Webinar on Building a Kidlit Career

6 Apr Building a Kidlit Career Panel information

One of the reasons I was extremely excited about my regional SCBWI conference was because I was going to moderate a panel with Linda Sue Park, Melanie Conklin, and Susan Muaddi Darraj. Sadly, the conference was cancelled due to Covid-19. This was absolutely the right call, but I was bummed not to get to meet these writers and others who were planning to attend.

In happy news, these wonderful authors agreed to hold the panel as a webinar despite new homeschooling responsibilities and Covid-19 chaos.

Join us on Monday, April 13th at 7 pm for a lively conversation about publishing. You’ll have a chance to ask questions if you tune in live, or you can watch the recording later. Susan and I are also offering limited critiques.

Register here: https://mddewv.scbwi.org/events/webinar-building-a-kidlit-career/.

A Book Deal in the Time of Coronavirus

26 Mar

The evening of Thursday, March 12th, Covid-19 was grabbing hold of the United States. I was sad that my regional SCBWI conference had been cancelled, and fretting about whether we should even see my parents and in-laws for my daughter’s birthday party on Sunday (we didn’t).

I had finally decided to stop checking the news, social media, and my email to hang out with my toddler and dog while we waited for my husband to get home from work.

Then I got a text message from my agent, Carrie Pestritto: “Tracy, check your email :)”

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14 Tips for Working from Home

17 Mar Keyboard

With many people working from home for the first time due to Covid-19, I thought I would share my tips as a veteran work-from-homer. I love working from home and have been doing it for almost 10 years. I am, perhaps, uniquely suited to it, so what works for me might not work for you. I actually prefer not to have much interaction with other human beings during the day, don’t have a huge problem managing my time or staying on task, and work as a freelance editor, so I don’t have a large team to communicate with. However, I’ve had some challenges over the years and have figured out what works best to keep me happy and on task.

Here are my tips:

1) Have a room in your house with a door that closes to be just your office if you can. I know this isn’t possible for a lot of people, but it’s so nice to be away from the kitchen, tv, and bed to avoid snack/entertainment/nap distractions.

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How I Got My Picture Book Deal (Yes, I Have a Book Deal!)

17 Dec

I’ve been sitting on this secret for a long time: I am so excited to announce that my debut picture book, “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby,” is coming out from Familius in 2021! It’s going to be a board book, illustrated by Adele Dafflon. I am psyched to bring this book into the world for babies and toddlers to chew, and potentially even read. I decided to wait to announce the deal publicly until Familius had chosen an illustrator—and I’ve been waiting since July. I’m so happy I finally get to shout about it, and I could not be more excited that Adele will be illustrating the book. Her style is whimsical, bright, and simple: perfect for babies. Check out her gorgeous Instagram.

There’s a whacky story behind how I got this book deal. I’ll start at the beginning. I’d always thought I’d love writing picture books—I wrote poetry and fiction, after all. But I never tried to write a picture book until I had my daughter and found myself reading multiple picture books every day, or rather, reading one picture book multiple times a day (one week it was Brown Bear, right now it’s Jill Twiss’s Marlon Bundo). Suddenly, picture books were pouring out of me. I wrote them in the notes of my iPhone and periodically emailed them to myself. 

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11 Things to Bring to the Hospital When You’re Having a Baby

4 Nov Rob, Tracy, and Ava at the Hospital

I had a planned C-section and thought I was well-prepared for my trip to the hospital to deliver my baby. After all, the timing wasn’t a surprise. However, we somehow managed not to use most of the things we brought, and ended up needing many other items which my husband went home to grab (or ordered online).

We did use the basic stuff the hospital told us to bring, like phone chargers and a going-home outfit for the baby. But I learned quickly that lots of other items would come in handy, especially with the longer hospital stay associated with a C-section. Here are the items the hospital didn’t tell me about!

Links to Amazon below are affiliate links, meaning I’ll make money if you buy these products. I am recommending them because they worked for me; if you want to try them, buy them through these links and you’ll help me keep my baby in diapers

1. Bring a pumping bra.

I felt like healthcare professionals assumed breastfeeding would go well, when most women I talk to had trouble with it. Breastfeeding is a struggle, and if your baby can’t latch well, you might have to use a pump to increase your milk production in the hospital. If you think you’ll ever pump, you should invest in a bra that lets you pump hands-free. There are many different brands of these, and some women just cut holes in an old sports bra, but I tried that and could never get it tight enough. I loved the Simple Wishes pumping bra. It’s theoretically one size fits all, but once my milk came in I needed the plus size version. For reference, I gained a lot of weight at the end of my pregnancy, ending up at around 200 pounds (I’m 5’8”). The plus size bra was also nice to have because I could wear it over clothes or my normal bra.

2. Bring a water bottle that won’t spill in bed but that you can manage to drink out of with one hand.

I couldn’t get my huge Nalgene open with one hand or grasp it well while nursing. I was extremely thirsty and because of my C-section, it hurt to get in and out of bed, so it was nice to have something that could stay in bed with me without spilling.  Sometimes the hospital tray was out of my reach or there was no one to refill my water cup. A water bottle I could manage with one hand would have been nice. We have these CamelBak bottles at home and should have brought one!

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Doing an Unworkshop at the Highlights Foundation

10 Oct The Barn at Highlights Foundation

I am writing this from a comfy couch in my very last hour at the Highlights Foundation in Boyds Mills, PA (and posting it from home a few days later!). This is the second year that I’ve teamed up with a group of writing friends that I met via Pitch Wars to do an “unworkshop” at Highlights’ lovely facility in the mountains, and I wanted to share my experience for others interested in booking a stay.

You probably know Highlights from their wonderful magazines for children, but they also have a campus where they offer workshops for writers, work with groups to provide custom events, and offer “unworkshops” year-round for writers to make their own retreat weekend. In an unworkshop, writers come to campus whenever they want, and use their time however they want. Highlights provides delicious meals, which writers can eat while chatting with other unworkshoppers, or take back to their cabins to enjoy in solitude. The campus includes a beautiful barn with meeting rooms and a dining room, several one-writer cabins with private bathrooms, a farmhouse with five rooms and five bathrooms, and a lodge with a meeting room and several private bed/bathroom suites. Each room has a chair and desk for writing, plus bug spray and a flashlight!

When you arrive, there is no official check-in. You just find your name on your cabin/room and the key is in the door.

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Picture Book Giveaway for “Nita’s First Signs”

7 Oct Baby reads "Nita's First Signs"

As my baby becomes a toddler, we are learning lots of new sign language together to help us get along until she can communicate with words. We love reading “Nita’s First Signs” (affiliate link) written by Kathy MacMillan, illustrated by Sara Brezzi, and published by Familius. Honestly, learning a few basic signs myself was a challenge I had to conquer before teaching them to my daughter. “Nita’s First Signs” is parent (idiot) proof, and made learning signs like “milk,” “more,” and “all done” very easy for me, and thus for my daughter. It’s a wonderful board book with sections that pull out to show details about each sign.

Book for toddlers about sign language

I give this book to my friends who are expecting new babies, so I thought it would be a great book for my first official giveaway. Besides, I know Kathy from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and she’s amazing, so I’m always happy to boost her.

So, how do you enter to win this book? Sign up for my newsletter (below) before 10/15! I’ll pick a random subscriber to win a copy and announce the winner in my newsletter. I’ll reach out for your address, and send the book to you anywhere Amazon offers free Prime shipping. 


I promise you won’t get inundated with email—I plan to send emails once a month, max. They’ll be stuffed full of great resources about writing, editing, the publishing process, and parenting, with a side of news about my own writing career (and future giveaways)!

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Here are a few pictures of my daughter and my dog being adorable with our copy of “Nita’s First Signs”! (Don’t worry, I’m sending the winner a new one without any baby boogers or dog slobber!)

Baby reads "Nita's First Signs"

How to Evaluate Whether a Publisher is Traditional or Vanity

18 Sep

I just got an email from Submittable about a call for full manuscripts from Atmosphere Press. With the recent discussions of financial transparency on publishing Twitter, I thought I’d share thoughts about this call and the spectrum between traditional, self, and vanity publishing.

Disclaimer: I only know what’s on the email from Submittable and Atmosphere’s website and I could be totally wrong, but this is an example of how to analyze publishers based on what I’ve learned after years of my own submissions and my editing clients’ submissions.

To start, I’ll define traditional, self, and vanity publishing.

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Pitch Wars Advice Blog Hop

18 Sep

Hi, Pitch Wars mentee hopefuls! You are probably reading this after you have submitted your Pitch Wars applications, while you’re waiting to hear from potential mentors. Or perhaps you’re spotting this before the official blog hop, or this post has come up a year or two down the road at another stage of the process. Either way, I’m here to share my advice as a two-time Pitch Wars mentee. I also applied a third time because I loved it so much and didn’t get in that third time (okay, alright, it was greedy to apply again!).  

Here are a few thoughts that should be helpful for you at this stage of the game. 

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17 Ways to Cope with Rejection While Querying Literary Agents

12 Aug

Querying literary agents can be a long, hard road. It was for me. I sent out almost 400 queries for several different books over 6 years before signing with literary agent Carrie Pestritto.

It sounds rosy now that I have hit that milestone. Yay, I made it! But let me tell you, it was a hair-pulling, fit-throwing, soul-killing, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad emotional journey. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy (well, okay, maybe on a few people…). The whole six years weren’t like that, of course. Or else I certainly would have given up. But the times when I got several rejections on a full manuscript on the same day? Yup, those were pretty bad.

It’s not that hard for everyone. But it is that hard for many writers. Wendy Heard sent 500 queries before finding her agent. Joy McCullough wrote 10 books before getting one published (5 before getting her first agent).

I hope that the querying journey is easier for you. But whether you’ve racked up hundreds of rejections or you’re only on your first few, I’m here to share some tips that helped me cope with all the rejection.

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