Author Spotlight: Hannah Holt
Oct. 5, 2018
We are excited to feature author Hannah Holt and her debut picture book, THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY: THE CREATION OF DIAMONDS AND THE LIFE OF H. TRACY HALL, illustrated by Jay Fleck (Balzer + Bray, Oct. 2, 2018).
Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
One Christmas during graduate school, my husband and I didn't have money for presents, so I created handmade comic books. While I worked I wondered: what if I gave myself year to write a children's book?
After a year, I realized I would need more time and gave myself a decade to pursue publishing a children's book. Seven years into that decade, I sold my first picture book, THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY, to Balzer+Bray.
Congrats on your debut PB, THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY. Tell us about it and what inspired you.
The subject of this book is my grandfather—inventor H. Tracy Hall. I grew up hearing stories about his life from family members. As a child, I would stroll through his office, amazed at the fantastic gadgets on his desk.
However, by the time I was aware enough to ask meaningful questions, I had lost him to the fog of Alzheimer's. Through researching this book, I was able to developed a stronger connection to my grandfather even though he has passed away.
Was your road to publication long and windy, short and sweet, or something in between?
Ha! Long and windy.
I began writing ten years ago. During my first year, I received only form rejections and non-replies. By my second year, I had started receiving personal rejections and requests for more work.
Then my twins were born. With four children ages five and under, I took a year break from writing, so I could attempt sleep every now and then.
After a year away, the writing itch returned stronger than ever, and I joined Julie Hedlund's 12x12 challenge. Two years after my writing reset, I signed with agent Danielle Smith.
She sent my work out, but we never seemed to hear anything back. She strung me along for over year, promising interest from editors. However nothing ever materialized—not even rejections, and we parted ways.
After another year of querying, I signed with my second agent, Laura Biagi. Oh my heavens, it was such a difference working with a real agent! We sold two books together. Then she left agenting to pursue her own writing.
Publishing is full of twist and turns, but I try to focus on things I can control, like improving my craft.
What other projects are you working on? Any new books coming out?
My second book, A FATHER'S LOVE, comes out in 2019 just in time for Father’s Day. It’s a lyrical non-fiction picture book that celebrates different types of animal father’s from all around the world.
What are the one or two best things you did for your career?
At the beginning of my career, I checked out a bunch of books about writing picture books and publishing from the local library. That really helped me understand the basics of writing as a career. With all the great resources out there (like this website!), it’s possible to learn the craft of writing picture books without spending much money.
However, there are times when investing in your writing career is worth it. After parting ways with my first agent, I felt lost and wasn’t sure what to do next. I applied for a scholarship to attend the Rutgers One-on-one Plus conference and was accepted. The mentoring I received at there helped me find the path forward. It’s an excellent conference, especially for those a few years into writing. I try to be conservative with my writing spending, and this conference was definitely worth the expense.
FYI, I also maintain a SCBWI membership and attend local events whenever possible. Small reasonable expenses are justified. I would just discourage new hopeful writers from spending thousands of dollars on conferences and critiques. During the first two years of pursuing publishing, the best thing to do in my opinion is read, read, read and write, write, write.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
Ich spreche ein bisschen Deustch.
Where can people find you online?
I hang out a lot in Facebook groups for kidlit writers: Kidlit411, 12x12, Sub It Club, and more. I’m also pretty active on Twitter: @hannahwholt. Finally, I may no longer work in engineering, but I’m still a data junkie. I publish a lot of survey results for children’s authors on my website: HannahHolt.com.
Hannah Holt is a children’s author with an engineering degree. Her books, The Diamond & The Boy (2018, Balzer+Bray) and A Father’s Love (2019, Philomel) weave together her love of language and science. She lives in Oregon with her husband, four children, and a very patient cat named Zephyr. She and her family enjoy reading, hiking, and eating chocolate chip cookies.
a Rafflecopter giveaway