Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — Jennifer Latham

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Today, I am excited to welcome Jennifer Latham to the blog! She is the author of the YA novels Dreamland Burning and Scarlett Undercover

Now sit back and enjoy these words of wisdom from Jennifer Latham to her wee Baby Author Self. She may not have done it right the first time around, but maybe you can learn from her mistakes 😉 Over to you, Jen:

Hey you. Yeah, you—the one who’s been revising that manuscript for over a year, playing footsie with an editor who won’t even end up being the person you eventually work with.[1] Remember that time your last manuscript made it to acquisitions at Scholastic after a year of preliminary revisions over there? And remember how your agent called you after the meeting to tell you they’d passed?

That sucked, huh?

Well, here’s the thing: Scarlett Undercover is going to sell. And that does not suck at all. In fact, it’s pretty freaking amazing. But before you get all caught up in celebrating, I’m going to tell you a few things about how it’s going to be. And since you’re me, I’m not going to sugarcoat any of it because you’ll see right through me.


Here goes.

1. You are going to feel like you have to build an amazing website and develop your brand and get fabulous swag and churn out clever Tweets in order to be a real author.

You do not.

In fact, you’ll realize very quickly that when it comes to brand building, you’re just not that into it. Yes, you’ll always feel a pinch of insecurity when you see the amazing stuff other authors do to promote their work. And yes, if you were to go ova-out and pour yourself into marketing with all your heart, you might possibly move the needle on sales a tiny bit. But overall, you will end up deciding that your time is best spent on making books. Because you, my dear, write at the speed of molasses in the pre-global warming Arctic Circle.

2. You will have many different editors. Two for Scarlett Undercover, in fact, and three for Dreamland Burning. Because the editing business is wicked hard and wears a whole lot of people out very quickly. But each of the lovely people you’ll work with will contribute something valuable to your manuscript. Just remember that they are no more infallible than you are, and that, in the end, your name’s the only one that ends up on the cover.

3. Which brings me to the next thing. Reviews.

You will read them and take all but the most over-the-top bonkers ones to heart. And that’s okay, because you are going to grow a thick hide and learn how to cope. And sometimes you’ll go read all the awful reviews you can find for books you LOVE, and you’ll feel better because there are a lot of readers out there and you can’t please everyone.


4. You are going to hate school visits at first because you’ll know you’re terrible at them. Eventually, though, you’re going to figure out that historical fiction makes your light blink. And you’ll write a book about something you care about so deeply and think is so important that you will make yourself a better speaker. You will work and re-work that slideshow so that kids don’t fall asleep or pick their nose or text while you’re talking.[2] And, in the end, you will LOVE getting to spend time in schools.

5. People will always want to know what your process is, and you will eventually learn to say, “Hell if I know!” and have it be mostly true. You’ll be a hermit and shy away from critique groups, which is okay. You’ll say you hate drafting, but when you have a good couple of hours at it, you’ll know it’s a lie. You’ll end up liking that stupid Alphasmart that Ally Carter told you to try for, like, two years before you actually did. You’ll re-read and edit and stress over word choices too much.[3] You’ll feel selfish for not paying enough attention to your kids and frustrated that you don’t dedicate enough time to your work. And you’ll remind yourself over and over that it’s all good, that you’re a person and not a bot.

6. You will one day decide that there are three main things at which a writer can excel: plot, characters, and voice. Some people are good at one. Some are good at two. And a few assholes nail all three, which will make you jealous and give you potty mouth. So just be grateful you’ve got one in the bag and keeping working on the others.

7. Finally, here’s the real scoop: good writing is a combination of aptitude[4], hard work, and craft. You think you’re pretty hot stuff right now (or you will tomorrow when you find out Scarlett sold), but you’re about to learn that every manuscript is tough. Nothing in publishing is easy. You are not as good at craft as you thought, but craft is a thing that can be learned. So dig in, babe. Grab a laptop. Start typing. Because this is the only job you’ve ever really loved, and as long as you write today, you can always quit…


[1] Note: I’m playing along here and pretending to be talking to myself on the night before I find out I’ve sold my first manuscript—even though it was such a bizarre, circuitous path that I don’t actually remember the moment I found out I was going to be published.

[2] This is a lie to keep you optimistic. You can’t stop them from texting.

[3] Please note previous comment about molasses, Arctic Circle, global warming, etc.

[4] As in, you have to be able to string words together coherently to have a chance at getting published

Wow…can I just say how much I LOVE the fact that Jennifer Latham included footnotes! Footnotes!!! Yes, that deserves all the exclamation points. Thanks so much for stopping by, Jen.

Jennifer Latham is a grown-up army brat with a soft spot for babies and poorly-behaved dogs. She’s written Scarlett Undercover, Dreamland Burning, and more unpublished manuscripts than she cares to admit. She lives in Tulsa with her husband, two daughters, and several of the aforementioned dogs.
Twitter & Instagram: @jenandapen
Writer Interviews

Book Birthday — Gutsy Girls Go for Science

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Karen Bush Gibson, welcome to the blog, and congratulations on your new books in the GUTSY GIRLS GO FOR SCIENCE series!

Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here.

The GUTSY GIRLS GO FOR SCIENCE series is all about…

…how fun science, technology, engineering, and math can be. STEM is all about discovery, exploration, and questioning. About those “Eureka!” moments. The four books being released in the new series today (Paleontologists, Programmers, Engineers, Astronauts) are visually interesting with amazing illustrations. They also feature STEM projects that kids can try.

While the series is written for readers 8-11, it concentrates on girls, because girls have traditionally been left behind in these subjects. The books highlight females who made significant contributions in their fields even while facing resistance from scientific communities and society at large.


I hope that readers will…

…enjoy these books and start asking questions and considering possibilities. Many people face adversity. Life is often more difficult if you come from different cultural or racial groups or if you’re female. But some people succeed despite life not being fair. Learn from them. Look for mentors and role models you can identify with.

Teachers and librarians will…

…find ideas for discussion and projects to encourage students to explore their interests. Hopefully, they will also realize the importance of including diversity in everything they teach.

The research for this series was…

…challenging, but fascinating. I’m kind of a research junkie. I wrote two of the four books in this first group being released—Paleontologists and Programmers. Each book includes five women who made important contributions to their field. Think about it. Can you name five notable women in paleontology? Programming? Few people can. I couldn’t before I started researching.

The reality is that there are many, but their stories aren’t well-known. Research allowed me to uncover some of these stories to share with readers.

paleo book cover

How did you get started writing non-fiction for kids?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I started college as a journalism major. Even though I ended up changing my major midway, I never lost that desire to write. I’ve also always been a curious person, so asking questions and looking for answers comes naturally to me. That’s a good fit for non-fiction.

When I started writing for publication, I focused on articles, soon drifting to juvenile markets. I became aware that non-fiction books for kids was a growing market because of school libraries and curriculum standards, so I began focusing more on book-length non-fiction, which I’ve now been writing for about 18 years.

Any tips for aspiring authors?

Explore what interests you. You’re more likely to be passionate about it in your writing. And if you’re writing non-fiction, make certain that you’re using reputable sources in your research. Higher education (.edu) and government (.gov) websites are usually good options. And no, Wikipedia is not a reliable source. However, follow the trail from the Wikipedia bibliography and you might strike gold!

Can you share one of the STEM projects?

A fun paleontology project you can do without field tools is to create a new name for a dinosaur. Dinosaur names are usually combinations of root words from Latin and Greek. The words might describe their appearance, like “cerat” (horn) or “saurus” (lizard). The word might also recognize a place or the person who discovered the fossil, like “anningae” is used for famed fossil finder Mary Anning.

Come up with 12 different words to describe a dinosaur (notable body part, color, size). Then use translation apps or websites for Greek and Latin to translate the words into these languages. Put these words in one container. In another container, come up with six place names and six people names (definitely include your own). Change these words as needed to make them look and sound more scientific!

You want to use three words for your dinosaur. If you want “saurus” to be one of the words, then choose one word from each container. If not, then choose two words from the description container and one from the place/person container. Experiment and have fun with the different combinations. After you discover one you like, draw a picture of a dinosaur that goes with the name you’ve created.

Love it! Thanks so much for stopping by Karen!

kbgibsonKaren Bush Gibson is the author of 30+ non-fiction books for children, from picture books to young adult. She also writes travel articles and has published an adult novel. She particularly likes going down the research rabbit hole to discover fascinating women in history or learn more about the environment. Karen also works in education as an instructional designer and curriculum developer. When not writing or educating, she enjoys hanging out with her kids, traveling, and reading. Sometimes, she fantasizes about how cool it would be to live in a huge library or bookstore.

Follow Karen online:



Twitter: @Gibson4writing

Instagram: @karenbushgibson

Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — Annie Sullivan

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Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Annie Sullivan to the blog. Her new YA novel, Tiger Queen, recently hit stores. Don’t you love that amazing tagline?

Tiger Queen Cover

But Annie’s stopping by today to share some words of wisdom with her wee Baby Author Self. So let’s climb aboard the Baby Author Me Time Machine and travel back to the day after Annie sold her first book.

Over to you, Annie Sullivan. What would you tell Baby Author You about…

Book promotion

Book promotion is going to consume your life. In fact, you’ll probably be accused of promoting too much because your Facebook friends are tired of seeing post after post about your book and how much it helps authors to preorder. Promote anyway. Find different ways to promote. Be creative. Master free programs like Canva so you can build your own graphics and not rely on your publisher to send them.

Save some money for Instagram ads and Facebook ads. Those add up fast, but a little bit can also go a long way. Also, get on these platforms as early as possible and start building up followers.

Launch parties

Actually remember to enjoy the moment. Your first launch party is a bit like a wedding (at least mine was because there were 400 people there.) You won’t be able to talk to everyone, so try to prioritize the people who came a long distance, really contributed to your book’s success, or the people you rarely get to see. Also, make sure they deliver your giant book cake to the right bookstore and not the one where former Colts head coach Tony Dungy is signing. Also, remember to eat a slice of your cake. Eating is important to keep your strength up. Assign someone else you trust to take photos that day so you don’t have to worry about it.

Touch of Gold Final Cover ImageReviews

Do not read the reviews. They will put you in a bad headspace. Put a blast out on social media that you don’t want to be tagged in reviews.


Trying to get an agent will be one of the hardest things you ever put yourself through. It can be a very dark time because it’s filled with constant rejection and feeling like you’re not good enough—that your writing is not good enough. If the first book you write doesn’t get you an agent, write another, and another, and another. Each book you write will get better. You’ll learn the industry better in that time too. You’ll learn who is a good agent and who to avoid. You’ll start to seriously think about getting the right agent instead of just any agent. Because a bad agent can kill your career and waste years of your time. But don’t be afraid to take a risk on a smaller agent who is just building their client list. They are hungry and eager to sell. Plus, you’re a priority for them.

Writing first drafts

Writing first drafts doesn’t get easier no matter how many books you’ve written. Every book is its own beast with its own problems to figure out and characters to shape. Don’t be discouraged when you hit a wall. You always hit a wall. That just means you have to go back and figure out where you went wrong. Because hitting a wall doesn’t mean you went wrong at the wall, it means you took a wrong turn way before that led you to this wall. Take a deep breath and find that wrong turn.


Revising on a deadline will be some of the most stressful, sleepless weeks of your life. You’re probably going to cry every single time you get an edit letter from your editor. Take a deep breath. Take a few days. Think about why they suggest those edits. Start to think of new possibilities. You can do this.

Friends and family

These people will save your life. When you want to quit and think your writing isn’t good enough, surround yourself with the people who will encourage you to keep going. And ignore the people who ask over and over again why you aren’t published yet.

Annie Sullivan is the author of the young adult novels A Touch of Gold (2018) and Tiger Queen (2019). She lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, and received her master’s degree in Creative Writing from Butler University. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling. Her wanderlust has taken her to every continent, where she’s walked on the Great Wall of China, found four-leaf clovers in Ireland, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, and cage dived with great white sharks in South Africa.

Follow Annie online at: