I am so excited to be finally welcoming a very special guest whom I have known, oh gosh!, for a few years now, since she critiqued a draft of my novel (still a work in progress), after I found her on the internet. Very green and not knowing anything about how to approach editors or agents, or about writing in general, I remember my email asking if she would take a look and tell me whether it was worth my while continuing or should we just bin my story. Her warm and surprising email was the catalyst to my writing life today, and I still have that email. She is also the angel who came to my rescue with a copy of the critiqued novel, on hearing my copy had been stolen from my car the other week along with my laptop.
At the time when I “met” Virginia she was already a published author and had just started an online children’s magazine, as well as being a freelance editor, and Mum of two. Over the years her writing life has grown with the Magazine website, boasting, educator pages, featured quests, and teacher/parent resources. She now has workshops, has her own publishing company, still works as a freelance editor, runs a critique service, newsletter and now has her own radio show “Blog Talk” with Marsha Cook, interviewing authors, publishers and agents. Not to mention “Blog Hops” and “World of Ink Tours” and assisting authors with Book Trailers… Coming out from hiding in my side bar and here to tell us how she made her dreams come true….. my friend, Writer/Publishing guru……. Virginia Grenier..
FROM BUYER TO WRITER
I grew up flying with my father. He was an airline pilot for many years. My mother worked full-time in the banking industry. With a father in the airlines, I found myself being moved from place to place. I attended five different elementary schools and three high schools.
At 18, I graduated from High school without a clue to who I wanted to be. The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising was suggested and I worked my way to from part-time sales to a buyer in the world of fashion. I really enjoyed the traveling, fashion shows and networking. I worked for many major specialty stories such as Fredericks of Hollywood, Motherhood Maternity, Causal Corner, Hot Topic, Torrid, and Brighton Collectibles.
After working in fashion for many years, I found it very hard to raise my son and spend time with my family. I was lucky enough to have a supportive husband. After we found out that baby number two was on her way, we made the choice to move out of California to Utah. I gave up buying to be a stay at home mommy. My husband became the breadwinner working for the city. I finally got what I wanted, to spend what time I had left of my son’s childhood and not miss out on my daughters. Being home with two kids, I found myself journaling stories about their childhood. From there, stories just seemed to pop into my head. I wanted to share these stories with others. That is how I came across The Institute of Children’s Literature. I learned how to hone my writing skills.
I’m not going to lie to you. I received my first acceptance letter after my first course assignment at ICL. No, I hadn’t taken any other writing workshops or courses elsewhere. I haven’t been writing since I could hold a pencil or pen. I was just plain lucky.
The thing is I believe anyone can do this if they just set their mind to it. That was my trick. Honest. I just set my mind to getting published and I did. There is much to be said about having drive and determination. As a writer, I think this is a key factor to anyone’s success at publication.
Ok, so how did I do it? Well, I sat down and read lots about how to write a successful query letter. I took notes on the key points I really liked. This way I had my own personal format.
I typed up a rough draft and I revised it. Then I revised it some more and some more after that. Don’t think revisions are only for your manuscripts. You also need to revise your query letters and book proposals.
Then I choose a market to write for. In my case, I choose to write for an on-line magazine. I choose this type of publication for many reasons. First, it’s a non-paying market and therefore will not be over loaded with submissions. Most writers want to be paid. But for a newbie like me, this was the way to get noticed. Second, I wanted to build writing credits. Money is nice, but you need to show you can draft a story before most editors are willing to write you a check.
Third, I wanted to learn about the publishing process. Working with an editor and seeing my name in print.
After I found the magazine, I checked to see if there was a list of stories wanted or an editorial calendar. I lucked out. There was! And the editor was looking for a story about aviation. Well that was right up my alley. I’m a daughter of an airline pilot. Talk about luck.
So now what? I have my market. I have my subject for a story. What else do I need? A really great story for little kids! I sat down and started to brainstorm. I thought about all my experiences in a plane. Then I started thinking about my dad and how he started out as a pilot. And that’s how my story, Flying Upside Down was born.
I took three different stories my dad had told me as a little girl. He was born wanting to fly and did everything possible, short of breaking bones. I remembered how he built a cardboard box plane and pushed it out of a tree thinking it would fly. Then there was his bike plane and lastly the plane he built in high school, which did make it off the ground.
After putting all these together, I had my story. I wrote my query letter and then the big brick wall came up. None of the books talked about submitting a query letter via email. What was I to do? Well a little switching around and I had an email ready query letter. I hit the send button and the rest…we’ll just say is history.
Since then, I have published over 50 short stories and articles for children and writers. One of my short stories, SugarPaw and the Babysitter,published at StoryBox Library Online, later became my 2011 LUW Silver Quill Award-winning picture book, BABYSITTING SUGARPAW, published by Halo Publishing Int. in 2009. I am currently working on two YA books and three picture books. One is a follow up to BABYSITTING SUGARPAW.
I am also the founder & owner of Stories for Children Publishing, LLC., award-winning editor-in-chief of Stories for Children Magazine and chief editor for Halo Publishing, Int. In addition, to running my own editorial and critique services, I teach basic writing for my local college’s continuing educational program, am a host at the World of Ink Network at Blog Talk Radio and founder and tour coordinator of The World of Ink Virtual Author/Book Tours. I am also a member of the League of Utah Writers (HWG chapter and its current president), Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and Musing Our Children.
I do look forward to many more success stories as I journey down the writing path and hope to share what I learn with others along the way.
Thank you for having me and please follow me on:
The Writing Mama blog http://thewritingmama.blogspot.com
Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network
Thankyou so much Virginia for coming and sharing this insightful look into your writing journey and writing process. Many of my readers have never met Virginia before and you will find it interesting visiting her blog.
Virginia has agreed to come back and do a followup interview with me talking about founding the “World of Ink Virtual Author/Book Tours” and also discuss hosting the “World of Ink Network at Blog Talk Radio” Program. So if you have any questions you would like asked please do not hesitate to email me with your questions at.. firstname.lastname@example.org Thankyou again for stopping by.
Nice to put the face to the name, Virginia Grenier.
Great post too…love your story!
Thankyou Mona glad you enjoyed it.
What a great interview, Diane and Virginia! Thanks so much for sharing. How fortunate that you “met” Virginia, Diane! And Virginia, I loved hearing about your process. I also took the ICL course when my daughter was 18 months old – same reasons 🙂 Looking forward to checking out Stories for Children!
Thankyou Susanna, I thought you might be interested. Have fun.
Wonderful interview, Virginia and Diane! A few years ago I, too, started out writing and my rebus story was accepted in “Stories for Children.” I was thrilled! I enjoyed learning about all the writing venues you have, Virginia!
Wow! how cool, that must have been around the time I met Virginia as she had only not long had set the magazine up. Thankyou for stopping by.
Thanks for sharing this interview, Diane. Nice to get to know you a little better, Virginia. Thanks for the tips and inspiration!
You are most welcome Alayne glad you enjoyed it.
Wonderful interview ladies. It was great getting to know Virginia and her writing journey. My first published piece was through “Stories for Children.” Thank you so much for sharing.
Wow! You to……how cool! Virginia has done much since I met her. So glad you enjoyed this guest post Jennifer.
Thanks for this post. I know you’ve mentioned Virginia in glowing terms before, Diane, but it’s good to learn more.
Thank you for sharing your friend Virginia and her inspiring story!
Thankyou Julie, I thought you might find it inspiring.
Great post Ms. Tulloch! Ms. Grenier, I liked learning about how you used real life stories to become a writer. You really have some cool jobs! Can I ask a question? (other than that question…). What is the difference between a query letter and book proposal? I hear these a lot and I don’t know what they are.
Thankyou Erik, glad you liked the post. Hopefully Virginia will be back to answer your question.
First I want to thank everyone for posting comments. It’s wonderful to hear from so many of you and see that many of you have been published in Stories for Children Magazine. That is the main goal of Stories for Children Magazine…to help authors build their writing credits so they can go on to bigger publishers.
Also, sorry for the delay in stopping by, I’ve been sick, but glad to be back in the world of ink again.
To answer your question Erik about the differences of letters sent to a publisher here is my simplest answer.
A query letter is what you would send to a publisher/editor/agent who is not taking submissions, dose not take full manuscript submissions or only takes agented manuscripts. A query letter should be no more than ONE page, and less is always better. You should have your pitch line (a one to two sentence statement about your manuscript) as the opening to your letter. You can then give any research or background that makes your manuscript unique and why you’re the best person to be writing about whatever it is you’re writing about–be it a fiction or nonfiction.
A cover letter is what you send with your full manuscript or sample writing, depending on what the publisher guidelines or editor asks for. Again, keep this to one page or less. Always use your pitch to open the letter.
A book proposal is much different. This is usually sent after querying an agent or publisher, however, some publishers and agents are open to unsolicited submissions of this type. Always, check their guidelines before sending a book proposal to make sure. What you normally have in a book proposal is a cover letter, three to five chapters of your book (unless they say to send the whole thing or it’s a picture book), your book outline and a synopsis of your book. Some authors even do a synopsis of each chapter along with their outline.
I hope this helped clear up the difference of these three different types of submissions.
Thank you very much for telling me about these different letters/proposal! I really appreciate it. I think I understand the difference now.
Thank you again 😉
Great interview Diane and Virgina. Thaks for the inspiration and it was fun getting to know you. Am eager to check our Stories for Children! Loved this a lot!
Thankyou Pat, glad you enjoyed the post and I am sure you will love Stories for Children.
I love these stories about how people follow their dreams and achieve success. This was a great interview and I will check out Virginia’s blog and magazine.
BTW I awarded you the Sunshine Award for your inspiring blogsite!
wow! Thankyou Darlene, will check it out on your blog. Glad you liked this post and hope you enjoy your adventure around on Virginia’s blog.
I enjoyed finally putting a face and a bio to Virginia, as Diane has talked so highly about her. Great to hear more of the journey and about ICL and your many other endeavors.
Thankyou Joanna, I am sure you will find her website very interesting. (I have always hoped that oneday either Emma would interview Virginia or Virginia would interview Emma…lol)
Again, THANK YOU everyone for your comments. Diane, thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog. I look forward to guest posting again. Wishing you all a lot of success in the World of Ink.