Hello and welcome to my ‘#GrowYourWriting Creator Interviews’ blog series. My goal is to shine a spotlight on kidlit creators and their fabulous projects and allow them to share their tips and tricks to grow your writing. Today I’d like to welcome Carrie Karnes-Fannin. She is is a full-time writer and occasional artist. When not writing or drawing, she enjoys photography, hiking, and re-reading the works of comedic genius Douglas Adams. She firmly believes “42” answers “the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything,” but unfortunately has mislaid her towel.
She lives in the Appalachian foothills of north Georgia with her husband, plus two fur kids: a groovy dog named Bodhi, and Langston—a perfectionist cat who is grumpy about being last on this list.
Carrie is a former PB Chat mentee, two-time grand prize winner of the Sun Write Fun contest, as well as a winner in the inaugural Kidlit Vibe contest. She’s a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul as well as the Little Thoughts Press magazine, where she now works as a submission reader.
She continues to query in search of the perfect literary partner to champion her stories.
Welcome, Carrie! Can you please tell our readers what inspired you to pursue a career in children’s literature, and when did you start creating?
It was sometime in 2015 when I first stumbled into becoming a kidlit creative.
I was online, admiring pictures of my niece’s new dachshund puppy. The words, “Spike the Dog-Dog was born on a cool fall day…” popped into my mind and wouldn’t leave. (“Dog-dog” was what my niece called dogs when she was a toddler. Spike, of course, was the puppy.) The story came to me all at once, almost complete. It was a magical feeling.
After writing the words, creating cut-paper illustrations, and having it bound as a gift for my niece’s kids, I was hooked. I’d fallen in love with picture books’ synergy of art and words.
A few weeks later, I signed up for my first kidlit writing class, led by the amazing Laurel Snyder, and haven’t looked back since.
Can you please tell us what genres you write and a little more about your current projects?
I write both narrative nonfiction and fiction picture books, mainly humorous. I’ve also written chapter books and am sorting out some middle-grade novel ideas.
Across all my work, you’ll see I love archaic language (think Tara Lazar’s Absurd Words), and including adult characters who exude a childlike innocence and wonder.
My most recent project is a picture book about an empty nester alligator who becomes bored with the “same old, same old.” Florence hatchlings are grown, her friends gone, and she’ll snap if she has to eat another catfish.
As she heads south in search of a good meal, Florence must address two age-old yet pressing questions: 1. Can you be friends with your food? 2. If so, who do you have for dinner?
Can you tell more about your Chicken Soup for the Soul piece and what that process was like for you?
Long ago, when I was a very broke single mom, I signed up to sponsor an “angel” from one of the Salvation Army trees you see every Christmas season in various malls. Many people said discouraging things about gift drives and the parents of the recipients. It’s is too long to share here, but what happened afterward literally changed my worldview.
I wrote it all down “just because” and that document followed me through two decades and several laptop changes. It’s kind of a miracle it wasn’t lost!
One day when I was frustrated about not “breaking through” yet on getting published, a friend tipped me off to some Chicken Soup calls for contributions. I dusted off my story and sent it. A few months later, the editor emailed to let me know it was accepted for the upcoming holiday book—my first publication credit.
There’s a life lesson here. Write it down! You never know when something will be useful later
Can you tell us more about your poems published in children’s magazines and how our readers can get started if they are also interested in getting published in children’s magazines?
Three of the four poems I’ve published were pieces initially created for kidlit writing contests.
Many magazines have themed calls for their upcoming issues. If you’re participating in contests/micro-challenges, you sometimes find you already have something that fits. If not, you’re in good practice for writing to the specifics of a call. It’s a win/win.
The website Kidlit411 is a great resource to find lists of contests and submission opportunities.
One thing to remember—some magazines pay nothing except contributor copies. For those that do pay, it is usually a nominal amount; from what I hear, it can be slow to get even that. You may or may not retain rights to the work. Even so, publishers may not consider your piece for a picture book once it’s in a magazine. It pays to do your research as to the particulars on each submission, so you know what you’re getting into.
For me, it’s been a worthwhile trade-off to build a resume. Few will make a living from magazines, but they can be a valuable building block in your kidlit career.
What part of the process, from the first draft to submissions, do you find the most challenging?
First drafts, hands down.
Getting past the internal editor has been the most challenging for me, though she and I have finally come to an uneasy truce. A big part of that has been learning to trust my voice and its value in the kidlit sphere.
I don’t have shortcut to suggest here. It’s a matter of putting in the time. The more you write, the more you find who you are as a writer. Then it gets easier to make those first drafts.
What is your favorite part of the creative writing journey so far?
Becoming a member of the kidlit community is my favorite thing ever. It’s amazing to see people working hard for prizes and contracts, and also reaching out to encourage fellow creatives competing for those same things. Are we perfect? No. But kidlit folks are some of the best people on Earth.
What advice can you give to aspiring kidlit creators to grow their writing?
Growing your writing sometimes can be a matter of not writing. Sometimes, even though we love the work, we get burned out. Like flowers, creativity can’t grow in depleted soil.
Find something — drawing, gardening, knitting, birding, et cetera—that lifts your spirits but isn’t expected to do more. It doesn’t need to win contests. It won’t be queried. Build a proverbial fence around that thing and guard it from the pressure to monetize or justify the act of creating somehow. It’s just for the joy of doing. (For me, this is photography.)
You might be happy to find you’re able to come back to writing with a lighter heart and renewed energy.
You can find Carrie at:
- Website: www.carriekarnesfannin.com
- Twitter: @carrie_kidlit
Guess What? It’s giveaway time! Check out the details for Carrie’s giveaway detailed below.
“Thank you so much for having me on the blog! It’s been fun. In appreciation of your awesome readers for stopping by, I have two giveaways to choose between.
1. I’m donating a $25 digital gift card to Bookshop.org to one reader who leaves a comment on this post with the title of their favorite kidlit book everyone simply must drop everything right now to read.
2. I’d also like to give a one-hour ‘Brainstorm’ session via Zoom on a narrative nonfiction or fiction picture book manuscript to one reader who leaves a comment on this post with their favorite non-writing activity that fills them up creatively. (Brainstorm session of non-rhyming stories only, please.)”
1 Bonus entry is available for anyone who shares and likes this post on Twitter and follows and tags @carrie_kidlit and C_Alemshah.
Entry period closes on May 13th at 12am PST. One Winner will be announced May 14th!