Friday’s Fun Find: Doraine Bennett! (And WIK ’12!)

The Southern Breeze region of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is sponsoring their annual conference, Writing and Illustrating for Kids, ’12, come the weekend of October 19th in Hoover, Alabama. Besides being a TON of FUN for writers, it’s also a great learning experience, no matter where on the learning curve you write. And many of the speakers are touring right now on Breezer blogs to give you a taste of what you’ll get at WIK’12. Which is why the lovely and talented Doraine Bennett is here with me today. Wheee!

Doraine, I can hardly wait for WIK’12 to get here! What’s been your experience with WIK?

 Before my first WIK, someone told me this conference was like drinking from a fire hose. I’d say that was pretty accurate. There are more classes than you can get to, more people than you can connect a name to, and more information than you can possibly absorb in a day. It’s wonderful!

 From attending the conference to speaking at the conference! Wow, that’s quite a journey. Can you share a little about your publishing journey and success?

 Honestly, I feel a bit like I came in through the back door. An acquaintance called me one day to ask if I wanted her job as a sales rep for a book distributor to schools in my geographical area. I wasn’t really looking for a job, but it was all about children’s books and libraries. In her position with the company, she kept being asked for books to meet the Georgia history standards in elementary schools. Most major publishers do not market books that fit the needs of only one state. So, I took her job, she opened a publishing house to publish books that meet those needs, and I became her first author. My State Standards books are in most of the elementary schools in Georgia. And six of them are on the GADOE list of featured books for the Common Core Standards.

 I continue to write for State Standards, but I also have books with three other publishers. These have come as a result of sending in proposals to the publisher before I wrote the books. I like this route into the publishing world, as you aren’t spending as much time on speculative writing that may or may not find a home. Although I do have several of those type manuscripts out looking for a home.

Your workshop is called “Nuts and Bolts.” This sounds like a great introduction to children’s publishing! Can you give us a glimpse into the specifics of the workshop?

 We will be talking about the basics of submitting a manuscript, the differences in the trade market and the educational market, how to target a publisher, and how to network.

Here’s the last question, Doraine, so you’re going to have to think hard! What’s the best piece of advice you can give to a pre-published writer?

 Hone your craft! Taking online classes, attending workshops, finding a critique group. All these are excellent ways to become a better writer. Submit your manuscripts. They will never get published if they are sitting in a file folder somewhere on your computer. Be professional. Children’s publishing is a small world. Really. You’d be surprised. Don’t be afraid to take risks, to walk a nontraditional path, to try something new and unexpected.

Thanks SO much, Doraine, for stopping by today! I’m sure I’ll see you at WIK’12—and I hope I’ll see y’all as well! If you want to see a schedule of the conference, check out the Breezer website for details, and sign up soon!

And if you want to get an inside scoop on the speakers and what fantabulous stuff they have planned for you, check out these fellow Breezer blogs and look for WIK’12:

 Aug. 15 Sharon Pegram at Writers and Wannabes

Aug. 16 Sarah Campbell at Alison Hertz’s blog, On My Mind

Aug. 17 F.T. Bradley at Laura Golden’s blog

Aug. 20 Chuck Galey at Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog

Aug. 21 Jo Kittinger at Bonnie Herold’s blog, Tenacious Teller of Tales

Aug. 22 Irene Latham at Robyn Hood Black’s blog, Read, Write, Howl

Aug. 23 Vicky Alvear Shecter at S.R. Johannes’ blog

Aug. 24 Doraine Bennett at Cathy Hall’s blog

Aug. 27 Virginia Butler at Bonnie Herold’s blog, Tenacious Teller of Tales

Aug. 28 Jodi Wheeler-Toppen at Diane Sherrouse’s blog, The Reading Road

Aug. 29 Ellen Ruffin at Sarah Frances Hardy’s blog, Picture This

Aug. 30 Donna Jo Napoli at Writers and Wannabes

All in all, it’ll be more fun than a barrel of monkeys, so come join us! (Though I’ve always thought a barrel of monkeys would be more dangerous than fun. Maybe just one monkey in a barrel. One of those tiny little capuchin monkeys. Yeah, that kind of fun.)