Once you've read and studied a lot (by which I mean at least a couple of hundred books in whatever genre interests you most), keep reading and begin writing. Work on craft, and along the way, be sure to join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, both the national organization and your regional chapter (see the main site for chapter contact information and URLs).
Once you're reading and writing, take a look at my writer resources, which include suggestions helpful to illustrators and publishers as well. The Children's Book Writers' Reading List: A Technical and Inspiration Bibliography should help you along your learning curve. Please note that if you can't afford the books listed, request them through interlibrary loan.
Don't miss the page of writing links, especially The Purple Crayon from children's book editor Harold Underdown. The How-Do-I-Get-Published? Quiz is particularly useful as is Basic Information For Writers and Illustrators. The people at Writing4Kids also have some great writing support products for beginners.
As for illustrators, I am not the best person to ask. But again, I suggest studying the articles on The Purple Crayon for illustrators and joining SCBWI. In addition, the site does features some interviews with illustrators that may be of interest to you.
As for publishing, I don't know much about that either, but this site does include interviews with two successful self-published authors Debbie Leland and Jerry Wermund, both of which describe their process.
See also Tips for Teen Writers from Cassandra Clare. Here's a sneak peek: "I can only say what works for me or what I've observed, and in this post I'll talk about what I remember about being a teenage writer and what was helpful for me."
"Teen Ink is a national teen magazine, book and website featuring teen writing, information, art, photos, poetry, teen issues and more. All articles are written by teen authors who are students at schools. Teen Ink is also a book series published by HCI Teens. More than 25,000 teens have been published in the magazine and its companion Poetry Journal. Teen Ink runs a London Summer Program for teenage writers."
Also of interest: Figment is a community where you can share your writing, connect with other readers, and discover new stories and authors. Whatever you're into, from sonnets to mysteries, from sci-fi stories to cell phone novels, you can find it all at figment.com.
Those recommendations aside, I feel compelled to add that I began working with my editor and agent at a relatively young age (in my twenties), and more times than not, I wish that apprenticeship had lasted longer, that I'd had more years to really focus on my craft without the pressures of publication.
Send an email with a 30 (or fewer) word description of your site in the following format:
Site title: attribution (official, publisher, fan) includes features. Author's (or Illustrator's) books include X, Y, Z.
Children's and Young Adult Author Cynthia Leitich Smith : official author site features biography, bibliographies, articles, interviews, links, etc. Smith's books include Jingle Dancer (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000), Rain is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001), Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002), Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), and Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006). Visit: http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/
A reciprocal link (as listed above, actually) is requested but not required.
Please be advised that not all of this information may be included in your link. I do not promise to link to every site suggested.
NOTE: I seldom link to publisher Web sites, preferring author/illustrator sites.
Sure, and thank you. You may download a copy of our mini-logo (see top of the guide bar to the right) and re-upload it with a link from your own server. A text link is also fine. See the description above, and let me know when it's out so I can visit your site and perhaps create a reciprocal link.
No. However, if it happens that you actually did write the next Harry Potter, please don't let my editor or agent know that I turned you down on that request.
No. Sorry, I'm plenty busy critiquing Greg's manuscripts and those of my critique group and mentees. Here's what you should do: Join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Your local SCBWI regional advisor can help you find a critique group in your area. See also professional book doctors/private teachers.
Whatever you do, don't send me your manuscript or art and then ask for comments. About once a week, my email program crashes because someone attached and sent an enormous art file.
No. Sorry, but I get one-to-three requests a week from published authors, many of them friends, asking for help with related manuscripts. While I appreciate the effort to do homework, I have to preserve time for my own writing. For background information, see: Teacher and Library Resources for Native American Children's Books (there is a lot of information of use to writers as well).
As a member of the children's literature community, I often speak about Native children's literature, and I'm hopeful that this increases awareness and understanding. Please, however, don't thank me in your supplemental pages for assistance unless I have offered in advance for my name to be used this way. Some folks take such a nod to mean that I have personally vetted and approved the story on cultural accuracy grounds, and, again, I'm busy enough with my own work without taking on that kind of responsibility.
Maybe! Blurb requests should come from editors/agents/publicists only. I don’t want to hear from authors at all—not even to ask if they can put my name on a list. This includes personal contacts. Please keep in mind that my time is limited. Even if I agree to read the manuscript, that doesn’t mean I’ll ultimately be able to provide a blurb.