Friday, January 16, 2015

Miranda Paul Answers Writers' Burning Questions by Kathy Halsey

Cozy up with your tea or cocoa, children's writers. Get comfy as Miranda Paul, an amazing writer friend of the GROG, chats with us about writerly topics as her book One Plastic Bag debuts February 1!

When did you decide you wanted to write for children? How long did it take you to get your first book published -- and how did you end up with 3 or 4 all coming out at once?

I decided in 2010. (Keep in mind that I’d already gotten a degree in English six years before that, and was actively freelancing). It was the same year that a New York Times article declared the death of the picture book. (Ouch.)

I knew trying to write and sell a picture book wasn’t going to be easy. It made me work harder right out of the gate. So to improve my odds I wrote (and revised) about 32 picture books and a bunch of other stuff. If you do the math, that means 4 of every 5 books I write aren’t getting published. It really isn’t easy, people!

Here are some more numbers to throw at you:
2011 - wrote the first draft of One Plastic Bag
2012 - got the offer (December)
2015 - book publication

What is your advice on trying to make a living as a writer?

Write more, get organized, stop making excuses, and learn when/how to shut off the internet. (Also: Eat more dark chocolate.)

What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

Besides the actual writing, it’s a toss up between working in my pajamas and getting letters from kids.

What was the most surprising thing about the industry?

“It’s a small world after all...”

When do you let a manuscript simmer? Stop sending it out?
I almost always let a manuscript simmer before sending it out for critique or to my agent.

I don’t send books out on submission in droves. If it doesn’t sell after maybe five to eight submissions, I stop sending it out. I might make revisions and resubmit, but many times I retire a manuscript that isn’t working. I don’t get sappy about rejection. In fact, sometimes I brag about how many rejection letters I have when I do school visits. Kids are oddly fascinated when grown-ups admit their failures!

Do you have a special time when you write, or how is your day structured?
Right now, I write between 9-3, when the kids are in school. But...this is the first time in 8 years all of my kids are in school. I used to wake up very early and write before everyone got up, during naptime or free period (when I was teaching), and after the kids went to bed. Laundry never got done, but I sure as heck got those books done!

What books are you currently reading?

I’m reading a number of books written by the We Need Diverse Books team members and other diverse authors. Recent titles finished: Ellen Oh’s PROPHECY, e.e. charleton-trujillo’s FAT ANGIE, Lamar Giles’s FAKE ID, and Jacqueline Woodson’s BROWN GIRL DREAMING. Up next: Cece Bell’s EL DEAFO and Andrea Davis Pinkney’s THE RED PENCIL. After that: Aisha Saeed’s WRITTEN IN THE STARS, I.W. Gregorio’s NONE OF THE ABOVE, Kat Yeh’s THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE, and Tracey Baptiste’s THE JUMBIES. And of course, I’m always checking out crates of picture books. Too many to list here, since I’m always “currently reading” about a dozen or more.

What things are you doing to market your new book, One Plastic Bag? How much marketing belongs to the publisher and how much to you, the author?

My publisher has been great. I continue to get emails that the book has been reviewed here or there, which shows me how much goes on behind the scenes. The book has already been named a Junior Library Guild selection, and received a starred review from School Library Journal as well as reviews in Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and The Horn Book. Lerner created a teacher lesson extension activity that will be put on their site. I also received advance galleys and a whole box of bookmarks. They’ve put a bio and listed events for me on their website and have also done some social media posting. I’m sure I’m missing things here like their catalog marketing and in-person sales meetings—good publishers do a lot for the book that even authors aren’t aware of!

On my end, I probably should be doing more. I’m not a natural marketer, but I’ve chosen to be proactive about booking a few events, school visits, and festivals. I also made a very short book trailer and put up a website for the book at oneplasticbag.com. Those are certainly not small feats, but I know that I could have done more. I also know that publishing a book by myself isn’t something I would want to do!

How have travel and your other interests intersected with your writing?

One Plastic Bag wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t ever traveled to/been a teacher in the Gambia. Also, my love for water was fully realized after traveling around the world and realizing how lucky I was to have grown up near the shores of Lake Michigan, with so much access to clean water. That love really comes through in Water is Water, which releases in May. 

Helping Hands, my third book, is inspired by the possibilities of all things kids can be when they grow up. And 10 Little Ninjas was sparked my by husband’s large St. Lucian family (he’s the youngest of 10 children). Even though I write for kids, there’s not a book I’ve got that doesn’t intersect my life or interests in a very real way.

Can you name one/two best conferences/workshops you’ve attended?

Whispering Woods - a private retreat with Jill Esbaum and Linda Skeers. Those two individuals are some of the best teachers/mentors in the business!

I’ve also enjoyed workshops at Highlights, through SCBWI (national and regional), and Kristen Fulton’s WOW picture book retreat.

What is the most challenging thing about being a writer (excluding the slow process of the    industry)?

I could go on about the challenges of being a writer. But, as Isatou Ceesay says (and is quoted on the back cover of One Plastic Bag) - “I didn’t call out the problems—I called out solutions.” I try and focus on overcoming whatever challenges come up at each stage of my writing. There are enough “miserable” and “whiny” writers out there. Count me out of that group, please!

How do you define success as a writer? 

I will call myself successful if I just get to continue doing this for the rest of my life. I’m so happy in my job, and that’s a treasure.

What do you want your writing legacy to be?

I envision my future self as that old cat lady who published 500+ books and now lives peacefully at her cottage in the glen, sipping hot tea.

Seriously, though - my goal is to inspire, entertain, and broaden horizons. If kids come to like reading, our world, each other, or themselves a bit more because of my writing, I’d consider that a job well done.

Thank you, Miranda, for showing us the passion, inspiration, and goals for being truly successful  in our chosen field! To enjoy reading, the world, each other because of children's books, there is no better reward. And don't forget to check out Miranda's book trailer here and We Need Diverse Books, too.

46 comments:

  1. Great job, Kathy. Well-chosen questions. I learned a lot from reading this.

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    1. So glad you could learn. What every teacher secretly wants to hear. :)

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  2. Thank you for your help, Sherri.

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  3. Great interview. Look forward to this and your other books Miranda.

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  4. Love your passion, Miranda, and your goals for the future. Thanks for sharing (and I hope to share a cup of tea in your cottage someday)!😊

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    1. Yes, tea in the cottage. But in the meantime, let's have lunch in Chicago ;)

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  5. Wow...your passion is so visible in this interview Miranda. I'm going to copy and enlarge to poster size your "Write more..." advice statement. It's a straightforward concise and direct admonition for writers like me. Thanks.

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    1. Damon,she knows the truth, right?

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    2. Thank you! Enjoy the new poster ;)

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  6. Awesome interview! Being a native Iowan, I can't wait to check out the Whispering Woods retreat. Thanks for sharing the resource!

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    1. Do you still live in Iowa, Carrie? It really is a fantastic retreat. I attended it the summer before I sold my first book, in fact.

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  7. What a great interview. My biggest take away is "Eat more dark chocolate." Seriously, all of this is great stuff, and congratulations again on all of your successes.

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    1. Sylvia, we both are twins w/our Miranda blog posts today.

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    2. Chocolate is often the answer. (Just like choice 'c' on any standardized test.) Thanks for stopping by and for all your support of the book, too!

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  8. Wonderful interview, Kathy and Miranda. I plan to take the writing advice to heart (especially the dark chocolate part). I can't wait to see One Plastic Bag, knowing that it is dear to your heart and experiences, Miranda. The illustrations look amazing!

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    1. TY. Patricia. She is an amazing interviewee.

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    2. Elizabeth Zunon really did a great job on the illustrations. I could probably write an entire post on every detail she got right and point out some things most people probably never will notice that makes the art remarkable in this book!

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  9. Thanks, Miranda! Picture book math is so amazing to me. I'm so excited about all of your forthcoming books! The next few years are going to be so exciting!

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    1. She has so much to look forward to this next few years, doesn't she, Marcie?

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    2. Picture book math! Love the term.

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  10. Awesome interview! Thanks for answering our questions, Miranda! I liked your trailer.

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    1. So glad you liked the trailer, Tina. It might be short, but it took a surprisingly long time with nit-picky edits - even using a software template! Thanks for watching it.

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  11. Isatou Ceesay is a beautiful woman with a beautiful story. It is such an important story. Thank you, Kathy for posting this interview about Miranda and her writing journey. ~Suzy

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    1. Isatou really is beautiful. Thank you for stopping by Kathy's blog. She's also amazing!

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    2. Yep, I do know how amazing my GROGger writerly friends are, Miranda. Together we enjoy sharing our writing journey and posts on our GROG Blog.

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  12. Excellent interview Kathy! Thank you Miranda for being so open and sharing!

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  13. I love candid interviews...and I love hearing how writers get their inspiration...and I especially love finding out that following through pays off. :) So happy for you, Miranda...I look forward to reading all of your wonderful books!

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  14. Thank you Kathy for this great interview with Miranda. I sent Isatou Birthday greetings recently, and we ended up talking about her trip over here. When will the schedule of your (Miranda) school visits be out when Isatou is in this country? Will there be any stops in Michigan? Would love to meet her and you sometime in person. Can hardly wait for "Water is Water". Thanks again to all.

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    1. Thanks for sending Isatou birthday greetings! Unfortunately, we don't have any stops in Michigan scheduled. The events are being rolled out on the events calendar and most should be posted soon. Thanks for stopping by!

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  15. What a great interview, Kathy! I loved hearing more about your life as a writer and about your books, Miranda. I admire you! I know we've never met in person, but your genuineness comes across so clearly as you interact and share on the Internet. Congratulations on your success...and I can totally see you with all those cats :-)

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    1. Penny - same feelings here. Can't wait to meet you in person sometime. I've got 2 cats now, but I'll get there :)

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  16. Dear Miranda,
    This interview with Kathy Halsey is bursting with boosts.
    I'm so glad we share a connection in diverse books.
    I followed the links & am so impressed that you met Lucille Clifton & studied with her; she is such an important poet & woman.

    May I please mention your Jan. 24, 2015 online workshop?
    http://mirandapaul.com/?post_type=tribe_events

    Finally, your titles sing!
    I'm especially smiling about the play on words with ARE WE PEARS YET? Brilliant title, forthcoming.

    Hope to meet you some day at one of your signings.

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    1. Jan, thank you!! Of course you may mention my workshop tomorrow. I am so excited for it. (And procrastinating on last-minute prep so I can reply to awesome responses like yours.) Let's continue to make a difference by buying, supporting, reviewing, and amplifying diverse books and diverse authors.

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    2. I'm so glad you introduced me to Isatou Ceesay with your story.

      This entire article leaves me feeling I'm in the front row at a great seminar.

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  17. Excellent interview! I just read a review of this book on another blog about ten minutes ago! Obviously, someone is telling me it's a must read! I just may have to head to the stores on Feb 1 instead of waiting for the library!

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    1. You must read this book *waves hypnotic timepiece* - just kidding. However you read the book, thanks for the support! I appreciate it.

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  18. I love how your writing intersects with your life and interests. Thanks for this great interview.

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    1. I love this part of writing, too. You're welcome, Linda.

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  19. Tks very much for your post.

    Avoid surprises — interviews need preparation. Some questions come up time and time again — usually about you, your experience and the job itself. We've gathered together the most common questions so you can get your preparation off to a flying start.

    You also find all interview questions at link at the end of this post.

    Source: Download Ebook: Ultimate Guide To Job Interview Questions Answers:

    Best rgs

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