I love writer’s conferences! Not only do we get to hang out with other authors, we get to listen to amazing people (agents, editors, art directors, authors and even lawyers) share insight into the industry.
Friday at SCBWI-IOWA was the Julie Ham show. Julie is the Associate Editor/contracts manager at Charlesbridge press. And I got to introduce her!
Of course, before I introduce someone, I want to get to know them. I want their deepest and darkest secrets. However, since that’s a little stalkerish and I don’t want to be banned, I keep it to other interesting tidbits like favorite books, food, advice…. I learned that Julie’s favorite book growing up with TALE OF TWO BAD MICE by Beatrix Potter, which then transformed into LITTLE WOMEN as her taste in books matured. Today her favorite book is called TAGGED, and it is one she is editing. It has an edgy voice and is about a 14 year old graffiti artist.
And of course, everyone should know if you go out to pizza with Julie, order a veggie pizza. She’s not a vegetarian though, she’s a pescetarian.
She shared with us tips on making a picture book sing… and it all starts at the very beginning….Yes, the first page. Just like in chapter books where we hear all about the first page, the same goes for picture books.
Think of it this way. Your story is one of 300 a month. Someone has to read those. They had a long week and are tired, but believe that in the pile, the next OWL MOON or SOPHIA’s SQUASH, is hiding, just waiting to be discovered. They pick up your story and read. One of two things happen; the first sentence grabs them and they become engaged OR they blink their eyes, yawn and say “next.” They don’t have time to read everything. That doesn’t give you time for backstory, much set up unless it grabs a reader and pulls them in, or an opportunity to take the long rode into the story. Every word matters.
Here are some books that Julie talked about with gripping first pages. Head to the library and study these. Look at the language. Look at the first page. Ask yourself a few questions:
Do you want to read more, why?
How are they setting up the story?
Did they have any backstory?
What is the book about?
What more do you want to know? (A good first page makes you want to know more. It makes you invested.)
Here are those titles:
- I Want My Hat Back
- Zen Shorts
- Little Pig Joins the Band
- Grandpa Green
- Ellington was not a Street
- Ballet for Martha
- The Curious Garden
- Imogene’s Last Stand
- Extra Yarn
And of course if she had read my book, she’d have added it to the list:
Remember, you need to be your biggest critique. Don’t settle! Push yourself to make your story the best story you can! You can do it!
Julie sent me a very nice rejection letter once…maybe with these terrific insider tips and a GREAT first line, I should try sending her something again! Fun story Debbie!
She is really sweet. Good luck with your story! You might also want to spend time studying their backlist to see how your story will fit in and enhance what they have, or fill a hole. 🙂
Julie Ham is a really informative speaker, especially on insights for those of us writing nonfiction PBs or MG/YA titles. Thanks for sharing these titles to look out for.
Thanks for sharing! I will be studying those books!