What an exciting opportunity we have to gleam more publishing insight from successful #kidlit and #SCBWI author/illustrator Valeria Wicker! If you haven’t read our first interview with Valeria, be sure to check it out so you’re up to speed on her backstory. Buzzing in the news was her children’s book sale with literary agent extraordinaire Adria Goetz from Martin Literary Management. The sale was for her debut picture book, The Ugly Doodles, and a second untitled picture book to Sasha Henriques at Little, Brown/Patterson. Valeria stopped by for a conversation on her debut picture book and to share more (including some illustration dummies!!!) on her life as a soon-to-be published author/illustrator.
Valeria, thank you for agreeing to do this second interview. We learned so much about you, your career, and really the publishing industry as a whole from your author/illustrator perspective.
Thank you for having me back, Rhys! It’s a pleasure!
There is so much buzz surrounding this recent book deal of yours and Adria’s, The Ugly Doodles. It seems like such an exciting and unique project. Can you share a bit of what it’s all about without giving too much away?
Sure! First, let me tell you how humbled I was by all this! It’s such a honor to launch my debut picture book with Little Brown/JIMMY Patterson. Adria is a real champion for working so hard and assured a wonderful home for THE UGLY DOODLES.
The book is about a little artist and her struggle to find perfection in her own art. Her funny and haunting journey is something everyone can relate to, especially children.
So often, writers and illustrators find themselves injecting parts of their own life into their work. Do you sense a similarity in the struggle of The Ugly Doodles with creatives getting their work appreciated?
Absolutely! As a matter of fact, ALL THE TIME! I tend to over think and I am often my worst critic.
EVERYONE is their own worst critic, so you’re in great company there!
Ha! I figured. We put so much heart and dedication in our work and I feel it comes natural to doubt our very own abilities to produce something for the whole world to love.
In our last interview, you made an interesting statement. You said your main goal in your work is to communicate happiness and empowerment. I’m sensing The Ugly Doodles has this powerful message for anyone who reads it even though it seems to have a darker tone to it. Is it safe to say, one message is that people are more valuable in who they are NOW than they realize or are being told?
Yes, that is exactly it. For every hard thing we have to do, we always find a way to go around it if we can, don’t we? Those are the dark moments where all your thoughts start haunting you…“I am not good enough” or “My art is ugly” or even worse when we compare our work to others, “My work will never be as good as his or hers…”
Recognizing the beauty in all we do is important because beauty in art is not defined by perfection. Beautiful art is subjective to each person and the effort they have put into creating something.
Your debut picture book contains some “doodles” by your main character within the pages. As an artist, is it difficult for you to, let’s say, simplify, a picture down to a doodle? Most of us simply wish we could draw as good as those doodles!
Ha ha! It is a little difficult to draw kids’ doodles. Children they have such amazing imagination it’s very difficult to replicate for an adult. I literally have to imagine myself as a kid again while drawing the doodles. Lucky for me, my kiddos are inspiring!
A lot of people, especially kids, are going to resonate with the encouragement from this book. I wonder if we could create a place on your website, or maybe just in social media, for kids to send in their doodles.
I would love for kids to send me their drawings! Each one of them would make a beautiful display! Their art is unique and not ugly. Art is about perception of reality and it is so subjective! Nothing in art can be really labeled as ugly for this very reason.
Excellent! You heard it straight from Valeria, folks! Let’s send in those doodles! Or snap a photo and post it to social media with a catchy hashtag. We all know book titles can change before release…so once her book hits the shelf let’s come up with something good and be sure to include an @vwicker2478 mention!
Let’s talk about the process. Everyone always wants to know what the process is like. You’ve been working with Adria for some time now, who everyone says is a top-notch agent. Before Sasha Henriques from Little, Brown/Patterson made the offer, did you want to “know everything” Adria was up to with the project or do you prefer limiting the feedback you see?
Adria has always been very transparent with me in everything, including comments I received from editors. I rather know the truth even if it’s “ugly”. That helps me to get stronger and improve my craft. Without a bit of negative criticism, how would we know what to improve upon?
Transparency is so crucial in representation and it’s great MLM is so supportive of it. Now, the acquisition process is usually left mysterious for a lot of good reasons, but can you tell us some of the experiences that were memorable during that acquisition time before/during/after that many as-yet-unpublished creatives have never seen first hand?
The waiting-for-responses process was a sublime torture! Every day when I would see updates on the live submission spreadsheet it was like opening a gift! Then, there were the quiet times, where there would be no responses or comments for days. Those days were probably the darkest for me. The unknown and of course the doubts that took over me.
Then the offers started to roll in! It was one amazing experience after the other. I was so smitten by the compliments and the unbelievable comments about the book. I still get goose bumps thinking about it!
I cried when Adria called me with JIMMY Patterson’s offer.
Wow, that’s so incredibly insightful. Thank you for sharing that!
You are most welcome! It’s worth it to share and let other authors and illustrators know it’s always darkest before dawn. But dawn will come!
There is so much more that can be discussed and unfortunately we are running short on time. We’ll need to have a third interview if you’re up for it? Before we go, just a couple more quick questions for you.
Yes, we can definitely do a third interview. Fire away!
Miranda Panda. How’s she doing and is she any closer to becoming a reality on the bookshelves?
That is still in the “to-be-discussed folder”. She is most definitely closer but there are also other candidates competing with my little Panda, so we shall see!
You’ve had agent representation for almost a year now. Have any perspectives on the agent relationship changed for you? What’s been the most rewarding and the most challenging aspects of being represented?
Not quite a year but close enough. I think being represented was one of the most important things that happened to me. Almost as huge as getting a book deal. I don’t think there’s ever being anything challenging about being represented. Adria made me feel at home right away. And that is what you really want, someone who makes you feel comfortable.
I could tell from our first phone call what she was about professionally and I am glad I didn’t have to look any further. It’s pretty safe to say I am very lucky to have her as my agent.
Valeria, you’re doing a tremendous job and it’s exciting that you allow us to go on the journey with you by being so transparent about your experiences, Thank you for stopping by for a second interview! We’ll have to schedule a follow up down the road as these secret projects progress. Be on the lookout for any doodles sent your way! I think you’re going to be inundated in 2020!
Thank you so much for having me again Rhys! I wish I could spill so much more beans! They are hard to contain while I am so excited!!! I can’t wait to give you updates and share these stories with the world.
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