Writing Advice from Authors and Illustrators

I have gotten to know some incredible people on my journey as a writer. Talented friends who are generous with their time and advice. They have graciously allowed me to share that wisdom with you here. I know you’ll be inspired by these fantastic kidlit creators as you continue on your own writing journey.


Meet Linda Sue Park…

Linda Sue Park is a national treasure. She is beloved in the kidlit community and sought after for author visits and speaking engagements as a Newbery award winning author and all around expert at her craft. You probably know her best as the author of A Single Shard or A Long Walk to Water. My family loves her picture books too, especially Bee Bim Bop! and Xander’s Panda Party.

She is passionate about librarians, book bans and the right every child has to see themselves in the pages of a children’s book. I had the privilege to speak alongside Linda Sue on Connections with Evan Dawson recently. Along with Leslie Youngblood and Vicki Schultz, we talked about book bans, diversity in publishing and how to raise readers. You can listen here.

This was a big year for Linda Sue as she launched her own imprint at Clarion Books named Allida. The name and logo honor her Korean heritage and the first title is a middle grade masterpiece. You Are Here: Connecting Flights features interwoven stories from TWELVE different East and Southeast Asian American authors. Check out her website for all of her titles!

She serves on the advisory boards of We Need Diverse Books and the Rabbit hOle museum project. She also created www.kibooka.com to highlight children’s books created by the Korean diaspora. 

What do you like to do for fun? 

Snorkel, cook, eat, watch baseball games and other sports, garden, play games, spend time with my family.

How long have you been working at your craft? 

Over 50 years! (my mom has poems that I wrote when I was 5)

Favorite writing spot/conditions?

For novels, I write on my laptop…almost anywhere. For picture books and poetry, I usually write first drafts by hand on whatever paper is to hand.

What started you writing? 

 I’ve been writing since…I can’t remember.

What challenges you?

 Every book I write teaches me valuable lessons about how to write THAT book. When I start the next one, I’m in uncharted territory all over again. It’s challenging, but also keeps things interesting.

What keeps you motivated to create? 

Young readers. Children’s authors get to write and create the books that people remember for their whole lives.

What are you working on right now? 

A story that might grow up to be a middle-grade novel, and curating and promoting Allida Books, my imprint at HarperCollins.

Words of wisdom for our members? 

If you knew for certain right here and now that the story you’re thinking about would never be published, would you still write it? THAT’S the story you should write.

Thank you, Linda Sue! I don’t know how she has time to do it all, and still give back to her local community. The Rochester Children’s Writers and Illustrators is a local group of about one hundred local writers and artists who come together to support each other and learn more about their craft. Linda Sue serves as an advisor on our board of directors and has offered her talents as a presenter at retreats and meetings so many times over the years.

She introduced me to the pomodoro method of writing and every time I set my timer to write for just twelve minutes,  I think of Linda Sue. 


Meet Jackie Yeager…

Jackie Yeager is a middle grade author whose stories inspire children to think more, work hard, and dream big. Her middle grade series, The Crimson Five, is light science fiction and includes three books: Spin the Golden Light Bulb, Flip the Silver Switch, and Pop the Bronze Balloon.  She is also my amazing critique partner and has a heart of gold!

What do you like to do for fun? 

I love hanging out with my family. Now that my kids are in their 20’s, time together is rare but always fun. I like taking short trips with my husband and meeting my friends for coffee or wine. I love updating our house. I’m always reorganizing or redecorating something. And I love blogging and creating content for my team-building website. It’s my other creative outlet. 

How long have you been working at your craft? 

For a long time! I began writing seriously in January 2007. I wrote a middle grade novel in three months and queried it immediately. After several rejections, I quickly realized that getting published wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. I needed to learn how to write and I needed to learn how to structure a story. So, I devoured every blog post on the topic that I could find and read both writing craft books and as many recently published middle grade books as I could get my hands on. I still do all of that to this day.  

Favorite writing spot/conditions?

For years, I wrote whenever I could find a pocket of time, usually in an old recliner while my kids were at gymnastics or hockey practice. But now I have an actual office filled with candles, books, and motivational pictures. It’s quiet and cozy and I love writing in it—day or night!

What started you writing? 

About fifteen years ago, I was working as a reading teacher, where I taught students one-on-one. We read a lot of children’s books! Being exposed to so many great stories made me want to try writing one myself. And so, I did.

Are you agented? 

I’m not agented right now but I was until my agent left the publishing industry. It was nice to have someone in my corner who could open doors for my manuscripts. She was a positive advocate and responsible for my original two- book deal and my option book after that. Now that I have a new manuscript ready, I’m back in the query trenches again! 

One of your favorite kidlit presenters? 

Linda Sue Park presented many years ago. She was a fabulous speaker and I was struck by how confident and knowledgeable she was. She talked about the important role that a critique partner or critique group plays in helping a writer hone their craft. I was inspired listening to her, and maybe a little awe-struck too! Her talk motivated me to work hard and become the best writer I possibly could. 

What challenges you?

The art of storytelling itself. We’re all connected through stories and I’m forever challenging myself to improve the way I share mine. Whether it’s through my books, my presentations, or my blog posts, I’m always working on ways to use my stories to connect with people.

What keeps you motivated to create? 

The countless ideas I have swirling in my head! I have a vivid imagination and I’m never at a loss for story premises or characters. When I have a spark of inspiration, it motivates me to create something for readers that will spark their imaginations too. 

What are you working on right now? 

I’m working on a new middle grade novel. It’s unrelated to the Crimson Five series and it has been so fun to write. The world building is vast and the plot is complex. I realized early on that I can’t tell the whole story in one book. So, the first manuscript is complete but I’m working slowly on the sequel too. Hopefully the first will find a publishing home soon so I can justify working on the second. 

Do you have a favorite author or book that inspires you?

There are too many to list! One of my favorites, though, is Stephanie Garber, author of the CARAVEL (YA) trilogy. Her writing is beautiful, filled with colorful and playful descriptions. It has a fairy-tale quality that I adore. Her plots are intricate too. I’m inspired by her books every time I read them.

Words of wisdom for aspiring writers and illustrators? 

Keep your eyes on your own page! You may feel the urge to compare your journey to someone else’s. But that will only lead to self-doubt. There will always be someone who writes faster, or finds an agent before you do, lands a better book deal, or wins more awards. None of that matters at all. Do your best to remember that no one writes or illustrates like you do or can tell a story with words or pictures like you can. Children are waiting for your books. So, stay focused on that and create something special for them.   

Check out Jackie’s books and blog at www.swirlandspark.com

0 comment  |  104 views

Leave a Reply

All fields are required

No comments yet.

About Me

Sarah grew up surrounded by books and loved her notebooks and pens. She loved writing plays and performing them with her siblings. Her long stories won her the future author award in elementary school. As a fourth grade teacher, Sarah earned a Masters degree in writing curriculum, but decided that writing children’s books was much more fun! When she isn’t writing or reading, you can find her dancing to old records, playing board games or watching movies with her husband and three kids. She has a mini-goldendoodle named Oliver who likes to sleep on her feet while she writes. Sarah lives with her family in Victor, NY.