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by Janie Emaus

Perseverance plaque that sits above Janie's desk.
A plaque that sits above Janie’s desk for inspiration.

Editor’s Note: Author Janie Emaus will be available to chat with you on Twitter this Friday (October 2) from 12 pm to 1 pm (Pacific Time). Keep on reading for her story of perseverance, #PitMad and success, and get your questions ready for the live Twitter chat!


I believe it’s the most important factor in my long writing career. I kept the valuable parts of each rejection (of which there were hundreds), tossed away the rest and put my butt back in the chair.  

Last November my determination paid off.

After participating in #PitMad, I sold my debut picture book, Latkes for Santa Claus, to Nicole Frail at Sky Pony Press. Nicole asked for my vision regarding the story and she reached out to Bryan Langdo for the illustrations.   


Having grown up in a Jewish family, I didn’t celebrate my first Christmas until marrying my husband. Ever since then we’ve celebrated both Christmas and Hanukkah. 

When our children were young, I looked for books for them to read, to identify with characters celebrating both holidays. Unable to find one which presented these blended families in a fun way, I decided to write my own.

I asked myself these questions: Would a young child be confused with a tree and a menorah? How would their young minds bring the holidays together?

During our annual latke making party, the answer came to me. As the latkes fried, I imagined a young girl leaving this crispy treat for Santa. 

The story started off in verse with my main character as an only child. My agent at the time sent it out on submission. We received several of those “we don’t need another holiday book” rejections.

I eventually dumped the rhyme, added a feisty stepbrother, and the cooking challenge. I included recipes for Mrs. Claus as a fun way to bring the young reader closer to my characters and to keep them involved long after the last page. 

We went out on submission again. And yet again, I collected rejection letters. On top of everything, my agent left the business.

But I persevered. 

After several rounds of edits with a successful picture book author, I sent the manuscript to agents and to those publishers willing to look at unsolicited manuscripts.

In November 2019, I took a chance with #PitMad.

And that chance paid off.


#PitMad is a Twitter event which occurs four times a year. Writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed manuscript, along with the corresponding hashtags to identify the genre of their work. The participating editors and agents make requests by “liking” the tweeted pitch.

This equates to a day of constant anticipation. I won’t check my phone for fifteen minutes.  Fifteen seconds later, I’m staring at the Twitter icon.  

Everything changed when I saw the like by Nicole Frail at Sky Pony Press. Of course, it didn’t mean she was going to say “yes” to my manuscript. But I had an opening.

I sent my manuscript to Nicole on Saturday. She responded on Monday saying she loved the book. On Tuesday she offered me a contract!  

In “editor time” that is quick. In fact, in any time, it’s pretty quick. You could say I was an “overnight success” which took twenty years to come to fruition. 

The only thing which has remained the same from day one is the title. Along with my determination to share the story with the world.

Have you been involved with #PitMad? Was it a good experience? What can you share to help others who may want to participate? How have your family traditions inspired you? 

I’ve enjoyed sharing my journey with you.

I’d love to hear about yours. 

To chat with us: Log into your Twitter account anytime during our chat hour on October 2, 2020, and use the hashtag #KTChat or @mention Janie (@Janie_Emaus)! If you aren’t on Twitter, leave your questions in the comments below before the chat begins. Find SCBWI-LA on Twitter here: @SCBWISOCALLA.

If you’d like to learn more about writing an article for #KTChat, you can find the info here

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.

Janie Emaus’s debut picture book, Latkes for Santa Claus, will be released October 13th. She is also the author of the young adult novel, Mercury in Retro Love. Her essays and short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and websites. She has been a member of SCBWI for over thirty years. To learn more about Janie, visit her website.

Images provided by Janie Emaus; headshot taken by Jacquie Bounds Photography.