Five Things Picture Books Taught Me About Novels

I started out as middle-grade writer, and to date, my only contracted book (Deadwood, coming from Spencer Hill in June 2014), is middle grade. But since writing that novel, I’ve concentrated on writing picture books. Now I’m trying another middle-grade novel.

Switching gears is hard, but it has its lessons. Here’s what I’m taking into my long-form fiction from my study of the short form:

When I was beginning to take writing seriously, I believed that a writer ought to write a thousand words a day. But if you’re writing picture books — where the average published book is 500 words — if you write a thousand words, you’re probably doing it wrong.

    Deadwood live on new Spencer Hill Middle Grade site!

    Spencer Hill Middle Grade has a brand-new webpage, and Deadwood is there! Great resources for readers, librarians, teachers, and bloggers for Deadwood and all Spencer Hill Middle Grade fantasy and scifi titles.



      Book Expo America!

      I’ve never before considered the Jacob Javits Center to be a glamorous destination, but this year, it’s on my must-list. I’m very excited that both my book and I will be in New York for Book Expo America this year! I’ll be signing ARCs of DEADWOOD for Spencer Hill in May. I’m looking forward to meeting readers and online friends in person, so stop by and see me, or let me know if you’ll be there and I’ll look for you.


        Beginning to look a lot like Nerdsmas

        Proposed: A new holiday for book lovers everywhere — Nerdsmas. Inspired by the Nerdy Book Club and conversation with Sean Russell (@seanrussell311) and Niki Oh Barnes (@daydreamreader), Nerdsmas will be celebrated with the ritual redemption of bookstore gift cards and the exchange of favorites reads from the past year — give one and keep one.

        For a book lover, there is nothing like the feeling of a shiny new bookstore gift card. Book shopping with no guilt whatsoever! A chance to escape from holiday hubbub into the world of my choosing! I get giddy over the possibilities — should I try something from a best-of list? Treat myself to a rare hardcover? Load up my Kindle? Browse the bargain racks? Look for something new?

        What’s on your #Nerdsmas list? What books will you buy? Which will you give? How will you celebrate?


          Upcoming Event: Baldwin School

          Excited to be speaking with Baldwin School upper school students on Monday, December 9, in Bryn Mawr. I’ll be talking about both writing and the publishing process, which is an epic story on its own. I look forward to meeting the young writers and readers among Baldwin’s thinking girls and accomplished women. Thank you to Jenny Cross for setting up the visit.


            New Contract from an Old Gamble

            At last I can broadcast the news — my second book contract! From Publishers Marketplace:

            Kell Andrews’s DEADWOOD, when an ancient tree sends a message through carvings in its bark, seventh graders must break a code and a curse to save their doomed town…because the message isn’t just about the tree, to Jennifer Carson at Spencer Hill Press, by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

            Giddiness! Relief! Deep breaths!

            Wait, did I say this is my second book contract? Yes, but observant readers will notice that this is for my first book, DEADWOOD, published recently by Pugalicious Press.

            I took a risk when I accepted a contract from Pugalicious, a brand-new small press. I did it with my eyes open — many small presses fold before their second birthdays, taking books and authors with them. But I trusted the vision and intentions of Pugalicious editors. I was willing to take a chance on them, because I wanted DEADWOOD to have a chance with readers.

            And it did — for a little while. Then Pugalicious suddenly closed.

            DEADWOOD was out of print. The editors returned my rights swiftly, professionally. No hard feelings — just tender, bruised ones. We had ventured. We had risked. We had fallen short.

            So did my bet lose?

            Not yet.

            My editor, Jennifer Carson, accepted a job at Spencer Hill Press, a rapidly growing independent publisher that has launched New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. And she wanted to take DEADWOOD with her.

            By taking a risk and a few detours, I’ve found a home for my book a publisher with great distribution, publicity, marketing, and momentum. Thank you to Jenn and my agent Kathleen for having the patience and flexibility to pull this off.

            A new publisher is a gamble, but every move we make in publishing is a gamble — self-publishing, a big advance, a new small press. Every word we put on the page is a tiny risk, if we’re doing it right.

            But here’s the funny thing. When you play roulette, if you bet on red but land on black, you lose. But in real life, you might land on a color you’ve never imagined, and it might be just the perfect one. You can win anyway.

            I took a chance, and I’m glad I did. Good bet.