Thursday, August 20, 2009

Guest Blogger, Children's Author, Julie Durango! by DL Larson

Imagine two children's librarians sitting in the kiddie department of your local library. The lights are bright, the walls colorful, and in my scenario, larger than life Zoo animals are painted Jan Brett style on the walls. The animals wear playful looks and have a come-to-life realness. The women are perched on miniature animal chairs, one a giraffe, the other a lion with a baby zebra table between them. Talking about children's books comes naturally to these two women, but the topic is not about the Monarch Award selections or even the latest Newberry Awards. They are discussing the publishing world as a children's author. And the inevitable question is asked, "What does it take to become a published author?"

Julie Durango, children's librarian, published children's author, had this to share:

Hello, fellow writers!

First of all, I’d like to thank Deb Larson for inviting me to be your guest blogger for the day. It’s always fun to talk shop with other writers.

Like many of you, I wear a lot of hats. On any given day, I am an elementary school librarian, a children’s book author, a blogger, and the mother of two boys ages 8 and 13. I’ve lived all over the U.S. from Rhode Island to California and two different countries (Costa Rica and Colombia), but for the past 11 years I’ve lived in Ottawa, Illinois, which is the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. And I love it here, so I’m happy to call myself an Ottawan.

Regarding the question, "How did you first get published?” I thought I’d offer a To Do list, based on my personal journey from aspiring writer to published author.

• Read widely and voraciously in the genre in which you hope to write. If you want to write for children, make sure you know the difference between picture books, early readers, middle-grade novels, young adult novels, etc. Become an expert in the field!

• Take time to focus on the craft of writing before you start worrying about publication. (I know it’s hard to do, but it will pay off in the end.) I think all writers should read The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. A few other favorites are Story by Robert McKee and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.

• Research publishers and their submission policies. For aspiring children’s book authors, I recommend reading the latest Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market and joining SCBWI, the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. • Find a local or online critique group of writers in your genre. If you can’t find one, form your own! Professional organizations like SCBWI can often help you locate like-minded writers who are interested in manuscript exchanges. I’ve found the support and feedback of my critique partners to be invaluable over the years.

• Set realistic publication goals. I wrote a children’s book review column for the Ottawa Times and wrote several pieces for the Cricket Magazine Group before I ever had a book published. This experience was an important stepping stone in my career, as I gained a lot of confidence as a writer in addition to a great list of writing credits.

• If you decide to look for an agent (optional for children’s book authors), make sure you do your homework first. Find one who specializes in your genre. Good agents won’t charge you upfront fees; they take a percentage of your earnings after they make a sale for you. Beware of scam artists!

• Resist the temptation to submit your work before it’s ready. Give your first draft time to “rest” before you begin the revision process. Then polish it until it shines! The publishing industry is highly competitive and swamped with submissions. Make sure your manuscript stands out in the crowd!

While other people’s writing paths may vary, I think mine is fairly typical of what it takes to break into the business. Is it easy? No. Is it worthwhile? Definitely!

THANK YOU, JULIE!! Stop by and visit Julie at or at her home page at

We at Acme Authors value our readers comments, and I'm sure Julie would enjoy hearing from you as well. Please take a moment to say hello, ask a question, or share your experience. Or perhaps you have a bit of advice to offer. We welcome your input!

Til next time ~

DL Larson


Debra St. John said...

Hi Julie! These are great tips, and are valuable no matter what genre you write in.

And I love libraries...all those books...librarians are my heroes!!

Morgan Mandel said...

Thanks for the great hints, Julie.
I'm planning on doing a children's book about my dog, Rascal in the near future. I'll follow a lot of your advice.

Morgan Mandel

Deb Larson said...

Hello fellow bloggers!
Libraries are awesome! And Julie's guest blog has inspired me to pursue my children's story too.
Thanks for stopping by.
DL Larson

Julia Durango said...

Thanks Debra, Morgan & Deb! Good luck with your works-in-progress!