I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Lynne Marie for a long time, after meeting at a SCBWI conference and later rooming together. Not only is she a talented writer, but she generously devotes most of her time to mentoring other authors. And many of them have gone on to publish picture books—a few of these authors writing for her imprint Dancing Flamingo Press. Enjoy meeting Lynne!
You often put on your editor’s hat outside of the office and do mentored critique groups, mentoring sessions, and first pages sessions. How can these types of activities benefit a writer?
All of these can benefit an aspiring author immensely. One effective mentor is the culmination of years and years of study, workshops, classes, reading and conferences, and parts of that knowledge is transferred to the writer within these sessions.
With a mentored critique group, you have someone who has navigated the path to publication (hopefully several times) and has veritable knowledge and wisdom to impart, rather than just going on the thoughts of a group of unpublished writers, which may or may not be helpful. To be honest, they cannot always back up their comments with reason or experience, so it isn’t always helpful. This option would have one mentor who initially reads and comments and then peers can also chime in, so you get the best of both worlds.
Mentoring sessions are extremely helpful because they are one-on-one critiques and when the Mentor gives a comment, the writer can ask questions about what he/she may not understand and as a result, be better able to understand and navigate the feedback.
With first pages sessions, you would get feedback, again, from a professional. In my case, I am the editor at a small press and I run my own imprint. My feedback is extensive, and I back it up with logic. It is also the type of feedback that can usually not only be used on the first page but carried throughout the manuscript. I have quite a bit of experience and can tell a lot from just a first page.
I strongly recommend any one or a combination of these to aspiring authors so that they may fast-track their path a little…or even a lot.
There’s rarely just one moment that leads to success. What turning points led to your first sale?
Good question. My journey consisted of going back to college and taking all the literature, writing, and children’s literature courses I could find. Then, after completing those courses, I joined SCBWI and went to conference upon conference upon conference, including many local (SCBWI NY Metro and LICWI), many state (NY-Hudson Valley, NESCBWI, EPA SCBWI, WPA SCBWI, NJSCBWI, SCBWI FL), many national (NYC and LA – which is where I met Linda Joy many, many years ago), and even an international (Spain).
I’ve also attended four Highlights Chautauqua conferences four times and am a graduate of all the courses at the Institute for Children’s Literature, to name a few more pursuits of craft and knowledge.
However, while I started writing in 1997, I did not actually pursue publication until much later.
The pivot for me was seeing an actual need in a publisher’s catalog/flyer. I noticed that Scholastic had not had a “school bus” book, and thought back to one of the many, many, manuscripts in my treasure chest. I dusted it off, polished it up, and sent it. It resulted in a sale just a few weeks after I sent it. But keep in mind that I had been writing for years and years, and then studying the craft for years and years, and was/is an avid reader. I am up to my 10th book deal (some had sadly fallen through–one due to not being able to accept contract terms and another due to an editor leaving), and targeted submissions have always worked best for me!
What promotion strategies have worked best for you?
Staying active and helpful in the kidlit community has worked for me. I am the CEO of both Rate Your Story (a ratings and feedback service) and The Picture Books Mechanic (a critique and mentoring service), so I interact with many writers, librarians, teachers and parents.
I also do a lot of interviews, articles, and giveaways and did do school visits and appearances pre-COVID. I have been busier than ever from the start of the pandemic, however, I do want to get back to at least cyber-appearances. I do a lot of critiques, mentoring and webinars, and am very hands-on with mentees and RYS members, so I haven’t had time to schedule these things!
Any new books/projects you’d like to share?
Yes! I am excited to currently have four stars shining on my horizon! The first is The Three Little Pigs and the Rocket Project, illustrated by Wendy Fedan (Mac and Cheese Press, 2022), which is a STEM fairy tale retelling. I had so much fun writing this (I studied Fairytales and Folklore in college and love to read these), and I am just thrilled with the way Wendy brings these characters to life. Below is a sneak peek of this book, which will be available on or about January 15, 2022 through Amazon.
Next, is my celebration of Fourth of July, kindness and culture (and pie), American Pie, which is illustrated by the multi-talented Dea Lenihan (Dancing Flamingo Press, 2022). She brought my little wombat, Watson, to life perfectly!
Following that is There Was a Blue Whale Who Tangled in Plastic, co-written with B.J. Lee, and illustrated by Sunny J. Choi (Dancing Flamingo Press, 2023). This is a semi-parody of the There Once Was a Lady Who… books written by Lucille Colandro and illustrated by Jared Lee, coupled with layers of Florida wildlife and people and the need to take action against the plastic pollution problem.
I am thankful for being able to share parts of my journey here, but since I didn’t share much craft (which is my favorite thing), I invite readers to check out my Story Storm 2022 post hosted by Tara Lazar on testing for hooks.
Lynne Marie is the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten, illustrated by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School, illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play, illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares, illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling, 2019) and Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World, illustrated by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books, 2019), American Pie (Dancing Flamingo Press, 2022), and There Was a Blue Whale Who Tangled with Plastic (Dancing Flamingo Press, 2023).
She’s also the Owner and Administrator of RateYourStory.org and a Travel Agent. She currently lives on a lake in South Florida with her family, a Schipperke named Anakin and several resident water birds. Visit her at www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com. Lynne Marie is represented by Marisa Cleveland of www.theseymouragency.com.
Linda Joy Singleton is a reporter at-large for Cynsations. The author of over 55 books from picture books to YA/MG series, including Curious Cat Spy Club (Albert Whitman, 2016), The Seer series (Llewellyn/Flux) and Dead Girl series (North Star Editions). She’s also written picture books, her most recent are Crane and Crane, illustrated by Richard Smythe (Amicus 2019). And March 2022, Sun and Son, illustrated by Richard Smythe (Amicus). She offers Creative Kidlit Consultations. Learn more and visit her at www.LindaJoySingleton.com