September Guest Guru: Helen H. Wu / Yeehoo Press
This month, we are pleased to feature Helen H. Wu! Helen is returning as our Guest Guru for the Month of September. This means that she will be reviewing, rating and giving feedback on four (4) manuscripts from our Members Only!
1. What do you LOVE about children’s books?
Children’s books have the potential to pass on the joy from generation to generation. Children’s books are one of the channels that children can learn about the world when they snuggle on the laps of parents and grandparents. It’s a magical format that I feel can perfectly encapsulate a feeling, a moment, a subject, a place and time. As an art lover, I also find it’s very entertaining and soothing to simply enjoy the artwork of children’s books.
2. What brought you to children’s books?
I’ve been passionate about writing and drawing since I was a kid; however, I never thought it would be a career option growing up in China. Back then, there were mostly black and white comic books. Picture books were introduced into China about 20 years ago.
After I graduated from the University of Georgia with a master’s in Economics, I landed a job in the marketing field. To make attractive marketing materials, I learned how to use Photoshop. Then, I found tutorials on how to draw in Photoshop. I was amazed by what could be done in the program. I did some digital drawings and put up a portfolio online. To my surprise, someone asked me if I could illustrate their picture book. I rediscovered my passion for art and storytelling. Gradually, I illustrated more picture books for other authors, and I began considering writing my own story. With all the fear and lack of confidence, I still took the leap and wrote, illustrated and self-published my first picture book in 2014. Positive feedback from readers encouraged me to do more.
At the beginning of 2018, with more than 10 picture books that I wrote and illustrated under my belt, I realized it takes teamwork of professional editor, designer, art director, marketing specialist and printer to produce quality picture books. Traditional publishing was the route to take. I started taking classes, joining critique groups and attending conferences to hone my craft and connect with editors and fellow authors and illustrators.
In August 2019, I attended SCBWI conference in Los Angeles and met Mr. Zhang and two editors from Yeehoo Press. They were looking for someone to take charge of the US division of their publishing house. They wanted someone who had experience in children’s book publishing in both the US and China and had connections with authors. My background was a perfect fit for Yeehoo’s criterion, and I joined the team shortly after the conference.
After working at Yeehoo Press for more than a year and a half, I have a deeper understanding of the business of children’s book publishing and I really appreciate being able to work with an awesome team of editors, designers, especially authors and illustrators. It takes a village to publish a children’s book, and every book is the fruit of faith, love, and teamwork.
3. What do you look for in a project to acquire for Yeehoo Press?
Yeehoo Press publishes 15–20 new titles a year in the US and China. Starting with the US and Chinese markets—two of the largest children's book markets—our goal is to find common ground between different countries and cultures and provide books with universal interest and appeal for readers worldwide. Basically, we are drawn to projects with kids relatable topics, universal messages, and multiple hooks.
4. What drew you to My Monsterpiece?
When I first read MY MONSTERPIECE, I immediately fell in love with it. Amalia’s art style is very unique and the story has universal messages and multiple hooks. The adorable art with entirely engaging hand-drawn cutouts provides a 3D effect with interesting texture and details for little eyes to discover on every page; it’s a perfect mix of humor and critical thinking, with just as much heart as it has wit, this book will make kids laugh and think all at once; this book also provides teachers, educators, and librarians the opportunities to discuss stereotyping, bias, and point of view in the classroom; the monster theme with sounds like RAHHHH and GRRRR is perfect for storytime and Halloween theme tables; most importantly, the illustrations that Amalia created with basic materials that children use in making art encourage children to make their own monster creations.
5. What is a common issue with the submissions you receive?
Some submissions didn’t follow the submissions guideline. We prefer query or cover letter pasted in the body of email with the manuscript sent as attachment. If it’s an art submission, we’d like to see a link to an online portfolio, instead of separate images as attachment. If the submission includes a dummy, a formatted PDF instead of an online gallery of separated images will be much easier for us to present to our team.
6. Please share a revision Tip for our Members.
Write a one-line summary of your manuscript. This sentence can be a useful revision tool because it encapsulates the essence of the story. Look at the theme and the heart of the story, and think about if the setting and the characters are the best fit for such a theme. Think about if there is any way to add another layer to the story.
7. Please share a submission tip with our Members.
Do your research. Before submitting a manuscript, please review our catalog and get a sense of what we publish. And we are unlikely to acquire new titles on already-covered topics.
Keep submitting. This is a very subjective industry and every editor has their own taste. Publishing is a long journey, as long as you keep writing and keep submitting, there is always hope and opportunity there.
8. Name a subject you would like to see in your in-box.
Character driven stories with humor, strong voices, fun, clever and unexpected twists at the end.
9. Name something to avoid sending to your in-box.
In the US, as we’re a new imprint, we only publish picture books at this moment. In China, we’ll publish the simplified Chinese editions of board books, novelty books, picture books, middle grades, and graphic novels.
We update our manuscript wish list every few months. As long as you think your manuscript is a good fit for our list, send them along!
10. Share a fun fact about YOU!
The first picture book I ever wrote was a rhyming book, GOOD NIGHT, GOOD NIGHT. Back then I didn’t know anything about meters, beats or patterns. Part of me was embarrassed and part of me was pretty proud that I wrote a rhyming book even before I had the concept of these rules. Sometimes it just takes passion and courage to start a journey!
To learn more about Helen and her upcoming book from Beaming Books, Tofu Takes Time, now available on Amazon for Pre-Orders (click on link),