The stars of the panel this year are Robin Cruise, Holly Cupala, Kevin Emerson, Lois Harris, Paul Schmid, Suzanne Selfors, and Suzanne Young.
Suzanne Selfors: She wrote three adult novels first, all dense historical fiction set in Ancient Greece. She faced a lot of rejection. She found herself loving and reading a lot of middle grade novels with her kids. Had an idea that she couldn't get out of her head: the story of a brother and sister who found a baby mermaid. She got six offers in a week, and sold the book at auction.
Robin Cruise: She worked in children's publishing for almost 20 years. Was deputy publisher at Harcourt (but the job didn't come with a gun or badge, alas). She's publisher with the juvenile group at Becker Mayer in Bellevue. Even with her connections, it took her seven years to sell her first book, chewing up only one agent in the process. She actually sold her first book herself--The Top-Secret Journal of Fiona Claire Jardin.
Holly Cupala: She's been coming to SCBWI meetings for 10 years. She took Peggy King Anderson's class, the UW Extension Program class, and about six years ago, lost her first child. Everything changed after that. She couldn't write, and a few months later, went to lunch with Justina Chen Headley, another local success story. Holly found the door to the story start to open itself. She felt the story really land in her lap; then she won a WIP grant from the SCBWI, got interest from agents--and signed with one she met at a national SCBWI conference.
Kevin Emerson: Wrote novels in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades (as a way to pick up girls no doubt), but it wasn't until he was teaching and injuring himself with volcano experiments and experiencing delayed gratification with his rock star career that he got entranced with middle grade novels. He had a lot of near-misses with editors and contests with his first two novels. He started a third in 2003 when the first line popped into his head. That became CARLOS IS GONNA GET IT. He started seeking an agent again, and after some assorted finagling, signed with one and sold the book to Arthur A. Levine books, which published CARLOS in 2008.
Lois Harris: She wrote a soccer story and submitted to Highlights. They accepted it. Then she wrote another soccer story and another magazine accepted it. Her husband created her an office. She wrote a novel and ... got a rejection letter. At the time, she didn't know about the market, Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, or anything. She submitted to 22 publishers and gave herself a year to sell the manuscript. Meanwhile, she signed up to be an English major in creative writing at the UW, which she earned before having to go back to work full-time. She read in the newspaper about SCBWI and started coming to the meetings, soaking up information until she had time to write, in 2000 (when she took early retirement). She discovered her love of nonfiction and research and has sold two books.
Paul Schmid: One of Paul's first successes came from a failure--a rejection. He was working on an illustration for THE WONDER BOOK and a sketch of a porcupine running with a balloon was rejected. But he had to "fix" that character's problem. Next thing he knew, he had a story that an editor bought.
Suzanne Young: Her first success came after a huge disappointment--getting dropped by an agent. She decided to send her books out on her own. Razorbill contacted her (as did an agent). She sold four books. "It was me being stubborn after getting dumped."