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Ask the Agony Editor: Words of advice for authors looking to write for the playground set

Dear Agony Editor,

Brian Francis

(Illustration by Evan Munday)

I wrote a children’s story with my oldest granddaughter in mind, and I’m not sure what I might do with it. I’ve thought of looking at some self-publishing sites, but  I don’t have any artistic ability. I’d appreciate any advice about courses of action I might take.

Granny Kidlit
Dear Granny Kidlit,

Believe it or not, I once wrote and illustrated a children’s book. Sadly, I couldn’t find a publisher. In retrospect, Stick Man’s Day was, perhaps, too avant-garde for most children.

Before you try the self-publishing route, why not set aside some time, do a little research, and try to find a publisher for your book? You could be sitting on the next Love You Forever for all we know. I sought out the advice of Suzanne Sutherland, children’s editor at Harper­Collins. “It sounds like she’s written a picture book,” Sutherland says, adding that, unless they’re a practising artist, children’s authors shouldn’t try to illustrate their own work or seek out their own illustrator. Your publisher will want to have a say in who your illustrator is.

The good news is that you couldn’t pick a better country for aspiring children’s authors than Canada. Sutherland recommends tapping into the rich resources of both the Canadian Children’s Book Centre and the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers – organizations invaluable both to those just starting out and kidlit veterans alike.

A word of caution: hearing back from publishers about your manuscript will take time. So unless you’re okay with your granddaughter potentially being a teenager by the time the book actually comes out, you may want to self-publish or share it with her in its manuscript state. Regardless, your granddaughter will have something to cherish in the years to come. And that, ultimately, is why you wrote the book in the first place.

Good luck.

Brian Francis is the author of Natural Order and Fruit. He teaches creative writing­ as part of the International Festival of Authors.

Have a question for Brian? Email info@quillandquire.com.