Monday, March 28, 2016

COSCBWI Meeting March 2016

The COSCBWI meeting for March featured children's writer Carmella Van Vleet. Carmella is the author of many books including Eliza Bing is (Not) a Big, Fat Quitter; To the Stars!  The First American Woman to Walk in Space; and Amazing Ben Franklin Inventions You Can Build Yourself.  With nonfiction, middle grade fiction, and picture book titles under her belt, Carmella offered our members a unique look at publishing in multiple genres.

Although writing in multiple genres can be tricky at times, Carmella loves the challenge and excitement it brings.  She began her publishing career with articles and moved into writing teachers' guides.  Her publisher unexpectedly turned to publishing nonfiction books, but instead of going elsewhere, Carmella decided she wanted to give that genre of writing a try.  She stayed with them and published several nonfiction books, establishing her role as an author.  But after a while, she decided that she was interested in trying fiction, too, so she braved the world of middle grade novel-writing, ultimately finding an agent and publishing Eliza Bing is (Not) a Big, Fat Quitter.  Her first picture book followed shortly thereafter--a special project she'd work on for years with astronaut Cathy Sullivan.  Carmella laughed as she explained that her next book will return her to nonfiction, and that she's working on more middle grade and picture books, too!

Writing and publishing in multiple genres can be quite a balancing act, so she warned that writers may want to think twice before diving in.  But for those brave souls eager to cross genres, Carmella had several tips on how to find happiness and success including:

Finding the Right Agent
Carmella explained that some agents aren't interested in representing writers who want to publish in multiple genres.  It's important to find one who represents everything you want to write, or is willing to learn how to rep the genres they are unfamiliar with.  Another option is to have different agents for different types of writing, so you may end up with one agent who represents your picture books, and another who represents your YA novels.  This is perfectly acceptable--as long as both agents are agreeable to the situation--but can be tricky for the writer.  Carmella cautioned multiple genre-writers to do their research and choose their agent (or agents) with care.

Marketing and Website
If you write in multiple genres, another challenge you will face is tackling marketing and promotion.  It can be hard to brand your writing when your books span diverse genres and age groups.  While some writers choose to have different websites and social media platforms for their separate genres, this can be expensive and time-consuming.  Instead of focusing on your book titles and genres, you can also brand yourself.  This is what Carmella does on her website.  She keeps the tone and images fun for multiple audiences and keeps her website well-organized so people can easily find what they're looking for.

Navigating the Creative Flow
Lastly, Carmella discussed how writing in multiple genres can affect creativity.  On the negative side, this type of writing can cause you to have so many ideas at once that you don't know what to focus on.  It can be tough deciding which projects to pursue--both for your personal enjoyment and to further your publishing career.  It can also make you grow tired of working on Book X's deadlines when you'd rather be working on Book Y.  But on the plus side, writing in multiple genres can be a boon to your creativity!  It keeps you from getting bored or stuck in a creative rut.  More markets also equals more opportunity, so if a certain genre you write isn't selling well at the moment, you can switch to a different one you know and love.  It can be a lot for one brain to handle, but the possibilities--and opportunities--are endless!

A big thank-you to Carmella for sharing her knowledge and experience with COSCBWI!  You can find out more about Carmella and her awesome, wide-variety of books at

And if you want to learn more about COSCBWI, be sure to visit the group website at  I hope to see you at the next meeting!
Note: Cover images are from Carmella's website at

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