Stephanie has been writing in various forms over the last 20 years. Most notably she spent over 15 years in PR and Marketing at Amazon and Fujitsu writing everything from press releases to white papers, executive bios to product blurbs. In addition, she was a contributor to the book Tana’s Habitat: The Ultimate Guide to Finding and Affording Your First Place and has written articles for a number of travel blogs.
Eventually, Stephanie’s wanderlust finally got the best of her and she spent a year traveling across all seven continents. It was then that she decided to focus on writing stories for children about amazing places around the world. Stephanie now lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and young son.
What inspires you to write?
When I see kids laugh or understand something new through my books, I’m inspired to keep writing. Since I travel a lot, I am also inspired by visiting new places and wanting to share my experiences. I hope in a small way my writing inspires a curiosity about the world in young minds.
Tell us about your writing process.
I often say that it took 10 years to write my first book, so I’m not sure my writing process is the most efficient! I wrote a lot (on a laptop computer) while I traveled around the world. Once back in the US (while working full-time in a busy corporate marketing job), it took a couple of years to go through all of the rough drafts, decide which story to develop and then actually finish it. Then I had to decide how to publish it. Throw in a new job in Paris, a relocation back to Seattle, a baby and a move to Sydney and there goes 10 years! Bottom line: Writing part-time is going to lengthen an already long process a lot. But, even though it took a while, my book is now released and I’m thrilled with the results!
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
My son has a stuffed penguin that looks a lot like Wally and a creepy plastic lizard that reminds me of a Galapagos Marine Iguana, so we do sometimes talk to them, but I actually don’t converse with my characters when I write.
That said, a new character, Gomez the Galapagos Island Penguin, will make his debut in the picture book version of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin later this year. I find him absolutely hilarious! He is the cool kid on the block who knows everyone and always wears the perfect t-shirt for every occasion.
What advice would you give other writers?
Write your story! (And I don’t just mean put a pen on paper or start typing now.) I mean that if you look back at classic children’s literature, books were far longer and more complex than today’s kid’s books. Publishers and agents won’t consider a picture book over 1000 words, even 800 words in some cases, but I just don’t think every great children’s story can/should fit into this limitation. Write your story and if a traditional publisher won’t look at it simply because of word count, there are lots of other options to get it in front of readers.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I originally decided to pitch publishers/agents so I spent a lot of time finding contacts, polishing query letters and learning the process. I realized quickly that the traditional publishing process would take a very long time — 4-6 months of exclusive review time for each agent meant 2 – 3 pitches per year at best — and I realized that I didn’t need some of the support publishers offered, so I decided to go the independent route. I hired an illustrator, had my manuscript copyedited, researched self-publishing platforms, built a social media platform, created a website, learned to format an ebook and lots of other stuff. I also started my own publishing company, Forwards Press, instead of using a self-pub platform like Createspace. It was a lot of work and there were many points where I considered paying for a service instead of doing it myself, but really enjoyed the control I had over every detail of my book.
I’d recommend that any new author take stock of their skills and decide what they are willing to do themselves and what they can’t or won’t do. Once you recognize what you can/can’t contribute to the process, the choices may seem much clearer.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Book publishing is in a fascinating place right now. Things are changing — some for better, some for worse — and it’s truly amazing to be part of it. What I love most about being a new children’s author is the supportive community of authors and organizations (like BookGoodies!) that offer so many ways for writers to get their names and books in front of readers.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?
Children’s, Kid Lit
What formats are your books in?
Stephanie Mantello Ward Home Page Link
Link To Stephanie Mantello Ward Page On Amazon
Link to Author Page on other site
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