May 8, 2011

My picture books

Writing is something I have done since I was a young child. My very first book was entitled "Puppy Love" about a young girl who desperately wanted a kitten, but discovered joy when receiving a puppy, instead. My book was professionally bound by cardboard and staples. It was my most prized possession. I also carried around a pocket-sized notebook that contained my stories, usually inspired by a summer storm. I remember sitting in the darkened living room with my pen and pad, listening to the thunder and writing some story of impending doom. Those stories usually began with, "It was a dark and stormy night" and ended with a cemetery scene. To this day, I still crave stories with cemeteries.

Publishing a book never even occurred to me until I submitted "Duck Feet," a picture book I created for my eighth grade English class.

After it had been graded, my student teacher boldly left a note encouraging me to submit it for publication. Out of the question. I was holding onto gold! There was no way I was going to part with my millionaire-dollar story! Too bad I didn't know that you don't actually mail in the book itself. That teacher, however, did instill a desire to keep creating picture books, and years later, a desire to submit my work for publication.

The first story I ever submitted was in 2004 entitled "The Shepherd and the King." It tells the story of how a young shepherd boy gives bread to a homeless man, only to discover that he has just fed the king. As a token to remind the boy to always do what's right, a silver ring is placed in his care. Years later, when the boy as a man meets the king once again, he cries that he has failed to do his job. The king embraces him, and explains that those who have known the shepherd have also known the king. "You have proven worthy by living by your ring. You're not just a shepherd; you've grown into a king."

I later submitted "Harvey's Joke" about a squirrel who hates April Fool's Day.

Harvey was notorious for playing pranks, but this year, Maurice was going to put a stop to them once and for all, only to get the prank of his life.

After several rejections, this story was finally printed in the Herald Journal in 2007. Unfortunately, since this story was not accompanied by any pictures, I'm sure that the readers were left to wonder why this "Harvey" character ate Bark Crunch for breakfast!

"Pirate ABC's" is a rhyming picture book that was also rejected, although it is lovingly read by my children (bound, of course, by cardboard and twine). In this book, a pirate's adventurous life is revealed from treasure hunting to sending men to the plank. "W is walking the plank bound and blind; X marks the spot that we sailed here to find."

The next story I submitted was "Waiting for Halloween."

Anxious for Halloween, Baby Bear asks his mother when his favorite holiday will come. She responds with, "First, it has to get cold. Then, the leaves will turn yellow, orange and red, and they will fall from the trees. After that, we’ll put pumpkins on the front porch. Once we carve them into jack-o-lanterns, then Halloween will be here.” Can you guess what happened with this manuscript? Yup. Rejected. But at least my son actually ASKS specifically for that book to be read to him.

"My Day With Dad" is my latest submission. I actually sent it in for the Cheerios New Author's contest to be printed as a book to be given away with each box of cereal. It's about a young child who spends a windy day with his father exploring the adventures that blow with the wind.

Lastly, the current story I am getting ready for submission is a humorous account of my past dating experiences. I am still working on the title and changing things around a bit to get the feel I'm looking for. The titles I have used so far are "Laughing at Love," "Glass Slippers Don't Go With My Shirts," "Cupid For Hire" and "The Incredible Misfortunes of Love." I'm thinking of using something with "Mr. Wrong," but I'm not quite sure exactly. Who knew that the title would be so difficult to come up with?! Do any of those titles sound appealing to anyone out there?

What's important here is that trying to get published is not an easy task. Each year, I check out the Writer's Market book and search for literary agents and publishers who are looking specifically for the type of writing I do, and I send in about twenty different queries (not easy on the wallet, in case you were wondering). Do not send in a query letter for a genre they are NOT looking for, because it is the fastest way to get rejected. There's nothing wrong with sending in several manuscripts in a row to the same literary agent (after each rejection, that is). Literary agent Sarah Megibow advised us to "just pretend that you are new, because I'm not going to remember you." I always felt awkward sending in my same query letter (with the pitch paragraph different, of course)because I thought they would think I was a loser for trying with them again. Fear not! We won't be remembered! (That IS good, right?) If you love something enough, keep trying. Success won't come if you wait for it to find you. Good luck!

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