Monday, April 1, 2013

Author Interview: Nancy Viau


As aspiring authors, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be published NOW.  The reality is that your preschooler may be entering middle school before you get a picture book published.  Nancy Viau knows this all too well. She is the author of Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head.  

Nancy is my featured author today. She is not a debut author, but after reading her story, you could say that she is a two-time debut author.

A note about the picture to the left: I asked Nancy to send me a profile picture and this is what she sent me. It looks as if the looong road to publication produced cobwebs. Very symbolic, I must say. Anyway, instead of the interview format, I am having Nancy share her experience herself.  It’s a story about determination, perseverance, and patience. 

"In 2002, I penned the first words that would eventually lead to a picture book sale in 2009,” says Nancy.   “Seven years. Seven, long years.”

Let’s welcome my guest writer, Nancy Viau.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy Nancy’s journey.


My story is a crazy one, but it may provide some inspiration for PB authors. Although I have the MG out, I feel very much like a debut author, and I guess I really am a debut PB author. It’s where I started my writer’s journey, where my heart has always been, where it will continue to be.


When my youngest daughter ventured out to preschool in 2001, I sat down at the computer and decided to be a writer. Of course I thought, I can write a picture book, and I began with a story about a girl on a beach—a 1700-word story, full of onomatopoeia and enough sensory-related elements to make you gag.

In the next year, many other picture book manuscripts followed, and I learned to cut, cut, CUT, leaving room for an illustrator. I wrote a rhyming story titled  It's Not Easy, and I subbed that and others out to editors I met at SCBWI conferences. No luck. Form rejections, tons of them.

Comic published with permission:


A critique partner suggested I had a voice suitable for an older audience (*groan* NOT what I wanted to hear). So, I dabbled in writing a chapter book titled Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head. I also wrote a ton of Op Ed essays for the Philadelphia Inquirer and various magazines for grown-ups—essays about parenting, kids, cell phones, vacations, etc.


Trying to keep my hand in the younger market, I submitted stories and poetry to children’s magazines, and to my surprise, acceptances started dwindling in. This encouraged me to get back to what I loved—writing for a younger audience.

I revisited that rhyming PB called It's Not Easy. A new critique partner checked it out, helped me with my horrible rhyme and meter, and said something I’ll never forget, “This may be the one.” I sent it out. It got rejected. The consensus was that it was a sweet story. Bah. END of story.

In 2005 (where did the years go?), I got up the nerve to add that manuscript to my application materials for the Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference, and I was shocked that I got in. My wonderful mentor, Penny Pollack, who wrote quiet stories such as mine, loved my story. She gave me the idea of adding a refrain, which really made the piece come alive. Penny introduced me to editors, and I ended up sending It's Not Easy to twelve. It got rejected all around, but with each rejection came a bit of personal feedback. (Personal feedback! The Golden Nugget, right?) The story got rewritten and resubmitted more times that I can count. Eventually, I got discouraged, stopped submitting it, and stopped beating myself up about it. I continued to write other PBs, still having no luck at publication..


The years ticked by, and my friend’s comment, “This may be the one,” often haunted me. One afternoon while watching the forest animals play outside my window, I decided to dig out that manuscript from years ago, look at my personal rejections with a fresh (and slightly more experienced) eye, and revise it yet again. I had formed a relationship with an editor at Abrams for she had acquired my middle-grade in 2007. (Remember the chapter book above? It grew up and became my first published book, a MG novel. Selling that is a whole different story!)  Anyway, I submitted It's Not Easy to Abrams, unagented, and in 2009, they made an offer. 

What started out as a very early attempt ended in success! Some authors get published immediately and I say KUDOS to them. But I am thankful for the opportunity to travel on a longer road to publication…my journey taught me so much about myself.

LookWhat I Can Do! was released March 12, 2013. (Looking back, I felt my original title said it all because it really wasn’t easy (!), but Abrams preferred a more positive title.) A second picture book, Storm Song, was acquired by Marshall Cavendish (now Amazon Publishing) in 2011 with little drama. It will be published on April 16, 2013.

Thank you so much, Nancy, for sharing your journey with us. You painted a picture of a real-life situation of the publishing industry. You proved to us that if you believe in your work, persistence is the key to success.

You can find Nancy Viau at:

She is also a wonderful resource for young writers and offers writing information and tips (WIT) at:


  1. Two words that come to me as I read your post are PERSEVERANCE and PASSION. Thanks for inspiring us to keep at our craft, to be open to revision, and to follow our passion for story telling - even if the journey is long.

    1. Long, and rarely lucrative, but well WORTH every second! I have no regrets because it's been such a fun learning process. It's the journey, not the destination, right? (*reminds self*)

  2. Inspiring! Thanks, Nancy! I, too, have ms I believe in that will hopefully find a home. Congratulations! Great interview Romelle.

    1. Thanks! Good luck! Keep at it!

    2. If you believe in your writing, I am sure you will find a home for your ms, Tina!

  3. I love this interview. Thanks, Nancy and Romelle! Thank you for the reminder that perseverance (and lots of revision and dedication to your story) pays off.

  4. Is "pays" the right word? Have you seen my advances?!? I'M JUST KIDDING! Perseverance definitely pays off, and I'm glad you enjoyed hearing about my journey. THAT makes things worthwhile, too. :)

  5. Great interview, Nancy. The Long and Winding Road, right? I am thrilled to hear about your successes, and it couldn't happen to a nicer person. Yay!!

  6. Inspirational path! Learning with every step - that's so important to really mastering those skills and tune the ear!

    (She says as she fumbles through the cyber-drawer of discouraging, deep-sixed PB drafts, hoping to find the gleam of a gem!)

    1. I bet there are a FEW in there!

    2. I am sure you can find that gem, Cathy! It will shout out to you.

  7. What a lovely story about staying true to yourself and enduring!

  8. Thank you for sharing your story Nancy! I especially like the message that those early stories may not need to be tied up and condemned to a dark closet. They just need a place to hang out while our writing skills mature!

    1. I like that, Lauri..."They just need a place to hang out while out writing skills mature!"

  9. Perseverance really does pay off! Congrats, again, Nancy. And thanks, Romelle for featuring her.

    Now to dust off my old PB manuscripts...

    1. Thanks for stopping by Joanne. The pleasure was mine! Nancy is such an inspiration!



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