Thursday, October 1, 2015

Success: What Counts? – A Guest Post By Claudia Harrington

Author and SCBWI Regional Advisor Emeritus Claudia Harrington

In our commercial world, it’s hard NOT to think of success in terms of something flashy, but for me, success comes in small bites.

Success isn’t just having a blockbuster so you can be invited to keynote at the summer conference. It’s made up of all of those little moments of growth, when you feel your head expand and you work through the challenge of translating it onto the page.

My first success came at my Dad’s funeral. I’d been asked to give a eulogy, and I started with this: “I told you I was sick – that’s what my dad always said he wanted on his tombstone.” It got an enormous laugh. The way I felt when my words made people laugh was a huge motivator, and a huge success.

My next (and first published) success came after reading a call for submissions in SCBWI’s Bulletin – one of my poems was included in what became a “Best Pick” picture book anthology from Philomel.

Flash forward over these past years… There have been so many close calls, where editors loved my work and either revised with me sans contract (success!), or championed my manuscript at acquisitions meetings (success!)

After each near miss I got back on the horse, but those moments helped me grow as a writer, and were absolutely successes. One editor, in fact, said “Why, oh why, didn’t I see this sooner?” when she got back from a long leave only to find my manuscript in her slush pile. Although that time Sales & Marketing didn’t agree, her comment was still a wonderful success – it kept me going.

Being L.A.’s SCBWI Regional Advisor for eleven years helped me to grow so much faster and deeper than I otherwise might have. It gifted me with relationships with wonderfully talented writers, agents and editors in our field, and the opportunity to pick their brains and listen to their talks on craft. I’ve also always taken advantage of available conferences and critiques, knowing that I could be one comment away from what helps me take a manuscript from almost-working to glorious. Usually I get that nugget, and my manuscripts have gotten better and better over the years.

Every draft has made me a better writer (success!)

Every book has made me a better writer (success!)

Every critique, from an editor, agent or fellow writer, stretched me and made my work better (success!)

When I submitted a manuscript for critique to a conference a few years ago, my manuscript ‘met’ my current agent, and it was pretty much love at first sight. (success!) My agent asked me if I wanted to pitch to an educational publisher who had approached her about a 6 picture book series. Because I work in a lot of genres, but felt weakest in picture books, how did I answer? With a resounding YES! I worked my butt off on the proposal, learning as I went (success!), and ended up writing a sample book in the process, which they loved. (success!) That led to being awarded the contract, (success!) and those 6 books just came out September 1st! (success!)

I feel as if I’m building on my 22 years of success as I now plan my debut book series launch party, and look forward to many more successes, big and small, in the future.

What I’ve learned is to cherish all the successes, and that my SCBWI family will cheer me on every step of the way (huge success!)

Here's another one of Claudia's "success!" moments...

More about Claudia:

Claudia Harrington launched her writing career in kindergarten with a poem called Scab On Her Head. Five-year-old literary passion eventually blossomed into poetic publication, including a piece in I Invited A Dragon To Dinner & Other Poems To Make You Laugh Out Loud (Philomel), a CBC Best Pick. Claudia soon found the SCBWI, a recharging station of kindred spirits, going on to lead the LA chapter as Regional Advisor for eleven years. She was recently honored with a nomination for their prestigious Sue Alexander Most Promising Manuscript Award. 

By day, Claudia sells homes in Los Angeles. By night, she conjures the writing spirits in hopes of a few juicy literary morsels. In her former life, she could be seen in commercials, film and television, thanks to her theatre degree from Northwestern University. She’s played everything from a woman giving birth in front of a young Bradley Whitford to a sex-starved magazine editor on The Young & The Restless to Mark Harmon’s nurse in an indie film. Despite the acting work, she remains grateful to her mother for forcing typing school on her so she’d have “something to fall back on” – novel revisions are brutal in longhand. 

When she’s not writing, Claudia juggles her wild and wacky assortment of kids, husband (singular) and a standard poodle who eats underwear. Check out her blog, home to bite-size bursts of inspiration from gems in the children’s book industry, at


rilla jaggia said...

Way to go, Claudia! Having the opportunity to meet and work with and learn from you counts as one my successes! Thank you and all the best. Rilla

Dow said...

Thank you for this encouraging post, Claudia!