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Tips from The Soaring '20s Debut Group

The Soaring ‘20s is a group of authors and illustrators debuting picture books in 2020 (and in some cases, 2021). We’re on Twitter (@Soaring20sPB) and Instagram (Soaring20sPB), and our website ( features our books, bios, and blog. Many thanks to RATE YOUR STORY for having us on your blog, a wonderful resource for children’s writers and illustrators!

In this post, six of our authors and illustrators respond to the following question:

How has being part of a debut group been useful in your writing journey?

“Although the Soaring ‘20s has been wonderful for group marketing, the best bonus has been all the new writer/

illustrator friends I’ve made through the group. Having people in my corner who understand what I’m going through, who can provide advice (both industry-specific and just about life in general), and who are ambitious themselves has been invaluable. I am so motivated to keep improving and to keep making more stories, even if it’s at a slower pace. The key is to just keep moving forward. And I’m so happy I get to do that with a group of talented, like-minded people.

- Abi Cushman, author/illustrator of SOAKED! (Viking, July 2020) and ANIMALS GO VROOM! (Viking, 2021)

“I highly recommend joining a debut group when your first book is coming out. It’s so helpful to learn from those in the group whose books come out earlier. They generously share what NOT to do and what worked well, and they have invaluable advice for where to invest your time and energy in marketing. Reviewing each other’s books helps us all with promotion, too. The best part is having a group of folks who offer support whenever you need it and who are always happy to answer questions as you work your way through the process together. I suspect we’ll keep cheering each other on for years to come!”

-Melanie Ellsworth, author of HIP, HIP…BERET! (HMH, February 2021) and CLARINET & TRUMPET (HMH, March 2021)

“Any monumental first is challenging, and having one’s first book release is no different. My debut group has offered a safe place where I can give and receive support, camaraderie, knowledge, and ideas. It’s also been an extremely wonderful place to share book joy.”

-Kjersten Anna Hayes, author of THE ELEPHANTS’ GUIDE TO HIDE-AND-SEEK, illustrated by Gladys Jose (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, April 2020)

“Being part of a debut group has been an enormous help this year; I don't know how I would have fared without them! Debuting a book is known to be daunting and stressful, and add on the pandemic, forcing us all to quickly adjust our plans and our lives. Without the group, I would have been easily overwhelmed. I was inspired by my fellow group members’ tenacity and was motivated to keep up with them. We share new information with each other, help promote each other's books, try new technologies and platforms, celebrate each other's successes, and encourage each other during tough times. I am so grateful to be part of the Soaring ‘20s.”

-Isabella Kung, author/illustrator of NO FUZZBALL! (Orchard Books/Scholastic, August 2020)

“Being part of a debut group has been an invaluable part of my publication journey. Similar to having an accountability partner with writing, our group check-ins have helped me prioritize and seize on promotional opportunities such as conferences, blog posts, group giveaways, and more. I'm continually inspired by other members' events--- especially the ways that Soaring '20s members have gotten creative around debuting during a global pandemic! The camaraderie of doing this together has been wonderful, because I've been--- we've been--- able to ride the highs and lows of a debut book while being surrounded by support.”

-Angela Burke Kunkel, author of DIGGING FOR WORDS: JOSÉ ALBERTO GUTIÉRREZ AND THE LIBRARY HE BUILT, illustrated by Paolo Escobar and released in Spanish as RESCATANDO PALABRAS (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, September 2020) and PENGUIN JOURNEY (Abrams Appleseed, 2021)

“The promotion help has been FANtastic, but shortly into the debut year it was obvious that the camaraderie was going to prove most valuable. Debuting in a pandemic! All of us have had difficulties, of all sorts, but the group was always ready to listen, encourage, and motivate. You can't buy solidarity!”

-Julie Rowan-Zoch, illustrator of LOUIS by Tom Lichtenheld (HMH, October 2020) and author/illustrator of I’M A HARE, SO THERE! (HMH, March 2021)


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