by Charlotte Offsay
Unpublished and unagented, I attended SCBWI-L.A. Writer’s Day 2019 full of hope but never expecting that the events of the day would ultimately lead to a big five publishing contract.
For the second year in a row, I attended as an aspiring picture book author, and this time around I knew what to expect. I arrived eager to soak in the wisdom of the day’s fabulous lineup of speakers and had submitted a picture book manuscript for critique by one of the event day faculty. The manuscript that I submitted was one that I had been working on for months, Gram’s Got the Magic Touch. Here is the pitch:
Gram’s leaving, and she’s taking her magic with her. Without it Rose’s baby brother Henry wails and life as Rose knows it is dooooomed. There’s only one solution, Rose needs magic powers too.
One of the reasons I had been so excited to attend the event that year was to hear the keynote speech by Frances Gilbert (Doubleday Books for Young Readers Editor): Dear Author: This Is Why I Rejected Your Manuscript. As expected, I was blown away by Frances’ fascinating and engaging talk, but what I hadn’t expected was that she would be the one to critique my conference manuscript.
Now if you’re expecting me to say, Frances fell head over heels for my manuscript, made an offer and the rest is history…well, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
While Frances didn’t exactly love the manuscript (and on a re-reading, neither do I!), she was kind enough to provide me with honest, thoughtful and actionable feedback. I was also delighted to find that Frances had clearly identified and resonated with the heart of the manuscript – the ‘magic’ of grandmas. Frances said:
Even though the manuscript clearly needed a lot of work, I was filled with hope and determination. After many revisions, the help of my invaluable critique partners and my agent, Nicole Geiger (with whom I signed a few months after the conference), Gram’s Got the Magic Touch became A Grandma’s Magic.
A Grandma’s Magic is a picture book celebration of grandmas and all that makes them “magic.”
A Grandma’s Magic went out on submission in early 2020 and my wildest dreams came true when Frances Gilbert made an offer and acquired it. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Frances convinced the insanely talented Asa Gilland, to partner with us on the project. Asa is a dream illustrator and her heart-squeezing illustrations and unique details make my eyes well up with happy tears whenever I look at them.
A Grandma’s Magic, illustrated by Asa Gilland, was published from Doubleday Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House on April 5, 2022. I am very grateful to SCBWI for continually providing writers like me the opportunity to learn and grow. I am also very grateful to Frances Gilbert for her invaluable feedback – without her A Grandma’s Magic wouldn’t exist.
I hope my story inspires those of you who may be on the fence about putting your work out into the world, or fearful of less than ideal feedback, to put yourself out there. Dreams can and do come true and I’m here rooting for you.
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Charlotte Offsay is a picture book author living in Los Angeles with her husband and two small children. Charlotte is the author of The Big Beach Cleanup (Albert Whitman, 2021), How to Return a Monster, (Beaming Books, 2021), and A Grandma’s Magic, (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2022). Learn more about Charlotte’s work at charlotteoffsay.com, and follow her on Twitter @COffsay and on Instagram @picturebookrecommendations.
Images provided by the author.