I’ve always loved picture books. I love those oh-so-perfect opening lines, the breathtaking art, and those endings that you don’t expect, but that make you say “Of course!” I also love the giggle-worthy characters, the “ahhhhh…” of the perfectly plotted story, and of course, the “I can’t wait to read that again,” feeling.
I knew without a doubt that I wanted to write picture books, but when I first began writing for children, my first publications came in children’s magazines. I thought magazine writing would be a way to help me learn and explore and gain confidence. And it was. I had a nice amount of success writing for magazines. But my heart was still with picture books—that’s where I always wanted to end up. So even as I wrote rebus stories for Highlights and inspirational middle-grade short stories for Clubhouse, Jr., I always had a few picture book manuscripts in the works.
That effort eventually led to the publication of my first picture book, FARMER MCPEEPERS AND HIS MISSING MILK COWS (illus. Steve Gray) in 2003.
After Farmer McP sold, I thought I’d done it. I thought I had it figured out. I thought I had an ‘in’ to the picture book publishing world. But it wasn’t… quite… that… easy. I kept writing and submitting picture books, but had no luck regarding acceptances. I received some personal replies from editors. I got invitations to submit more work—but no sales.
During that time, I also kept hearing all these negatives about the picture book market—“the market is soft.” “the economy is awful.” “No one’s buying picture books.” “It’s harder than ever to get a picture book published.” All of these “no’s” kept bombarding me. All of these negatives kept running over and over again in my mind. I really began to internalize these things. And that made me begin telling myself that I would be lucky if I ever got another picture book published. So, even with my overwhelming desire to write picture books, I decided if I wanted to write for publication, I would need to move in a different direction.
I’ve always loved research, and I’ve always loved reading about weird, quirky topics so it made sense that I’d begin exploring nonfiction writing. Nonfiction wasn’t, of course, fictional picture book writing, the thing I most wanted to write, but it did involve something I enjoyed, and it would be a new adventure for me.
Over several years, I ended up writing a BUNCH of nonfiction books. I absolutely enjoyed writing nonfiction (and I still do!), but my love for writing picture books never strayed too far from my consciousness. Actually, my love for picture books felt almost like an obsession. I just could not shake it. It felt as if there was a hole inside of me that could only be filled with picture book writing. So, I began to think: Wait a minute. I want to write picture books more than ANYTHING. Am I going to give up on writing picture books without truly trying? Am I going to allow other people to tell me I can’t, without even giving it a shot? Shouldn’t I trust myself? Shouldn’t I believe in myself?
So I decided to rededicate myself to my true writing love—picture books. I couldn’t NOT let myself go for something that meant so much to me.
And I’m happy to say that dedication has yielded results. My second picture book LOUD LULA (illus Mike Boldt) was released in late October. And another picture book, ALIENS GET THE SNIFFLES, TOO (illus K.G. Campbell) is forthcoming from Candlewick Press.
Soooo, you had to endure that entire story, simply so I could tell you—
“Don’t give up!”
“Believe in yourselves!”
“If picture books are your passion—write them!”
And NEVER let anyone tell you: “You can’t.”
Katy Duffield LOVES picture books—reading them and writing them. And she has a newfound reason (as if she needs another reason) to overstuff her picture book shelves—her first grandbaby!
Katy is the award winning author of more than twenty children’s books including the picture books Farmer McPeepers and His Missing Milk Cows, illustrated by Steve Gray (Rising Moon Children’s Books), Loud Lula, illustrated by Mike Boldt (Two Lions, 2015), and the forthcoming Aliens Get the Sniffles, Too, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (Candlewick Press, tba).
Katy has also written many nonfiction books for older readers, both fiction and nonfiction for many children’s magazines, and for several educational publishers.
Katy is giving away a copy of LOUD LULA!
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