Monday, July 25, 2011

Writer's News

Photo by Lucas

My picture book In Search of Awe was awarded Honorable Mention by the Alabama Writer's Conclave.  This very story was critiqued as part of Editor's Day in Lexington, Kentucky.  In fact, all attendees had the opportunity to have their work critiqued for a small fee.  Editor Maggie Lehrman of Abrams Books thought that the story would work better as a middle grade book.  Hmmm....this would take some time to develop, but it may be worth pursuing. 

My other picture book Maggie and the Third Grade Blues has a slightly new title, based on the first-page critique I received at Editor’s Day:  Maggie and the First Grade Blues.  Maggie Lehrman reminded me that the book should appeal to much younger children.  Though basically the same story, the text was modified to engage a younger audience.  

I am approaching my goal of contacting 30 publishers—only 3 more to go.  But, I will submit to Abrams first, since I have a better understanding of their needs following Editor’s Day.  Out of 13 agents, 8 responded with a no thank you.  I will submit to two more agents this summer to bring the total to 15, as planned. 

If I receive negative responses from Abrams and the agents, I will have to weigh whether to continue to submit my book to others (but of course, I’m staying positive).   My goal is to continue to submit to many more publishers and agents.  I keep in mind that many children’s writers have faced rejection.  For instance, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was rejected multiple times.  J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected 12 times.  She reminds all of us:  Never accept rejection. Perseverance is key.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting Gutsy

A few weeks ago, my family and I took a vacation to Carter Caves State Resort Park, about ninety miles east of Lexington, Kentucky.  We planned to hike, go caving, and ride horses.  The first day was stormy, so we opted to go into one of the caves.  Inside, it was cool and damp.  As our guide flashed his light upward, we marveled at bats nestling on the ceiling and at the knobby stalactites hanging overheard.  We sloshed deeper into the cave, twisting and winding past limestone formations for about forty minutes until we ended near another opening, out into sunshine.  We decided to take advantage of the nice weather and hike into the forest.   

The trails were dry despite the earlier downpour.  On one path we discovered three natural stone bridges.  Along the way we encountered deer peering at us with frozen stares.  Though we never saw them, woodpeckers rapped tree trunks and rufous-sided towhees warbled “drink your tea.”  After the long hike, we headed for our cottage which cozied up to the edge of the forest.  Before going inside, we spotted a red bird that looked like a cardinal, but without the black facial marking.  I had a hunch that the brilliantly colored bird was a summer  tanager.

The next morning I sat outside on the deck with my breakfast.  I had a piece of paper handy to help me work out minor edits for my picture book story.  But I was stumped.  My muse had not bothered to show.  I'd write a sentence and then scribble it out.  So I put my pen down.  I gazed upon oaks leaves glistening with patches of sunlight.  Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a deer and a fawn foraging.  So peaceful, so quiet.  Then a  summer tanager flew to the railing.  I quickly stepped inside to grab a camera.  Just in time, I captured its image as it perched on my cereal bowl and then hopped to my plate to snatch morsels of blueberry muffin. 

Maybe this bird had humans figured out: getting gutsy gets a reward—a free meal. At that moment I realized that I too, had to get gutsy.  I had a deadline, (the end of summer) so I had to attempt to put something down, anything.  It didn't have to be perfect.  

I could have put off writing until my muse returned, but it wouldn't have been gutsy.  Gutsy means writing even when the muse is not present.   Getting a few words down was the goal.  Polishing them would come later.  Concentrating on moving forward was key.  And so I began.  The words did not flow,  but I managed just enough for a good start.  Those few words were my reward.  They led me closer to where I need to be.