Did I ever think that I would be writing a blog, let alone a blog about children’s books? No way, Never!!! I’m a nurse for goodness sake. I’m used to speaking medical jargon and educating patients on how to properly manage their diabetes.
So, how did I get here, a published children’s book author, and why have I continued on this path? My story is quite simple. It starts with insomnia. About two years ago, I woke up one night around 2 am to feed my one-month-old daughter and a vivid story showed up in my tired brain. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep, but I could not turn my brain off. So, I decided to write down this story. Did I get out of bed? Of course not, I was too tired! I grabbed my phone and hid under the covers, so nobody could hear me or see what I was doing.
After that story, night after night after night, new stories emerged. After about a month of writing down stories I was brave enough show them to my sister, then my mom, and finally, my husband. They were all so supportive. My husband was surprised that I’d been doing this under the covers in the middle of the night, but supportive, you bet!
They all asked me, “Are you going to get them published?” Published? Nah. This is just a late date night affair that me and my brain have with each other to keep me from sleeping. And maybe to share with my family and kids.
But I kept coming back to that question. Was this a sign that I should try something new? I wasn’t sure, but if I didn’t try, I would never know. It has been one of the most important questions I have ever been asked. Well, besides, when my husband asked me to marry him. Both questions were very important and both responses were “Yes!”
I know that saying “Yes”, is just the beginning of your journey.
If you’re a writer I’m sure you’re familiar with the term work in progress. I believe everything in life is a work in progress. We all need a little tweaking to make ourselves, our friendships, and our writing a little better. The idea of my being a children’s book author was a great thought, but thoughts have to lead to action. And action takes work.
So I got to work.
As I worked I faced rejections. Rejections. Ah, that dreadful word. I never had any rejections from my family when I read them my stories. But rejections are just a part of the business. Anybody who ever submits a manuscript is going to get rejected. I was rejected approximately 20 times before receiving an offer from my agent. And I still receive rejections daily from publishers and editors not interested in my work. Don’t let rejections discourage you, instead let it encourage you to continue writing until you receive a, Yes! Remember, there is no success without rejections.
Plus, rejections aren’t all bad. I had sent Mauricio Velazquez de Leon, the publisher at duopress, an imprint of Workman Publishing, tons of manuscripts. Even though he rejected them, he told me he liked my work and possibly one day in the future I could write for them! Fireworks, went off when I read those words! He was fueling up my empty engine! So I learned that rejections can be a good thing. My finished manuscripts still needed some tweaking, but now I was more than happy to go back over them and re-write until he liked one of them.
I also started looking for an agent. I started with Google, which referenced me to SCBWI. I joined SCBWI and SCBWI referenced me to books, magazines, blogs, conferences and many more things. I have gained so much and more from being a member of SCBWI. I feel very blessed and fortunate with the new friends I’ve made and the endless opportunities that have come my way, just by joining. Readers, if you decide to join, I’m sure you’ll get just as much out if it that I have.
After no luck with submissions of my manuscripts via email, I decided to attend a conference here in Chicago, to pitch in person to a few literary agents. I noticed that a lot of bloggers mentioned getting signed faster in person than over email. With in-person pitches, the agents really get to see who you are, your personality, and the passion behind your projects. I signed up to pitch to three agents. I was so nervous, but ready to show them who I was and that my stories were ready to hit the shelves.
Before going to the conference, I did lots of research on how to land an agent. I also practiced my pitch before going face to face with them. Out of the three agents, one was interested in my work. Luckily, it was the agent I wanted. Within a week’s time I signed a contract with Cyle Young of C.Y.L.E. Young Literary Elite.
Not long after signing with my agent and finishing my work-in-progress, I had a signed contract with duopress for my first book, Babies Around the World: Dancing. Wow! I can hardly believe it. It’s truly a blessing to have an idea, run with it, and then see it come to pass!
If anybody reading has a similar experience, with ideas or stories popping up in your head, take that leap and try something new. You never know where it may bring you!
Although getting awakened in the middle of the night seemed to be a big nuisance at the time, it showed me that new ideas, passions, journeys and experiences can be brought out of the dark.
Babies Around the World Dancing is a board book that packs both fun and learning into a small space. Culture and dance, along with Geography, and Language. The vivid and outstanding illustrations done by Violet Lemay will make any child want to dance and visit other countries.
As my new journey begins, I will make my way out of hospital rooms and venture into classrooms. Author visits goals to schools and libraries, are to teach the children about the four main learning features mentioned above. Duopress, along with Violet and myself, came up with a fantastic activity kit and guide to help engage students in learning about world cultures through dance, geography, and language.
I’m so proud to be a part of this new movement to bring inclusion, diversity and culture into homes and classrooms all around the world.
— Tamara Barker
Dancing is love. No matter where you’re from, we all live to dance!