November 19, 2019
Note From Rochelle
It’s that time of year again—Writer’s Digest magazine is looking for nominations for their annual list of the “101 Best Websites for Writers.” I would be honored to have you nominate Write Now! Coach (writenowcoach.com). If you’ve liked what you’ve seen on the blog this year, please send a brief email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “101 Websites” in the subject line by December 1.
Today I’m delighted to welcome Fern Lee, a coaching and writing colleague. When I met Fern and heard about how she set out to learn the art and business of writing for children, I knew she needed to tell you about it! And if you like this sort of information, check out last Wednesday’s post from Michelle Schaub, on how she learned tools for writing poetry for children.
The Tale of a Pre-Published
Picture Book Writer
By Fern Lee
I came to writing late in my life, even though I have dreamt of being a published author since age 6. I had tried, in fits and starts, to begin writing before I realized that you needed to take lessons about structure and outline, alliteration and onomatopoeia, rhythm and rhyme … you get the idea. I simply wanted to write, and I did, with really terrible results!
It wasn’t long after I moved to the United when I decided that I needed to make a good go of this. I needed to learn all about the publishing trade, and I wasn’t sure where to start.
Find a mentor
I had met Arree Chung (author of picture books MIXED, and NINJA!) when he visited my son’s elementary school. He had told the kids how he started writing and even offered classes for budding authors. I have always loved picture books and decided to take his classes.
I also signed up for 1-1 coaching with him. Even though it was pricey, I decided that I needed to accelerate my learning quickly in order to catch up on learning my craft.
Learn the industry
I found out that my local children’s bookstore was looking for booksellers and even though I didn’t have experience, I applied … and got the job! I learned a great deal about children’s book publishing and together with taking lessons, writing, and 1-1 coaching, I grew tremendously in my writing.
I’m also learning about the business side of being an author. It is still new to me, but I am learning more about it every day through reading blogposts, listening to podcasts, and taking classes.
Learn from writing colleagues
One essential tip that I can offer you is to join a critique group. Finding the right critique group is a trial and error process. I have 2 critique groups and a critique partner! The more feedback you can get for your work the better.
If you haven’t already, I would recommend joining SCBWI (www.scbwi.org) an essential membership for children’s book authors. They can put you into a critique group based on geography. They also host conferences and retreats where agents and editors attend and speak at.
I recently started querying. Even though I’ve only had rejections, I am really pleased that my rejection emails were personalized letters which gave me critiques and feedback on my manuscripts from industry professionals. If I hadn’t taken the classes, 1-1 coaching and gained experience as a bookseller, I don’t think I would have been able to get this far in such a short period of time.
I hope that my story will encourage you to start writing and keep going! I know it can be discouraging sometimes, but I am sure that the dream of becoming a published author will keep you going for days and months to come.
About the Author: Fern Lee is an executive coach by day, and a picture book author by night. She has dreamt of being a published author from the time she could read but only took up her vocation seriously two years ago. She has lived in 3 different countries and recently moved to the United States after spending 16 years in London, UK. Some of her favorite authors are Neil Gaiman, Oliver Jeffers, and Jon Klassen. Her other passion is food. She never passes up the opportunity to buy a book or try a new dish.
Check her out online at