Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dragon Rider Nina Crittenden and a Prize!

As I was in the process of asking people to join Smart Dummies I realized that there were not enough dragons in the event nor were there enough diners. In order to save the event from being a complete disaster I knew there was only one person to call: Nina Crittenden. She had a fabulous journey getting her books published. Though she does not say so here: Nina did it all while riding on the back of a dragon.

In April of 2010, I sent out a postcard with this image on it:

In September of 2012 (five postcards later), I was delighted to receive an email from a publisher on my mailing list:

“Is there a story you’re working on, by chance, with Mel and his diner? We loved the art piece…”

There wasn’t a story yet, of course, so I started writing one (trying to keep all the things in mind that everyone tells you to as far as having consistent characters, proper pacing, great page turns, etc…). It took me a really long time to get it ready to send out. In April of 2013, I finally submitted it to the publisher who had contacted me. I hoped that she would love Mel, Flip, Darla, Ralph, and Stella as much as I did.

I showed a very dear friend of mine my dummy and he said he thought I was ready to submit my work to an agent. He asked his agent (whom I held in the highest esteem and hoped to submit to someday) if she would consider looking at my work, and she said yes! I was thrilled and quickly sent her off a letter, my dummy, and a ton of postcards. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

One month later, my dummy returned to me in the mail from the publisher with a very nice letter that included the following sad part:

“Unfortunately, after careful consideration, we do not feel that we could be successful with your work.”

I was crushed. Absolutely crushed. Still sad about it to this day, the truth be told. But I loved my characters so I made a new postcard for them that I was really proud of.

In the end, my dummy wasn’t ready for publication, but it helped me connect with a fabulous agent, and for that I will be forever grateful. I signed on with Teresa Kietlinski of Prospect Agency in August of 2013 and have since illustrated a picture book called Chicken Lily that will be published by Henry Holt in March of 2016. I am also happy to report that I currently have some board book dummies out on submission that have been getting some very nice rejections and a couple nice nibbles, so I am typing this right now with my fingers crossed.

Keep drawing, keep writing, every cloud has a silver lining



One lucky winner will get a copy of "Cedric and the Dragon" Written by Elizabeth Raum and Illustrated by Nina Crittenden!


  1. Thanks for the encouraging post - love Mel's Diner! :)

  2. Thanks for this post about finding positivity even in disappointment. I find your Mel's Diner spreads so charming, and something I would love to read. Maybe your dummy is ready, but you just haven't found the right publisher. Or maybe it's not ready, but very close to it. I hope you keep it handy for the right opportunity - it obviously has a lot of love and care in it!

  3. Thank you for sharing your story and I love your dragon :)

  4. Perserverence and persistance! Thanks for the reminder that it's not all about getting published. We can be proud of what we accomplish and know that we are learning and growing as artist, illustrators, and storytellers. Even if we don't get published with this dummy, our work may pay off in the future.

  5. Dear Doreen, Aijung, Sussu, and Marla: Thank you! I think I might have an idea how to either fix my dummy now or take it in a bit of a different direction, it takes me a long time to sort these things out. Keep writing and drawing and working hard, you can do it! Good luck with your dummies! :)
    p.s. Thank you again so much, Dani!

  6. Thank you Nina for posting all of everything you've experienced here. I just finished my "Smart Dummy" for Dani Duck's September challenge, and have learned a ton of stuff. I don't think it's quite ready for sending off, but I now know which areas I have to work on harder. I just want to keep working on this. Thanks for your encouragement.

  7. Sure will be looking for your Cedric and the Dragon - looks like a ton of fun!!!

  8. I love the diner! Love the characters!