My first picture book, MAC AND CHEESE AND THE PERSONAL SPACE INVADER, is coming out in late 2019 through Spork, an imprint of the Clear Fork publishing house. Being published by a small house has been one of the best experiences of my life! Here’s why:
*CONNECTIONS! Callie Metler-Smith is the editor, publisher, and owner of Clear Fork. She’s a superwoman because she also runs a bookstore, newspaper, and offers online classes and writing groups. And she’s a wife and mom, and she probably does a bunch of other things I don’t even know about. Total superwoman, seriously. She’s also a kind and honest person, so when I realized my manuscript needed help, I signed up for a critique with her. She saw the heart of my story immediately. The edits she suggested really resonated with me, and once we went through a few rounds of edits, she offered me a contract! She didn’t have to pitch to a team or go to an acquisitions meeting. She liked the book, so she decided to print it.
*COLLABORATION! Callie has been my editor during this process. She’s a brilliant author herself, and I’ve had a chance to take her Writing Magic class, so I’ve been learning and growing as a writer as we edit MAC AND CHEESE. Callie likes to live-edit via Zoom video meetings, so editing is a very collaborative process. I get to hear her thoughts as she reads the manuscript, and we brainstorm and talk through problems together.
*INPUT! Callie asked for my input regarding the illustrator and showed me some sample art from Heather Bell. I fell in love with Heather’s intuitive, gorgeous illustrations, and Heather and I have been able to talk about the story and characters, something that many authors and illustrators don’t get a chance to do.
*TEAMWORK! Spork’s art director, Dr. Mira Reisberg, recruited Heather as part of our team, and then Mira, Heather, and I got to work. I’d met Mira through her fabulous Children’s Book Academy classes--Mira is another superwoman! She’s an author, illustrator, presenter, professor, and founder of the Children’s Book Academy. She does it all, and when she picked up our project, collaboration was increased. Mira created a video critique of some of Heather’s images and thumbnails that she shared with our team. This was so exciting, because I was able to see how the book is coming together and I was able to learn more about the art side of the project. Mira is also an editor, so she worked with me to further polish my manuscript.
*SUPPORT! The Clear Fork/Spork family is truly a team! Callie offers regular professional development videos and workshops, and she’s happy to answer questions about the industry. We have our own Facebook group where we can ask for help and share news. Both Callie and Mira are constantly giving back to the writing community through things like donations of critiques and spots in classes, blog posts, webinars, etc. Throughout the entire publication process, I’ve known that I can ask for help with anything, and someone will be there to support me.
Although I’ve never met Callie, Mira, or Heather in person, I feel as though we’ve all been walking down this path toward publication, arm in arm. I am so grateful to be surrounded by like-minded, powerful, creative people who are doing everything they can to put beautiful books into the hands of children!
Jolene Gutiérrez grew up on a farm in northeastern Colorado and now lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. Jolene has been a school librarian for 25 years and spends her days sharing children’s books and her nights writing them. She’s a wife of 20 years and a mama to two teenage humans and three preteen dogs. She’s an active member of SCBWI and The Author’s Guild, a Children’s Book Academy scholarship winner and graduate, a We Need Diverse Books mentorship finalist, a Writing with the Stars 2018 mentee (with picture book author Stacy McAnulty), a Highlights Foundation scholarship winner, and the winner of the Cynthia Levinson nonfiction picture book biography scholarship to the Writing Barn.
We are a group of picture book authors and illustrators whose first picture books will be released in 2019. Read about our roads to publication here.