A Dream 30 Years in the Making

The teacher who won a poetry contest at age 16 publishes her first kid’s picture book three decades later
HOUSTON - Nov. 6, 2015 - PRLog -- It was an exciting time for then 16-year-old Sandra Bennett. She had just won a national poetry contest. Sandra had always wanted to be a writer and this success fueled her passion. After high school, she arrived at the crossroads many of us do: What did she want to be when she grew up? For Sandra, it was the choice between pursuing a career in journalism or teaching.

“I decided teaching [would allow me to] write and at the same time instill a passion for reading and writing in the kids that I taught,” she says. Except marriage, children, and teaching kept putting Sandra’s desire to write on the back burner.

In 1995, Sandra, her husband, and their three boys moved to Thailand. The two years they lived there were both challenging and magical. She started writing again — letters to the family detailing their new life in this foreign land. The letters reignited her dream of becoming a writer. When the family returned to Australia, Sandra started writing her first children’s book.

She submitted her manuscript to publishers. “I thought I was actually successful when it was held with great interest for over twelve months before the final rejection came through,” she says. However, the publishing house did request that she submit five short stories about emotions. But the stories were rejected. Sandra admits, “I look back with embarrassment and I can understand why my stories were turned down.”

Sandra felt two of the stories had promise. She was particularly drawn to Emma the Eager Emu. “The birdlife around our suburb was magnificently colorful. As I watched a flock of pink galahs one morning, I pondered how a bird might feel if it couldn't fly. The story of Emma just poured out of me.”

It took 12 years for Sandra to finish the story and have it illustrated. She met artist Dianna Budd at a book launch. “I loved her ideas for the illustrations and it was wonderful to finally see Emma spring to life.” A friend had self-published her own book and Sandra decided to take the same route.

Emma the Eager Emu needed to wait a little longer. Sandra first self-published a chapter book for early readers titled Gingerbread Aliens. This was followed up by Alien Shenanigans. Finally, she published Emma this year.

When asked if she wishes she could have found a traditional publisher, Sandra says, “I am glad to have self-published. I am convinced that having control of my future is the best option. I don't think a traditional publisher would promote my books any more than myself and yet they would take most of the profits.” Sandra’s choice to self-publish, however, requires she market her own books.

One way to get attention for a self-published book is to win a competition like The Gittle List, a contest exclusively for indie authors of children’s picture books. Sandra considered entering her first book, Gingerbread Aliens, in The Gittle List 2014 contest, but it didn’t meet the submission criteria.

Emma the Eager Emu did meet The Gittle List contest rules for 2015 and Sandra decided to enter. Aviva Gittle, owner of Aviva Gittle Publishing and host of The Gittle List contest, gave Sandra a bonus—free promotion. Unlike other book competitions, The Gittle List will use entrants' books in marketing the contest. Emma has been promoted on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn since Sandra entered the contest this past June. Aviva says, "The earlier you enter, the greater chance your book will be promoted."

Sandra hopes to win a spot on The Gittle List. But, she’s already won the greatest prize of all: Three self-published books and 30 years later, Sandra Bennett has reached her dream of being a writer.

The Gittle List submission deadline is November 15, 2015. Print books and eBooks are accepted. The contest is open to self-published authors around the world. Visit www.GoToGittle.com and select “Contests” from the top menu to learn more. (2015 Submission Guidelines: http://gotogittle.com/the-gittle-list-2015-guidelines/)

Aviva Gittle Publishing offers great stories for children in English and Spanish, including the Kitten and Friends / Gatito y amigos series. Aviva’s website, www.GoToGittle.com, shares the stories of authors, illustrators and others who create books and creative media for children.

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