Today I am publishing this interview with my editor, Deb Lund. Having my manuscript edited by Deb has been phenomenal. She has such a love of what she does that she really puts her heart into the process.
She made me feel that working with me was the highlight of her year, while having me rewrite my book two or three times!
Because of Deb, I'm working on my most valid manuscript to date. Most editors purely do what they are contacted to do. They do their best to improve a banal manuscript.
Deb could push anyone to doing better.
She has some packages for literally holding an author's hand through writing a book. I can guarantee she is worth every penny. If I ever get published it will be due to Deb.
Because of her I have hopes for my present book.
I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I have enjoyed getting to know her.
Tell me about your first book. What inspired you and what was the process like?
My first book contract was for Tell Me My Story, Mama (HarperCollins), a quirky and warm sibling birth story, inspired by the birth of my son Kaj.
However, Dinosailors (Harcourt) came out first. That idea came from a sailing trip with “The Shifty Sailors,” a maritime singing group founded by my brother-in-law. I was the only person on the trip taking medication for motion sickness and wearing one of those bands that are also supposed to help with that. I was also the only one who left the boat feeling woozy and dizzy. Guess what happened to the dinosailors! (Shhh… don’t give it away.) We took a train back to Seattle. Now, along with All Aboard the Dinotrain and Dinosoaring it’s a bestselling DinoThrillogy—with another dinobook on the way!
What did you learn from your first books?
I learned that being called stubborn as a kid wasn’t all bad. I just had to reframe it. It’s called persistence, and it’s the most necessary trait for achieving your dreams. If you combine persistence with passion, you’re unstoppable!
What does creativity coaching mean to you? And how do you approach this type of coaching with a new client?
The short answer is that it’s like life coaching for creative people. I partner with people who are ready to find more joy and meaning in their lives through creativity. With my help, they refine their ability to clarify their directions, align their actions, release their fears, and claim their creativity.
When I work with writers, I listen for signs of what might be holding them back. I ask questions, help them see the misbeliefs they may be holding about themselves, offer suggestions or tools to change those beliefs, and provide the type of support that will best help them. At times, it’s reassurance that is most important, but I’m always honest, too. The support my clients get from me might range from explaining why and how their creative blocks and pitfalls can actually be gifts, to helping them develop accountability systems. Basically, I help them stay motivated and taking steps to fulfill their dreams. For more specific details on my coaching, you can visit my website, www.deblund.com.
What advice would you give an aspiring picture book writer?
Here’s a peek into my split personality. I’ll answer this question wearing my author, creativity coach, and writing teacher hats…
Don’t give up! If you have a dream, you’re meant to invest yourself in it. Be present to the journey, because that’s where the joy resides. Your perceived destination is a blip of joy that won’t sustain you if the journey isn’t meaningful along the way.
We were all children once, and picture books don’t have many words. Those thoughts lead people to believe it’s easy to write for kids. It’s not. Those thoughts are also why editors are swamped with manuscripts and yours has to be more than just well written. But if you’re persistent and writing picture books is your dream, these ten tips may help shorten your learning curve:
- Write! Many people prefer the idea of writing to the work of writing. I avoided writing for years by reading about it and by saying I didn’t have time. You need to put in your time. Practice, practice, practice!
- Learn your craft. Attend classes and conferences. Read books, magazines, and other publications. Sign up for online newsletters, groups, and challenges like Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month and Julie Hedlund’s 12x12.
- Know kids and kids’ books. Go to the library and check out a stack every week— the books, not the kids. Observe kids. Hang out with them. Volunteer at schools, libraries, scouting or 4-H groups, etc.
- Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). They’ll teach you the nuts and bolts and beyond through their website, handouts, newsletters, and conferences. Get involved!
- Join or start an online or in-person critique or writing support group. Find writing buddies. Libraries, colleges, and writing organizations like the SCBWI may connect you with other writers.
- Sign up for manuscript critiques at conferences, and have a thick skin about it.
- Research publishers and editors. Follow all submission guidelines. Get a copy of the most current Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
- A good agent can really help, but at times it can be more difficult to get an agent than it is to get a book contract, but don’t rush a submission to either.
- Don’t send in a story a friend illustrated for you. Editors select the illustrator. If you write and illustrate, it might help to tell the editor the text and artwork may be considered separately.
- Expect rejection. Most stories are just practice, and everyone gets rejections. Celebrate those rejection letters!
What did you learn from your years of teaching that’s helped you in your career?
When I discovered that my favorite teaching tools and techniques to use with kids worked even better for adults, we all learned a lot more and had a lot more fun.
I’ve been humbled by how my compassion for people and my insights into creativity can make a difference in people’s lives. Teaching or coaching from who I am instead of a set process helps me reach people where they’re “at.” It’s taken me awhile to trust that I can do this, or believe there’s anything even slightly special to it, because it’s something I do naturally and have for years. Even though I’m a trained creativity coach and have a lot of methods and materials to fall back on, I’m really just being me with my clients, staying open, listening, and doing my best for them.
That’s how I felt as a teacher, too. And when coaching clients and workshop participants have breakthroughs, it feels much the same as when my students got excited about grasping difficult concepts. There’s a little kid in all of us, and sometimes those kids just need a little attention, reassurance, and permission to pursue what seem like impossible dreams.
What fuels your creativity?
When I’m feeling creatively empty, I know I need to take care of myself. Sleep, exercise, healthy food, a little pampering (pass the sea-salt dark chocolate and rub my shoulders, please), and being around people who love me all help get me back on track. But why is it that when we most need to take care of ourselves, we do just the opposite? Out goes everything healthy and life giving! (except dark chocolate and shoulder rubs).
Switching to another art form, with no expectation of greatness, can kick me back into a creative writing space. Other times, a walk (preferably on a beach), playing with words for no purpose other than to amuse myself, doodling, singing (I guess those are “other art forms”), dreaming, or meditating refuels my creativity.
Intimate conversations with others about our shared creative experiences always delights and empowers me. It’s a feeling that can’t be duplicated by other means. I come alive when creativity comes up in conversations. Maybe that’s why I love coaching so much.
When I talk with clients, I see myself in them. I feel their fears, recall my own fears and how I worked through them. When I find the right words and ideas to help clients, it’s like I’m also talking to myself. If a client is successful, then I am successful. Coaching calls leave me as uplifted and inspired as they do my clients. I’m so lucky to love this work.
What advice would you give a writer who has writer’s block?
What are you waiting for? Call me! Okay, I initially wrote that to be funny, but it really is an option and an opportunity for you. If you’ve read all the way through this interview, then I’m guessing at least part of you wants me to be your coach. If there’s a part of you hesitating, that’s the part I want to talk to. You don’t need to hire me for me to help you. Email me at email@example.com to set up a free phone call. I’ll give you a nudge in the write direction! If not you, then who? If not now, then when?
Deb Lund is on a mission to get everyone creating, whether it's writers of all ages, dabblers in the arts, students, teachers, or anyone who wants a partner to help them pursue their creative goals in order to bring more joy, meaning, and achievement to their lives. Coaching is the best way to make changes, and Deb's unique coaching style puts her at your beck & call.
In addition to being the bestselling picture book author of Dinosailors, All Aboard the Dinotrain, Dinosoaring, and other books for kids, Deb is a frequent presenter at conferences and retreats. She's the creator of Fiction Magic: Card Tricks & Tips for Writers, a boxed 54-card and guidebook set. With craft "tricks" that help increase the conflict and suspense in your stories and coaching "tips" to decrease those same qualities in your creative life, it's like having two decks in one—now half price through Valentine's Day!
Elizabeth B. Martin is the author and illustrator of six picture books for children. You can view her books here for free.