Author's tales: Writers recount struggle to get published

Published: Friday, July 6 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

Author Mette Ivie Harrison shows off her three books at her home in Layton.

Brian Nicholson, Deseret Morning News

Nobody understands the power of words better than an author.

With so many books published each year, it can be difficult to make a living as a writer. However, three local authors are not only making it, they have had success. The Deseret Morning News profiled three authors in various stages in the process: Kristyn Crow, Mette Ivie Harrison and Shannon Hale. Here are their accounts of what it took to become published children's writers, plus advice they offer potential writers.

Success comes slowly

Kristyn Crow would say that becoming a published children's writer takes a lot of patience and waiting.

Although the Layton resident has now sold three picture book manuscripts to major publishing companies, it will be a year before she sees the fruits of her labor. "Cool Daddy Rat" is scheduled for release in April 2008, "Bedtime at the Swamp" comes out in the summer of 2008 and "Middle Child Blues" will be released in fall 2009. Even with success on the horizon, waiting is difficult.

"I've been waiting for the opportunity for so long to see books on the shelves that were mine that now that I've sold them and they're supposedly coming out, I battle these fears that at the last minute they're not going to come out, that some catastrophe is going to happen," she said. "I'm so close to the final moment I've been waiting for."

Crow said the writing bug bit her at a young age, and she has been producing stories ever since. She first wrote "Cool Daddy Rat" 10 years ago but didn't know how to go about getting it published. She decided if she was serious about becoming a writer, she needed to take classes on children's writing and attend the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers workshop at BYU. It was at the conference that things finally started happening for Crow.

She met Rick Walton, a local children's book author who often mentors beginning children's writers. Walton set up an interview for Crow with an agent from New York attending the conference, but that agent didn't like her story.

"I was just devastated," she said. "Here I had my big chance with an agent (and it didn't go well)."

Crow went back to Walton, who referred her to his agent, suggesting she send four of her best stories. It wasn't until three months later that the agent called Crow to say she wanted to represent her.

A year passed without a single phone call or e-mail from the agent. Out of the blue the agent called one day to say she sold "Cool Daddy Rat" to Putnam Publishers.

"I jumped up and down and screamed," Crow said. "My kids were wondering what was going on. We all went out to dinner to celebrate."

The advice Crow offers to potential writers is to decide how serious they are in their quest to become a published author and to educate themselves on what it takes.

"I think a lot of writers have the misconception that writing for children is easy, that you can write a story in a matter of minutes, send it off and get it published," she said. "If they really knew how hard it is, the amount of rejections, criticism and the sheer amount of time you have to spend waiting, (they wouldn't take it so lightly)."

It's also important to examine what makes a good picture book. Taking classes is helpful.

"When you're missing that step and just try to write a story and send it in somewhere, you're greatly decreasing your chances of getting published," she said. "You're missing that foundation."

Even when one follows those steps, the process still involves a lot of waiting.

"It's constant waiting," Crow said. "It's not for the impatient."

Writing more precious than...