I thought I would offer some support for those of you still working towards your first publication – or those of you who have published and are still working to build an audience:
Remember to keep your eye on the prize. Despite the roadblocks, the hard work, the endless revisions (hint: before you ever submit), the self doubt, the rejections (some kind, some not), the “why don’t you get a real job” looks from friends and strangers, and wondering if what you do ever makes a difference . . . .
I wanted to share a recent encounter. A month ago I received a note from a teacher about a student in her fourth grade class:
” . . . I wanted you to know that a boy in my room grabbed your book off of my shelf to read. Mom said she caught him reading when he was supposed to be asleep last night and at school he’s trying to read while he’s supposed to be working, listening, writing, lining up, or working on his project. When he’s done I’ll tell have him send a message about what he liked about it. . . . “
A few weeks later she sent his book report – what follows is verbatim the letter (and the spelling). I have inserted the word SPOILER where he talks about details that would ruin the experience for those who might decide to read the book himself some day.
“….The lost tribes is my new all time favorite book. I really like it because first off it has a strange start where Ben’s uncle (uncle Henry) gives him the weird disc that readers don’t have any idea what it does and if the game is really just a little secret thing to up his grades? Plus they (the kids) find out (SPOILER)!!!! My favorite part is when they found out their clan and what (SPOILER). One thing that I really liked was that it was sorta mysterious in a way. I thought the parents were just secret thief/explorers but no! They were (again in all caps) (SPOILER). Man the story ties up magnificently! And Ben being able to (SPOILER) , mind blown! And I really liked on every chapter you put a wise but different quote to tell the readers. But the ending? TOTAL CLIFFHANGER! You have to make a sequel! (If you have not already made one). I know this is a review but I have to ask some questions. Here they are: Did you make up any of the wise quote on any of the chapters. Are you going to make a sequel if you have not already? Are the parents ever going to be found? And last but totally not least Are the kids ever going to (SPOILER). If it was not for my teacher I would have never read the book (well maybe but it would had taken a while to find out of the blue) because she had it in her library and she said it would be a pretty good book for me but no, it was a excellent book for me! By (if you’re wondering) (Name deleted for privacy)
So you know I couldn’t let that go. I sent back a note with the answers to his questions. And then took it one step forward. With permission from his parents and the administration, I drove 35 minutes to deliver a surprise on the last day of school. I walked into the classroom and handed him an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of the sequel to the story which would be a sneak peek of the hardcover that is releasing in November. It would answer some of his questions and create new ones. The teacher made it clear to the class that he was getting a copy of a book that only a handful of book reviewers would get to read over the next few months.
That lead to twenty minutes of questions from students who wanted to know about being a writer and asking if the teacher still had a copy of the first book for them to read. She did. I left an extra copy to supplement.
All this for a book that had been rejected multiple times over fourteen years and that I’d almost given up on until one of my editors told me she’d still remembered it from a conference years ago and would I send it to her new imprint for consideration. I’d literally tossed it in a drawer when she called. I still have the message saved on my cell phone years later. That’s how much that message meant to me.
Keep your eye on the prize. While the business of publishing can often be a brutal soul sucking experience – and there are often many barriers to entry – the reason why we write is to delight a child. To turn them into life-long, self-sustaining independent readers. If I had any doubts that I was making a difference – this book report, and the comments that are pouring in from teachers about similar children’s responses – kids who don’t always “fit” the mold reminds me that what we do counts.
In the end – no matter what people have to say about your work – keep going. Despite the gatekeepers who may throw obstacles in your way (sometimes for good reason, and sometimes because they can’t see the sales potential) don’t give up. Keep going until you find the editor/publisher who “gets” your work. Keep going until you know, for sure, you’ve crafted a book that is immersive. Keep your eye on the prize. It’s the child reader we write for. THAT is what matters.
As Danine (a character in the series) would say – “Many blessings on your journey,”