Skip to main content
Latino LifeThe Writing Life

Breaking into Writing Children’s Books:  A Beginner’s Guide Targeted to Latinx authors

By November 2, 2020February 15th, 2021No Comments

** UPDATED: NOV 4:  This post was pre-scheduled for today. I apologize for its publication today, when there is so much post-election uncertainty. It went out before I could stop it.**  

The question I get asked most often as a children’s book author is how to break in. This is especially true when the question comes from aspiring Latinx authors. Here is a quick checklist of to-dos if your heart is set on writing stories that celebrate Latinx children and families.

  1. Nail down your craft

Nothing replaces the craft. A big part of this simply boils down to your talent with words and with how well you can sense how to tell a story.  But you can do things to improve your work, mainly in two ways: reading and writing.

Here’s starter book set for reading.

As for writing, I recommend a daily or weekly habit of coming to the page, whether you do that on your own or whether you sign up for writing class in your community.

If you’re very serious, you can choose to invest in a low residency Master of Fine Arts program. I’ve been teaching at Hamline in St. Paul, Minnesota but there are others programs, too, such as Simmons, Vermont College, and Hollins, to name just a few. The upside is the quality of the faculty and the intense nature of learning alongside others who take their work seriously. The downside is expense and the time-commitment. And, of course, there are never any guarantees that an MFA will get you published.

Other shorter options exist. Try the Highlights Foundation for an excellent slate of classes and residencies.

Or you can follow individual authors who workshop on different writing topics. One example is Printz honor winner and National Book Award finalist, Elana K. Arnold, who teaches an online revision class called Revision Season.

  1. Find mentors

Everyone needs a good guide. Be brave and apply to mentorship programs where an established writer will work with you, typically for a year or two, to help you understand craft issues and the business world of publishing. Here are a few especially designed for Latinx and other traditionally marginalized voices.

  1. Diversity fellows at Highlights Foundation

    Join professional organizations to learn the business and the craft

The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) offers memberships for just under $100 a year. Find the chapter in your region so that you can enjoy conferences, join critique groups or attend for webinars on different topics of interest. New members also have access to The Book: Essential Guide to Publishing for Children and other SCBWI publications that help explain and demystify the process of breaking in and then maintaining a career in children’s lit. The BookNationally, the organization is beefing up its attention for authors from marginalized communities, including translation of web content to Spanish and other initiatives. Your contact for that information is April Powers.

  1. Be targeted and professional as you search for an agent

Yes, you probably do need an agent. When you’re finally ready to find someone who will be in charge of presenting your manuscript to different publishing houses, you’ll want to be sure you are following the rules of submission. The Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market* was my Bible. It’s an invaluable resource, listing exactly what agents are looking for and how they prefer to be approached. You should own this guide, either digitally or in hard copy.

  1. Know your community
  • Follow Latinxs in Kidlit blog for the titles of new books being published every month.
  • Be familiar with the authors already publishing with success: Comb through the Pura Belpré lists, Tomás Rivera list, and Las Américas Award Winners. Use these texts as mentor texts as you make decisions about your own voice and style.
  • Follow Latinx in Publishing (LXP) for up-to-date news and opportunities
  • Buy Latinx books whenever you can. Here are bookstores.
  • Support conferences and events that support Latinx and other marginalized voices, such as KWELI and Latinx Kidlit Book Festival
  1. This is happening on December 4 and 5, this year.

    Get to know the academics

Librarians and teachers are key allies for children’s book authors. Here are two groups that have been invaluable to getting books by Latinx authors read and studied. Become a supporter. Follow them on social media.

*Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you use them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I post them for your convenience and hope you will make your purchases where you are most comfortable. 

Meg Medina

Author Meg Medina

I'm Meg Medina, author of libros for kids of all ages. I'm the 2019 Newbery medalist for Merci Suárez Changes Gears. I write strong girls, tough circumstances, and the connecting power of culture. Thanks for visiting my blog!

More posts by Meg Medina

Sign up for News from Meg

Join our mailing list to receive the latest blog posts from Meg right to your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!