1. Do you illustrate your books?
No, I write the story. I am good at drawing stick people and that's about it. If a publisher wants to publish your story, they will match your manuscript with an illustrator whose style is right for it. Mike Lowery did an amazing job illustrating The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School Series.
2. How long does it take to write a book?
This varies for every author and book. The Gingerbread Man: Loose in the School is a 900 word picture book and it took me about 2 years to write. But I was only able to devote time to it once a week. I was also researching story structure and writing in rhyme, and then continually revising it based on my writing groups' suggestions to make it the best it could be. The others in the series took less time.
If you are student, I'm sure your teachers ask you to write "drafts" of your papers or stories. That technique is used all the time as a writer. Each draft usually makes the paper/story better. That is called revising. This story went through more than 50 drafts.
3. How do you get a story published?
In order to get your story published, you need to know what the publishers are looking for. Search your local library or bookstore for a book called Children's Writers and Illustrators Market. This book lists contests, writing conferences, children's book publishers, literary agents, magazine publishers, writing conferences, etc. It tells you what kind of stories they are looking for and if they are open to new writer's submissions. Many big publishing houses do not take “unsolicited manuscripts” or stories from writers with whom they haven't worked before.
Study the book mentioned above and find publishers that will accept stories from new writers.
Go to SCBWI conferences to learn about children's writing where you can meet editors, agents, and other writers.
Join a writing critique group for advice on how to make your story the best it can be.
Once you start sending it out to publishers or agents, you have to be patient and persistent. You may get many rejections if your story is not right for a specific house at the time. One author I know wrote for 10 years before he ever sold a book. But if you enjoy writing, then the work is worth it. Don't give up.
4. How long does it take for a book to be published?
A picture book can take a long time; sometimes over three years. Once the publisher acquires a story, it goes to an illustrator next who will work on the artwork for another year or so, and then the book needs to be manufactured and bound. Novels take less time, usually about a year. So next time you go into a bookstore and look at the picture book display, consider that each of those books probably took between 2 and 3 years to make, not counting the writing time. To me, each picture book is like a mini art show in itself.
5. Can kids be authors too?
Absolutely. There are many things kids can do to be young authors that will also help them prepare to become adult authors one day.
Enter writing contests.
You can Google "kid's writing contests" and a list of several options will come up. Here are a few I know of:
PBS Kids Writing Contest: For kids in grades K-3 who would like to write and illustrate their own story. It runs annually from January-March.
Kids in Print Writing and Art Contest: Google the contest name above the latest contest information, sponsored by masslive.com. An annual themed contest with a writing prompt. Publication in a Massachusetts newspaper and small cash awards.
Grannie Annie Writing Contest: This contest is for middle schoolers who would like to submit a story about a past generation of their family. It is sponsored by One-of-a-Kind-Kids and Thumbprint books. Winners will be published in a Grannie Annie collection of stories.
Check out the kids publishing website at www.kidpub.com
Submit to children's magazines.
Here are a few, but there are many others.
New Moon Magazine for Girls: Publishes stories about "real girls doing real things by girls." The editors of this magazine are both girls and adults. Check the website for guidelines.
Highlights Magazine: This magazine accepts drawings and illustrations from kids.
6. What can a young person do if he/she wants to be an author one day?
Read, read, read.
Keep journals about your daily life and DON'T throw them away when you get older. Reading them later will remind you of how you feel now.
Write stories. You don't have to show them to anyone, but keep them. I remember sitting in English classes wondering if I was really ever going to use all that information about grammar, sentence parts, story structure, etc. Well, guess what—you really do.
Need ideas? Think of situations in your life or a story you know, and ask what if something else had happened? This is exactly what I did with The Gingerbread Man: Loose in the School. What if he wasn't running away from the people who made him; what if he was chasing them instead?
You also might want to check out a book called What's Your Story? A Young Person's Guide to Writing Fiction by Marion Dane Bauer. This book is great for adult writers too.