Writing children's books may seem like the easiest route to publishing, but that isn't entirely true. Children's authors and illustrators face challenges unique to their discipline; learning the ropes could mean the difference between success and failure.
So says Anna Myers, a Chandler resident and author of 19 novels for children and teens.
“I'd wanted to be a writer since I was 6 years old,” Myers said. “But I also had to get a degree in education because you have to have something to support yourself while you write. ... I wrote for seven years before I got published. Since then, it's been about one book a year.”
Myers leads the Oklahoma Children's Authors and Illustrators (OCAI) group, a local branch of an international society aimed at helping writers fulfill their dreams of writing or drawing books for young readers.
The local group will hold its annual conference on Saturday, March 29, at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 1815 S Meridian Ave. Registration is open until Thursday, March 27. Admission is $150 for group members and $175 for nonmembers.
It's well worth the price, Myers said.
“I always tell the tennis shoe story,” she said. “My son really needed a new pair of shoes, but I was selfish and used the money to go to my first OCAI conference. Well, he didn't get those shoes, but I did earn enough from writing to pay all his expenses throughout college, so I think it worked out OK. I managed to put three children through college with my writing, one right after another.”
The conference and membership in the group have helped other Oklahoma authors succeed, too. Hannah Harrison published her first book for children in February. “Extraordinary Jane,” a picture book filled with beautifully rendered images of circus animals, immediately received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, among others. Publishers Weekly described it as “an exceptionally polished first book.”
“Hannah is adorable,” Myers said. “She a pure OCAI success story. She got her agent, publisher and everything through this organization. She lives in Ada.”
Gwendolyn Hooks of Oklahoma City had a lot to learn about the industry when she first encountered the OCAI many years ago, Myers said. That soon changed. Since then, Hooks has published 16 books, fiction and nonfiction, including her popular “Pet Club” series for young readers.
Hooks recently sold a picture book biography called “Vivien Thomas: The Man Who Saved the Blue Babies.”
The book tells “the story of a young African-American man who, without a medical degree or a college education, designed the surgical technique that showed doctors how to operate on children born with Tetralogy of Fallot,” conference publicist Regina Garvie said. Newborns afflicted with the condition are known as blue babies.