Sunday, September 5, 2010

MWG Spotlight: Judy Young

Fasten your seatbelts!

When you ask Springfield author Judy Young what she's working on, you're in for quite a ride!  She's busy working on two books to be released next spring and two others are up for a handful of awards.  In addition to writing, Judy has nearly three dozen school visits planned for this school year!

With her dedication to writing and contagious enthusiasm, it's no wonder Judy ended up in this week's Spotlight.  Please take a few moments to get to know Judy Young in her own words.  You'll be glad you did.

Last week when I was asked to be in the Missouri Writer’s Guild Blog Spotlight for this Monday, I was honored and excited, and then came “what do I say?” I was told that the MWG spotlights are a “getting to know you” type thing, so here we go!

Meet Me, Judy Young!

I’m an author of children’s fiction, nonfiction and poetry picture books. I live in the country, outside Springfield, Missouri with my husband,
Ross B. Young, a professional artist who mostly paints fine art oil paintings for galleries and private commissions and is well known for his bird dog and fly fishing paintings. But, Ross also illustrated two of my books. We have two grown children. Our daughter, Brett (name came from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises) is working on her PhD in English Literature at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Our son, Reid (named because I wanted a red-headed kid – didn’t work) is working on his Masters degree in Aerospace Engineering at Auburn University in Alabama. I also have a handful of dogs.

Like many authors, I’ve liked to write all my life. One of my earliest memories regarding writing is, at the age of ten, letting my grandmother read a poem I’d written. She encouraged me to keep writing. Always listen to your elders! When I reached college level, however, my father insisted that I have a college degree with a job attached to the degree’s name. “You can be an “educator, an accountant, a nurse…” he said, “but you can’t be an ‘English Literature.’” Being a writer never entered my mind, even though I wrote. I became a Speech and Language Pathologist, and worked as such for twenty-four years, all the while, writing. In the mid-1990s, I started submitting poetry for publication, and had several accepted in magazines and literary journals (all for adults, none for children). I also joined the Missouri Writer’s Guild in 1998.

I didn’t know it then, but both my grandmother and my father’s advice led me eventually to becoming a children’s author. And in 2000, I got lucky! (I have my husband to thank for that!) Ross was contracted by Sleeping Bear Press to illustrate a children’s book about Missouri, part of their Discover America series. When they discussed the project, Sleeping Bear did not yet have an author lined up for the Missouri book. So, I submitted samples of my writing and landed the assignment. I was told they picked me for three reasons: I’d been published before (thanks to my grandmother who told me not to quit), I had experience in the schools (thanks to my father) and they liked the idea of a husband/wife team (always pick your husband with the future in mind!) So, in 2001, when S is for Show Me, A Missouri Alphabet released, I became a genuine published children’s author!

In 2002, I queried Sleeping Bear with a book idea about children’s games. Never heard back from them. In 2003, I queried an idea about a poetry book. I got a phone call in three weeks. Not really knowing about the long waits in the publishing world, I didn’t even realize how fast that was! They told me they wanted the poetry book, and then, to my surprise, said, they wanted the games book, too. Two queried ideas accepted on the same day! I was still working in the schools, but I went into my principal’s office and resigned (but I was nice and finished out the school year!) I had written one book while still working in the schools, but I now had two books to write, and I knew if I really wanted to write, I needed time to do it well. It was a scary decision, but, for me, it was well made and I haven’t regretted it. In 2006, R is for Rhyme, A Poetry Alphabet was released. And I wasn’t really ready for what came with that book! My first book had done well across Missouri, and I had had plenty of speaking engagements at schools and conferences in the Show Me state, but R is for Rhyme put me in a national market almost overnight!

Thirteen days after the release of R is for Rhyme, (and on my 50th birthday!) it received a starred review in the Kirkus Review – my publisher’s first starred review, too! And then the phone started ringing. For the next three months, I spoke at schools and conferences in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minnesota, and all around Missouri. R is for Rhyme, A Poetry Alphabet went on to win the 2006 National Parenting Publications Honor Award, 2006 Best Juvenile Book Award from our own organization, the Missouri Writer’s Guild, 2008 Mom’s Choice Gold Award and 2008 Educator’s Choice Award. It was also choreographed by the Tanner Creative Dance Program and Children’s Dance Theatre of the University of Utah for their 58th annual performance (the most awesome experience I have ever had)!

So, that’s how I got started, and it hasn’t let up. I now have nine books published, all with Sleeping Bear Press, with two more releasing this spring, and have had several more awards attached to my titles:

Lazy Days of Summer, 2007 (the games book that I spoke about above)

Show Me the Number, A Missouri Number Book, 2007 (the other book Ross illustrated)

The Lucky Star, 2008 (2009 Storytelling World Honor Award, 2010/2011 MO Show Me Readers Award Nominee)

H is for Hook, A Fishing Alphabet, 2008
Minnow and Rose, 2009 (2010 Storytelling World Award, 2010/2011 Nominee for three state awards: PA Keystone to Reading Award, DE Diamond Book Award and AL Camillia Book Award)

• The Hidden Bestiary of Marvelous, Mysterious and (maybe even) Magical Creatures, 2009

The Missouri Reader, 2010

A Book for Black-Eyed Susan, releases March 2011

A Pet for Miss Wright, releases May 2011 (I just found out yesterday this has moved from a fall to a spring release, and will be used for the Sleeping Bear Press catalog cover!)

Needless to say, it has been fun, but it's also a lot of work! Not only is there the writing, but a bigger percentage of time goes toward marketing. Publishers do some, getting the books into distributors and bookstores, but the author does a lot through publicity and speaking engagements. I spend probably 70% of my time in promotion and 30% writing. Promotion includes things like writing this blog and having other interviews, having book signings (some set up through my publisher, some set up myself), school visits (almost all set up myself), speaking at educational conferences (some set up through my publisher, most set up myself), speaking at professional writers conferences (all set up myself), maintaining a website… the list goes on and on. The best advice I can give is to consider writing, and all that goes with it, a job, even if you have another full time job. Be professional and remember Edison’s quote, “Success is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration.”

So, now that I am moving into quotes, I will close with one of my favorite quotes about writing and I hope all of you are successful with your “damn hard” work.

Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

You can read more about Judy Young and her books at

1 comment: