Guest Blogger: Carmen Oliver on her First Book Contract

I am thrilled to welcome my friend Carmen Oliver as my guest blogger today. I feel a like a proud matchmaking sister as the official news of Carmen’s first book sale has just been announced. Before I step off the stage, here’s a little back story about why I have a double sense of pride about this news.
Some time ago, I stumbled upon an article about Favio Chavez, a remarkable man in Paraguay who creates musical instruments out of landfill garbage. With them, he provides a musical education and a lesson in hope to the disadvantaged children in his poor community. I was intrigued enough to dig into it a little. I just knew that his story needed to be a children’s book! Yet, as much as I was smitten, I was busy with other projects. And, besides, the story had Carmen written all over it. She’s particularly drawn to stories about people who make a difference in the world and this one just felt like it belonged with her. Carmen and I have been friends for a very long time, journeying the path to publication together. I had a fairly good sense of her style. Like any good matchmaker, arranging a blind date on a hunch, I sent her an email that read something like, “I think this story is meant for you.” Thankfully, she agreed. In the end, I’m pleased to have shared the idea, but Carmen’s research, her unique angle, and her word magic spun the story in just the right way. It was the perfect match, after all.  I couldn’t be more proud of her. And I know this is only the first in a long line of books to come from her. UPDATE: This book published in 2022 as BUILDING AN ORCHESTRA OF HOPE: HOW FAVIO CHAVEZ TAUGHT THE CHILDREN TO MAKE MUSIC FROM TRASH.
Congatulations, Carmen!

“Stepping Over the Threshold – The First Children’s Book Contract”

Over the last six months, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect
as I waited on my first nonfiction picture book contract to come together.
During this time, I had moments of doubt wondering if it would materialize. And
in these times, I would tell myself – keep the faith and keep climbing. In
other words, I worked on other writing projects. I took care of my Booking Biz clients’ needs.  I pushed myself to be the best I could be because
there’s so much more climb left in me.
I’ve been working at writing for children for over twelve years. If I’m
honest with myself, longer, as I’ve been reading and digesting books since
“the beginning of time.” Even so, I know I’m just starting to crest
that mountain and that there’s a lot more mountain to climb. And though it can
sound sappy to say “It’s the journey,” I can tell you it is the
journey that I’m still on that means the most to me. The people I’ve met along
the way — the mentors, teachers, confidants, and heroes — who have become my
friends. The exceptional SCBWI conference
experiences, the opportunities to apprentice, volunteer, learn. This long (and
on-going) journey makes me the writer I am and it makes me a better writer,
with each revision and critique. And whether every manuscript finds a home, I
celebrate in each story’s journey. And contracts are icing that can put bread
on the table, so who doesn’t love a good publishing contract.
I’ll admit. I used to think about how incredible it would
feel to say I’m published. And I won’t lie; it feels great to get to this point
where I’m stepping over the threshold! But not because of the reasons you might
think. It’s because I’ve learned so much more about myself:
I can go the distance.
I’m tougher than I thought I was.
I can conquer my fears.
It’s okay to fail.
I know how to pick myself back up again and ride/write.
I know what I want to be when I grow up.
And my hope is that we all savor our individual journeys. Every
frustrating, joyful, and tearful moment. The people you meet are the real
prizes. And I wouldn’t be publishing my first nonfiction picture book The Favio Chavez Story with Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
without my people. You know who you are. You have left your marks on me.  Changed me.
I am blessed.
Thank you.
Carmen Oliver is a children’s author, and booking agent/founder of the Booking Biz, a boutique style agency that brings award-winning children’s authors and
illustrators to schools, libraries, and special events. She’s also the former
assistant regional advisor for the Austin SCBWI chapter and a regular
contributor for ReaderKidZ. She lives
just outside of Austin, Texas.

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