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by Stephanie Wildman

Thank you, Tara, for having me on your blog. You asked me how I found my amazing debut group Unlike the conventional “author-only” assemblage, we are a group of children’s book creators, including authors, illustrators, and even a Spanish-language translator.

I first heard the term “debut group” from my friend and Writers Grotto colleague A.H. Kim, whose debut novel A GOOD FAMILY came out in July during the pandemic. “What’s a debut group?” I wondered. My friend Ann patiently explained that she and a group of other writers with debut books had banded together “to navigate the uncharted seas of debuting during a pandemic. We were able to share triumphs and disappointments, tips and tricks, questions and answers, all in a safe and confidential forum.” That forum was on a Facebook page (you would think I would get that hint, but I’m not a big FB user).

“But how did you find them?” I wanted to know. It turns out Ann had attended a book festival (pre-pandemic) and met another Korean-American debut author who introduced the concept to her.

Well, I would be attending no live events in a pandemic, so I turned to the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge which has a great resources page for published authors on their website (thanks to Julie Hedland and Kelli Panique). I posted a question there, but it was December and it went nowhere.

Time was running out; my picture book BRAVE IN THE WATER would debut in April. I wrote to some existing debut groups, which told me they were already full. (Good I had had all that practice in accepting rejection through the querying process.)

I was emailing with Sylvia Liu about something else, and I asked her how these groups that were already full had gotten formed. She was kind enough to explain to me that people met through the Kidlit411 Facebook group (lightbulb & FB again).

I saw a posting in the Kidlit411 Facebook group from Rochelle Melander (MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing) who was looking for a debut group. The post had a few responses so I started an email thread with Rochelle and some others. But it went nowhere, too, and I decided I just needed to move on without a group.

Then weeks later, Rochelle wrote me and said she was starting a group with Adria Karlsson (MY SISTER DAISY). They had met—you guessed it—on Facebook, on the 12×12 Facebook page, which I rarely visited, not on the 12×12 Forum where I had started. “Do you want to attend a Zoom meeting?” Rochelle asked. I did!

I met Sonny Giroux, father of Benjamin Giroux, the teen author of I AM ODD, I AM NEW (who shared an agent with Adria); Morissa Rubin author/illustrator of DOT, DOT, POLKA DOT; Katie Munday Williams, who wrote POET, PILGRIM, REBEL: The Story of Anne Bradstreet, America’s First Published Poet, (who shared a publisher with Rochelle), and Adria.

We discussed size of the group and decided to invite our illustrators (and my translator) to join, and so we added Cecilia Populus-Eudave (VALIENTE EN EL AQUA); Melina Ontiveros (MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD); Tania Rex (POET, PILGRIM, REBEL); and Linus Curci (MY SISTER DAISY).

Even though we were large enough to be a “group,” Adria wasn’t done. She reached out to Alexandra Katona (DINNER ON DOMINGOS) and Leah Rose Kessler (RAT FAIR). And now the group was complete—twelve creators and eight books to launch. We even have a pending “maybe” who would cap our group at “lucky thirteen.”

So, yes, our group has a Facebook page, which I do visit, and I’m learning to like Mark Zuckerberg after all. Mostly, I’m excited to read the books by these fantastic creators.

Here’s what some of them have to say about debut groups:

Leah Rose Kessler (RAT FAIR):
“I never would have gotten where I am without the advice, encouragement, and support of countless people in the book community. It was important to me to find a debut group not only to help me through the mystifying process of releasing my first book but also as a way for me to help lift up and celebrate my fellow book creators in the same way I’ve been lifted so many times before.”

Rochelle Melander (MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing):
“Being part of a group like New Books for Kids has so many benefits. Of course, getting support during a book launch is invaluable. It’s so much work—and having a few more people touting your book, requesting it from their libraries and reviewing it helps so much! But most of all, it’s great to have new creative friends, people I can ask about the writing, publishing and marketing process.”

Katie Munday Williams (POET, PILGRIM, REBEL The Story of Anne Bradstreet, America’s First Published Poet):
“Knowing what a wonderful community of writers we have, I jumped at the chance to expand my network. Groups like this not only provide support and feedback, but they allow exponential promotional opportunities for an upcoming book.”

Adria Karlsson (MY SISTER DAISY):
“I didn’t know until recently that such things as debut author groups existed… probably because I’m a debut author. But once I heard about them, I wanted in. A group that could share the year, cross-promote books, and exchange information and tips with sounded amazing. I couldn’t be happier about the group we formed — it has already been such a resource.”

Benjamin Giroux (I AM ODD, I AM NEW):
“I found this group of debut authors through my agent. She thought since I am so young and have no clue what I’m doing in regards to launching a book, I could benefit from being in such a group. It has been really good support, and I am really thankful for all the advice I’ve gotten.”

Morissa Rubin (DOT, DOT, POLKA DOT):
“To be a part of a debut group is not only a practical way to share needed information, but because it is new for all of us, it adds to the thrill of seeing our books published.”

Alexandra Katona (DINNER ON DOMINGOS) (cover not yet revealed!):
“Having a group like this is helping me navigate the difficult task of book promotion, but with other like-minded authors; collaboration is key. We’re able to lift each other up and provide much-needed support and guidance.”

Thanks for telling us about your debut group, Stephanie! 

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