Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an emerging author who will no doubt create amazing work- Dazzle Ng. Oh, and did I mention this is a Fall Writing Frenzy competition success story?! For more information on the competition that Kaitlyn Sanchez, literary agent at Context Literary Agency, and I co-host, click HERE. And if you participated in the competition yourself, feel free to comment below and tell us your favorite part, and share your success stories too.
Dazzle, can you please share your journey during the Fall Writing Frenzy competition that lead to a published book?
Joining #FallWritingFrenzy 2020: I’d just finished a webinar tackling word choice, and FWF came along as the perfect opportunity to explore what I’d learned given the 200-word limit. And the prizes were very enticing.
Scrolling through the prompts, what stood out was the image of evergreen trees standing proud amidst ones that already bore the colors of fall. They looked so stubborn and defiant. But I also wondered what a young evergreen would be feeling—watching every other tree around it change, waiting for a turn that’ll never come. I thought it would make for a great story both about (the frustration that comes with) waiting and embracing one’s uniqueness. So I wrote and submitted Needle, the Evergreen.
I’m a #FallWritingFrenzy 2020 winner! I’d joined contests before and didn’t expect to win, especially after going through many other FWF entries that made me go WOW. I hoped hard though; and was floored when I saw my name in the winners list!
I am forever thankful to Kaitlyn, Ameerah, and Lydia for selecting my story and for pairing me with Ishta. So much happened from that one amazing win. FWF 2020 was a key moment in my publishing journey.
First, it was the first time that I felt I had a place in the #kidlit community. This is completely unfounded, as this community is made up of the kindest, nicest, most welcoming people I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in the same industry with. But that’s how I felt nonetheless; after the query rejections and many unsuccessful pitch contest attempts.
Second, Ishta’s critique. I sent her what I felt was my strongest manuscript: When an Elephant Hears NO. Her comments were on a level of critiquing I hadn’t had access to before; and that email from her helped shape my PB writing from then on. She gave me a very important note on picture books being a partnership between author and illustrator. Her words too, about this manuscript finding its perfect home one day, kept me going through the NOs I received.
Lastly, Kaitlyn hosted a learning circle on her blog, where we got to analyze the winning entries! What a way to learn and engage with fellow kidlit creators.
Path to publication: Half a year later, I signed with my brilliant agent, Lisa Amstutz. When an Elephant Hears NO is the first manuscript we’ve sold; to be published by Page Street Kids in 2024. I’m thrilled that Estrela Lourenço said YES to bringing Elephant’s world to life through her wildly wonderful illustrations.
Great story! How long have you been participating in kidlit competitions?
Since early 2020. That’s when I joined Spring Fling and submitted to PBParty. I’ve also joined Valentiny and received an honorable mention (kid appeal) for my 50 Precious Words story!
Where did you derive inspiration for When an Elephant Hears NO?
From a rushed NO to my son at bedtime. I wished I could have explained it (but, bedtime). I realized then, how many times kids hear this word each day and how it can sometimes feel like a wall. This manuscript is meant to be a window in that wall. I wrote it that very night!
What is the book about?
It’s about the tiny word that can set off elephant-sized tantrums—the many ways it’s used, said; the meanings and motivations behind the NOs kids encounter.
What would you say to other authors struggling in the querying trenches?
Persevere—but know when to pause. Take those breaks to recover from the rejections that sting a little extra; to hone your craft and have fun doing just that; to make new connections in the community; to find inspiration and not rush turning those ideas into drafts; to make your own luck by seizing the opportunities that come your way.
Even if it isn’t a prize, you always get something out of joining kidlit competitions like FWF and the emotional rollercoasters known as pitch contests. You just have to know where to look (and where not to).
Just for fun, if you had to pick an animal, which one would you be?
I’d love to be a butterfly, so I could see colors our human eyes can’t perceive. But really, my personality is closer to a panda’s!
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