The Path to Getting Published

Getting Started

When I decided midlife to become a children’s book writer/illustrator, there were a few major roadblocks. First of all, I had no idea how to write or illustrate a picture book. Second, I needed to drastically improve my drawing and painting skills. And most of all, I was a late bloomer to this industry and was behind the eight ball not only with skills, but also with time.

The only way to reach any goal is to begin. And it is probably better I did not then know how difficult it would be, or I might have given up at the start line. If you are in the middle of the struggles or you (and possibly others!) question your sanity when you devote this much time and energy to an endeavor that is not showing any results, hopefully this post will give you the encouragement to keep going.

How do I begin?
When first starting, I had no idea how to write a picture book. I joined The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) which was a huge resource in providing conferences, webinars, and a local critique group. As a member, I had access to The Book, a comprehensive collection of just about everything you need to know about the kid-lit industry.

It helps to have mentors. I have weekly skype classes with illustrator,  E. B. Lewis, along with classes at SVS Learn and The Illustration Department

Do I have what it takes?
What does it take? It takes stamina, long hours working on your craft, and the ability to accept criticism and rejection. (I’m still struggling with the latter). 
It is important to have a stubborn ignorance about publishing. So don’t listen too much to the naysayers and the doom and gloomers. Stay ignorant. If it’s something you are passionate about then be aware it will be a difficult road, but don’t let it stop your pursuit. Keep improving your skills. Take classes, sign up for critiques, and don’t take any of it personally.

Can I deal with the lows?
This business can feel like a roller coaster ride. One day it’s the road to brilliance and the next day it’s the pits of despair. I often fight the doldrums in the middle of a project. When this happens it helps to lean on your critique group and/or find an online group of fellow writers/illustrators such as Kidlit 411 where you can discuss daily struggles and successes. And most of all, don’t quit, but keep forging through. Eventually this universe will reward your time and effort.

Feel free to connect with me with comments or questions! You can see my artwork at and on Instagram @cherylpilgrim. 

Published by Cheryl Pilgrim

I am a writer/illustrator. My debut author/illustrator book is Big and Little: A Story of Opposites. (Holiday House, 2019) My Illustrated books are The Littlest Voyageur by Margi Preus (Holiday House, 2010) and Hound Dawg by Patricia Vermillion (TCU Press).

3 thoughts on “The Path to Getting Published

  1. Hi Cheryl. So nice to see your post. I am in a similar position to you. I’ve had to learn about writing and there’s a lot to learn but I’m sticking with my goal of getting published. Kidlit 411 is such a wealth of information. I’ve also joined the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge, which I found helpful and taken Susannah Leonard Hill’s Picture Book Magic Course. Critique groups are really helpful too. All the best to you in your writing journey! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Cynthia, glad you are on the path to publication! It is not easy and I still struggle. I am working on a picture book dummy right now that just isn’t working out. I keep trying to remember to enjoy the journey. Keep me posted on your progress.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Cheryl. I think what helped me the most is to have someone who believes in my ability to write. Even if it is just one person. The process is part of the fun…yes! I got impatient with the traditional process and decided to self-publish but I’m not giving up on traditional publishers at all. I hope to get published both ways. I hope you’ll stop by my blog some time. And let me know if you’re ever looking for another set of eyes for a manuscript. I’m happy to take a look.

        Liked by 1 person

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