Aaron Reynolds is a New York Times Bestselling Author and has written an array of children’s books, including Creepy Carrots!, Chicks and Salsa, Back of the Bus, and the Joey Fly, Private Eye graphic novel series.
OCBS: Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Aaron Reynolds: I didn’t start out as a writer. I studied theatre in college and spent years in professional theatre in Chicago. It was through theatre that I fell into writing, and writing for kids specifically. After writing a number of scripts and shows for kids, I decided to try and write a book for kids.
Also, I’m very immature, which has worked out great.
Aaron Reynolds-On Writing
OCBS: What advice can you offer aspiring authors?
1. A publisher will want to pick the illustrator for any book they publish. Submissions from unpublished authors that include illustrations are usually red flags of amateurism, and often passed by when publishers consider work.
2. Bear in mind that publishing is a long slow road, and should only be sought and entered into if you’re ready for the long slow haul and lots of rejections. If this is something you are passionate about and considering as a serious career path and willing to put in years of hard work, growth, and rejection, I encourage you to enter full steam ahead. But if you feel you only have one story in you or struggle with rejection, take caution. It took me over 5 years and over 400 rejection letters before I got my first sale.
3. If you determine that you are serious about the business of children’s publishing, take the time to learn the business of children’s publishing. Learning about things like the proper format for a picture book (usually less than 700 words) to how to package a submission and who to send your manuscript to and all critical parts of learning the business.
There are a couple ways to do this:
- Join a group called the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). They have conferences all over, both nationally and regionally. Go to one. Read the monthly bulletin that comes with your membership. Both of these will help you start to understand the market of children’s books, talk and develop relationships with other writers, and learn from editors.
- Read these two books. They were absolutely essential to me when I was getting started back in the beginning:
You CAN Write children’s books by Tracy Dils, and The Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market – this is an annually updated book and is the BIBLE of children’s publishing. I still get the new one every year. It is packed with great info to help you find your feet and get started, as well as contact information for children’s publishers.
4. You don’t need an agent to get published (I had sold over a dozen books before I got my agent), but you do need to do those things mentioned above. They will get you off to a great start! Once you’ve done this research, you’ll feel much more prepared about whether your manuscript is ready or not, and who to send it to once it is.
OCBS: Every writer gets writer’s block. How do you overcome it?
Aaron Reynolds: I’ve decided that I don’t believe in writer’s block. Maybe if I pretend it doesn’t exist, it will pretend I don’t exist. The truth is… we all have good days and bad days, no matter what job you’re in, and that includes writing. There are days when the ideas are flowing and there are days when you feel stuck. That’s in any job. But you don’t just not go to work if you’re not feeling inspired when you’re an accountant, and you can’t when you’re a writer either. You sit down and make your fingers move on the keyboard, even if all that’s coming out is garbage. Often, the gold comes while the garbage is flowing. Put your butt in the chair and write anyway. You can always throw away the garbage later.
OCBS: Who is your support system, i.e. the first to read your work, review it, and critique it? How do you choose these advisors?
Aaron Reynolds: I think a good critique group is worth its weight in gold. Unfortunately, I’ve never had very good luck with critique groups. We always seem to have different goals. Some people just want a social hour. Some want a place to vent about how unfair it is that they aren’t published. Some just want everyone to tell them that their writing is good and don’t really want to grow or work to make it better. After several tries with crit groups, I found that time is the best critic. I write something and then I put it away for 6 months or a year. During that time, it becomes much less precious to me. When I pull it out later, I’m much more easily able to say “Wow, that sucks.” Or see ways to improve it. I’ve found that, unlike crit groups, I always have the same goal as myself. And time is a powerful ally to help me see my work through an accurate lens. That’s the way I work today. I know it doesn’t sound like much of a support system, but it works for me. Plus, who could be more supportive of my work than myself?
OCBS: What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Aaron Reynolds: Don’t go looking for them unless you are feeling especially self loathing. There will always be people out there anonymously saying your work is terrible. The simple truth is, we don’t write for any of them. We write for kids. The best review is when you read your book to a school group. When the kids laugh at the jokes. Or don’t. Kids have a way of getting it, or not, that is unequaled in honesty and authenticity. There is no better review of your work.
Having said that, when a nice review comes out, there’s no question that it feels good.
More About Aaron Reynolds
OCBS: What book/s are you reading at present?
Aaron Reynolds: I’m always working my way through a stack of kids’ books. Currently on my bedside table:
- The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson
- The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg
- The Skunk by Mac Barnett
- The Hunted by Charlie Higson
OCBS: How do you relax?
Aaron Reynolds: I read. I love to cook. I play video games. I LOVE to travel.
OCBS: What is your favorite saying and why?
Aaron Reynolds: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” – Pablo Picasso
OCBS: Do you have a blog?
Aaron Reynolds: I hate blogging. But you can find a News page on my website at www.aaron-reynolds.com
OCBS: What about other social media?
Have you read Creepy Carrots! or any of Aaron’s other books? Let us know your favorites and why you love them.