Lisa Maggiore's AVA THE MONSTER SLAYER - Guest Post

Path to Publishing
by Lisa Maggiore

      I wrote Ava the Monster Slayer: A Warrior Who Wears Glasses while I was working as a social worker. Unable to “leap off” my career because our oldest was in college and our family needed two incomes, I decided that while I could not pursue a writing career full-time, I would investigate what to do with this well-crafted and cute story.
      I took a picture book class, offered by a wonderful coach, author, and teacher, Esther Hershenhorn. After the class I asked if Esther knew of any critique groups I could join. She referred me to The Writer’s Cramp, who I met with for over a year. That’s also where I realized that my well-crafted story was not so well-crafted. But it was cute, so I held onto that!
      The Writer’s Cramp shaped my story, and a private coaching session with Esther broadened my creativity. Both helped the draft become a manuscript with publishing potential. But, I had remembered during Esther’s class that writers and illustrators do not typically collaborate on picture books. I knew how I wanted my picture book to look and I was very saddened that I would not be able to make that happen—traditionally. When I shared these feelings with Esther, she suggested self-publishing.
      I did my research on self-publishing but the amount of time and money required scared me. I was, after all, in a very stressful position as a social worker and I did not see being able to spend the time needed to market. I attended the SCBWI Prairie Writers Day Conference and spoke with an editor who said my protagonist, Ava, would have to lose the glasses in order for the book to be sold. I felt so low when I heard that. My story was based on my own daughter’s eye disorder: she’d worn glasses since she was two. I left with my spirit withered but I did have, in my hand, the names of editors to whom I could send my manuscript. I decided to go for it and sent out six. One editor really enjoyed the story but had too many monster books on her list. The rest declined respectfully.
      I continued contemplating what I should do with the manuscript. Shortly after, at a family wedding, Ross Felten, cousin by marriage, walked up and said he had heard I’d written a children’s picture book and wanted to illustrate it. My eyes widened and I took a step back. (It didn’t help that it was the end of the night, I was in heels that were killing my feet, and I had really enjoyed myself at the bar!) I said many things like “How do you know you’ll like the manuscript?”, “Do you have energy to self-publish because I’m not sure I do?” etc. But Ross kept saying “We can do this!” He then invited me to his art show two weeks later. I could decide then.
      I went to the art show and I knew after looking, with a critical eye, he was the guy for the job. Ross and I met at my home to collaborate on a few illustrations. Ross then finished the rest. He amazed me. So many illustrations felt like they had a life of their own, and I loved it!
      We had many eyes on the book. Friends, some copy editors and one graphic designer gave us feedback and we made changes based on their expertise. We were about to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for publishing when an agent fell into our laps, literally.
      I was out to dinner with some gals I work out with and after learning about each of our careers, one gal said her sister-in-law, Loretta, worked in books and marketing. It just so happened that I was taking marketing classes so I asked the gal to reach out to Loretta and ask if I could network with her. A few days later, I was given Loretta’s e-mail. But before I made contact, I googled her name. My breathing hitched and my heart skipped beats when I learned that Loretta was not a marketing guru but a picture book agent—who was looking for picture books! I sent Loretta an e-mail and she asked to see the book. A day after I sent the book, she asked to meet.
      We met at a breakfast place that’s only a few blocks from where I grew up in Chicago. Loretta, also a Chicago native, grew up only ten minutes from my childhood home. Small world! Loretta loved the book and was thrilled with the illustrations. She asked to represent Ross and I. After careful consideration, Ross and I decided to sign with Loretta. Three weeks later, we had an offer with Sky Pony Press. And now the publishing adventure begins!
Here's Lisa's fave writing spot. Learn more about Lisa Maggiore here and Ross Felten here.

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