Confused by what Mama, wist je dat? means? Well, it’s the title of my new picture book, YA KNOW WHAT?, but in Dutch. Let me explain. It all started on a plane flight to visit my grandson for the first time in August 2014.Plane travel provides me with amazing focus. I do some of my best writing and revisions as a passenger of an airplane. So, on this particular trip, I heard the little boy sitting directly in front of me say to his parents, “Ya know what?” And my fingers just started typing: Ya know what? Started each line, with a follow-up. …something happens and the result. My husband saw what I was doing and we started brainstorming the silliest of circumstances.
But when I got home a few weeks later, I wrote a very different first draft. It became a conversation between a mother and her son, a way for the little boy to delay his bedtime. It wasn’t planned, the story just emerged. In my fourteen years of writing for children, I have compiled over a thousand rejections. My previously published books before this one, each accumulated more than ten rejections before being accepted. The first time I sent out YA KNOW WHAT?, the editor wrote all positive comments but told me her picture book plate was full. I took what she wrote and used that in my pitch the next time out…which was to Clavis Books, an international company. I had heard about them a few months earlier from a #kidlit source telling writers about a contest. I did submit a different manuscript to that contest, but did not win. However, when I looked at the catalogue and mission of this company, I loved what I saw.
So I submitted YA KNOW WHAT? to them after bringing it to two critique groups. It seemed like a good fit. And it was! Not even three months after I wrote my first draft, I heard back from the publisher that they wanted to acquire it. “This story is very near to the every day real life of a young child and how he uses the everyday rituals to win some time before going to bed. It’s playful and humorous. A lot of parents and children will recognise these situations.”
I was so impressed with this company’s philosophy. In their initial contact, the publisher asked for MY input on illustrations. “We would like to try to give a first option to an illustrator of your choice, because the interaction between an author and an illustrator is very important.” Wow! Clavis really understood picture books! It took a few months to get a contract, and a few tries to get the right illustrator. They checked in with me for my input during this process. Almost a year later after Clavis’ original contact, I heard that the talented Nynke Talsma had accepted the illustration job.
So I’m beyond excited to reveal the cover here today and to share my hopes for working with an international publisher. The book first comes out in Dutch in Clavis’ fall 2016 catalog, with the expected release of December 2016. My first readers will be in the Netherlands…speaking a different language and located in a different country than my own. I’m thrilled at the possibility for outreach to children all over the world. The English version first appears in their fall 2017 catalog. It’s unusual but wonderful. There are many unknowns being so far from the launch. But I am open to this journey and delighted for the opportunity. I suggest you check out SCBWI’s International Market Survey to explore a new world of possibilities for your own manuscripts. Thanks for sharing my cover reveal.