The Village Behind My Book Deal

Balzer+Bray has acquired my debut picture book Diamond|Man! Hooray! I’m thrilled, and it’s hard to know where to begin talking about it.

 Grandpa Hall and me in 1983

Grandpa Hall and me in 1983

This project is my heart in 700 words. It compares the life of my grandfather, H. Tracy Hall, to the natural process of changing graphite into diamond. It’s two stories with one beautiful ending.

My grandfather’s life was like a diamond furnace—born into poverty, bullied by peers, working at an early age; however, he took his unique skills and became one of the brightest inventors of the 20th century, eventually building a machine that made diamonds.

I’ve been working on this project for many years. It’s been a long journey, and I haven’t done it alone. Here’s a brief {reverse} person-by-person path leading to my book deal:

  • Kristin Daly Rens at Balzer+Bray extended an offer for my grandfather’s biography, Diamond|Man, in 2016.
  • Kristin extended an offer because Laura Biagi (my agent) sent her my manuscript.
  • I met Laura through Michelle Hauck‘s online Picture Book Party contest.
  • I found Michelle’s contest through Julie Hedlund‘s 12×12 Writers’ Facebook Group.
  • I met Julie Hedlund at an SCBWI conference when I lived in Colorado.
  • I joined SCBWI because Elizabeth Glann encouraged me to.
  • I met Elizabeth Glann (my very first critique partner) by sending her a message on JacketFlap.com.
  • I was on JacketFlap because I was trying to find other writers in my area.
  • I was trying to find other writers because I read in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books that critique partners are helpful. (Note: I knew no other writers at this point.)
  • I read The Complete Idiots Guide to Publishing Children’s Books because it was one of the resources listed on Harold Underdown‘s website.
  • I found Harold Underdown’s website because I googled the phrase “How do you publish a picture book?”
  • I googled the phrase “How do you publish a picture book?” because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. (2008)

This is just one branch on my publishing journey–a limb on the tree of my writing experience. I couldn’t possibly name all the people I’ve met along the way, but here are few other key experiences for perspective:

  • My cousin Erin Bylund encouraged me to write the earliest drafts and inspired me to keep going.
  • Many critique partners offered feedback on the more than eighty drafts I wrote of this story. You are my heroes!
  • I know I already mentioned my agent, Laura, above but she deserves double mentioning. She worked on a revision with me for three months before we went on submission. I’m pretty sure she’s thought about every word in this story (as has my editor-extraordinaire, Kristin).
  • The Rutgers Council on Children’s Literature provided a generous scholarship that allowed me to attend their One-on-one Plus Conference.
  • Kate Jacobs, my mentor at the One-on-one Plus Conference, gave me excellent career advice that jump started my queries for agents.
  • My many writing friends who have given me advice and inspiration along the way.
  • My kids for their endless faith and energy.
  • Finally, my husband Josh has always being my biggest cheerleader.

When I signed the deal, I took a moment to reflect on all the people who helped me get here. A HUGE thank you to everyone whose been with me on this long but wonderful journey. It was worth the wait!