Michelle Houts On Having A Dozen Published Books... And Still Working To Be Noticed

It’s time for a new interview series… like NOW. No really, actually it’s called NOW (Newly Omniscient Authors). This blog has been publishing since 2011, and some of the earlier posts feel too hopeful dated. To honor the relaunch of the site, I thought I’d invite some of my past guests to read and ruminate on their answers to questions from oh-so-long-ago to see what’s changed between then and now.

Today’s guest for the NOW is Michelle Houts, the award-winning author of a dozen books for young readers, ranging from picture books to middle-grade novels. She's an active speaker, engaging school children across the United States, presenting to teachers and librarians at conferences, and supporting up-and-coming writers via her own workshops and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Find her at www.michellehouts.com, on Facebook and on Twitter and Instagram.

Has how you think (and talk) about writing and publishing changed, further into your career?

Eleven books in (the 12th soon to be announced), I have now made writing my full-time job. In 2011, it was still a side thing, which gave me more freedom to NOT write if I had other things to do or just didn’t feel like it. Now, I must write daily. It’s my work. And it’s my passion.

Let’s talk about the balance between the creative versus the business side of the industry. Do you think of yourself as an artiste or are you analyzing every aspect of your story for marketability? Has that changed from your early perspective?

I still write from my heart and consider my work art. And we know that tastes in art are extremely subjective. Markets vary, trends change, and some books buck a trend and do it beautifully. Sea Glass Summer is a quiet picture book, and there isn’t supposed to be a good market for quiet books. But it has released to a starred review, an award nomination, and some absolutely lovely press.   


The bloom is off the rose… what’s faded for you, this far out from debut?

It’s always an uphill climb. A published book does not guarantee another published book. Being published doesn’t mean agents will knock on your door.  You have to work to be noticed. You have to do the hard thing. 

Likewise, is there anything you’ve grown to love (or at least accept) that you never thought you would?

I’ve grown to realize that I have something to share with adults. I’ve always loved talking to kids – put 500 in a room if you want and I’ll engage them. But I never felt very comfortable speaking in front of adults. I’ve grown to like (love is a strong word) talking to teachers and librarians about our shared journey to inspire young readers and spark a love of story in people of all ages.  

And lastly, what did getting published mean for you and how was it changed (or not changed!) your life?

Getting published – the first time and soon, the twelfth time – always feels like a miracle to me. Maybe even more so now than the first time it happened. Now I know how a manuscript has to earn its way to top of several heaps, many times over, before it is awarded that glorious contract. I’m still in awe of and grateful for every single “Yes.”