In this week’s Author Up Close, I interview Anne O’Brien Carelli, author of adult nonfiction, the middle-grade book Skylark and Wallcreeper, and the picture book Amina’s New Friends. She’s been a friend and mentor since we met at our first Writer Unboxed conference. Anne is the owner of a leadership training business, and she has taught me invaluable lessons about managing the craft and business sides of being a writer. Her advice will be especially helpful to anyone writing and querying middle-grade or YA fiction, and she’s a great example of using the skills you’ve learned in previous careers in your career as a writer.
GW: How did you find your agent and land your publishing deal?
AOBC: I had published two nonfiction adult books and self-published a picture book, but the children’s traditional publishing world was new to me. I soon discovered that writers who want to publish a children’s book need to have perseverance, blind optimism, a desire to hone the craft, and a belief in serendipity. It also helps to pay close attention to what is published in your genre.
I found my agent by chance. As I was researching an editor I admired at a conference, I came across a description of her colleague, who looked like the perfect match for my middle-grade book, Skylark and Wallcreeper. I had rewritten my query a million times, but tried again.
I think it’s really important to investigate what agents like to read, what they are looking for, and what types of books they have represented in the past. You can learn a lot of this information by attending conferences and signing up for short consultations with individual editors and agents.
As for landing the publishing deal? I give my agent all of the credit for that. She also looked for the right match and Little Bee Books has been a wonderful home for my book.
GW: Why did you decide to write middle-grade fiction, and why this subject matter?
AOBC: There was never any doubt that I would eventually write middle-grade fiction. The picture book was written because I have volunteered with refugee children for many years and saw that the story about a refugee girl’s first day in an American school was desperately needed. The textbooks I published were related to my work in gender equity and leadership. But many eons ago I taught sixth grade and social studies, and middle grade is my favorite age group (ages 8-12). Those kids are just on the cusp of figuring out who they are, and are developing independence and coping skills. middle-grade books, especially in the last two or three years, address a number of tough issues that kids are facing today. But every middle-grade book has hope at the end, and that appeals to me. [Read more…]