After having been both an elementary school teacher and a university professor of education, Nancy Stewart now writes full time. She, her husband and three sons, lived in London for eight years, where she was a consultant to several universities, including Cambridge. She travels extensively throughout the world, most particularly Africa. Nancy is the US chair of a charity in Lamu, Kenya, that places girls in intermediate schools to allow them to further their education. She and her family live in St. Louis and Clearwater Beach, Florida.
Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Nancy. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
One Pelican at a Time is my first book to be published, although it is one of three Bella and Britt books in a series of three. They are all published by Guardian Angel Publishing, and all will be out this year.
Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
My first book, I Held You on the Day You Were Born, was written five years ago as a gift to my new granddaughter, Leah. It wasn’t published for a couple of reasons. It was my first offering, and I really didn’t know much about the publishing business. I didn’t have a platform and began querying too soon.
Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
The strange thing is that I wrote to only two houses for One Pelican at a Time, and both accepted it!
Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
I’ve had many rejections over the past four years. I deal with them by just continuing to write, honing my craft and not looking back. If I may, I’ll share something that just happened to me that illustrates what I’ve said. About three years ago, I got a form letter back from a very well known NYC agent. On the letter, he hand wrote something like, “Never submit anything else to me.” That was not fun. About a month ago, I got a request from this same guy to friend him on Facebook! Needless to say, he’s not my friend, but it is all about platform and honing your craft.
After much deliberation, I went with Guardian Angel Publishing, a mainstream house, for a couple of reasons. And they’re important ones. First, Guardian Angel is so pro-active with the new technology of books, eBooks, etc. Second, I just liked the culture of it. It’s a terrific house and I’m pleased with them.
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
It was an amazing feeling, and I was much more thrilled than I ever thought I’d be. As it turned out, my son was home from England where he works, so my husband, he and I had a wonderful dinner at Sugo’s, our favorite St. Louis restaurant, and it was incredibly festive!
Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I am fortunate to be in a wonderful critique group, and as it turned out, five of us all got contracts within a week of each other! One of our group organized newspaper releases all over the area for us, and that helped so much. I have my own media release and have used it many times as well.
Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
Absolutely not. Nothing different.
Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
As I mentioned, I have two other books in the series coming out this year and am working on another book for Guardian Angel at the present. I don’t think there’s room here to discuss how I’ve grown. (That tells you something about how much I had to learn from the early days!) I’ve grown tremendously in self-confidence as a writer. For me, that took time. I feel I have found my voice as an author, and I know what kinds of books I do best.
Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
Two words: querying and platform. Early on, I would finish the manuscript and quickly send the poor, half baked thing off to an agent or publishing house. Second, well, there’s that platform thing again. I had no experience in the publishing world and thought it wouldn’t make a difference. I was wrong. I joined a critique group and began attending SCBWI conferences, both locally and nationally, built a web site and a blog and began to be noticed in the publishing world.
Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
I think it has to be having been an author presenter at the Illinois Reading Council Conference last week. It is a huge conference with about 3500 people in attendance. I spoke on Kids’ Saving Their Planet. I also had the distinct honor of meeting Jane Yolen and spending a bit of time with her. (Actually, I blogged about that experience.)
Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
I’ve already been a teacher, university professor of education, a management consultant, both in the US and London. I have to tell you, though, this is the best profession of all for me, and I’d never go back.
Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
All those professions mentioned above prepared me for the writing I’m doing now. I’ve also been able to travel almost the entire world, meet many new people and that is such valuable fodder for the mind and for the pen.
Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?
Well, writing. I hope, as all authors do, to have quite a number of books to my credit. I also want to still have the creativity to write good books and to make a difference in the world. What else would one want?
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Persevere. It’s the only way to do it. As a very good author friend said to me when I began this adventure, “The only way to do it, is to do it. There’s no shortcut.” And he was absolutely right!