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 Certified Book Coach, Sara Gentry.
1 – What inspired you to pursue a career in book coaching?
A decade ago, I would never have predicted I would become a book coach. I’ve always loved books and bookstores, and I’ve long been fascinated by the world of publishing, but since I have an advanced degree in mathematics, I thought I would continue teaching and researching in my field (mathematical biology). I never would have thought I’d be a part of the publishing world, but when I left academia to stay home with my kids, I started exploring new things. I dove into writing, and since I’m an avid learner, I studied as much as I could about storytelling. Although I had started with the intention of becoming a writer, I came to discover that my strengths in analysis, logic, and strategic thinking are an asset in editing. Combined with my love for teaching, I found book coaching to be a good fit for my personality and skill set.
2 – Can you please tell us what genres you write and a little more about your current projects?
When I was in academia, I wrote a few pieces for research journals and my research dissertation to earn my degree. I’ve always loved children’s books, so when I considered writing fiction, I started exploring the KidLit space. I am currently working on a YA contemporary novel (my first attempt in this genre), but I currently spend more of my time helping other writers with their stories than I spend writing my own, and I love this.
3 – You are hosting a fabulous FREE online event called KidLit Summer Camp June 5th-9th. Can you please tell us more about that and how our readers can sign up to attend?
Thank you for asking! It’s been a rough few years for everyone, and the current mood in the writing community feels heavy. The publishing business is navigating turbulent times, and now is a challenging time to query.
I thought we could all use a little pick-me-up in the KidLit community. I contacted talented people I knew and reached out to a few I had never met but wanted to know better. Before I knew it, we had a full roster for a community event! In KidLit Summer Camp, we have eighteen featured guests sharing their expertise about writing for kids. We are focusing on the writing aspect (none of the content is specifically for illustrators), and we have interviews addressing most of the KidLit categories (picture books, early readers, chapter books, middle grade, young adult). I realize every interview may not be for every writer, but I think every writer will find at least one interview that speaks to them. In addition, many of the guests are providing their own free resources to the attendees. I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and transparency of our guests.
We will release a few guest interviews each day of the camp. The interviews are pre-recorded, so attendees can watch them on their preferred schedule. The videos will be available for a few extra days after the camp has ended as well. Each night, we’ll have a live call on Zoom during our “Around the Campfire” sessions. (The live sessions will not be recorded.) A few of my fellow coaches will join me, and we’ll answer questions about writing KidLit. As an added bonus, the independent Swamp Fox Bookstore is hosting a KidLit Summer Camp book fair on bookshop.org, and 15% of the sale earnings will benefit the nonprofit Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC). Book people are amazing!
I invite everyone to learn more details and sign up for KidLit Summer Camp by going to https://solutionsforwriters.com/kidlit.
4 – Can you tell us more about the FREE resources you’ve made available for writers?
One of my book coaching values is to support writers of every budget. Because book coaching is my business, I cannot give away my services all the time, but I do aim to provide value as much as I can. I offer several free guides: How to Create Knockout Book Titles (because titles are HARD!), How to Write Logical Scenes (to ensure you don’t lose your reader), How to Create a Compelling Story (this one is comprehensive!), and Including Children in Your Writing Life (this one is for the parents who are tired of feeling like they have to choose between their kids and their writing). I also host free writing accountability sessions on Zoom, and several writers consistently join me, since they find it’s an effective way to get their writing time in. All of my free resources are available at https://solutionsforwriters.com/freebies.
5 – What advice can you give aspiring kidlit creators to grow their writing?
Great question. I suggest focusing on the following five activities:
1) Read. There’s a reason you frequently hear this advice. In the KidLit world, it’s especially important to read current work. The KidLit market expectations change all the time. What was selling in middle grade ten years ago may not sell in today’s market. Read recently published books in your market so that you have a better understanding of what’s expected.
2) Learn. No matter your budget, you can find resources to help you learn more about writing and the publishing industry. I do have a word of caution here: Don’t confuse learning with writing. It’s easy to take one class after another and feel like you’re writing, but at some point you need to actually write!
3) Write. The only way to get better at anything is to put in the time doing it.
4) Get feedback. You can do this for free with critique partners (one of our guests is discussing this during KidLit Summer Camp!), or when you’re ready to level up your game, you can pay to work with a book coach or editor.
5) Connect. Meet other people in the KidLit community, whether online or in person. Connect on social media. Support other authors by writing positive book reviews and celebrating their successes. Form writing friendships, because these friends help to support you when you’re going through the ups and downs of the writing life.
I have used both free and paid resources myself, and I believe both have value. There is something to be said for investing in yourself and your work, so I do encourage writers to pay for courses or editing at some point, because it will advance your writing. Having said that, we know nothing is certain in publishing, so I recommend writers only pay for what they can responsibly fit in their budget.
Thank you for joining us today and sharing all your fabulous resources!
You can follow Sara online at: