Countdown to Muse 2022: Finding Your People by Autumn Allen

The Muse and the Marketplace 2022 is almost here! This year's conference is our first ever hybrid conference, taking place Wednesday, April 27th - Sunday, May 1st, with the Manuscript Mart taking place Wednesday, May 4th - Sunday, May 8th.

This year’s conference theme is “Finding Your People.” As writers, we may draft our work alone, but it takes many people to bring a creative project into the world — from family and friends, to fellow writers, instructors, publishing professionals, literary champions, and ultimately eager readers. Muse 2022 is celebrating all of the connections that enable and enrich our writing and literary lives. 

As we count down to the conference, we are asking presenters, agents, and editors to tell us about who has enabled or enriched their own writing or literary life, and how that relationship began. Our next presenter in the series is Autumn Allen, senior editor at Barefoot Books and author of Step On Board, forthcoming from Knopf in 2025.



My sister Shandalea is not a book addict like I am. But when I was in the middle of re-writing my young adult historical novel, somehow she started reading my manuscript and did not stop. 

Three of us were at her house. Shanda started reading the manuscript aloud to me and our friend Heather. They became engrossed, but could only manage a few chapters at a time, so we came back every two weeks to read more together. This series of meetings became the most satisfying experience of my writing career to date. 

Hearing someone else read my words was incredibly instructive. It helped me identify sentences that weren’t flowing, and I took notes as they stopped to ask clarifying questions or to object to certain details. They gave me their thoughts at the end of each scene and each chapter.

But the best part was seeing in real time what scenes made them react—when exactly they sat up to pay attention, when they laughed, gasped, needed a break, and when they cried. Experiencing all of this with them helped me to believe in my project again and to see that it mattered not only to me but to others. 

I had written the book to discover certain things, but in doing so, I managed to put experiences and emotions into words that were so validating for my intended audience that they clearly cared as much as I did about the book and its characters. For a few months, two important people in my life were as obsessed with my characters as I was, and that was the greatest gift they could have given me to encourage me along my journey.


Autumn Allen is a writer, an editor, an educator, and a reviewer of books for young people. She is a senior editor at Barefoot Books, a small, independent publisher of children’s books in Massachusetts, where she acquires and develops picture books. Autumn was the 2020-21 Writer in Residence selected by the Associates of the Boston Public Library, where she worked on her young adult novel, All You Have to Do, which also won a Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Her debut picture book, Step On Board, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, will be published by Knopf in 2025. Autumn teaches literature and leads book clubs and writing workshops for youth outside of traditional school settings. She writes book reviews for various publications and works as a consultant for publishers, libraries, and parent groups. Autumn’s work on writing, children’s books, and parenting has appeared on the We Need Diverse Books blog, Embrace Race, and the Calling Caldecott blog. Autumn holds master’s degrees in education, children’s literature, and writing for children, and has read hundreds of children’s books, with and without her children in her lap.



You can catch Anjali's virtual craft discussion, "Pacing, Pattern, and Plot: Polishing Your Picture Book Manuscript,” via Hopin at Muse 2022 from 2:00pm - 3:15pm on April 28th. Don't wait! Register for the Muse and the Marketplace 2022 today.

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