How I Landed My First Contract: Yvonne Mes

Yvonne Mes signing the contract
The great news from my critique group keeps coming! My friend, the wonderfully talented author and illustrator Yvonne Mes has landed her first picture book contract!

You signed a book contract! What is the book about?

The book will be called MEET SIDNEY NOLAN, part of the Random House Australia MEET ... series.

It is a nonfiction picture book for children from ages 5 to 8. The story will focus on the Australian modernist painter Sidney Nolan. I am not sure who the illustrator will be yet, but I have loved the illustrations in the other MEET ... books so I am sure it will be amazing ... I don't envy the illustrator illustrating the story of a well-known artist!

How did you research your subject?

I was already in love with Sidney Nolan's artwork and visited a large exhibition of his works in 2008. I had even bought the massive catalogue. I remember (the days before small children) standing in front of his artworks, in awe, and going back to my favourites again and again.

I gathered as many books, DVDs and online materials as possible and read as much as possible. At first I just tried to get a feel of the artist's personality making lots of notes referring back to page numbers in a dedicated notebook for future reference when I thought something could be interesting.
The tricky part was to decide which part of his life to focus on, how to narrow it down to the particular story I wanted to tell and that under 900 words!

One of Sidney Nolan's iconic paintings of the outlaw Ned Kelly at the National Gallery of Australia

When is it scheduled to be published?

October 2015

How did this deal come about?

A bit of luck, brazenness, being prepared and hard work.

This year I went to my first SCBWI conference in Sydney, Australia. I booked only one editor appraisal and had pre-submitted a straight fiction picture book story not knowing which editor I would be paired with. 

But a week before the conference I found out I was meeting with Kimberly Bennet from Random House. I had already read a few of the titles in the MEET ... series and had a nonfiction picture book on another Australian artist ready to submit. She gave me some encouraging feedback on the fiction story I submitted but I don't think I dazzled her. When my 20 minutes were almost up, I asked if I could give her my other manuscript. I was a bit embarrassed as I don't like being too pushy (despite what my friends and family will tell you!). I even told her she didn't have to read if she'd rather not. And then I left, convinced she would dump it straight away. 

Then a few weeks ago I received an email. They really liked my nonfiction manuscript, but didn't think the artist was well known enough for the series, BUT would I be interested in writing the story on Sidney Nolan. After many sleepless nights, tossing and turning whether I should ...  Ha! Of course, I said 'YES!' immediately.

Ha! That's funny. What are the 1 or 2 things you did that put you in the position where you are now today?

I was prepared. I took a chance. I joined critique groups. I studied, throwing myself into learning all I could about writing for children, I completed several children's writing courses. And I networked.

How excited are you?

Hmm, well, I didn't pee myself... but it was close.

What did you do to celebrate?

I bought some books, of course!

I told my close writing friends here in Australia, and I did a virtual penguin dance with my online critique group. Oh, and I may have had a couple of glasses of wine.

Any words of advice for fellow writers?

Keep on going. You never quite know where an opportunity may pop up. Meet up with other writers (virtually and face to face), I would not have got where I am now without the friendships and support from writers and illustrators here in Australia and through my online picture book critique group.

Awesome, Yvonne. Congratulations on this amazing opportunity! I can't wait to get an autographed copy a year from now.

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