Nov 17

The Village Behind My Book Deal

by Hannah Holt »


Balzer+Bray has acquired my debut picture book Diamond|Man! Hooray! I’m so thrilled it’s hard to know where to begin talking about it.

This project is my heart in 700 words. It compares the life of my grandfather, H. Tracy Hall, to the natural process of changing graphite into diamond. It’s two stories with one beautiful ending.

My grandfather’s life was like a diamond furnace—born into poverty, bullied by peers, working at an early age; however, he took his unique skills and became one of the brightest inventors of the 20th century, eventually building a machine that made diamonds.

arthur ashe

I’ve been working on this project for many years. It’s been a long journey, and I haven’t done it alone. Here’s a brief {reverse} person-by-person path leading to my book deal:

  • Kristin Daly Rens at Balzer+Bray extended an offer for my grandfather’s biography, Diamond|Man, in 2016.
  • Kristin extended an offer because Laura Biagi (my agent) sent her my manuscript.
  • I met Laura through Michelle Hauck‘s online Picture Book Party contest.
  • I found Michelle’s contest through Julie Hedlund‘s 12×12 Writers’ Facebook Group.
  • I met Julie Hedlund at an SCBWI conference when I lived in Colorado.
  • I joined SCBWI because Elizabeth Glann encouraged me to.
  • I met Elizabeth Glann (my very first critique partner) by sending her a message on JacketFlap.com.
  • I was on JacketFlap because I was trying to find other writers in my area.
  • I was trying to find other writers because I read in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books that critique partners are helpful. (Note: I knew no other writers at this point.)
  • I read The Complete Idiots Guide to Publishing Children’s Books because it was one of the resources listed on Harold Underdown‘s website.
  • I found Harold Underdown’s website because I googled the phrase “How do you publish a picture book?”
  • I googled the phrase “How do you publish a picture book?” because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. (2008)

This is just one branch on my publishing journey–a limb on the tree of my writing experience. I couldn’t possibly name all the people I’ve met along the way, but here are few other key experiences for perspective:

  • My cousin Erin Bylund encouraged me to write the earliest drafts and inspired me to keep going.
  • Many critique partners offered feedback on the more than eighty drafts I wrote of this story. You are my heroes!
  • I know I already mentioned my agent, Laura, above but she deserves double mentioning. She worked on a revision with me for three months before we went on submission. I’m pretty sure she’s thought about every word in this story (as has my editor-extraordinaire, Kristin).
  • The Rutgers Council on Children’s Literature provided a generous scholarship that allowed me to attend their One-on-one Plus Conference.
  • Kate Jacobs, my mentor at the One-on-one Plus Conference, gave me excellent career advice that jump started my queries for agents.
  • My many writing friends who have given me advice and inspiration along the way.
  • My kids for their endless faith and energy.
  • Finally, my husband Josh has always being my biggest cheerleader.

When I signed the deal, I took a moment to reflect on all the people who helped me get here. A HUGE thank you to everyone whose been with me on this long but wonderful journey. It was worth the wait!

  1. Kirsten Larson

    Oh, Hannah, what an amazing journey. Congratulations! I can’t wait to hold your book in my hands one day.

    • Hannah Holt

      Thank you, Kirsten. Happy to be on this journey with you!

  2. Sarah Frank

    So fun and interesting to read the journey. I’m so excited for you and to read and see the final book! It brings tears to my eyes to see your success and that your first official publication is about Grandpa! Love you sister!

    • Hannah Holt

      Thanks, Sarah. My family is pretty awesome all around! Love ya, sis. :)

  3. Mom Holt

    Hannah, I firmly believe there is nothing you can’t do because you have a striving heart and a brilliant mind. I can hardly wait to see your book!

    • Hannah Holt

      Thanks, Mom Holt! You’ve been a great supporter, too!

  4. Evelyn

    YAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! Now I get to start telling everyone I see. Love you!!!

    • Hannah Holt

      All your immediate neighbors thank you. (I’m sure.) 😉 Love you buckets!

  5. Katrina Moore

    Congratulations, Hannah! Hooray for this book to be in the world soon. Glad we got connected through 12×12 and I get to cheer you on on this journey!

    • Hannah Holt

      Thanks, Katrina! So glad we connected. :)

  6. Diane Tulloch

    So proud of you! Knew it would get picked up soon. Has such a unique perspective and such an interesting story. Goooooo YOU!

    • Hannah Holt

      Thanks, Diane, for this and all the help along the way!

  7. Emily Johnsen

    You are an inspiration, Hannah! Congratulations!

    • Hannah Holt

      Thank you very much, Emily!

  8. Tina Cho

    I love how you wrote this post! So proud of you and your story. Can’t wait to see illos to accompany the beautiful words!

    • Hannah Holt

      Thanks, Tina! I’m excited for the illos as well! Lots of firsts to still look forward to. All the best!

  9. Alayne Kay Christian

    I love this post. Congratulations, Hannah. So super proud of you. Well earned!

    • Hannah Holt

      Thanks, Alayne! Your support has meant a lot to me.

  10. Sharon

    A huge congrats to you Hannah. I still remember that moment when I read your entry to PBPARTY. It blew me away. I can’t wait to add your book to my collection!

    • Hannah Holt

      Thank you Sharon! I wouldn’t be here without you and Michelle! :)

      • Sharon

        You are very welcome! And Michelle and I are so proud to be a tiny part of your wonderful journey.