Welcome to the Winner’s Circle where we celebrate the success of our ICL and IFW Contest winners. Today we’re celebrating Susie Sawyer whose entry How to Find Your Elephant came in Second Place!
What contest was your winning entry submitted to?
2019 Lost and Found Poetry Contest
How many writing contests have you entered?
Too many to count!!
Please give the title of your entry and a short summary of the story.
HOW TO FIND YOUR ELEPHANT – a rhyming picture book with a confident child narrator that’s an expert at finding lost things (even elephants).
After unsuccessful attempts to find the elephant in obvious places like the library and the nail salon, the narrator tries to lure the elephant with things they’re known to love, like bubble wrap and yoga mats. Humorous rhyme and silly situations lead to an ending that leaves the reader wondering what will happen next.
What inspired your winning entry?
I’ve always wanted to tackle a “How To” book, and the prompt of “lost and found” led me to the idea of HOW TO FIND YOUR ELEPHANT!
How has entering this contest helped your writing?
This particular contest encouraged me to have FUN with a rhyming picture book manuscript. The whole idea of losing an elephant was absurd to begin with, so it prompted me to consider totally unexpected situations where an elephant might hide.
How did the critique in the Winners’ Workshop help you?
Well for starters, it totally boosted my confidence!! Hearing Katie Davis read it flawlessly was such a joy, and hearing all the things that worked for judge Alan Katz reassured me that I’m on the right track. His suggestion for improving the ending turned out to be something I’d already implemented in a rewrite of the manuscript, so that was super rewarding!
Are you a full-time writer? If not, what is your “day job”?
I WISH I could write full time! However, I’ve been a legal assistant for over 30 years, and am currently working full time in that capacity for a Native American Tribe in northern Wisconsin. I squeeze in my writing whenever possible though!
How long have you been writing?
I began learning about the craft in 2003, and have been seeking publication ever since. So…16 years!
What will you do with your piece now that it’s been recognized?
I reworked the story and polished it further. Recently, I submitted it to a publisher that I’ve had the pleasure of working with in the past, hoping that she will find it a perfect fit for their house.
Any fun plans for the prize money?
I applied it to the 2019 Picture Book Summit! It will be the fourth time I’ve participated, and I can’t wait!
What do you do when you’re feeling discouraged or blocked? Do you have any tips for your fellow writers?
I allow time to pass. Even when I’ve felt the most discouraged about my writing, I’ve found the passion always returns and before long I need to get back to creating stories. It’s truly therapy for me – my favorite creative outlet. I’d encourage anyone who’s feeling discouraged to simply create for themselves. When you do that, you are writing your best work. Let it sit for a while, then revisit it and see if it still speaks to you. Polish it up, share it with trusted critique partners and, above all else, SEND IT OUT! My biggest regret over the past 16 years is not sending out my work once it’s as good as it can be. That’s my new promise to myself – to share my stories and not hold them captive on my computer.
If you could go to the yard sale of any character in the history of children’s literature, whose would you go to, and what would you buy?
I believe I would go to Olivia the Pig’s yard sale. She has remarkable taste in clothing and art. I feel like I would find the perfect dress, something to hang on my wall, and something unexpected…like an old fashioned egg beater. Which I need.
What do you like ICL and our opportunities for writers?
Ohhh, where do I begin?!? ICL does the hard work for us. They compile all the important, current, relevant, helpful information and present it in accessible, usable format – and best of all, they encourage us to continue growing, learning, and sharing our wonderful stories. It’s a safe place to ask questions and to be inspired by others – a creative space to share ideas and find resources to push us to be our best. Thank you, ICL, for all you do for the kidlit community.