Roll out the red carpet! It’s time for another Tuesday Debut!
Today I’m delighted to introduce a graduate of Making Picture Book Magic! I am always so proud when one of my students gets published! Not that I have that much to do with it – it is all their own talent, creativity, commitment to their craft, and hard work! But still. . . 😊
So without further ado, let’s welcome Hope Lim and have a look at her beautiful picture book, I Am A Bird!
I AM A BIRD
written by Hope Lim
illustrated by Hyewon Yum
Candlewick, February 2, 2021
Fiction. Age for 3-7.
On her daily bike ride with her dad, a bird-loving little girl passes a woman who frightens her—until she discovers what they have in common.
SUSANNA: Welcome, Hope! Thank you so much for joining us today! We are eager to hear all about your journey to publication! Where did the idea for this book come from?
HOPE: The idea for I AM A BIRD started after an encounter with a stranger in Golden Gate Park. I thought she was strange at first, but I immediately recognized my perception was unfair and started to reflect on our innate fears and biases toward each other. When I came home, my husband told me about how my daughter made joyful birdcalls on their way to school on the back of his bike. I was struck by the contrast between my daughter and my simultaneous experiences. At that moment, I knew I had to write a story about exploring the fear of the unknown and combined it with my daughter’s soaring spirit. That’s how I AM A BIRD was born – a story of celebrating kindred spirits discovered unexpectedly, all told from a child’s perspective.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
HOPE: To answer this question, I looked back at the folder of I AM A BIRD on my computer. The first draft was written in October 2015. I distinctly remember the moment when I felt the urge to work on this story. It was after finishing two poetry books, BOOK OF NATURE POETRY and WINTER BEES. I had already started a draft, but after reading these books, the lines started to pour out of my heart and I simply transferred them onto paper. I realized again the importance of reading poetry for picture books, especially when your mind is still fresh with a story idea. After that first draft, I wrote 14 revisions in the next three months. Over the following year, I revised it several more times while working on other projects.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
HOPE: A resounding yes. I went through many revisions. First on my own, then with my CPs, then with my agent, and finally with my editor. The most dramatic revision was with my editor who encouraged me to look for another way to strengthen the connection between the girl and the woman. Up until then the main focus of the revision was mostly polishing language. It was the first time for me to work with an editor whose vision clearly guided me to look at the story from a new perspective. The moment I discovered another critical connection (the bird calls) felt so exuberant.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
HOPE: This question has always vexed me. First, do what it takes to get the story ready, such as sharing it with CPs, revising, putting it away and revising and sharing again. Second, when it feels as polished as possible, I put it away for at least two weeks. When you read it with fresh eyes and feel something, either joy, sadness, humor, or the emotion you hope your story will evoke, then the story is ready for submission. Once, Mem Fox said, “…the thing that I look for most in a book is something that will change the emotional temperature of the children who are listening.” I use that as a final gauge for each of my stories to see if they are ready or not.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
HOPE: I submitted to agents, mostly, until I found my current agent. I entered a contest once and submitted manuscripts for critiques at a local conference and the LA summer conference. Early on, when I was blissfully ignorant about the publishing industry, I submitted to a few publishing houses directly, which I wouldn’t have done if I knew then what I know now. At that time, my story wasn’t ready, and I had no idea what it takes to get an agent or get a story published. What worked for me was to submit the strongest story widely. Chose the one that represents who you are as a person and a writer. For me, it was MY TREE and when I started to attract positive responses, I knew it was my strongest one and submitted it widely. MY TREE landed me an agent and my first book deal. I think you should have three or four complete and polished manuscripts, in addition to the one you are submitting.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever! )
HOPE: My experiences with submissions have been very different and each story has had a unique journey to find the perfect home. For I AM A BIRD, fortunately, the initial interest came quickly and it ended up having two houses with serious interest. My agent and I decided to go with the first house, for her thoughtful comments helped me see my story in a new way. It was like discovering something buried in the story that I hadn’t thought of before. She didn’t ask for a revision, but I had already revised the story based on her comments and after we sent the revision, we got the call immediately.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
HOPE: I shared the news with family and seeing them happy and excited was a celebration itself. That same week, good friends visited from the east coast and we had champagne before dinner at a great place in San Francisco. Little did I know how precious that moment would be given the new norm brought by COVID-19.
SUSANNA: Can you please tell us a little about the editorial process?
HOPE: I remember I was taken aback when I received comments from my editor on I AM A BIRD. The text was already very spare, but she removed a few lines, which I thought were essential for raising tension. After trying to see the story from her perspective, I accepted her most of suggestions, but kept some lines in the text. My editor allowed me to keep those lines until I came to realization that they could go after seeing the text with the illustrations. It was an eye-opening experience for me to learn about how illustrations can sometimes effortlessly replace what the text tries to deliver in PBs.
SUSANNA: What can you tell us about your experience of the illustration process?
HOPE: My experiences with the illustration process have been very rewarding. Trust and respect for the vision of my editor and illustrator is critical, as the author may not be able to influence the final outcome. Still, I believe that my editors get an understanding of my vision through our conversations. I have been involved in that my editor has sent draft sketches and proofs as they became available. I have known from early on that an illustrator will bring depth and layer to a story beyond what is written in the text. I have other books scheduled for publication and the draft illustrations fully evoke the emotions as described in the story. I am thrilled to provide the foundation on which beautiful art can be created.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc. ? What was that like?
HOPE: My editor emails me advance reviews whenever they are available, and Kirkus gave a starred review to I AM A BIRD.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
HOPE: I received the offer for I AM A BIRD in July 2018 and the first copy on the first week of November 2020!
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
HOPE: Joining a debut picture book group was very helpful in terms of sharing information and supporting each other. I have done several blog interviews, including yours. and I have found them helpful by keeping the momentum going.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
HOPE: I wrote solo for a year before I realized I had no idea how to improve my stories. That’s how I found your class in 2014 and afterward joined 12×12. I signed with my agent in November 2016, who sold my first book, MY TREE, to Neal Porter in July 2017.
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
HOPE: Keep dreaming and reading and writing. And enjoy the process before you land an agent. I call that period your time in the cocoon, as you are making something beautiful on your terms, with no time demands. For that reason, it can be cozy and comfortable without worrying about the realities of the publishing industry. Try to focus and be productive in that time and you will be rewarded later with your hard work.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Hope! We so appreciate your time and expertise! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the best with this and future titles!
Readers, if you have questions for Hope, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Hope’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)
We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:
– purchasing their books
– recommending their books to friends and family
– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians
– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores
– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries
– sharing their books on social media
Thank you all for stopping by to read today! Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday! Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊
Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts? Check them out!
Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)
Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)
Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)
Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)