May 18, 2021
Note From Rochelle
As I finished my new book, Mightier than the Sword, I knew I would need extra help promoting it. So I searched online for a launch group. When I couldn’t find one to join, I worked with another writer to create one. Finding this group has been such a blessing! Every single person brings unique gifts. To celebrate the group and my birthday, I am giving away books! Head to my new blog to learn how you can win the book of your choice from the image below: https://rochellemelander.com/birthday-book-giveaway/
Today, I’m delighted to welcome my friend and critique partner Kira Bigwood to the blog to talk about her brand new picture book, Secret, Secret Agent Guy. I was lucky enough to see this book when it was just a draft. Trust me, it’s delicious. Read on to learn more about how she did it!
Writers@Work: Breaking into
the Children’s Market
An Interview with Kira Bigwood
by Rochelle Melander
Welcome to the blog! Can you tell us about your debut picture book, Secret, Secret Agent Guy?
Thanks so much for having me, Rochelle! I’ve been lucky enough to call you a friend and critique partner for a few years now, which makes chatting with you on your blog even more special . And, why YES, I’d love to tell you about my debut! SECRET, SECRET AGENT GUY is a spy twist on the classic, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. It’s illustrated by the beyond-talented Celia Krampien, and I just can’t wait for readers to enjoy all the little details of the action-packed world she created.
Your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to join Secret, Secret Agent Guy on his bedtime assignment, code name: Operation Lollipop. Equipped with night-vision goggles, a jetpack, and grappling hook, he is prepared for every eventuality…or is he? Will this 007-year-old complete his covert quest, or will he be outsmarted by an adversary he never saw coming?
It’s tough to break into the children’s market. What was your journey toward that first contract like?
It IS tough, and it took me 6 or 7 or 8 years (I’ve lost count, haha), querying 10 different stories to finally write something someone wanted to make into a book. This is despite being a career writer with 2 degrees in writing—so if anyone ever tries to tell you penning a children’s book is easy, give ‘em a little smack for me .
I got my big break in 2018 when I was accepted into the RUCCL One-on-One Conference. I met Editor Alex Borbolla at the group lunch that day, where I was testing a theory, doing everything opposite of what I would normally do. Being an introvert, making casual convo with an editor over a brownie is something akin to chiseling Mt. Rushmore—overwhelming and HARD. But I was being Opposite Me, so I had no choice but to smile and say something profound, like, “This brownie is good.” Luckily Alex took it from there, and before long, we were chatting about how much we love spy stories. When I submitted to her afterwards, she said she was “charmed” by my manuscript (certainly not by my brownie banter 😆 ) and after a few revisions and a meeting with her acquisitions team, she offered me a book deal! I knew I wanted an agent to help guide my career, so I nudged a few I had submitted to, Jennie Dunham, of Dunham Lit, being one of them. Jennie understood where I was trying to go with my writing and took the time to foster a personal connection. She is a straight up BOSS, who’s already handled whatever it was I was worried about, and I’m so glad to have her in my corner.
For those reading this who really want to write and publish a children’s book, what advice would you give?
Write for the job you want (published author, anyone?), not the job you have. Treat it like a career choice. You wouldn’t expect to know how to perform surgery without going to med school, so why would you think you could write a children’s book without first putting in the work (I’m talking to myself here). I, too, fell into the trap of querying before I was ready…of thinking this might be kinda not that hard for an “already-a-writer” (I’m cringing just typing that!). Writing a book is HARD (see my Mt. Rushmore example)! And you will get out of publishing only what you put into it. So put in a lot! Take classes, join critique groups and professional groups, attend conferences, have more than one story. Do all the things everyone’s been telling you. Write, revise, research. Expect to get some (lots of) rejections. Don’t take them personally, but do take them, because they are almost always right and can teach you something. Be kind. Be appreciative. Support others. And most importantly, keep at it. I firmly believe that if you put in the effort, you will absolutely succeed!
You’re a busy person! You work, parent, and write. What’s your secret for finding time to write?
I wish I had one. I honestly don’t feel like I have enough time to write…who does after the year we’ve all had? Sure, let’s just add remote schooling onto that already steaming pile, shall we 😆? One thing that has helped though, is being held accountable. For me, that’s through critique groups, and professional groups like 12×12. I’m also an on-again, off-again member of the #5AMWritersClub on Twitter (join us!). Sounds brutal, but it’s actually delightful and quite productive when I can beat out the kids (2 out of 3 are early risers, so there’s no telling!).
What are you reading now?
Love this question! I’m originally from coastal North Carolina, so I just had to pick up WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING (along with everyone else, haha) by Delia Owens, and I’m three quarters of the way through with Laura Taylor Namey’s A CUBAN GIRL’S GUIDE TO TEA AND TOMORROW…super charismatic and makes me wish I could bake (and be a teenager again). And of course, you know I have a giant stack of picture books from the library that I’m slowly making my way through. Do you have any recommendations, Rochelle?
Thanks again for having me! Good luck to everyone out there in the trenches—you got this!
About the author. Kira Bigwood writes children’s books, TV commercials, and much to her 10-year-old’s dismay, notes for her kids’ lunchboxes. She was once edited out of a My Little Pony ad because she was missing her two front teeth (not that she’s still hanging on to that or anything). Luckily, she has all her teeth now, and a much more positive attitude toward the editing process. Kira is a graduate of the University of North Carolina (go Heels!), and lives in Chicago with her husband and three children. Secret, Secret Agent Guy is her debut picture book. Follow Kira on Twitter @KBigwood, or visit her at kirabigwood.com.