Megan Bryant has written over 250 children’s books. She is a literary Jedi Master, an Auror, Mr. Miyagi, and Master Builder all rolled in one. She has a plethora of experience in all categories of children’s books from board books to young adult. Wait—there’s more! Megan is the only Writing with the Stars mentor who has also been an editor. (Hint to people applying, this is a huge asset!) She can teach her mentee how to use the Force, pass the N.E.W.T.s, wax on and off, and build that 1000 piece Lego set without the directions. Some mentee is going to be very lucky indeed!
You are a very prolific writer and have written in many kidlit formats. Is there one you favor over the others? Do you find it hard to transition from writing for young readers to writing young adult?
Conventional wisdom in children’s publishing used to be that you should find your niche—the particular age group for which you were most comfortable writing—and stay there. I’m so glad that’s not the case anymore! My book ideas have always refused to focus on one particular age group, so I feel very fortunate that I’ve had opportunities to write and publish books for ages from babies to teenagers. I don’t find it particularly hard to transition from writing for one age group to another; the different types of books tend to be so varied, and so distinct, that there isn’t much overlap in tone, diction, and pacing.
You mentioned in another interview that you got rejections for four years on one book. That is a long time and it’s impressive that you didn’t throw in the literary towel. Was there ever a point when you thought that perhaps you weren’t cut out to be a writer? What helped you stay in the game?
It was a very challenging, often dispiriting period of my career! As difficult as it was, though, I’m grateful for the experience now (isn’t that always the way?). There was, in fact, a specific time—I remember it was in August—when I sat, for a few weeks, with the painful thought that maybe I didn’t have what it took—the talent or the skill or the ideas or the fortitude—to be a professional writer. I started to actively imagine what a different career might look like for me. What other passions might I pursue? Which doors might open? What might my life look like in five, ten, or twenty years? Then I had a powerful epiphany: No matter what other career I might pursue, I would never stop writing. Even if I never went on submission again; even if no one else ever read another word I wrote; I would never stop writing. That realization gave me the encouragement to keep writing and pursuing publication, and, though I didn’t know it at the time, as it turned out I was very close to getting some very good news: In less than a year, I sold eight new books, including my YA debut, my picture book debut, a board book series, and a chapter book series. Now, when I feel discouraged—because I think that happens to all writers and artists, at all stages of their careers—I draw strength and determination from this memory of perseverance.
You have said that the idea for Dump Truck Duck came from a pile of buttons in which a duck-shaped one and a truck-shaped one were together. I get a lot of my ideas from weird ways too but that one takes the cake! What is your second-best idea spark story?
When my son was nine months old, he got his first ear infection one cold January night. He was so uncomfortable from the pressure in his ears that he could only sleep upright, so we spent long hours together in the rocking chair. It was snowing, and as I watched the snowflakes drift past the window, it was easy to imagine it was like being inside a snow globe! I started wondering how that feeling could be translated into book form, and how a snow globe—something that kids are usually forbidden from touching—could be made safe and accessible for them. That’s how the I had the idea for My Snow Globe, a novelty board book with layered, die-cut pages and lots of sparkly snowflakes!
How has your previous life as an editor helped you be successful as a writer?
My experience as an editor gave me the opportunity to spend years thinking critically about what works—and what doesn’t work—in children’s books. Editors also spend a lot of time writing, and I truly believe that every word we write helps us become better writers. Perhaps the most important thing, though, is that my editorial experience gave me insight into the business side of publishing–and the understanding that even though my name is on the cover, a book is truly a team effort. Behind every traditionally published book is a deeply passionate and professional group of people who have put every ounce of their creativity and experience into making that book the best it could be.
Thank you Megan! For a mentorship opportunity with Megan- http://beckytarabooks.com/contest/