My brain hurts. My eyes won’t work. I can’t read anymore. Why do letters move? Be still, so I can read you. Yet, I hear the letters whisper- Don’t give up. Jumbled Words. Letters flip and flop. Then they jump and hop. Why do letters move? Be still, so I can see you. Still, I hear the letters whisper. Say my name. Grumbled Sounds, And mumbled tones, Never sounding the same. WHY do letters move? Be still, so I can hear you. Then I hear the letters whisper- Blend the sounds. Teacher, Teacher! The letters are moving! No, no, that’s in your head. Why do letters move? Be still, YOU! Now, I hear the letters whisper- Concentrate. Taking Test Orally, I’m best. I can’t print on the test. Why do letters move? Be still, so I can write you. Scared, I hear the letters whisper- Yes, you can. Read aloud! Nervous mistakes, Makes my insides quake. Why do letters move? Be still, so no one laughs at me. Wow, I hear the letters shout. Keep on going. Every day, my teacher says, “You’re reading better today!” “Why did letters move?” Not anymore! I hear the letters shout, hooray! I’m reading today. Rex hated to read aloud. Words skipped, tripped and stumbled over his tongue like jabbering gibberish. Flustered, Rex stopped. Susie loved to read aloud. Her words glided in seamless syllables of streaming sounds. Her correctness rattled Rex. Susie closed the book. Torrents of confusion ceased; his heart sank in horrible comparison. Susie can read and he cannot. Rex wished he could slash words off all the pages. Then there would be no more letters picking at his brain. The pages would be silent like listening to quiet rain. (WIP)
Today’s picture book market is very different from when I was a child. The book market is more selective. There exits an underlying pc culture. Very few publishers like in the past take direct submissions from new authors. So now you have written a children’s book, but does it cut the mustard (meet current standards)?
The first step is to compare your book to what’s currently written. Go to your library and read. Read in your genre, then read books out of your genre. But read current books. Water is Water by Miranda Paul is a perfect example of a nonfiction narrative that varies vastly from the expository/factual nature of picture books in the past. Books like I Talk Like a River explore the world of a stutter and address personal issues that kids face beyond friendship or bullying. So, read and find your mentor texts.
The second step is to know your craft before sending the query letter. Editors and agents get so many manuscripts that if they are not near perfect, they toss them. It’s like a resume filled with grammatical errors or false information. Research your agent, editor, or publishers. Make sure they are open to submissions in your genre.
The third step is to use the tools at hand. Microsoft Word has a review function that reads your work out loud. Use Grammarly or one such program to edited your work. Don’t pay someone like I did to take the extra space from behind the period when you can do it yourself. Crtl A copies, and Crtl H brings up a dialog box to make edits all at once.
Lastly, participate in a good critique group. Not an online, never see your face type but a Zoom group. It makes people accountable for what they say and why. A picture book must allow the reader to see for themselves what you are trying to say, not telling them what you think. For young readers, you are helping to develop their imagination. A mind free to think will imagine, reason, and then decide to act. (My synopsis line from a CS Lewis study with Hillsdale college.)
I will end by saying I had made every newbie mistake in the book by sending my manuscript out before it was ready. Take your time, learn the process, research, get your work ready, then submit.