Danette Byatt was the recipient of a mentorship with the talented Deb Pilutti. Here are a few words from Danette about her experience.
I am thrilled to have been chosen by Deb Pilutti and am so grateful for all of the time and expertise she gave me as her mentee. Thank you so very much, Deb, for your insights; it’s been a wonderful experience! And thank you to Tara, as well, for making WWTS a reality.
I applied for a mentorship with Deb because I was immediately drawn to her work. She’s not only an author-illustrator, but like me she’s also a designer, and all three of those aspects are very apparent to me in her books. Sparse, poignant text combined with endearing illustrations are laid out so effortlessly on the page and paced perfectly throughout her books. Two books of hers that brilliantly capture all of these things (the pacing is so great!) are Bear and Squirrel are Friends and The Secrets of Ninja School. I was also lucky enough to see some sneak peeks of the printer’s proofs for an upcoming book of hers and I’m so excited for it to hit shelves! It looks so great.
Right off the bat we had a lot in common as author-illustrators (and designers!). We met a number of times over Skype during the mentorship to discuss my goals (what I needed help with most), her feedback on my stories, and things about the industry in general.
Going into it, I leaned towards needing more help with writing than illustration, since I’ve been writing for a shorter amount of time. But of course, as an author-illustrator, much of the storytelling is done through the illustrations as well, so while we were more focused on the writing side of things, we did discuss both. I also wanted her thoughts on which stories of mine I should scrap – I had a hard time discerning which were my best story concepts and which should be laid to rest. Of the initial 7 stories I sent Deb, she identified 3 that she thought were my strongest and we moved forward with those. Her feedback was spot-on! She was able to offer so many amazing insights I hadn’t noticed or thought of before, and I was able to go back and revise based on her suggestions.
I am now starting to query literary agents and am confident with my submissions, knowing that I have a strong arsenal of stories ready that Deb helped me to revise if an agent asks to see more of my work. I’m so appreciative to her for everything she’s done for me. She’s a kind-hearted person who’s friendly and easy to work with, as well, and I’m sending her much loving gratitude and joyful vibes from the bottom of my heart.
Pamela Couvignou was the lucky recipient of a mentorship from author/illustrator Lindsay Ward. Here are a few words from Pamela about her experience.
Writing With the Stars was a gamechanger for me. There was me and my work before WWTS and then there is me and my work after WWTS. I feel like I jumped a chasm.
I was extremely fortunate to be selected by Lindsay Ward, who is a generous, accomplished, kind, and talented mentor. I pinched myself constantly after our weekly conversations by phone or email. She was always available to me, even if that meant sneaking in a call between her son’s naps or school visits.
As an author/illustrator like my (aspiring) self, Lindsay helped me balance my words and images to tighten my stories and reach my goal of creating submission-ready work. I have attended critique groups for writing and illustrating, separately, and they always seemed to miss half the story. Finally, I was able to work with someone who knew how to combine words and images to create impact and emotions.
What I valued most was our honest exchanges. When reviewing my work, Lindsay was always insightful and direct, but supportive with practical recommendations on moving forward. I will never forget the generosity she exhibited throughout the process. When talking about the industry, Lindsay shared important insights that will probably save me a lot of time and heartache. As a novice, I had so many questions. Lindsay always responded with enthusiasm to help clarify and provide creative options. She has shifted my approach to storytelling and has freed me from some of the prior limitations of “must do’s.”
Now when I approach a new story, I recall conversations and notes from Lindsay and it’s like having a little mentor on my shoulder to guide and support. This makes it much easier to touch pen to paper.
Thank you, WWTS. And Lindsay, thanks to you I gained so much knowledge, motivation, confidence, and a valued friend.
Today we have an update from the 2018 contest. Vong Bidania won a mentorship with Jennifer K. Mann and is sharing her experience with us today.
I was really fortunate to win a mentorship with Jennifer Mann in 2018. Jennifer’s picture books are so charming and her illustrations are beyond adorable. I felt honored that she picked me as her mentee.
At the time of the mentorship, I had two manuscripts I was working on. One was a picture book that I was hoping to query.The other was a folktale chapter book I had submitted to a publisher. The publisher requested I revise this chapter book into a picture book. I had been struggling with this revision for months because I found it so difficult to cut it down to picture book length. Jennifer graciously helped me with both manuscripts.
First she gave me feedback on my picture book and query letter for that book, and then after some edits she said they were ready to go. Next she read my folktale chapter book. Jennifer talked to me about mentor texts, gave me incredibly helpful comments about paring down text, and asked me important questions about my character. After that, she advised me to scrap my original manuscript and start from scratch instead of trying to cut it. It seemed like this would be overwhelming, but because I had already answered the questions she provided me, I was able to rewrite the entire chapter book as a picture book in just a few days. I absolutely loved my new manuscript.
When I felt I had polished this manuscript enough, I resubmitted this to the publisher. They got back to me and said they were interested! They even asked for more picture book ideas because they wanted them to be part of a whole series. When I sent them my other ideas, I decided to pitch another chapter book series I had started writing. A few months later, I received a publishing offer for my chapter book series! Shortly after, I found an agent. I am now represented by Tina Dubois of ICM and my chapter book series ASTRID AND APOLLO is being published by Capstone in 2020. For now, Capstone is holding off on the folktale picture book series and they plan to relook at this at a future date.
This mentorship helped set off a chain of events that led to my publishing deal. Because I won the mentorship with Jennifer, I was able to revise my folktale manuscript into a picture book and submit it to Capstone, who requested more picture book ideas from me, and when I shared ASTRID & APOLLO with them, they wanted to publish it. This would not have happened if it weren’t for Jennifer’s comments and guidance. I learned so much about writing picture books from her. Her revision notes were extremely useful and I will continue to use the process she taught me for all of my picture books. I am really grateful for WWTS and for the time and thoughtful feedback that Jennifer gave me. She was supportive, kind and encouraging. I gained so much from working with her and I still can’t wait to publish that folktale picture book series someday! I will always be thankful for this mentorship, which helped set me on my path to becoming a published author.
Thank you Vong, for that update and I’m so happy for your success.