How did it feel to hold your debut picture book for the first time?
I felt a bit like a Russian nesting doll, and all the younger versions of me, the eight-year-old me, the twelve-year-old me, the thirty-three-year-old who sent out her first submission, etc., were all present and so happy to finally hold this book.
The first time I shared a manuscript with a group for a critique, I was so naïve, and I was offended when a member suggested major revision, as if he’d just called my baby ugly! I’d love to think my stories will spring from my forehead perfectly formed, but the truth is my writing benefits from thoughtful revision, so I’ve learned not to take suggestions as attacks on my character and see them as tools to improve the piece at hand.
What do you feel is the secret to finding your voice as a writer? When did you realize that you had “found” yours?
The secret to finding your voice as a writer is this: be willing to write an incredible amount of mediocre work at the beginning, looking for those sentences or paragraphs that shine upon re-reading, and eventually you’ll write something that you can reread six months later and not cringe. I have a filing cabinet full of decent manuscripts, but my writing became much better when I let my own sense of humor in and stopped thinking about what would sell.
How has your experience as a librarian contributed to your writing?
I get to read picture books for a living! When I read a book to kids, I can automatically see what works. When a book entrances an audience, or when half of the kids are fidgeting as I read, I take mental notes on those pages and study them later.
Living with an artist has definitely helped me think in pictures! He doodles constantly, and every little character he draws seems to have its own story – there are no stock or background characters. I’ve learned to imagine each character in my writing much more fully, and I’ve learned that long chunks of dialogue with no action in a picture book lead to illustrations of talking heads.
here to edit.
I’m represented by Fuse Literary Agency: Gordon Warnock handles my adult writing and Sara Sciuto does the youth market. The most important factor of our relationship is the knowledge that we’re all working as hard as we can to sell my writing. My agents know the market, so when Sara suggests how to make a story stronger, I listen. I work to give the best manuscripts I can and I know that my agents will do all they can to sell them.
And there is MORE! Kris shares her experience and viewpoint about picture books as mentor texts in Part 2 of the interview HERE!
Kristen Remenar is an author, children’s librarian, and national speaker on early literacy. Her first picture book is GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA, published by Charlesbridge, and is illustrated by the award-winning author/artist (and super-cute husband), Matt Faulkner. Her alter ego, Helen Wrath, has a book out on December 29 (just in time to deal with your post-holiday stress disorder) called DRAW WITH A VENGEANCE: GET EVEN IN INK AND LET KARMA HANDLE THE REST.