and research when she takes her nap during the day. My priorities have obviously shifted tremendously, so I know I'll never be quite as prolific as I was before, but I'm trying to learn how to work differently. I used to have the liberty to sit at the computer all day and night, hopping back and forth between eBay and e-mail and my current manuscript. Now I need to be much more disciplined about my computer time.
Anyway, my quasi-tips are:
1. Write short stuff. Sometimes it's easier to work on articles, greeting cards, etc., rather than books, when you have short spurts of time.
2. Get it down. Don't worry about making it good. You can go back and edit later.
3. Keep a mini-notebook handy. You never know when inspiration will strike. If it strikes in the waiting room of the pediatrician's office, you're going to forget your big idea before you make it home unless you have a little pocket notebook to carry with you.
Thanks so much, Jenna! I wish you all the best as you balance new motherhood with your ambitions for your writing career!