Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an emerging author who will no doubt create amazing work- Andrew Hacket. 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.
Andrew, can you please share your journey during the Fall Writing Frenzy competition that lead to an agent and a published book?
I joined the kidlit community and began pursuing my dream of becoming an author in the spring of 2020. The implications of Covid were just beginning to show themselves and as a family we decided it would be best for me to take a leave of absence from my teaching position in order to be home with our three young children. I decided if I were ever going to attempt this dream, now was the time. Though I wasn’t any less busy than when I was working full time, I now had the head space and energy to dedicate towards writing.
Fast forward to fall 2020. I was relatively new to the Twitter kidlit community and lurking in the shadows, apprehensive of how to get involved, questioning if I even had a place in it, and still uncertain of my voice as an author. Then I heard of Fall Writing Frenzy. This was the first competition I ever entered and it changed everything.
I had perused the available images, unsure whether or not I would participate. Then one night after my family had gone to bed, my piece poured out of me. I loved my story, but I had no idea if it was any good. Luckily, the Twitter community was abuzz with offers from writers to critique and support one another. Sheepishly, I dipped my toes into those waters and as a result connected with my first critique partners. I fell in love with giving and receiving critiques and am so fortunate to still be connected with those authors I met through FWF. I am a 100% better writer as a result of the amazing critique partners I have made.
Now back to FWF… Having entered the contest with zero expectations, seeing my name on the winner’s list was a shock. It was also so affirming and confidence boosting. That win made me feel like I had a place in this writing world. But even without the win, the most amazing part of this experience was becoming part of the community that surrounds this event and that you and Kaitlyn have fostered. I went from writing in isolation to having a network of like-minded, fellow creatives as a result of FWF.
Following FWF I was paired with Wendi Gu and received a wonderfully, thoughtful critique of what is now my forthcoming debut, OLLIE, THE ACORN, AND THE MIGHTY IDEA (Page Street Kids, 2024). And what’s more, the piece I wrote for FWF is the story that landed me my incredible agent, Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary Agency.
Great story! How long have you been participating in kidlit competitions?
I’ve been participating in kitlit competitions since my first Fall Writing Frenzy in 2020.
How do you deal with rejection?
For me rejection is all about managing expectations. Coming off of my FWF win I soon received an honorable mention in the Halloweensie contest. I was riding high and feeling a growing momentum with my place in the writing community. Unfortunately, this led to expectations of continued success, which was very deflating when I did not place in subsequent competitions.
Now I accept and am prepared for the role rejection plays in this industry. The kidlit community is full of such talent and I understand and respect that at times, their yeses could mean my nos. I also better recognize now what a huge part timing and luck play in publishing. Receiving a pass does not automatically mean your work is not ready. So much comes down to querying or subbing to the right person at the right time and unfortunately aspects of that are out of your control as a writer. I choose to control what I can, trust in the process, and know that if I persevere my manuscripts will find the right person at the right time.
What would you say to other authors struggling in the querying trenches?
I was very fortunate to have only a small stint in the querying trenches. That being said, I have had plenty of rejection and waiting while being on submission. My advice to authors would be to keep creating. I find with each new piece I write I am discovering new and different parts of my voice and of what I want to say as an author. And for querying authors, this means new pieces to curate your perfect submissions package when your request for more manuscripts comes.
Who are some of your mentors when it comes to kidlit authors, and why?
Where to even begin?! As a teacher, I think I am first drawn to books that excite and entertain kids. Those that make great read alouds that will be requested again and again. As a writer I love these stories for their cleverness and creativity. Authors such as Jory John, Ryan T. Higgins, and Ame Dyckman fill this category for me.
I also love picture books aimed at older readers. Books by Chris Van Allsburg, Eve Bunting, and Jane Yolen all fit into this category and continue to inspire me as a writer.
Just for fun, if you had to pick an animal, which one would you be?
While there are so many choices, I have to pick a great blue heron. Hanging by ponds and marshes all day fishing sounds like a peaceful way to spend my days. And who hasn’t dreamed of being able to fly?
Lydia, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share my FWF success story.
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