Posted by: nancyisanders | July 11, 2008

Author Interview: Anastasia Suen

Meet Author Anastasia Suen!

E-mail: Anastasia Suen
Web site:
Children’s Book Biz News
Picture Book of the Day

Who is Anastasia Suen?
a) author of 106 books for children
b) former K, 1, 5, & 6 teacher who visits schools to teach the six traits of writing
c) children’s literature consultant for several publishers
d) online workshop instructor who teaches adults how to write for children
e) blogger
f) all of the above
The answer is: (f) all of the above.

Featured books: The Main Street School books 

Be a kid with character! In these heart-warming and instructive situational stories, children will learn about honesty, respect, sharing, patriotism, and more. Warm, colorful illustrations show a diverse school working out the right ways to treat people using humorous narratives that instruct without preaching. An excellent addition for character education programs.


Q: Explain the step-by-step approach you took to landing the contract for this series.
A. It all looks so easy from the outside. The telephone rings and an editor asks you to write a twelve book series! Dig a little deeper and the truth emerges. It took over a dozen years to make this happen. No, it didn’t take me that long to write the books. What took so long was building the connections.

I started attending SCBWI conferences when my daughter was a baby. When she was in preschool I posted a small piece of artwork on the bulletin board at the annual SCBWI summer conference. That resulted in a contact with a publisher and a possible four book deal. I wrote the four books, and illustrated one, and then the company changed direction. No sale.

When my daughter was in second grade, I sold my first 3 books – in 3 months! After my books came out I started attending teacher and library conferences as an author. At one of these conferences I saw the publisher I had met at SCBWI so long ago. We spoke then and at several other conferences over a period of years. (I act as my own agent so I use conferences to network.)

Finally, the phone rang and I was asked to write a new science picture book series for one of the publisher’s imprints. The books won the Science Books and Films Best Books of 2006 and were finalists for the Association of Educational Publisher’s Distinguished Achievement Award. Then my editor moved. Several years later he called and asked me to write a sports chapter book series for his new imprint. After yet another editorial move, the call came for this twelve book character education series. My daughter was a freshman in college. (Now she’s a junior.)

Q: You’ve written a lot of books in a very short time. What’s the secret to your success?
A. In the past twelve years I’ve sold 106 book manuscripts: 2 novelty books, 37 picture books, 34 easy readers, 18 hi-lo books, 14 middle grade books, and 1 how-to write book for adults. What you DON’T see are the other 500+ projects I created over the years that DIDN’T get published! (I wrote my first book when I was eleven.)

What is my secret? The polite word is persistence. (The Irish call it stubborn.) I didn’t want to give up when the next letter might bring a sale instead of a rejection, so I kept reading and writing and mailing.

I always have a LOT going on: I teach writing, I do consulting, I blog. It all helps me grow as a writer. And I can’t sit still all day and work on ONE thing! Yikes! I have to get up and MOVE! I walk, I do yoga, I ride the exercise bike, and then I come back and work.

I work in short bursts, so I break everything down into small steps. I work on one thing at a time, for a short period of time, like “class periods.” This is what I LOVED about teaching elementary school, working with kids and doing a little bit of everything in one day. So I have a writing time and a teaching time and an illustrating time (and several time slots for exercise!) I assign different tasks to different time slots and then off I go. Of course everything changes as the day goes on, but as long as I have a flow chart to guide me, everything gets done…eventually.

Q: Describe a highlight of your career as an author.
A. I love small steps, so I find there are MANY moments to celebrate! I love the call or email asking me to write a book, the moment I figure out HOW to make the book work, when the rewriting is complete, when I send the book in, when the editor calls or writes with comments, when the book comes out, when I see the printed book for the very first time, when I sign books for readers who have read my books (and they tell me what they liked about them.) I love working with kids and books!

Q: Share one tip you’d like to give to an author about breaking into the work-for-hire market.
A. Attend teacher and library conferences so you can collect catalogs and look at the books. Buy an exhibits pass and spend the entire day in the exhibits looking at who publishes what. This will give you a feel for where your writing will fit in the market. The larger the conference, the more exhibitors you’ll find. Conferences for educators are your best bet – that’s where you want your books to end up, so go where the books are!

After the conference, get your writing samples ready and send them out. (If you need help, I teach both a 20 lesson online craft workshop, the Young Nonfiction Workshop, and a 5 lesson online business workshop, the Educational Book Markets Workshop, to help you prepare your CV (professional resume) and the letter to send with your samples.)

To learn even more about the amazing world of children’s book author, Anastasia Suen, visit Blogtalk Radio to hear her share more tips about writing!


  1. Great interview! I also agree with you about the word “persistance.” It keeps me going.

    Gwendolyn Hooks

  2. Really nice interview here. I loved the comment about celebrating the small steps. We don’t do that nearly often enough!

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