FROM YOUR EDITOR Luck, love and inspiration

Words & Pictures editor Claire Watts has been thinking about the frustrations of waiting for luck to take you by the hand.

It has been a while since I wrote an editorial in Words & Pictures, and I was beginning to think that with all the fabulous stuff we have packed in every week, there wasn’t much for me to say. But I was reminded last week how much luck has to play in the process of getting your children’s book published and it is something that plays on my mind a good deal!

For both writers and illustrators, luck is the thing that makes your work land on the desk of an agent or publisher at the moment when it’s exactly what they’re looking for. How can you possibly know what they need? You can’t read their minds. You don’t know if they’ve just taken on something so similar to yours that, even though they are completely in love with your work, they simply can’t work with two things so similar. Even once an agent does take you on, they’ve then got to get you into the hands of the right publishing house (though they obviously have a good bit more insider knowledge than you do). There are steps forward and setbacks. They quite like this book, but not enough to take it on. Perhaps if you came up with another idea…

It’s enough to make you despair…

Of course there are lots of things you can do to help your luck along. You can do your research. Look at agents’ profiles and see what sorts of things they represent, what they are looking for. Keep an eye on Twitter, where agents often mention that they are open to submissions and what sort of things they like. Enter prestigious competitions (like Undiscovered Voices!). Create the best submission package or portfolio you can using all the help available to you. Join SCBWI! Gather a gang of fellow travellers to support you. Find a mentor, someone already published or a bit further on in the journey than you are, who is prepared to give you their time to help you hone your work. In short, make sure that when your work lands on an agent’s desk, it is the best you can possibly make it.

There’s something else too. Something you need more than luck. The thing that keeps us going even when yet another agent says, “Not quite”, even when another long-listing doesn’t turn into a short-listing. You need the love of it. You may battle every sentence. You may end up with a bin full of crumpled sketches. But if you’re ready, every time, to push the disappointment aside, to open a new sketchbook, turn the computer back on, choose a new notebook from your collection and start again – that’s love. Do you think about your characters when you’re on a walk? Do you talk about them to anyone who’ll listen? Do you push your work to one side, frustrated, and then hours, days, weeks later, have to put everything else on hold because you’ve had a sudden epiphany? That’s love. That’s what keeps me going. What about you?

I wish you all the luck you need with your work, and the inspiration that comes from the love of creating!

Claire Watts is Editor of Words & Pictures. You can contact her at

The header image is by Catherine Lindow. Catherine lives and illustrates in a Fife seaside village.

She's fond of drawing towns and places and the people who may or may not live in them. Drainpipes, vexed dogwalkers and the odd bit of sprouting leafiness are among her favourite subjects. See her work at and on Instagram @catherixx

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