Thursday, September 6, 2018

My (Crooked) Path to Becoming a Picture Book Creator

Hello and Happy Spiritual Journey Thursday! Donna is rounding us up at Mainely Write, and we are focusing our posts today on "My Path."

love poem to Man O'War
Writing for me is a spiritual practice. It's when I'm writing and sharing about my writing that I feel most connect to others, the universe, a Higher Power. and when I started out -- way back when I was a child -- it was always always poems. I wrote love poems for my mother, love poems about horses, love poems love poems love poems!

Somewhere about the time I was 10 or 11, I started writing stories. Most of them were short. Even those that were intended to be long, were short -- because I got bogged down in the middle, or seduced by an exciting new idea! I only shared some of my work, and then only with a select few.

It wasn't until I was in my late twenties that I started thinking about publishing any of my work. I started with, of course, poetry. More love poems! For adults! I got published. And then, just like Younger Me, I moved to stories -- middle grade novels. I got published. I was a novelist! Picture books were not on my radar at all.

Until 2010 when I went to Children's Poetry retreat with Rebecca Kai Dotlich. I felt like I'd found my always-meant-to-be home! I immediately started writing poetry picture books. I got published. And then two things happened:

1. I wrote and submitted quite a few middle grade novels -- and no one wanted them. It was a low time.

2. One of my editors told me she wouldn't be able to acquire any more of my poetry collections, because the sales numbers of poetry in general were too low to get it through.

Sad times, I tell you! Sad times! So, what's a poet & novelist to do?

Try something new.

Oh, but it's so hard to let go, to listen to what the universe is telling you! So much easier (and satisfying, at least for the moment), to dig our heels in and refuse to budge. And taking a new path is scary. Who knows what dangers wait around the bend?

and yet... who knows what beauty?

I decided to venture forth on a new path. I took a current collection of poems and figured out a way to transform it to a narrative picture book. That book became LOVE, AGNES: POSTCARDS FROM AN OCTOPUS. It comes out Oct. 1, and is the first of several narrative picture books I'm so grateful have found publishing homes.

And: I haven't given up on poetry picture books -- I've just had to be more innovative. (I have several poetry collections in the publishing queue, too.)

As for middle grade novels? I still love them, and I do hope to publish one again someday.

"The Road" by Edgar Degas
(click here to read the poem
 I wrote inspired by this piece)
But right now I'm pretty happy in Picture Book Land. And it's keeping me very busy! At this point I've written and sold far more picture books than anything else.

Who knew? I never not once would have could have predicted it.

O, the crooked path, how I love thee!


  1. Your path is so inspiring, and so are you!

  2. Isn't it amazing to look backward - not to lament, but to rejoice and be astounded!

  3. Wonderful post -- looking forward to Love, Agnes. I maintain that the best picture book writers are also poets, so your success with publishing PBs doesn't surprise me at all. I once heard a PB author say she doesn't like or "get" poetry, and I gasped.

  4. Kindred spirits we are! Of course, I haven't published nearly as much but my love is poetry and I just keep coming back to it. Poetry feels right for me now, but who knows? I love the idea of your new picture book. And what an adorable octopus! I hope we will cross paths this fall sometime.

  5. Love. Love. Love. I am so happy for you and for the word with your words in it. xx

  6. Your path has led you to be a writer, Irene, and even the successful paths have detours along the way. I say that your new path is going to lead you back home to your true love.

  7. I'm so glad my path crosses your path several times a year. And keep throwing those reminder stones at me... get that muse in gear and write... I hear you but but but love you my friend

  8. I'm so excited for Love, Agnes to hit the bookstores. One of One of Jack's favorite stuffed animals is an octopus, so he's getting this book for Christmas. I love your picture books and your crooked path, but keeping my fingers crossed for a return to middle grade novels too! Would love to literally walk that dusty road with you.


Your thoughts?