By Marcie Wessels
In the fall of 2011, I enrolled in Writing for Children I at UC San Diego Extension in order to purse my lifelong dream of writing a children’s picture book. The course was a wonderful introduction to the world of children’s publishing.
Marcie Wessels: "I wanted to learn everything I could." Photo: Roxyanne Young
In class, we studied each of the different genres (from board books to young adults) and I learned about the business of being a writer — from how to ready a manuscript for submission to how to find an agent.
The workshop portion of the class was probably my favorite part. In fact, my current critique group actually developed out of the class.
After completing the Writing for Children I course, I wanted to learn everything I could about picture books, so I decided to take Illustrating Books for Children in Spring 2012.
As a writer, I was nervous about taking an illustration class, but anyone who wants to write a picture book needs to think about the pictures. After all, the magic of a picture book occurs in the interplay of the words with the pictures.
In class, I was asked to create nearly wordless stories – quite a feat for a writer. But learning to express myself in pictures improved my storytelling abilities.
I continued my immersion in picture books with Writing Children’s Picture Books, which was offered in Summer 2012. For the first assignment, I was asked to create a 16-page board book.
My pirate-themed bedtime story was well-received in class and my instructors encouraged me to expand and revise the story to fit the 32-page picture book format. I’m so glad that I listened to them.
In Fall 2012, I submitted my pirate bedtime story to an editor whom I had met at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference. A few months later, I received feedback.
Although the editor liked the concept, she had questions about other aspects of the story. She encouraged me to revise my manuscript with her suggestions in mind, and then resubmit.
Over the next few months, I revised my story using the tools and techniques I learned in Extension courses. At the beginning of 2013, after substantial revision, I resubmitted my manuscript to the editor.
By March, I had an offer.
My debut picture book, "A Pirate’s Lullaby: Mutiny at Bedtime," illustrated by Tim Bowers, will be published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers on August 25, 2015.
Thank you, UC San Diego Extension, for helping me to achieve my lifelong dream of publishing a children’s picture book!