Marcie Colleen, Talented Author and Educator

imageKirsti Call: You’ve been a teacher, a theater educator and a nanny. What is it about writing picture books that has you hooked?

Marcie Colleen: I once heard someone say that you write for the age that you feel most connected to, or that you yourself are stuck in. I write for that little six year old girl inside me who never grew up. She is still very much alive. If you don’t believe me, ask my sock monkey!

In all seriousness, though. I love the puzzle of the short form. I love working within given structural parameters and making it work so that readers will think or laugh or cry within only 32 pages. A picture book is like the tastiest morsel of all the story forms to me.

KC: How long did it take you to get your agent, Susan Hawk?

MC: After several years of working on my craft, I deemed 2013 “The Year to Find an Agent.” I sent out my first query in late January. By May I had a few offers. And in June I signed with Susan—my dream agent.

Sure, January to June seems like a very quick time to grab an agent. However, the craft-building and researching that came the years before those six months were where it really all happened. Once January 2013 rolled around I just wrote a query email, attached a manuscript and hit send…oh, and then went back to writing!

KC: You recently got contracts for 3 of your manuscripts. I love the title: LOVE, TRIANGLE and I can’t wait to read it. Can you tell us about those stories and what we have to look forward to?

MC: Well, my first sale was to Scholastic. THE ADVENTURE OF THE PENGUINAUT is about a plucky little penguin named Orville who has big dreams and longs for big adventures. However, in the close quarters of the zoo, the bigger animals assist him with the adventures a little too much. So Orville sets his sights on the moon—where no one will follow him, or help him. But when Orville gets to the moon, he realizes that friends and a helping hand are sometimes exactly what we need.

And then, LOVE, TRIANGLE was sold to Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins in a five-house auction. It’s the story of Circle and Square who are best friends until a very dynamic Triangle shows up. Suddenly they would both rather be best friends with her. So when Triangle sends each one separately an invitation to hang (signed Love, Triangle) they think this is their opportunity! But when both Circle and Square show up on Triangle’s doorstep they are shocked to see the other one there. With a witty text filled with several geometry puns, there is more than a little math needed to figure out how to make these friendships work.

The deal with Balzer+Bray includes a second book, to be determined later. Hence, the three books sold.

KC: How long did it take you to get your first contract?

MC: It took a while. I signed with Susan in June 2013. We then determined which stories I would work on to start the sub process. In September of 2013 we sent THE ADVENTURE OF THE PENGUINAUT out on sub and received some very glowing…rejections. So, I felt I wanted to revise and pulled PENGUINAUT back off sub in January 2014. After lots of tweaking, we re-subbed PENGUINAUT in June 2014 and received much interest. In late August, Scholastic made the offer.

A quick note about that, I recently was talking to an editor and she said that these days something needs to be pretty close to perfect before she is able to make an offer. So, I thank Susan for all of the revisions and brainstorming and conversations and tweaking and pushing that went into making PENGUINAUT something that we are all very proud of.

KC: What is your favorite story that you’ve written, and why?

MC: Wow. That is a very difficult question. Obviously, my sold titles are near and dear to my heart. But I also have quite a few upcoming titles that I’ll be subbing shortly and I just adore them. Personally, to write a picture book takes such time and care, I have to know that I am going to truly love working with a certain story or character for the long haul if I commit to writing their story. None of my stories were written in a quick flash and ready to sell. PENGUINAUT took me two-and-a-half years and LOVE, TRIANGLE was a little quicker (six months), but it was an idea I toyed with for over a year before I penned the first words. So, if a story is not compelling enough for me to want to spend time on it (perhaps years), I don’t write it or I quickly lose interest. In that respect, all of my completed stories are my favorites for different reasons.

KC: What is your writing routine?

MC: Well, first off, I don’t always write every day. It depends on the projects I have going on. I think it’s very different with short form writing. I can’t necessarily give myself a word count to meet each day, like a novelist would do. That said, this is my routine per project: 1) I get the idea. 2) I marinate with the idea, playing with scenarios in my head and jotting down notes here and there. 3) I write the story. 4) I revise, and revise, and revise.

For example, as I mentioned earlier, LOVE, TRIANGLE was an idea I had a year-and-a-half before I ever sat down to write it. I spent that year marinating. Making notes. Playing out scenarios in my head. When I finally sat down to write the story, it came out fairly quickly because of the time I had spent in the marinating stage. And then, the revision stage can take a very long time. PENGUINAUT was revised and critiqued for years. I believe it was version thirty-nine that finally sold.

KC: You create teacher guides for picture books and middle grade books. Do you have any advice for writers as they are creating a story?  

MC: Write the story that you want to tell. Do not get bogged down by educational rhetoric or trends while writing. Leave that to the professionals—like myself and teachers—once the book is published. First, write the best story you can, then worry about how it fits into the marketplace or classroom. Trust me, those of us who know education and love teaching can figure out a way to make ANY book fit those needs.

KC: You recently joined the faculty of Kidlit Writing School. What classes will you teach? kidlit writing school

Well, I recently taught a one-day webinar on HOW TO GET SCHOOLS TO FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR BOOKS, which featured how to read the Common Core. It was such a great experience and I believe we will be offering that webinar again. As for classes, we have some ideas up our sleeves but nothing finalized yet. But stay tuned! Kidlit Writing School is a wonderful resource and there are so many exceptional offerings. I am honored to have joined the faculty.

KC: What is your advice for aspiring authors?

MC: Do something every day that moves you toward your goal.

Whether that means writing a story, marinating about a story, generating ideas, reading a book or blog on craft, hanging out with writers and talking shop, giving a critique, sending out a query, or attending a conference/workshop.

Every step is important and it all plays in to your journey. Sometimes the journey is long, but keep moving forward. Keep dreaming big. Because it all matters. Your stories matter. Your journey matters. Each and every step.

KC: As a fellow naturally curly haired person, I want to know what you like best about curly hair….

Even a pony tail can look fancy. I am not one for doing much with my hair. So I was thrilled that for my wedding I could put it up in a pony and add a veil. Voila! Instant fancy hair!

Marcie Colleen is definitely living her dream. Her debut picture book, The Adventure of the Penguinaut sold to Scholastic earlier this fall and will tentatively be published in 2016. Additionally, Love, Triangle sold in a five house auction to Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins as part of a two book deal. Marcie is proud to be represented by Susan Hawk/The Bent Agency. She lives in Brooklyn, NYC with her husband—Lego artist Jonathan Lopes—and their mischievous sock monkey. To learn more, visit her at www.thisismarciecolleen.com or follow her at @MarcieColleen1.

24 comments

  1. Great interview, both of you! I particularly appreciated the reminders to write the story you have to tell, rather than trying to write to perceived wants or trends “out there” — and to work to make the manuscript the best it can possibly be before it goes on submission. And, oh, the whole rest of the interview. 🙂 I loved hearing more of the process behind Penguinaut and Love, Triangle (brilliant title!) Thank you, Marcie!

    Like

    1. Thanks, Carrie! Everyone’s journey is an inspiration–including yours. 🙂 it’s just our job to share when we can, we never know when our words will help another.

      Like

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