Tamar Brazis led a breakout session for writers that focused on the theme of friendship in children’s books. Her session included several writing exercises that were meant to evoke personal memories and connections to our own childhood friends. She moved writers into crafting dialogue that demonstrated familiarity and kinship between two characters. Handouts were provided so that writers could conduct a close analysis of a handful of published works that hone in on friendship as a central theme. Among those books were Arnold Lobel’s DAYS WITH FROG AND TOAD and CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG by Mo Willems. This breakout session focused on what Brazis finds important in any manuscript coming across her desk- memorable characters with strong voice, a genuine relationship between characters, and an obvious character arc.
A few submissions tips pertaining to Abrams Books for Young Readers were shared during the question-and-answer portions of the day.
- They do not accept unsolicited manuscripts in the fiction category.
- It’s best to query one book at a time in the picture book category.
- If querying for chapter books, Abrams prefers to know that you’ve thought through a few ideas for books in a series in addition to your initial book.
- Non-fiction books are open for submissions without an agent.
- Abrams is focused on art-related non-fiction, as well as historical biographies.
- In any picture book submission, including more than two main characters is “ambitious.” Not in a good way.
- A tip heard over and over again- do not submit illustrations with your manuscript or provide your vision on the appearance of artwork. This often becomes grounds for flat-out rejection because they don’t prefer to split someone’s work apart. Abrams reiterated that the art should be left to their discretion.
The most important takeaway came from Tamar Brazis in the form of hope. She encouraged all writers to keep submitting their manuscripts, casting a wide net whenever possible. Not long after she received her first lesson in surfing, a literary agent presented a manuscript to Brazis that would later become Surfer Chick by Kristy Dempsey. She made the point that this manuscript personally mattered to her at that moment based on a very specific set of circumstances. She was passionate about surfing as a newfound hobby and was motivated to support this book. She admitted she probably wouldn’t have felt that way just a few years earlier. It just goes to show that getting published can be a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck.
Do you have a picture book or a chapter book lurking in your drawer? Or the idea for one lurking in your head somewhere? Have you had a similar experience to the one that Kristy Dempsey and Tamar Brazis had? We'd love to hear about it!