The Happy Secret I’ve Been Keeping…

How to write a creative book proposal

Last November I received an email that would literally change the way I think about Deep Space Sparkle.  An agent in New York wrote to me and asked if I would consider writing a book about art.

Hmmm. Let me think about that…

Sure!

I was a little more excited than that. Books are a huge love of mine.  I spent ten years writing middle grade stories and as many years attending SCBWI workshops and conferences, meeting in coffee shops for critiques and revising every spare moment I got.

But three years ago, I stopped.

Deep Space Sparkle was really picking up steam. Managing the blog, my shop, teaching full time and raising my kids was more than enough.

I always knew that publishing a hard copy of Deep Space Sparkle was something many of my readers were asking for.  I knew that going from blog to book was a very real possibility as many of my favorite bloggers were producing books, yet I still didn’t pursue it.

Can I just tell you how good and validating it felt to have an agent approach me instead of the other way around?

 

What Its Like Writing A Book Proposal

After a couple of calls with the agent teasing out a book concept, she asked me to produce a bio, a media kit and a few more informational pages about Deep Space Sparkle.

Despite not really knowing what these pages should look like, I decided to design the media kit to reflect the visual elements of my blog. This was easy peasy (and a lot of fun) for me. Translating Google Analytics, especially when page views and user visits aren’t necessarily that important to you business, was hard. I felt like my numbers were abysmal. My social media stats were kind of pathetic. It’s strange how numbers twist your perspective on your self-worth because after looking at my social media and web stats and compared them with others popular sites, I felt like I had been wasting all these years building not trying to build my audience.

So much for letting things grow organically. I vowed to put more effort into growing my stats (which I still haven’t done, by the way).

After my media kit passed the test, so to speak, we were onto the next step of the book proposal: Writing the Intro and a few chapters.

We settled on an art-at-home theme. No school or academic vernacular. No standards. No technique verbiage. Just art for the parent around the kitchen table. I was excited about this but in hindsight, I was a little unprepared for the difference. I began a first draft of the proposal in January and it took me FOR-EV-VAH. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to craft a voice that wasn’t school-oriented.

Eventually, I dialed in and was able to write an introduction and a few chapters about teaching art at home. I gave the draft to my husband–who as you all know is a computer engineer and a concise communicator–and he grimaced.

First of all, I wasn’t writing in my voice but some strange person’s voice who wanted to be funny. And I’m not naturally funny so it didn’t quite work. Plus, I was writing in some futuristic tense–telling my readers what I intended to do instead of what to do.

Strange first draft especially after all my years of writing conferences and workshops.

 

How writing the introduction changed the way I looked at DSS

I didn’t show this draft to my agent (for obvious reasons) and took a step back to examine who this book could serve and why it would matter to them.

After becoming clear on my book’s intention (to provide easy steps to teach children to draw and paint without any art experience) I settled into writing with a clear head.

But some issues surfaced.

I loved the art-at-home direction but I realized that I had no real experience teaching art at home. Sure, I did art with my own kids but that felt so long ago. Questions surfaced. What’s it like to teach art with 4 siblings of different ages? What does prep look like? What about timing? Does it take a six-year old and his mom longer to complete a project than in a classroom with twenty kids and an experienced art teacher?

To find out, I knew I had to create my own home art studio.

I knew the moment I said this out loud to Neil that my business and my role as an art teacher was about to change.

 

Because of the book, I had to make a really difficult decision.

Teaching and prepping two days (11 classes) a week is not a full schedule. But running the blog, producing content and writing a book is.

Something would have to go.

Last Spring, I felt the burden of teaching all grade levels plus doing all the extra work that is required of an art teacher plus running my business. I was overworked. Could I add writing a book and teaching art at home to my workweek?

No. It would be too much.

I told my principal that in the Fall, I could work one day a week. I had no idea what that would look like for the school or for me.

My Principal was amazing. Just last week she offered me the opportunity to teach 5th and 6th grade in whatever schedule or time frame worked for me. I’m embarrassed to have even requested the one day knowing full well that such a request is almost impossible for an administration to work around.

I truly had no idea what would come out of my request. I’m not sure what concession were made to make this work, but I’m so thankful. I can still do my 6th ceramic tile mural project that has become a tradition at my school and one that I started so many years ago.

Am I sad that I’m no longer the K-6 teacher?

Actually, much more than I anticipated. I love working with the younger kids, especially the sweet Kinders. I’m having a hard time picturing my week without them.

But it all works out, right?

I’ll be able to have a smaller group of kids in my home art studio to work on projects in a far more intimate setting. This will become the raw materials for the book and a video series I intend to produce. The one thing I’m excited about is sharing the art at home projects with my DSS audience. It’ll be fun taking pictures of the kids and their process.

 

What’s Next?

I finished my book proposal yesterday. After starting in January, working through two drafts, selecting lesson ideas, researching comparative titles, writing the  overview (hardest part by far) and working out a title (thank you Facebook Fans for helping me. And thanks to Laura from Painted Paper who suggested I stick with my own copy…Art Made Easy for the title. That’s what worked in the end), the proposal is now in the hands of my agent to work her magic.

I feel very happy with this experience. It forced me to think about the purpose of the book, how it could help others and how my blog can continue to provide inspiration and resources for both school art teachers and at-home teachers.

I accept that I may not get a book deal.

I accept that I may not accept a book deal.

I do feel very confident though that if I get to write a book, it will be one of the best things I will ever do. And many little kids will benefit from it.

And because of that, I’m happy.

 

Do you have any questions about writing a book proposal? Especially a proposal for a creative industry? I’m happy to provide as much help as I can, so ask away…

Be sure to subscribe to my free weekly newsletter to receive updates on how the book is coming along.

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  • Davinie Fiero

    Congratulations! You are my #1 resource for Art in the classroom and I couldn’t be happier for you and this next step! Taking a step back from the classroom will actually allow you to take more steps into classrooms all over the world thanks to your experience and vision for how art can be taught! Be excited about that!

  • Tristan

    What an adventure! I look forward to hearing what comes next for you. Just an idea – you can always mine the homeschool population for an idea of what it is like teaching mixed ages at home. 😉 For example I’m momma to 8 going on 9 children, ages 14, 10, 9, 7, 6, 4, 3, 2, plus baby coming this fall. We do art in many ways and sometimes it is simply a matter of offering age appropriate materials (a washable marker for younger ones and brush pens the older children are using), a defined limit (you may use three pieces of paper and you may not get up from the table), and lots of encouragement (wow! that is really neat. What are you going to do with that? Tell me about it!)

  • Shalae Tippetts

    I am so excited about this new direction for you! I am a Art education teacher, and loved teaching art in the school, but my children brought me home and then I brought them home to homeschool, and we have loved doing it. I have loved being able to do art with them on the home level, and yet still getting in my own art as well as being able to use my art education skills that I learned in my college and career. I’ve been not able to teach classes on the local level and have loved doing it! I’m so excited for this resource, and for you to enjoy making art on the less stress/standard/at home approach, that gives you so much flexibility!

  • Cheryl Trowbridge

    Wow!! Congrats on this exciting news… I know your book will be amazing! So happy for you, and for everyone who will benefit from the inspiring ideas you’ll share!!

  • Stacy Mikkelson

    I love your blog and website. I go to it very often and love to teach using it. I have passed it on to countless others and will definitely buy your book! Congratulations!

  • bobbi

    Congratulations!! Very happy for you!! I love Deep Space Sparkle – hope the site will remain available.

  • Sue Stirling

    I was so excited when I found Deep Space Sparkle some years ago. Congratulations on the book. I truly pray we see it in print very soon!
    All the best from a keen K-3 teacher
    Sue

  • Bernadette

    Thanks for sharing a part of an unfolding story of your love of art, teaching and children. How can you go wrong? I am excited for you and can’t wait for your book to be published. You have a book inside you waiting to come out, waiting to share with others. In time, it will happen, I am sure.
    God bless you and your new adventure. Thanks for keeping us posted on your changes and progress.
    Bernadette

    • Patty Palmer

      Thank you, Bernadette. Love what you wrote here. There is a book inside me and if the time is right, it will come out. Thanks for your note.

  • Rachel Y

    Wow, that’s great news! Congratulations!!! As a home educator who has been using your fabulous resourcecs for the last three+ years since I found your site, I am 100% confident that you will be able to write a book for “at home” art – and it will be on my Amazon wishlist as soon as it is available!
    Looking forward to hearing more about it as your journey progresses 🙂

  • Lee

    Congratulations Patty I love your website and I can’t wait to see the fantastic book you will create !
    Lee Robb x

    • Nancy

      Hi Patty-I’ve been reading your blog and listening to your podcasts and find them so inspiring!! Thank you for generously sharing your knowledge and experiences as you are growing in the creative field. Your voice is unique, informative and intellectually engaging. I teach elementary art in CT and your lessons are always THE BEST!!!

  • Lesly Cardenas

    So happy for you! Wish you the best! you are an inspiration to me as a art teacher, entrepreneur and business woman. Thank you Patty for all your inspiration!

  • Elizabeth Bullard

    I used your lessons all the time (and Painted Paper) when I taught art at my Montessori School. Hooray for you and I can’t wait to see your book! I still save art lessons in a folder. I keep thinking I’ll still teach are someday, somewhere. Congratulations!

  • Debora Young

    What a wonderful story; you have given so much, with the freebies, the well thought out lessons,
    everything that you share. This impending book deal is wonderful news, and I hope you make it happen! Bravo…..

  • Anne Glasser

    Confession: As I was reading your blog I was so excited (Admittedly, a wee bit jealous because I’ve always wanted to write), until I got to the point where you were going to have to let something go. I was *terrified* that it was going to be this site! You see, this site is my #1 art resource for our homeschool art class! I *need* this site! Imagine the relief and once again, sheer joy, that you were going to keep this site going.

    I want to wish you the best in this adventure of writing. *If* you do make a book, I will be buying one!! I have tried a bunch of different art sites and yours is, by far, the easiest to understand and follow with directions. Also, your prices are very reasonable. I value your site so much and you’ve contributed in such a positive way to our homeschooling adventure.

    Thank you for being such an AWESOME teacher!!

    Sincerely and super gratefully,

    Anne 🙂

    • Patty Palmer

      Haha…so sorry to have scared you! The site is here to stay. I love it too much! You put a smile on my face for sure!

  • Ying-ya

    We have been using your resources at home for many years; you are our favorite teacher. Though your material is designed for teaching at school, we found they are also very suitable for implementing at home. It is great you are spreading your knowledge to a population outside of traditional school setting; many families will for sure benefit from this. Thank you for sharing, our lives are richer because of you.

  • Rebecca

    A book! Put me on the pre-order list. You have so many awesome ideas to share- and the smarts and skill to communicate beautifully. I am not at all surprised at your administration’s willingness to accommodate your schedule… You are an incredible asset to your school. I thank your family and colleagues for supporting you because your blog, lessons, and hopefully a future book are an inspiration to many! Thank you for sharing this exciting opportunity and new challenge. I wish my family lived close enough to participate in your home art studio– some seriously lucky kids!

    • Patty Palmer

      Thank you, Rebecca. So nice to read this. Actually, all of these comments have caught me a bit off guard. Such lovely, lovely sentiments from everyone. Thanks so much.

  • Kristen

    Wow! What a Journey! My girl (your biggest 10 year old fan) would be so jealous of the kids who get to come into your home. Too bad we live a few hours away. She had even asked if she could attend the art teacher’s workshop with me. She watches ALL of your videos. I’ve been following along since the very first Eric Carle lessons. My kids too. I’ve hosted friends. We’ve had groups of 5-12. And there’s a 4 year age gap in that group of kids. We’ve had successes and failures. But mostly…we’ve had FUN! Just to let you know, I don’t rush my kids…so our lessons usually take longer than you’ve said. But no one minds. km

    • Patty Palmer

      Okay. I need to meet your daughter. How far away are you? Would she be willing to come up to SB to participate in one of the project making workshops? Email me!

  • britainearl@yahoo.com

    that is super exciting news! i started teaching art at home about 4 years ago to my kids, (then 6, 4, and 2) and have used your lessons. it help reinvigorate my love of art and art history. now my kids beg for art lessons, they are now 10, 8, 6, 4, and 2. thank you for your continued inspiration!

  • Sarah

    Wow! Congratulations Patty! You’re me go-to for art help. Your down-to-earth, simple, and informative explanations make art fun and easy for children of all ages (I include myself in this group). Just today I was teaching my 4th grade students how to draw toucans using your video and handouts from your Art School course. At first they were hesitant because they were intimidated. I told them, “Don’t worry, you’ll feel much better after practicing with Ms. Patty.” And they did! They can’t wait to make their Tempera Toucans next week which we’re using as our Square 1 Art project. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and talent. Some people have a knack at reaching out to others–you’ve got it! I will definitely be interested in buying your book! Best of luck and glad you got to hold on to your 5th and 6th grade classes. Your school obviously recognizes your worth. What a nice feeling!

    • Patty Palmer

      Oh, I just love hearing this! So happy that the kids liked the project. It’s one of my favorites :). And thanks for your lovely words. So thankful for you all!

  • Ami

    Patty,

    I am so excited to read about your adventure with publishing a book; I really hope it comes to fruition!

    P.S. Don’t worry about numbers. Numbers-schumbers. I bet your following is 100% organic. Not every big-name blogger can say that. 🙂

  • Darlene

    Patty – I am a homeschooling mom of 2 (6 yrs and 4 yrs). We love your lessons. I did the Kindergarten Art School for Kids videos with both girls and plan to very soon purchase the 1st grade videos. We have also do many other of your lessons. I say “we” because I have done all the lessons too. I do them just as much for me and for my girls. Art and creativity has become a huge part of our everyday lives. And your site and lessons have played a major role in that. Thank you! Your lessons and blog are so inspirational. I have even gone through the Teaching Art 101 course. I did this so I could feel more confident in my own artistic ability and to better guide my children. You have helped me be able to consider myself an artist. I love creating and sharing art with my children.

  • Robin Hooper

    How AMAZING! I have had a book idea floating around in my head for a number of years. My problem is getting it started. I think what you are doing is very impressive and a huge inspiration for the rest of us. Once your book is published I would LOVE a signed copy!!!! If you get overly stressed, I have found YOGA a wonderful stress reliever!

    ENJOY,
    Robin

  • Mary

    Congrats Patty! You are always inspiring – very happy for you!

  • Mary Wallace

    Patty I am so thrilled for you. Envigorating to step outside the comfort zone. You are well on your way and I have no doubt that your book will be published and a great success.

    You have been inspirational to many, including myself. I am an artist with a strong participative Art in the Community practice. This Summer prompted by your post I decided to do a workshop for children in my studio. I enjoyed it immensely. Thanks to your post for giving me that extra nudge. It was all I needed!!

  • stephanie Needham

    I am so proud of you and so grateful for all the advice and help you have offered to our community of artists and teachers. I wish you all the luck and success anyone could have. I feel blessed to be in the loop of your teaching. Godspeed!

    • Patty Palmer

      Thank you so much, Stephanie. You have always been such a great supporter for me. So appreciate your words.

  • Talitha

    I love your stuff and actually used many of your lessons as inspiration for my all-girl’s camp I hosted this summer (I am not an art teacher, but a graphic designer by trade, and my twin girls and I just love art projects). I’m so excited about your new venture, but I’d just like to know what program you use for your newsletters. You can certainly email me separately. Thanks so much and best of luck!

    • Patty Palmer

      Hi Tabitha,
      So happy to hear about your all-girl’s camp. Would have loved that as a girl!
      I use Mailchimp for my newsletters. They provide templates that makes it a cinch to create your newsletter. You’ll love it.

  • Renee Adams

    Dear Patty,
    Wow! So very proud of you. How exciting! Let’s just say that I will be first in line to buy your book!

  • Lucy

    Congrats, Patty! You have an amazing capacity – to learn and teach and share and inspire. I know your book will be awesome because it comes from such love and passion for what you do. Thank you again for helping so many of us bring creative joy to so many!

  • jmbaldry@shaw.ca

    Congratulations, Patty! I have waited for sooooo long to find a book that would guide me through my art classes at school. Go get em girl! Where do I sign up for the book?
    Jan in Canada

  • Marcia Beckett

    Congrats, Patty! That is awesome. Best of luck writing your book. I’m sure you will balance everything. You have done so much in your career already 🙂 I’ll definitely read your book when it comes out.

  • Sherri Denora

    Patty this is fantastic! I hope the book works out. I will certainly be buying it. You have saved my butt so many times when I was scrambling to come up with new ideas for my kinders. Every project of yours I’ve used has been a winner! Good luck!

  • Mimi Williams

    Congratulations, I hope the book is a huge success. Sign me up for a pre-order.
    Sincerely,
    Mimi Williams

  • Monique Monmonier-Birch

    Patty,
    I attended your Santa Barbara workshop this summer – it was a great day…one in which I cherished being the elementary school student! I have been a teacher for 20 years and an artist forever as I know it! I have to say the quality of your lesson development is something that I rarely see! My husband is a high school science teacher – we talk lesson planning a lot. In the nine hour drive home, I couldn’t stop reflecting on the way that you develop a lesson – creating a chronological sequence that begins with clarity and purpose, transitions at just the right place with concise, simple language, and concludes with unpredictable suprises creating that “a ha” moment instilling confidence and success in budding artists! Any educator involved in curriculum or lesson development will recognize that your delivery is “spot on”! Your book has so much to offer the classroom and at home teacher well beyond the subject of art. Best wishes, Monique

    • Patty Palmer

      Oh my goodness, Monique. What a wonderful comment to read this morning. I have never really thought about the sequencing of my lessons from a planning point of view, only what would make sense for a kid. I’m so pleased you liked the workshop. You never really know what people expect and you can only do what you do best. So, super happy that it worked for you!
      Thank you so much for making my day!

  • Karen Henry

    Patty,

    Let me just say,…congratulations! Well deserved. I can’t wait to buy your book. I am sure it will be amazing. I also want to thank you for the freebie “Art Project Checklist”! It is exactly what I needed to organize and plan art projects for my kiddos that I home school. You have been very generous with giving many freebies, tips, and ideas to all of us who follow and read your blog/website. A giving lady is also a deserving lady!

    Best wishes on your book,
    Karen Henry

  • Bethany

    I love your site and art projects. I homeschool 5 kids and have used your projects over a span of ages. They work great! I’m so excited about your book!

  • Anita McKown

    Wow! This will be an amazing journey for you! You may have a few stretch marks before you’re finished, but they’ll be the good kind! Can’t wait to buy your book!

    I’m a huge fan of yours, and if it weren’t for you, there would be no beautiful tile mural installed in the foyer of our school, made by our students, instructed by a classroom teacher (me) who’d never worked with ceramics and never taken any art classes outside of those required for an elementary ed degree. But on your website you made it seem possible, your directions were clear, and so we plunged ahead. We love our completed mural! It’s ours, it’s one of a kind, and we’re so proud. As for me, I have stretch marks and they feel so good!

    Thank you, thank you!

    Anita

  • Liza Mathews

    So cool! See what happens when you follow your passion? I love it! Now your audience can widen and deepen and that’s a wonderful thing. Keep creating and sharing!

  • ajg198@gmail.com

    Patty,

    I will definitely buy your book when it’s out. Your ideas and projects have made me a better teacher and I am known at my preschool as “the artist!” I always tell new teachers and teaching students about your website!

  • Heidi Easley

    SO HAPPY and excited to buy this book Patty!!! You are so talented at what you do and it makes me a little sad to know you struggled with your direction, but I know because of the struggle the book will be PERFECT! Can’t wait to purchase!

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