First Books: Hear From Debut Authors of Picture Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult, by Chuck Sambuchino

There’s something fresh and amazing about debut novels that’s inspiring to other writers. It’s with that in mind that we collected eight successful debuts from the past year and sat down to ask the authors questions about how they broke in, what they did right and what advice they have for scribes who are trying to follow in their footsteps. These are writers of picture books, middle grade stories and young adult novelssame as youwho saw their work come to life through hard work and determination. Read on to learn more about their individual journeys.




QUICK TAKE: “Buglette is a tidy little bug by day, but at night, her messy sleeping annoys the family and threatens to wake the crow.”

WRITES FROM: Sausalito, Calif.

PRE-BUGLETTE: A few years ago, I began to focus on writing and illustrating for children. Before receiving the offer for Buglette, I did illustrations for a variety of children’s magazines.

TIMEFRAME: The idea of “messy sleeping” was in my mind for a year or two before writing the story. I had done a few sketches in my sketchbook. Then, the little bug character came to me. Once I had the character fleshed out, I wrote the first draft in a few days. I was especially motivated because I had just joined a new writing group and knew that I needed a story to share.

ENTER THE AGENT: My agent is Mary Kole with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. I submitted my book dummy to a handful of publishers and agents. I received an offer of publication and a few agents expressed interest. It was an exciting time! I spoke with Mary and everything fell into place.

WHAT YOU LEARNED: As a debut author and illustrator, I have realized how important it is for me to think about marketing myself. I don’t have the benefit of being paired with a well-known illustrator as a debut author might be (or vice versa in the case of an illustrator). At times it is daunting, but I’m embracing it as another part of the creative process. I’ve really enjoyed creating interactive marketing pieces and child-focused props for my readings.

WHAT YOU DID RIGHT: I simplified my art and my writing. Previously, I had been trying to do too much with both. I was forcing my illustrations to be complex. My writing was message heavy. Once I began to focus on the characters themselves, the stories and images came together much more easily.

DO DIFFERENT NEXT TIME: I would have joined a critique group sooner. I’ve gained such valuable insight and camaraderie from meeting with other writers and illustrators.

PLATFORM: I had a website showcasing my illustration when Buglette was sold. Recently, I began a blog with (almost) weekly illustrations. I have also been blogging about “lessons learned” while working on this first book. I am currently expanding my website and blog to include more information for fellow children’s literature enthusiasts as well as activities for children and teachers. In the real world, I enjoy sharing my book and my process with both kids and adults. I love those face-to-face opportunities!

NEXT UP: My next book will be published by Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic in 2012. I am also working on a companion book to Buglette for Knopf.


Want to Read More?

To read the full article, subscribe to to access hundreds of articles, eight-thousand plus market listings, and our submission tracker.

Subscribe today for only $5.99 a month!