Hi. You’ve found the page for the Killingworth Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Group. Eventually, I hope to have a unique website for this gathering, but this should get us started.
The purpose of this group is to to give children’s book authors and illustrators an opportunity to share their stories and art with others. It is open to those who are published or striving to be published (not self-published) in this genre. Writing and illustration tends to be a solitary endeavor, and most of us benefit from constructive feedback from those who share their dreams and experience.
I've decided the most concise way to tell you what to expect is in the form of a Q&A, so here goes…
Who can join this group?
Any author and/or illustrator of children’s books – primarily in the picturebook to middle grade genre.
Do I need to be a published author/illustrator?
NO! These groups tend to attract both. A group I’ve attended over the years in Guilford, started by Kathleen Kudlinski, now run by Laura Jackson, refers to unpublished authors as “prepublished”. I like that. It is a wonderful mix writers and artists of all levels of experience. That said, some who started in our group as unpublished are now published writers and/or illustrators!
Writing and/or drawing is just a hobby. I have no interest in getting published. Can I still read my story?
This group is for people pursuing publication for their stories and art.
What about self-publishing?
Our limited time together will be spent working with stories created for the purpose of getting them published with a house that pays you. While self-publishing is certainly growing more popular, the vast majority of the books produced lack the vetting, editing, marketing, and distribution provided by established publishing houses. I've seen my share of these books - they are almost always ...lacking. Anyone can publish their own book. We are focusing on those willing to work hard to find a real publisher for their books.
Where do we meet, and when?
Killingworth Library, 301 Route 81, Killingworth, CT. We meet on the fourth Thursday of the month from 7-10PM (we rarely go that late). First timers are asked to hold off reading until their next meeting, but are encouraged to participate in the critiques.
What if I don’t have a story ready to read?
Please feel free to come anyway! You can still listen to the stories of those who do, and include your thoughts in the critique.
I have this book I wrote ages ago! Can I bring it?
Yes, but bear in mind that publishers are not looking for books. They are looking for writers and illustrators. Writers write, and they don't stop after they get just one story out of their system.
I have this great idea for a book - can I share it?
Nope. Ideas come cheap. We all have dozens of them. What separates the published author from the dreamer is they actually put their dreams to words. You cared enough about that idea - believed in it - enough to put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard). Now THAT'S what we want to hear!
I can’t draw! What’s the point in even trying to get my book published?
You either write the story, do the art, or both. You do not need to be an artist to submit your stories to publishers. The editors and art directors will hire one if they buy your story. Most books are illustrated by people who have not written them. Hopefully, that's a relief to some of you!
How can I get my illustrations critiqued?
Bring in your artwork, or copies of it. If you work digitally, you can print it out. Most art directors now look at your work online. If you are an illustrator, you pretty much need to make it available on the Internet. You can also show it on your laptop or iPad.
How long will I have to read my story?
That depends on how many people in the group. It will generally be kept to under 10 minutes - 5, being ideal. Any longer, and the minds of even the most engaged listeners tend to wander.
What are the kinds of things the listeners will be commenting on?
Clarity. Cliches. Continuity. Awkward sentence structure. Originality. Things like that. Critiques will generally follow the “sandwich” rule: Say something positive. Get to the meat of the critique. End with something positive. We all want to be polite and constructive because we’ll be subjecting our own stories to the same scrutiny! At the same time, though, we’re all there to hear the truth. Either you’ll hear it in the room with us, or from an editor (or no one - most editors don't put much time into telling you why they were not interested).
What about the art?
About the same as above, except for the sentence structure. Also, format, color, style, layout, and content.
What if I don’t agree with the suggestions?
It’s YOUR story! It’s YOUR art! You can toss out every suggestion you hear. However, you will always mine some good nuggets to bring home!
Okay, what if someone steals my idea?
Then they’re jerks. Seriously, though, in my 30+ years in the business, I’ve never heard of that happening.
Will you get my book published?
What can I get out of this experience?
Read above, and add to that a couple more things:
- Many find creative inspiration in being exposed to the work of others.
- These groups tend to push you to complete work in time for the next meeting.
- It’s great to talk shop with people going through what you are going through.
- Some of us have information and connections to share that could help in your search for a publisher. Each meeting will start with a round table sharing of any marketing info our members may have picked up.
- Lastly, but really "firstly", encouragement! Who can't use that?
What is the future of publishing?
Damned if I know. But publishers are still publishing books – many now with an electronic component (not your problem) added. Children’s books have fared a lot better than adult books. Kids, and the adults who buy books for them, want to hold them in their hands. If publishers are still publishing books, they need people to write and illustrate them. Hey! Let’s make that us!
What are the age restrictions to join?
18 and up.
Who is John Himmelman?
Can I send you my manuscript/illustrations for feedback?
I do get that a lot, but I'm sorry, outside of our group meetings, I'm not comfortable doing that. Plus, I'm almost always in the middle of working through my own story problems.
Duh! But what business do you have facilitating a group like this?
Oh, sorry. I’ve been writing and illustration children's books since 1981, having published about 85 of them. I’ve also taught the craft in a variety of formats and venues. You can visit my website at www.johnhimmelman.com. I’m also on facebook – (search "John Himmelmans’ Children’s Books and Natural History Books" if that link doesn't work) and twitter (sort of - don't check it a lot).
You didn’t answer a single one of my questions! How do I contact you?
One more question - do I have to let you know if I'm coming to a meeting?
If you are already a member, no - come when you can. If you are interested in joining, email me to see if we have room.