Brenna Maloney is a writer and editor with more than 20 years professional experience. A long-time editor for The Washington Post and National Geographic, Brenna is currently the managing editor of National Geographic’s Explorer classroom magazine. She lives and works in Washington, D.C.
I hate to tell you this, but YOU don't pick this line of work. IT picks you. I was minding my own business, living a "normal" life until one morning in the shower. Something in my head said: "Ready Rabbits Gets Ready." I didn't know anyone named Ready Rabbit. I didn't know what he was getting ready for. So, I tried to ignore the whole thing. But the phrase kept coming back to me. In the shower. At work. While grocery shopping. It was driving me nuts. It wouldn't go away. So, I sat down and tried to figure out who he was and what he was getting ready for. I realized I needed to SEE him. So, I made a rabbit out of a sock. I had answered the question of who Ready Rabbit was. Now I just needed to tell his story so that he would leave me alone! And that's how it starts.
I eat Junior Mints. I know that's a terrible answer. And no one should follow this practice as it is probably unhealthy. I also hang out with animals because I can learn a lot from them. I also read, read, read. A lot of nonfiction, actually. Because it's good to know things. Important things. Like if you have three or more pug dogs, you should call them a "grumble."
Getting someone else to believe in your idea and trust in your abilities to tell a story that people can connect to. Agents and publishers always want you to give them something "new" and "different." But the first thing they tell you is that your idea is too weird or hasn't been done before. Uh...yeah. That's the idea. But folks in the industry are very cautious. They don't want to take chances. They want you to PROVE that your weird idea is the Best. Idea. Ever. And it will sell like hotcakes. But I'm not a sales person. I'm not a marketer. I'm a storyteller. That's the part I do.
They say: Write what you know. So, most writers do. They pull from experiences with their family. I have two sisters. I'm the middle one. I understand Nora Jane's dynamic (from "Philomena's New Glasses") because it IS my life. My sons inspire me all the time—with silly things they say or important questions they ask me. When your child asks you a question—not like, "Where are my socks?" but more like "Why do people wear socks, anyway?" you find yourself wondering how to answer that. And sometimes, answering questions like that can lead to some pretty funny concepts for a book. Think about it. How would you answer this question: "Who was the first person who thought eating a lobster would be a good idea?"
Yes, indeedy. If you've read "Philomena's New Glasses" already (and you keep it tucked under your pillow at all times for easy access), but you haven't read "Ready Rabbit Gets Ready," please make haste and do so at once! You won't be disappointed. BUT, if you've read THAT book so many times that your third copy is falling apart, then please pre-order my new picture book, "Good Dad Diego," which publishes in April.