A Broken Heart— Repaired

Hi, readers of WordServe Water Cooler! Thank you for having me! I’m Martha Ramirez and though I write for young adults, I have a few children’s stories that have tugged at my heartstrings.

BrokenHeartBroken Heart, my new picture book, was inspired by my own heart journey and having to stay strong and pray for the best.

In 2014, I underwent open-heart surgery to correct a congenital heart defect we never knew I had. Broken Heart is about a brave girl who learns doctors have to mend her broken heart. Seven-year-old Julia goes on an unforgettable heart journey and takes her twin sister along for the ride. Like Julia, my heart defect was not discovered at birth. Unlike Julia, it was discovered many, many years later.

I knew the moment I lay in my hospital bed that I had to write a book about a girl with a broken heart. I also kept a journal, planning to rewrite the memoir I recently finished (super-excited!).

Photo by L.I.L.A. Images
Photo by L.I.L.A. Images

With Broken Heart, inspiration came at me with full force. I couldn’t stop writing until I got to the end. I was so content with the way the story unfolded, it was as if an angel whispered the words to me. When my good friend Mary Jo Prado offered to illustrate the story, I was ecstatic! She’s a talented illustrator and super creative. Without a doubt, I knew she could bring the story to life. I was even more thrilled when she added small but significant touches, such as the actual double doors from the hospital I stayed in.

One of the things I felt strongly about when writing this story was to write from the heart and not to worry so much about how it would turn out. I’m a plotter. An organizer. I always set up my stories beforehand and I always know my GMCs (goals, motivations, and conflict), but not this time. This time it was okay to write like the wind and not worry about the details. Of course, I took the time to go back and make certain all my writing goals were accounted for. But I learned there really isn’t a wrong way to write as long as you follow your heart.

Sean Connery in Finding Forrester says it the best, “You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is . . .  to write, not to think!”

I sincerely hope Broken Heart touches others as it touched me. It’s truly an honor to be here.

What children’s book has touched your heart?

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In addition to writing, Martha Ramirez is a 2012 Genesis Semi-Finalist, a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), YALITCHAT.ORG, the Muse Conference Board, CataNetwork Writers, and American Author’s Association. Her articles have appeared in various places including the Hot Moms Club and For Her Information (FHI) magazine. In 2012, her blog was nominated website of the week by Writer’s Digest. She looks forward to expanding her career and is hard at work on her next young adult novel. She currently resides in Northern California where she enjoys gardening and kickboxing (not simultaneously). Visit her blog at: Martzbookz.blogspot.com

Publishing Is Publishing

This Fourth of July, I watched the fireworks from the exotically landscaped grounds of a ritzy Malibu mansion overlooking Santa Monica Bay. I was admiring an Anna’s hummingbird perched in a tree that could have been invented by Dr. Suess when a beautiful woman I’d never met before came up to me to find out how to get her children’s books published.

“They rhyme,” she told me. She had written them together with her three children, whom she homeschooled.

She seemed sweet, one of those amazing moms who can take charge of all children present (in this case, at least twenty of them)—supervising them in the pool, sunscreening them on a schedule only she knew about, braiding hair to keep it out of faces, correcting their behavior toward one another, taking one to the bathroom, moving them en masse to the trampoline, seeing to it every last picky eater among them got something to eat, keeping track of the dog—and all the while initiate and maintain extended conversations with various of the adults present.

“Well,” I said. “I don’t have any experience whatsoever in children’s books. I write nonfiction for adults.”

“Yeah, but I heard you write, um, like, spiritual books.”

I nodded.

“And they’re published, aren’t they? So they’re, you know, regular books, right? Like, you can buy them in bookstores? I mean, publishing is publishing, isn’t it?”

It intrigued me that she was seeking my advice at all. I was such an oddity at that party. Visiting from Oklahoma. Not rich. The only woman present with grey hair. Not at all the sort of person someone like her would go to for advice about anything—except maybe birdwatching. I seemed to be the only one at the party paying attention to the magnificent hummingbirds and house finches and hawks whooshing around us.

But she was right, I guessed. Publishing is publishing. I recommended she get the latest edition of Writer’s Market.

“Did that already,” she said.

“And I think I’ve seen a special Writer’s Market just for kids’ books.”

“Got that too. Read it cover to cover.”

“Then you know what to do. Write a proposal that has all the parts they ask for and send it out to agents listed in the book who represent the sort of thing you’ve written.”

“You mean a query letter?”

“Yes, that too. I mean, for publishing adult nonfiction, you’d need a book proposal, but maybe with kids’ books you can get everything you need to say said in your query letter. Send it to agents who seem in the same place professionally as you are—that is, just beginning your career as a writer.”

“But don’t I need to copyright my stuff first? I mean, they could just steal my ideas.”

I said I didn’t think copyrighting was necessary. Why would an agent want to steal her ideas? “Agents make money from selling your book to publishers,” I told her, “not by stealing ideas and writing books of their own. They get fifteen percent of whatever you make. They want you to make money.”

She seemed unconvinced.

“Well,” I said, “Just do whatever it says to do in your children’s Writer’s Market.”

“I did all that,” she said. “So what do I do now?”

“You wait to hear back. And then, if you don’t get any takers, you revise and do it all again with another list of agents. If your stuff is good, eventually you’ll find someone who wants to represent you.”

“But how long should I wait? I mean, it’s been a few weeks already. Isn’t there anything else I can do?” This woman was a doer. As we spoke, she was rearranging the bowls of dips and crudités that the pool-wet children had left in disarray.

“No,” I told her. “Just write. Revise. Submit. And wait. That’s all I know about how to get published. Unless it’s different with children’s books. Which I’m guessing it isn’t. I mean, publishing is publishing, right?”

So what do you think? Is all publishing the same? If it’s different, how is it different? If it is the same, how is it the same?

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