When I was in junior high, I enjoyed reading stories, writing to pen-pals, keeping a journal, and creating poetry. Fast forward a few years and now I blog about these passions: reading and writing. But now my “pen-pals” are my blog readers with whom I share book reviews, writing tips, insights on the process of writing historical fiction, and an occasional poem or two. Please leave a comment and join this conversation on literacy.
For the last month Jenn Bower has graciously shared her creative process from her childhood dreams until the time she signed with Danielle Smith of Red Fox Literary. Today you get to see Jenn's work from Danielle's perspective and why she decided to offer Jenn representation.
drew you to Jennifer's work?
I discovered Jennifer's work at the 2013 SCBWI Carolinas Fall Conference. The
faculty received postcards in a bag when we arrived for the conference and also
had time to preview illustrator's portfolios. During the time we had to preview
the portfolios an editor and myself both commented to each other that Jenn's
work was really fun and unique. Later I went back to my stack of postcards and
searched for Jenn's. Once I discovered it I tucked it (and one other) away for
safe keeping until I could email her later.
made her work stand apart from the other submissions you receive?
exact words in the first email I sent Jenn were these: "Your characters were fun, a little quirky, and very accessible to children's books."
When I first saw her work online (she had a
really well put together blog, website and had great involvement on Twitter
with #kidlitart and #inktober) I was instantly pulled in by her
characters. I'm constantly looking for the ever-elusive "different"
or "spark" with illustrators and Jenn definitely has it. She had one
character in particular I loved, a little girl with a huge amount of hair that
constantly pulled in a variety of objects and animals. As they say "the
devil is in the details" and in Jenn's work there were/are plenty of
details and personality popping out everywhere.
In addition to those elusive details that Jenn
brought to the table, it was her submission that showed me she wanted to be a
children's book illustrator more than anything else. She mentioned goals she
had and her background as a working mom. Jenn's dedication to her craft and her
daughter were clear to me and as someone who wants to help to build the
career of the clients I work with over the years, these were very appealing to
me. Obviously how I found Jenn wasn't exactly a typical submission process and
I won't always know this much detail about a potential client's life right
away, but knowing that we shared similar priorities was a huge draw to
the next few months Jenn and I exchanged emails and phone calls while
discussing not only text for her picture books, but also the illustration
samples she was working on. The edition of the manuscript Jenn first sent
me was originally over 900 words (larger than what I'd recommend sending to me,
but again, this was an unusual situation) and over those months we whittled it
down to under 500 words. I do this with all of my writing clients as I'm more
of an editorial agent and prefer to send a polished manuscript on submission.
Jenn and I also worked to polish her illustration
samples. First, Jenn completed a full dummy for the picture book. I don't
always ask for this, but because we'd not worked together before I wanted to
see her full vision for the story before proceeding. We exchanged a number of
phone calls after this to discuss details about the samples we were prepping
for submission. Again, I look for details and though I knew Jenn had done
amazing work already, I knew she could do even better with a bit of a push. She
did! Jenn fine tuned things as seemingly simple as bushes, among other things,
and in the end her book is something I am proud to share with editors.
Thank you, Carol, for giving me the opportunity
to share this process with you and your readers. As I mentioned, Jenn's
experience may be a little different than "typical" submissions, but
I find that discovering new talent is anything but a "typical"
process and always an adventure.
For more than six years Danielle Smith has been the well-known blogger behind the online review site There’s a Book, voted the BBAW’s Best Kidlit Book Review Blog and host to over two-hundred thousand page views per month. Her children’s book reviews have also appeared in top online and print publications such as Parenting Magazine and Women’s World.“There is something magical about working with children’s books,” says Smith who still cherishes the time she’s able to read with her own two children each day. As the latest addition to Red Fox Literary, Smith looks to further expand on the sterling reputation she's built within the children’s trade publishing world. Her client list includes both authors and illustrators working in genres from board books to picture books to young adult novels. Click here for submission information.