Writing dreams do come true: Virginia Castleman's road to Simon & Schuster
Frustrated by years of waiting for her book to get picked up by a publishing house, Virginia Castleman turned to self-publishing. Little did she know that this would lead her to being published by one of the industry’s “Big Five Trade Book Publishers,” Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Castleman will be a featured speaker at the 26th Annual TMCC Writers’ Conference on April 16. The Conference takes place on the main campus of Truckee Meadows Community College, 7000 Dandini Blvd. in Reno.
When: Saturday, Apr. 16, from 8:40 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
Where: Sierra Building, Dandini Campus
Castleman is also an English Instructor at TMCC.
Castleman’s publishing journey
Originally titled “Strays,” this middle grade (ages 8 to 12) novel about two sisters in the foster system languished for five years on the desks of various publishers.
“Each publisher would sit on my manuscript anywhere from eight months to two years to make a decision on whether they wanted it or not,” said Castleman. “I got to the point where I had the confidence to move forward and select a self-publishing printer.”
Castleman selected Archway Publishing primarily because it is an affiliate of Simon & Schuster, Inc., although at that time Simon & Schuster hadn’t picked up any of Archway’s books. After Castleman’s book was finished, Archway’s publisher contacted Simon & Schuster and told them he believed her book was award-worthy. Within three days of that meeting, an editor at Simon & Schuster’s Aladdin (their children’s imprint) called Castleman about having her book launch their new line featuring adopted and foster children.
While Archway had implemented light editing, Simon & Schuster’s Aladdin read it critically and had Castleman expand several areas of the story.
“They wanted me to make my main character more likeable,” she said. “They showed me there is a balance between ‘what is’ and ‘what’s marketable.’”
She was also delighted by the house handling most of the marketing, including contacting booksellers and sending copies to reviewers. To date, her book, retitled “Sara Lost and Found,” has garnered great reviews from Kirkus Review, Booklist and Goodreads. The hardcover edition was released in February of this year.
The TMCC Writers’ Conference
“Writing conferences like TMCC’s are key to establishing your network of experts,” Castleman said. “You can shave off years of learning by implementing the tips of successful authors, editors and agents.”
At the TMCC Writers’ Conference, Castleman will present a talk called "From Self-Publishing to Simon & Schuster".
Other speakers include screenwriter Paul Hoppe, poet and Nevada Writers Hall of Fame inductee Shaun Griffin, mystery novelist Todd Borg, editor and writing consultant Katie Reed and literary agents Michael Larsen, Douglas Lee and Jennifer Chen Tran.
Conference attendees will listen to sessions entitled:
- Techniques for Building Stress, Fear and Dread
- Thriving in the Golden Age for Writers
- The Perfect Pitch: Craft Queries That Sell
- Agents Question and Answer Panel Discussion
- Writing for Hollywood
- From Self-Publishing to Simon & Schuster
- Looking for Authenticity in a Poem
Optional private meetings with attending agents and an editor are available on a first-reserved, first-accommodated basis to conference participants for an additional $32.
The registration deadline for the regional TMCC Writers' Conference, which costs $119, is April 14. For full event details and to register, visit the WDCE Writers' Conference website.