We had the good fortune of connecting with Dawn Young and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dawn, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
The most important factor behind my success has been perseverance. Getting published has taken and continues to take more patience and persistence than I ever thought I had. This industry is filled with nos. Rejections are inevitable and frequent. In the beginning, without an agent, I tried to submit on my own. The rejections, sometimes personalized with positive feedback, but most times a form letter, poured in. The first few rejection letters made me cry. The next few made me angry. But after a while, I learned to accept the rejections, glean what I could from them, put them behind me and move on. Looking back, I can say that the rejections I received were actually a blessing. As much as I dreaded them and resented them, they made me work harder, think deeper and get more ingenious. If I had received a contract early on, I may not have pushed myself to grow, learn and improve as much as I did. After several more years of submitting, I signed with an agent. I was ecstatic and I felt validated: someone in the industry actually believed in me. She submitted my work to publishers, and although I received some positive feedback, the rejections continued. Then, in 2017, my agent, scaling back on her client list, dropped me. I was devastated, to say the least. I didn’t know what to do, so I threw myself a pity party and invited some of my writer friends. Luckily, my incredible critique partners RSVP’d NO and instead, (kindly) kicked me in the butt. And I’ll never forget this – on that very day, after one of my critique partners sent me an encouraging message on Facebook and wrote, “I believe in you,” I went outside and noticed, that a plant that I had written off as dead, spouted. A beautiful little flower, a sign of hope ̶ my sign of hope ̶ appeared. I regrouped and emerged even more determined than ever to pursue my dream. Finally, in 2018, after years of reflection, revision and rejection (and tears), I sold my first picture book, COUNTING ELEPHANTS to Running Press Kids, Hachette Book Group (March 2020) and then, THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS (Oct 2019), THE NIGHT BAAFORE EASTER (Jan 2021), THE NIGHT BAAFORE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL (June 2021) and ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS (Fall 2021), all to WorthyKids, Hachette Book Group. I have a quote I like to remember when things aren’t going as expected: “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” ― Dalai Lama XIV
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In 2007, my creative side combined with my picture book obsession compelled me to pursue a career in writing. At the time, however, my kids were still small and they kept me very busy, and I became very involved at their school, so I’d say early on I was more of a part-time writer. Around 2010, I got really serious about writing and began attending conferences and writing retreats, taking classes, joining critique groups and writing ALL the time. When I started out, I was strictly a rhymer. I studied rhyme extensively, but then I thought it would be best to branch out and be more diverse with my style, so I started writing in prose as well. I read thousands of picture books, studied the craft of writing picture books, studied figurative language and sound, and made PB dummies. I couldn’t learn enough. In the writing community, I’m known for writing in rhyme. My Night Baafore series is written in rhyme. Knowing that most publishers prefer prose over rhyme because too often (they say) they see rhyme that is subpar, I worked on my perfecting my rhyming skills. I find it challenging, yet extremely rewarding. Some of my favorite books are written in rhyme. I find I love when the rhyme creates a rhythm that makes the words flow, as if your reading was set on cruise control. I’m also known for my love of STEM and particularly math, but as former mechanical engineer turned writer, I don’t get many opportunities to do math, except of course when I help my kids with their homework, which usually doesn’t go well, since they do not appreciate my math enthusiasm. We all know most kids roll their eyes at the thought of math, so I wanted to get kids to have fun with math. With COUNTING ELEPHANTS, my goal was to make the book fun to read so kids would feel that sense of enjoyment, connect that feeling to math and have a more positive view of math in general. I love to write wacky, humorous children’s picture books (ages 4-8). My goal is to make kids laugh. In COUNTING ELEPHANTS, THE NIGHT BAAFORE CHRISTMAS, THE NIGHT BAAFORE EASTER and THE NIGHT BAAFORE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, I went for craziness and chaos.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We would hike, walk, visit Sedona and Prescott, spend a day at a resort, see a Diamondback game and shop.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
SCBWI The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the entire kidlit community and my critique partners have provided so much support and encouragement. I can not thank them enough. Also, my family and friends have been incredibly supportive. My husband, kids and close friends have willingly and enthusiastically listened to my stories over and over again. Many times they kept me going.