Journey To Publication and Advice For Writers: Interview with Debut Picture Book Author, Teresa Robeson (QUEEN OF PHYSICS)
Teresa Robeson draws upon her Chinese heritage, Canadian-American sensibilities, as well as her background in science and love of nature when she writes. She has been published in children and adult magazines. Queen of Physics, a picture book biography written by Teresa and illustrated by Rebecca Huang, is her DEBUT PICTURE BOOK (!). Congrats to Teresa! You can find out more about Teresa at TeresaRobeson.com, Twitter at @TeresaRobeson, Instagram at @tmrobeson and on Facebook.
Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom, written by Teresa Robeson and illustrated by Rebecca Huang, launching from Sterling Publishing Oct. 8, 2019. “Wu Chien Shiung’s story is remarkable—and so is the way this book does it justice.” – Booklist.
“Wu Chien Shiung, a Chinese-American physicist, battled sexism and racism to become what Newsweek magazine called the “Queen of Physics” for her work on beta decay. Along the way, she achieved many milestones, e.g. the first woman instructor hired by Princeton University and the first woman elected President of the American Physical Society.”
Q. What inspired you to write this book?
I have a love of science and a fascination with scientists and with my own culture and the plight of minorities in North America. When I read about Wu Chien Shiung (I forget where; maybe in Physics Today), I immediately knew I had to share her story with the world because it ticked all the boxes. Her life is so inspirational to me, I knew it would be to others, too.
Q. What was your journey to publication? How did you find your publisher?
I started out writing for children’s magazines in the mid 1990s. I became a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers And Illustrators the same time and attended the conferences in my local chapter, maybe about one per year as time and money allowed. I didn’t think I could write books until around 2010. When I decided that I was ready to try writing books, I took a number of classes to learn the craft, joined the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge where I found some of my wonderful critique partners, and started attending more SCBWI conferences both within and outside of my chapter, both as a way to learn more and also for the opportunities for submission that these events afforded.
It was through attending one of these conferences (NESCBWI, in fact) that I submitted to the editor who wanted my manuscript!
But let me back up just a bit here to mention another useful piece of advice which Kwame Alexander gave at the 2015 NYC SCBWI conference: always say YES to opportunities. With that in mind, I tried to apply for any and all free (and some paid) opportunities. This was how I came to enter the We Need Diverse Books Mentorship Program. And happiest news of happy news, Jane Yolen (!!!) ending up picking my manuscript to mentor! The version of the story I had after being guided by Jane and her infinite wisdom was the one that I submitted to editors post NESCBWI conference. Christina Pulles, who was then at Sterling, fell in love with it…and the rest is history, as they say.
There is a lot of “right place, right time” kind of serendipity involved in the book business, but I believe that anyone could duplicate my path and find themselves published. This path being:
Study the craft (take classes, read books)
Build bylines and experience with magazine and smaller publications
Study the craft some more
Join a critique group (or three)
Say yes to opportunities
Work hard; take criticism well
Give back to the community
And always be a nice person!
Q. What advice do you have for young writers?
29 years, two agents, and umpteenth rejections bridged the period I took my first kid lit writing class to the publication of my debut book. No time is a good time to give up. If you truly love to write, you should keep writing no matter what because you can never predict when you will be published.
Q. Anything else you’d like to mention?
My second picture book, BICYCLES IN BEIJING, is coming out from Albert Whitman Spring of 2020. It was inspired by a family trip to my ancestral homeland and is a fun little friendship adventure. I love the artwork by Junyi Wu which really matches the tone of the story!
I’m also working on a couple of middle grade stories that I’m excited about. One is an #ownvoices contemporary fiction and the other one is a biography of someone I greatly admire.
I will be appearing in a couple of venues for my debut book in September and October 2019 and, because I’m the new Illustrator Coordinator for Indiana-SCBWI, I plan to be at the L.A. conference again next year!
For more insights from book creators, see my Inkygirl Interview Archives and Advice For Young Writers And Illustrators From Book Creators.