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May 20, 2011 / theoldsilly

Feature Friday – Children’s Book Author, Kevin McNamee

I’m starting a new weekly regimen, each Friday I will feature another artist–be it an author (novelist, memoir, nonfiction, poet, whatever), musician, any artist deserving of a good shout out and promotion. And to kick off this brand spanking new campaign, it is my pleasure today to introduce you to children’s book author extraordinaire, Kevin McNamee.

For starters, let’s get to know Kevin a little better with this short interview …

Kevin, how did you get started writing for children?

I fell into this genre somewhat by accident.  I’ve been writing since I was a child myself, but I always had my sights set on writing the next Great American Novel.  Over the years, I managed to complete a chapter or two for various book ideas that were rolling around my head or to jot down a short story.  But nothing would ever come of it.  My novels would bog down with some plot related problem that I couldn’t work out.  Then I would usually come down with a terminal case of writer’s block.  So I shelved writing and focused my attention on something that actually paid the bills, like my day job.  That’s the way it stayed for many years.

I finally caught the writing bug again by reading the children’s books that my wife would bring home.  She is a reading teacher for an elementary school and would constantly bring home books that she was using in her lessons.  I started flipping through these books and after a while, I thought that I’d like to try writing one.

Did you find writing for children easier?

No, I did not.  My first attempt at writing a picture book yielded this six page single-spaced monstrosity that had just about every blunder you could make when writing for children.  It was too long, too meandering and too adult.  Basically, I was still trying to write the Great American Novel, only mine had a talking hamster in it.

So what did you do from there?

I had the feeling that if I didn’t seriously try to learn all that I could about writing, nothing would happen…ever.  Since I seemed to be gravitating towards children’s lit, that’s where I focused my energies.  I bought The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing for Children, followed by Writing Children’s Book for Dummies.  Despite their titles, they held a wealth of information about the business of children’s writing as well as the craft itself.  I also joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI).  I found two terrific critique groups through the message boards, where I rewrote and polished my stories and then sent them out to various publishers.

What happened then?

Well, I kept writing, revising and submitting my stories and after a while, I had amassed a rather impressive collection of form rejection letters.  But I kept at it.  I had learned AND accepted that writing is a highly competitive field and that editors had no shortage of material coming in to them (both good and bad).  Also, I was an unknown and unpublished writer and that didn’t help matters any.

Fortunately, my work eventually fell across the desk of the right editor.  I sold a short story titled, “It Will Never Work.”  It was about an ill-fated teen romance between a mermaid and a human.  I originally wrote it for a writing contest and lost.  This story had a humorous twist to it as well as mythical beings, so it seemed like a good fit for this one particular magazine.  I sent it off and it got rejected, but with a very nice rejection letter containing all the particular reasons why it was being rejected.  I offered to rewrite it with those comments in mind and, I sold First Run North American rights for this story for … (drum roll, please) …

$2.00!

It wasn’t much, but I was finally published (whoo hoo!).  But when I received my contributor’s copy of the magazine along with the acceptance letter, I was wondering where the $2.00 check was.  Then I opened the magazine and two dollar bills floated unceremoniously out of it.  It was a pretty funny lack of fanfare considering that this was such a monumental occasion for me.  But instead of using this money to buy a celebratory slice of pizza, I decided to do following:

Ha! Good for you! But, tell us … how did you get your first real book contract?

Well, once I was armed with my first publication credit, I submitted more of my work to various publishers, and they continued to send me back rejection letters to add to my collection.

I finally got my break by attending a conference.  I’m a firm believer in conferences and I try to go to one whenever possible.  The networking opportunities are fantastic and you get to meet plenty of people who get what you are trying to do.

I heard good things about the Muse Online Conference, so I signed up for it.  Boy, am I glad I did.  It was there that I found my dream publisher.  I attended a lecture and the publisher offered to accept submissions from the attendees.  I sent a rhyming picture book manuscript titled, “The Soggy Town of Hilltop”, which eventually became one of the books you see below.  More followed…(grin)

Impressive! So, has anything changed since you’ve been published?

Once I was published, I joined a few marketing groups where I learned about the necessity of promoting my work and exactly how much effort it involved.  I can now say that it’s not so bad once I broke things down into manageable levels, but at first, I was a little overwhelmed.  But after I uncurled from the fetal position, I was finally able to put things in perspective.

Another thing I’ve noticed… I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been published or because I have become a better writer, or if it’s a combination of both, but I’ve had a few more successes since then.  Also, my rejection letters seem to be getting nicer.

Kevin, thanks for being with us and sharing your journey today. Everyone, you can find out more about Kevin and his books at the following :

Kevin’s books are available as print books, e-books, and books on CD from www.guardianangelpublishing.com.

His books are also available from amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or ask your local bookstore.

To find out more about Kevin, please visit his website and his blog.

You can also find Kevin on Facebook at and on Linked-In by clicking on either of them.

~~~~~

Alright, peeps, let’s show Kev some love in the comments gallery. He’s tied up and offline ’til early this eve, so if you have a question for him, please leave it and stop back in later as he will be glad to interract with you all. Chow gang!

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32 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Elizabeth Craig / May 20 2011 5:04 am

    Great interview, Marvin and Kevin! And good advice to remember to pursue conferences as part of a publishing journey–and the online ones mean no real financial investment (a good thing!)

    • Kevin McNamee / May 20 2011 5:22 pm

      Thanks Elizabeth, I think that conferences definitely do some good, whether it’s for networking opportunities, or for inspiration.

  2. thiskidreviews / May 20 2011 5:34 am

    I think I have to read An Eyeball in My Garden: And Other Spine-Tingling Poems! What are you working on now?

    • Kevin McNamee / May 20 2011 5:28 pm

      I received the green light from my publisher for a sequel to The Sister Exchange. Now, all I have to do is finish writing it. 🙂

      “Eyeball” is worth checking out, thirteen other talented poets contributed to it as well. It’s got a good mix of poems and styles. It should be an entertaining read. Thanks for your interest,

  3. Cactus Annie / May 20 2011 6:24 am

    Fun feature and great interview, guys! Writing books for kids takes a special talent, and looks like you GOT it, Kevin – best wishes for many sales and many happy little ones learning to love books!

  4. Margot Winston / May 20 2011 6:30 am

    I LOVE that you framed your first 2 dollars! That’s got to be motivating! Good interview, I think it takes a certain ‘something’ to write a really good, effective book for kids … I’ll have to check some of yours out, got some nieces and nephews who would just love them I’ll bet!

    • Kevin McNamee / May 20 2011 5:34 pm

      Thank you Margot! That $2 represented a four year struggle from when I first decided to get serious about getting published, so getting it framed seemed to be the right thing to do.

      I hope your nieces and nephews enjoy my books. But as a reading parent, I do try to write them so adults will enjoy them as well.

  5. Stanley Berber / May 20 2011 6:39 am

    “My rejection letters seem to be getting nicer.”

    LOL, now THAT’s a “the glass is half full” positive attitude! Enjoyed the interview and learning about Kevin’s books and thanks for sharing your journey with us. Best wishes for a sterling career!

    • Kevin McNamee / May 20 2011 5:37 pm

      Thank you, Stanley. In this business, you have to take encouragement where you find it. 😉

  6. Barbra Kelser / May 20 2011 6:46 am

    You are so determined and upbeat! And the book titles are so charming – definitely will check some of them out. Thanks for this feature, Old Silly, and Kevin for being with us today!

    • Kevin McNamee / May 20 2011 5:44 pm

      Thank you, Barbra! I think that being determined is half the battle. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get discouraged and stop submitting.

  7. Alex J. Cavanaugh / May 20 2011 7:30 am

    That’s a lot of books! Ever going to try the hamster story again?

    • Kevin McNamee / May 20 2011 5:48 pm

      If I can ever figure out a way to make it work, I might give it another try. In the meantime, I consider it one of those hopelessly broken stories. But I don’t consider writing it a waste of time. It was a failure that I was able to learn from.

  8. John Standish / May 20 2011 11:03 am

    You wouldn’t think offhand that writing children’s books would be harder than adult fiction, but – just shows ta go ya … it’s a completely different ballgame with a whole different set of rules, eh?

    • Kevin McNamee / May 20 2011 5:55 pm

      That’s right, John. I had an adult writer mindset when I first started writing for kids and boy, was that a mistake! The real challenge with writing picture books is that you need to have all the elements of a longer story. You need to a clear beginning, middle and end, and pay attention to plot, pacing and character development. But still need to keep it short and engaging to children.

  9. Marcus Franks / May 20 2011 2:12 pm

    Love the book covers and titles. Interesting journey, I must say! Thanks for sharing, Kevin – really loved the framed two bucks, lol!

  10. Paul Delaney / May 20 2011 2:14 pm

    Glad you didn’t give up and kept on keeping on! So how do you find Guardian Angel to be as a publisher? I would guess pretty good, since you’ve got so many books with them?

    • Kevin McNamee / May 20 2011 6:02 pm

      Thanks Paul. Guardian Angel is a good outfit. What I like best is that my books come out in multiple formats. My books come out as ebooks, print books, books on CD and right now they are working on developing apps for picture books on the IPAD. They will get a book to a reader in any format they want.

  11. theoldsilly / May 20 2011 5:53 pm

    Hey Kevin – glad to see you made it online! 🙂 Nice of you to interract with the readers, too – I know they appreciate it. I’m leaving this post up over the weekend also, so feel free to stop in to check on other readers/commenters between now and Monday, ok? Enjoyed hosting you – hope it gives your marketing a well-deserved boost!

    • Kevin McNamee / May 20 2011 6:07 pm

      Thank you Marvin. I’ll make sure to poke my head in over the weekend. Thanks for hosting me Marvin. It’s been a lot of fun!

  12. jack foster / May 20 2011 8:09 pm

    Great interview Marvin and Kevin. It was great getting to know a little more about Kevin. Great advice and inspiring bio. :o)

  13. Mark Phelps / May 21 2011 8:11 am

    Thanks for sharing your journey to being a multi-published author. So that online conference it really worth it, eh? I may give that a try this year.

    • Kevin McNamee / May 21 2011 9:27 am

      Thanks Mark, I found that there were plenty of forums in that conference that had very useful information and it was varied enough to attract writers across all spectrums.

  14. Ronald Meyers / May 21 2011 11:06 am

    How do you even come UP with ideas for a kids book? Maybe reading other kid lit, I suppose? Just seems so far out of the realm of anything I could dream up and do well, lol. But kudos to you – doing a bangup job of it!

    • Kevin McNamee / May 21 2011 8:36 pm

      Thanks Ronald. Reading other kid lit is good to get an idea of format and the other topics that are out there. But applying your own ideas and imagination is where the magic is. 🙂

  15. Connie Arnold / May 21 2011 8:25 pm

    Thanks for sharing the interview, Marvin. Kevin, I’m so glad you connected with Guardian Angel Publishing, as I did, and you continue to have more children’s books. I had to laugh at your description of “the Great American Novel with a talking hamster in it.”

    • Kevin McNamee / May 21 2011 8:39 pm

      Thanks Connie, I guess I have come a long way, haven’t I? 🙂

  16. James Peterson / May 22 2011 1:15 pm

    It takes drive and determination to make it in ANY field – good for you for hanging in there, Kev!

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