Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A turning point

Now that we're all back to business, I'm ready to start thinking about what I hope to accomplish with my children's writing for 2010.

It feels like a "make or break" year for me. While 2009 was a great ride with Maggie's Monkeys getting published, I've been struggling with the truth that it doesn't seem to have been the "foot in the door" that we writers always believe the first book will be. (That may sound like a premature conclusion until you consider that the book was accepted and has been a credential on my cover letters for nearly four years now.)

Since that acceptance, I've received 59 more rejections -- five of them from the editor who bought MM. Of those five, only one sparked any real interest from her, but even after I made revisions to that story she declined it. That was hard.

If getting published is going to lead to getting published again, it seems like that will have to happen this year -- beyond that, even decent sales and nice reviews probably won't have much impact.

On the positive side of the balance sheet, I recently made contact with an editor who asked for revisions to a picture book manuscript that is one of my favorites and that has been well received by a couple of other editors (making it to the editorial board once before being rejected). I also have another project in first draft stage that I hope to get in editors' hands within a few months.

I reached the point once before in my 12 years of writing for children where I felt it was nearly time to give up. It was 2005 and I'd accumulated dozens of rejections. The frustration and disappointment were taking a toll on me. I promised myself I'd give this pursuit everything I could for a year so that I wouldn't have to second-guess myself afterwards if I quit. I spent a lot of time writing and rewriting, I submitted heavily and I even went to the Highlights workshop at Chautauqua, which was extremely hard for me -- and generally a miserable experience.

I did hone my skills during that time, but at first it didn't seem to make much difference. Then in November I got a positive editorial letter from Candlewick and made the revisions that led to the acceptance a couple of months later.

So I'm going to make my best effort again this year and hope it pays off. It's still my dream to be able to keep contributing to children's literature and I'm not quite ready to give up on it.

I'm wishing for success for all the other writers and illustrators who share that dream and are working hard to realize it. May 2010 be filled with all our phones ringing with "the call."