Contracts and Proof Sheets and Cheerios … Oh, MY!

Today’s post is by guest blogger Laurie Isop, winner of the 2009 Cheerios New Author Contest:

Laurie Isop of Renton, Wash., Grand Prize Winner of the Cheerios New Author Contest in 2009Trying to get published is like trying to get your garage band signed by a record company. You spend months, even years, hoping for “the big break”. And the children’s market, like the teen music scene, is a finicky genre to infiltrate.

Many of us creative types turn to contests to break into the scene, and let me tell you, it works. You’ve heard it before, “You can’t win if you don’t enter.” So true! So enter (and enter and enter) your children’s stories to the Cheerios® New Author Contest, an annual competition now in its fifth season. The contest is backed by the big boys: Cheerios and First Book, and the winner gets some major publicity and perks: $5,000 Grand Prize money and your story inside millions of boxes of Cheerios cereal. Not to mention your picture in the paper, interviews with local television and radio stations, the admiration of your friends and colleagues…oh, and did I mention the book deal with Simon & Schuster? Nice…

It’s been almost 18 months since October 2009 when I received the most wonderful phone call, telling me my manuscript, “How Do You Hug a Porcupine?”, had been selected as the grand-prize winner in the Cheerios® New Author Contest. It was like winning the literary lottery, and since then I’ve been transported to the writer’s equivalent of Oz, except this time there’s no wicked witch. Starring instead is the delightful Lisa Tomassen, akin to Glinda, along with Joyce Johannson, Julia Maguire and Ashley Herendeen, all of whom have guided me down my own yellow brick road to the Emerald City, a.k.a Publication.

With the win came unimaginable excitement and also an education. I negotiated my contract directly with Simon & Schuster and then my editor helped me polish and tweak the manuscript to perfection. Soon the first illustrations were coming my way from the talented Gwen Millward, and it started to sink in: I was getting published!

Several months later I received the in-box version of the story, and was delighted to see it was printed in both English and Spanish. Holding that little book in my hand was indeed surreal, and for the first time I said it out loud: “I’m an author!”

The book is now in millions of boxes of Cheerios cereal on store shelves across the country, but the most thrilling moment came right before Christmas when an over-sized hard envelope arrived in the mail. It was a real Julie-Julia moment for me, and I gave that package a good long hug before opening it … slowly.

I caressed the cover of my first book, running my finger down the spine and examining every page, feeling just like a new mother, giddy with excitement as she inspects the fingers and toes of her first-born child.