Monday, January 15, 2018

You Heard it Here First: Jean Hall's Dream Comes True!

Congratulations to Connie Saunders who won The Pursuit of Italy from last week's blog. She definitely is my all time highest winner! 

This week I am happy to share publishing news from a dear and long-time friend, Jean Hall. Take it away Jean!

Jean and I at a writing retreat.
April, 2011


CAROL: How did you meet your agent, Cyle Young? Was he one of many agents you subbed to? 

JEAN: Six or eight years ago I tried sending proposals to several agents for my picture books. I received no responses and I was crushed. It’s a difficult truth to learn about the publishing business that agents and editors are too busy to respond to every proposal or submission. They receive hundreds, thousands of submissions and most of the time only respond to the best of the best and to those which fit into their philosophies, mission statements and current needs.

After that I continued to write and pray about my writing but didn’t have peace from the Lord to seek representation from any agency. Then, in 2016 I was introduced to Cyle by another author who is also his client. I eventually met Cyle face-to-face at another writer’s conference.

What you’ve heard is true. The best ways to make contact with agents and editors is either at writer’s conferences, or through personal introduction.

I emailed Cyle and asked if I could send him a sample manuscript. He agreed. Afterwards we arranged a phone call during which he explained how their representation works, then we agreed to pray about the decision. Later we agreed it was the Lord’s will to work together. I signed with him in June, 2016.

CAROL: Why do you think he signed you on?

JEAN: I think he decided my writing had reached a marketable level and because I was ready to make a commitment to work hard to get my stories published and to do a lot of work toward marketing them myself. He also believed it was God’s will.

And from Cyle's point of view: "Jean is an amazing writer with a great voice. I am honored to represent her." 

CAROLWas this the project you originally subbed to him, or were there others? 

JEAN: The first book of this set (of four) was the first thing I sent him. Cyle suggested that I make that book part of a series, so I redid the proposal for a set of four and worked on the second book. He's an extremely involved and innovative agent. He pushes me to stretch myself and try new things.

CAROL: How long did it take before you received an offer?

JEAN: One year later, Cyle and Little Lambs Books started discussing the contract. I actually signed with them in September, 2017.


CAROL:  What process did you go through in writing these four books? How long did you work on them? 

JEAN: I enjoy the changing seasons, especially fall. About ten years ago I was working on a lot of poetry. I was trying to improve my skill with using poetic devices. One such poem was about fall. On the twentieth or so revision I saw it could become a picture book. I polished it and sent it to a contest with ICL (I think). I got positive feedback from the person who critiqued it. But she insisted to be a story it needed a main character. So, after weeks of struggle I developed a boy six or seven years old to walk through the story scenes.

That isn’t the best way to do it, however. It’s a bit backwards. Most of my story ideas start with a strong main character.

CAROL: What was the inspiration behind the Four Seasons stories? 

JEAN: My inspiration was the beauty of every season of the year. The pastels of spring, the vibrant colors and sights of summer, the rapidly changing palate of fall, and the stark contrasts of winter are all beautiful to me. I wanted to share that beauty and the One who created it all with children and the adults who read to them. I wanted to show the love of God to children through the everyday scenes and events of their lives.

CAROL: What input did you receive from critique buddies? 

JEAN: Nothing I write would be worth publishing without my critique partners. I’ve learn to trust their various skills and areas of expertise. I have about twelve children’s writers whose suggestions and questions I trust. I weigh what they say, try the things that might work, and use those that make the stories better for my audience—children in preschool, kindergarten and first or second grade.

I tip my hat here to the amazing writing friends God has brought into my life the past fifteen years. They encourage me, teach me, reel me in, make me think in new ways and consider new possibilities. Here’s an example.

The editor at Little Lamb Books who liked my first two manuscripts in the Four Seasons series sent Cyle a message to ask me how soon I could finish all four. I asked, “When do you want them?” She replied, “By this weekend.” That was on a Tuesday. I prayed a 911 prayer, took a big breath and said I would give it my best. They had been floating around in my head for months, but I had nothing on paper or screen.

I immediately emailed the writing friends who have helped me for years, and a few that I had recently connected with. I explained my situation and asked for their prayers. All replied that would be praying! I also asked if anyone could be “on call” to respond to emails from me for critique and input. Six or seven replied that they could.

And they did. I sat at my computer for ten hours a day Wednesday through Saturday. With every change I’d send an email to these terrific friends. And they responded. Without them I could never have completed those manuscripts at all, much less in a few days.

Late Saturday night the manuscripts reached a point where I felt they were the best WE could make them at that time. So, I hit SEND. The editor liked all four stories.

Of course there will be edits. Some major. Some minute. I’m confident that just as God used my team of fellow writers, just as He used my agent, He will use the staff of my publishing house to make these four books the best they can be so they will bless children and their parents and caregivers.

I’m grateful and humbled by this opportunity.

Jean celebrating her publishing deal--
twelve years after learning to write for publication.
Look for the Four Seasons series in 2019. I'll plan to review at least one book and give it away on my blog. Meanwhile, Jean is continuing to revise the books and is working on a book about deserts and a picture book about a child inventor. 


Linda Phillips said...

Congratulations, Jean, and kudos for hanging in there over the long haul. Thanks for sharing yet another inspiring journey with us, Carol!

Connie Porter Saunders said...

Jean, I enjoyed reading this inspiring account of how prayer and persistence has helped make your dream come true. Talent, of course, is essential but God already knew that you had that! I especially enjoyed reading about your "911 prayer". I had never heard that expressed but many of us have sent up those prayers before.
Blessings as you continue to write and Blessings also to you, Carol!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda and Connie!

Unknown said...

Congratulations, Jean. "This weekend"?!?!?!? I praise your ability to consider it possible, and to not hesitate to bring your friends into the effort. I look forward to reading them.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Betty. Good to hear your voice here!

Jean said...

Thanks to all of you! Encouraging each other is one of the things we children's writers do best.

Blessings on your own writing journeys.


Darlo said...

Looking forward to reading your books. Blessings on your writing.

Carol Baldwin said...

thanks Darlo for stopping by and yes, Jean, I agree! It was an honor to host you!

Rene Diane Aube said...

Thank you for sharing your publishing journey, Jean. It's so encouraging to hear how others acquire their agents and contracts for books. God bless!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for stopping by, Rene. I agree!

Mich Mash said...

What an inspiring story on so many levels Jean! That your faith in God and His time, purpose, and process were the focal point of your publishing debut all dovetailed to your success. That your editor prayed with you seems remarkable, and rare. That you were asked to have FOUR manuscripts ready "by the weekend' is the biggest adrenaline rush I've heard for a debuting children's author. Finally to have a "squad" of fellow authors standing by to critique your work over the weekend(+ pray!) is truly a wonderful collaboration of people. Thank you for a wonderful read and God bless you and your books! Thanks to you too Carol for rounding this one up!

Young Authors Program said...

Great news! Congrats, Jean!!

The Winding Ascent said...


This is fantastic news! Mudskippers rock! What does this make -- the fifth one of us to be agented and published now? Almost six, cuz I think Beth is close, too!

I am so happy for you, sweet sister. You deserve this great success after being in the trenches for so long. God bless you! May this lead to more and more.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks friends, for rejoicing in Jean's success!

Kathleen said...

Congratulations, Jean!! So excited and happy for you! What wonderful blessings! Truly shows the power of prayer and persistence :)

Carol Baldwin said...

You are right, Kathleen!

Sally Matheny said...

Congratulations, Jean. Thanks for sharing your beautiful testimony. Your words encourage and inspire! And thank you, Carol, for conducting a terrific interview.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sally. Jean is an easy one to interview!

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