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 KidLit Author, Rachell Abalos. Her debut picture book OUR NIPA HUT will be published by Barefoot Books and releases in 2024! I am so excited to share her cover reveal in this interview. What better time to celebrate this beautiful forthcoming book release than during Filipino American History Month! Thank you for joining me today, Rachell!
Stay tuned all the way to the end of the interview for your chance to win a picture book critique and 30-minute Zoom call with Rachell!
1 – What inspired you to pursue a career in children’s literature, and when did you start creating?
As cliché as this sounds, I got into kidlit because of my own kids. I have a BA in Literature and Writing, and the kinds of stories I wrote in college were dark and adult themes. I never expected to write for a younger audience. But I wanted to share my stories with my kids. To be specific, I wanted to share my Filipino experiences and stories with my kids.
2 – Can you share your kidlit journey thus far with our readers? What writing/illustrating credentials, awards, contest wins, or other recognition would you like to share?
About 13 years ago I was sending snail mail to publishers, LOL! And out of 5 publishers, one actually sent me back a rejection! I was so happy to get a response! And then in 2018, I discovered Twitter pitch events. I pitched a non-fiction story about a nipa hut and it fighting a storm. It got a like from an up-and-coming agent. Sent her my manuscript and then got a sweet “no thanks” immediately. I cried a bit and then scrolled through Twitter for some uplifting. Then I discovered #WriteMentor and entered my non-fiction nipa hut story. I was so excited, but unfortunately, I wasn’t the right fit by the two mentors I applied to. I cried a bit and then scrolled through Twitter for some more uplifting. A few days later, I get DM’d by an awesome author/illustrator who saw my story of a little nipa hut and was like, “Cool story, I think I can help you. Please be my mentee?” (I’m paraphrasing, LOL) I said YES, OF COURSE, AHHHHHH!!!! (Not paraphrasing!) So Skylaar Amaan (go buy her books!) mentored me. My nonfiction nipa hut story then became a beautiful story about a Filipino family weathering a storm… in their nipa hut. It got an agent like… she wanted to see more of my work, I ignorantly sent WIPs (instead of polished work, a major no-no) and then got rejected. I cried a bit and then scrolled through Twitter… and PITCHED MY STORY AGAIN. Guess what? It got two likes! One from an editor and one from that first agent who rejected me! But this time, Hannah VanVels Ausbury loved the new version of the nipa hut story. And that, my friends, is how I met my agent.
3 – Wow, what an amazing story! It goes to show perseverance truly pays off! Can you tell our readers more about where to find your forthcoming debut picture book, OUR NIPA HUT?
My debut picture book is finally arriving on February 6, 2024! Whoo-hoo! Here is a pre-order link: https://bookshop.org/a/3889/9781646865000
4 – What part of the process, from the first draft to submissions, do you find the most challenging, and how do you overcome that?
First drafts. 100%. That blank page is so scary!!! But waiting to hear from anyone (agents or editors) is a close second.
I like to start with dialogue. Even if it’s silly. And then I write through why my character said what they said. It may not make sense, but that’s what re-writing is for! First drafts are almost usually terrible but they will always look better than that UGLY BLANK PAGE.
5 – What overall advice would you like to give aspiring kidlit creators to grow their writing?
Talk to your family. Every one of them. Get to know them. Ask them silly questions. Listen well. Listen with your heart. Just talking and sharing stories will spark you endless ideas. Then write these stories down.
6 – What’s next for you as a creator?
I have two stories out in submission. I’m still writing. And waiting. And reading.
Guess What? It’s giveaway time! Rachell has graciously offered to host a giveaway for our readers. One winner will receive:
** A Picture book critique and 30-minute Zoom call **
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post below! Entry period closes on October 16, 2023 at 12am PST. One Winner will be announced October 17, 2023.
1 Bonus entry is available for anyone who shares this post on twitter and tags @RachellAbalos and @C_Alemshah.