Guest Post: Lisa Katzenberger: Goes Behind the Book with the Courage to Create

By Lisa Katzenberger

As a member of the Courage to Create community, Bethany Hegedus invited me to do a Behind the Book webinar on my picture book It Will Be Okay, illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett (Sourcebook Kids, 2021).

The Courage to Create is a program run by Bethany, who is the owner and director of The Writing Barn. The Writing Barn is a creative writing studio based in Austin, Texas and provides classes and writing intensives both in-person and online. But when the pandemic hit, and everything had to go virtual, Bethany put her long-time vision for a place where creatives could find like-minded friends and connect with industry professionals into action.

Bethany Hegedus

Members of the Courage to Create get to participate in sessions such as Ask An Agent, Editor Insight, and Behind the Book. Bethany also provides monthly Literary Life coaching sessions where she talks about an aspect of life as a creative and provides one-on-one spotlight coaching with members. There’s even Reading and Craft Nights with fellow members, and discounts on Writing Barn classes.

Even as an agented, published author, I find so much value in the program, which is why I was honored to provide a Behind the Book event with my wonderful agent Wendi Gu. A Behind the Book session is a chance to peek behind the curtain of the publishing process and learn more about all the hard work that goes into getting a book on the shelf. It Will Be Okay is on shelves everywhere from independent bookstores to Barnes & Noble and even Target. But the road to get there was full of plenty of bumps.

In my presentation, I shared how I pitched this manuscript to Kelly Barrales-Saylor at an SCBWI conference in 2017 and she liked the concept. In It Will Be Okay, Giraffe sees a spider and climbs a tree to hide. His friend Zebra patiently waits by his side until Giraffe’s fears subside and he is ready to come down. Kelly had some feedback that I incorporated as I worked on a revision—for two years!

I followed up with Kelly when I felt the manuscript was ready, and she quickly made an offer! Shortly thereafter, I signed with Wendi, who did an amazing job of negotiating the contract. I had a book deal! Yay! But, there was still more work to do.

Kelly had a few edits on the manuscript and wanted a title change (the original title was “Scared Silly”). I was able to see Jaclyn’s early sketches and provide feedback. When the pencil sketches of the full manuscript came through, they looked wonderful. But there was one aspect I felt needed a change–Giraffe’s expression on the last page and the placement of the final line in the story. I gathered up my courage, wrote a long note to Kelly, and waited.

The change that Jaclyn made based on my notes and the final page spread she developed is simply stunning. I was so glad I spoke up!

Final page from It Will Be Okay, illustustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett, used with permission.

With the Behind the Book presentation, I wanted to share with other writers that the road to book publication is never a direct line. It took four years from first draft to publication. I went through 40 drafts. I had 20 critiques. But the joy I feel when I see little ones reading my book is beyond amazing and solidifies my belief that all this hard work is absolutely worth it.

I have so enjoyed being a member of the Courage to Create community, and I hope other writers join me for the next session. Registration is open until Sept. 12.

Take a look at the community beliefs below. Which ones speak to you? I can’t wait to continue this journey with Bethany and the Courage to Create community. I hope you’ll join me!

Cynsational Notes

As the youngest of eight siblings, Lisa Katzenberger has been making up stories to entertain herself since she was a child. She loves to write books that make children laugh, escape, and dream. Lisa lives near Chicago with her husband and two children. She is the author of It Will Be Okay and National Regular Average Ordinary Day, illustrated by Barbara Bakos (Penguin Workshop 2020). Find out more about Lisa on her website, follow her on Twitter @FictionCity and Instagram @lisakatz17.