The life of a children’s author isn’t all sounds, dances and fairies. Well, maybe it is. But it’s not an easy job.
For over 10 years, Sue Fliess has been working in a world filled with trucks, bugs, robots, ballerinas, fairies and more with her more than 20 books that have been published through renowned houses such as Little Golden Books and Sky Pony Press. She’s also written for O, The Oprah Magazine; The Walt Disney Company; Huffington Post; Writer’s Digest; and more, but it wasn’t easy getting there.
While many may be under the assumption that writing for children, specifically the 2- to 5-year-old reader that Fliess focuses on, is easy, the Ashburn author gave us an idea of what is involved in making it in the business and the thorough research it takes to get those 20-some pages of rhyming sensations from concept to published page.
For Fliess, who was always involved in writing through different jobs she’s had in the past, her foray into children’s books began with writing a story for her outer space-obsessed toddler when she was a stay-at-home mom. She initially wrote a story for her son, and a friend later invited her to a children’s writing workshop. After more than three years of writing, submitting and getting rejected; going to conferences; meeting editors; and getting critiqued, she finally became a published author. And that was a fast track.
“I have a manuscript rejection letter binder,” says Fliess, who adds that going through the arduous process was proof she was a writer. “Half the battle is validating yourself as you’re doing this,” she says. But once she got that first offer letter, the hard work really began.“Part of my pressure is my day-to-day goal of staying current, so I’m constantly writing new stuff and my agent is constantly shopping stuff around.”
While many of her ideas come from being open to the world around her—“It’s training my brain, my eyes, my ears to be aware of everything around me”—there are also topics pitched by the publishing houses. For instance, one publishing house wanted a story about ballerinas, so after a week or so of contemplating the story, Fliess delved into research by watching videos of how the dancers move, their expressions, etc. All this for a book geared toward 2- to 5-year-olds.
Fliess also takes her expertise to the audience through her school visits and faculty enrichment programs where she focuses on the writing process with students and, separately, with faculty members.
But even while doing this, she still churns out the books—she’s published seven in 2016 and already has two planned for 2017.
Her newest book, From Here to There, was published this month.