By Patrice Karst
I fell into the children’s publishing world by accident.
Doing well with my first two adult books, God Made Easy and The Single Mother’s Survival Guide, I had sold 70K copies combined and was a popular speaker in the self-help, spiritual, New Age world. But I was also a single mom to my special needs son.
Elijah was so sad when I had to leave him in the mornings, I began telling him about an “invisible string” that connected us all day long. It so comforted him that we told his other friends. When I saw the calming effect, I thought, why not “put story to paper?”
A short time later, I signed a publishing deal with a tiny publisher who had never done a children’s book. The Invisible String came out in 2000.
For the first few years, it languished, selling here and there, but since I was busy with other projects, I didn’t pay much attention into it. Then, a few years ago, the military began using it for their deployed families. Soon psychologists, lawyers, hospitals, the prison system, foster programs, grief camps etc. began using it too.
The Invisible String became the number one book for children dealing with any kind of separation, loss, or anxiety. But now I had an interesting dilemma: Even though my book was selling itself like crazy, I knew nothing about the children’s book world. If I wanted to continue my career as a children’s author, it was time to learn the “proper way” to write a kid’s picture book, how to promote it through contests and speaking engagements at schools, and where to submit future books.
One day I heard about (and thankfully joined!) SCBWI – The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. After attending just a handful of critique groups, my kid’s writing had grown a hundred-fold. The Writer’s Days are a chance to meet my peers and hear what current trends publishers are looking for and what the future might hold for children’s authors. The newsletters, events, and encouragement that come from the various chapters of SCBWI all over the world, let me know that I am part of a wonderful family of kids’ writers that all have each other’s backs. I can’t wait to attend a local PAL (Published and Listed) workshop next month regarding promotion and setting up amazing school visits. Where else can you get such a plethora of incredible information regarding children’s books? The warmth, welcoming and knowledge that SCBWI gives each one of us, no matter the stage of our writing journey, is priceless.
It was through one of my fellow members that I found a great agent who helped me hone my craft even more. Even though we are no longer working together, I have no doubt that my next agent will come quickly through my SCBWI affiliation.
I have always said, anything we grown-ups need to learn about the deeper things in life can be learned best through children’s books. In fact, adults are buying my “children’s book” for each other in droves. To me, SCBWI is a great example of how The Invisible String is real. Love transcends anger, time, and space and connects us all. Love really is forever.
For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.
Patrice Karst is the author of the best-selling children’s classic The Invisible String (over 250K sold) and The Smile That Went Around the World, and her adult books, The Single Mother’s Survival Guide and God Made Easy. Patrice has been on a fascinating spiritual journey since she was a young girl looking in awe at the stars. Patrice lives at the beach in Ventura, California, where she still gazes upward and is currently editing her memoir.
Images provided by Patrice Karst.