Spencer, Molly, Charlie, and Pierce--at the zoo in Amarillo
(wearing their colors for easy identification).
The first book I wrote was a children’s picture book. It came to fruition only after my sister graciously let me come stay with her and her husband at their home in Amarillo, TX. I’d completed the written story and I needed some intensive work time to get all the illustrations done.
Having four toddlers to take care of was making it clear that I wouldn’t get to it anytime soon. So my sister agreed to take care of the kids while I worked in their home office, shut away from the chaos.
In a week of concentrated work, I drew all the illustrations for the “dummy” book—a mock up used to sell picture books that was used 20 years ago in sales pitches. (I don’t even know how they do it anymore. Probably on a tablet.) I also completed three or four paintings for the actual illustrations, just to include in the pitches I’d give to editors to help them visualize how the final book could look, even if I were not the final illustrator. The mock up had to be 16 or 32 or 64 pages (increments of 16), because those were the number of pages that “signatures” were printed—those are the chunks of pages you seen in hardcover books that look like pages folded together inside the binding. A typical picture book runs 32 or 64. I went with the most—64—because, first time out on anything I try, I have to find the hardest way to do it. What fun would it be if it was not totally complicated and overwhelming to do?
When I returned home from the week in Texas, I put together my “dummies” and sent them to three editors. The day one landed on the desk of one of the editors, she called me, interested in buying the book. Little did I know how rare that was. I just thought that’s what happened. You make a book. You pitch a book. You sell a book. Little did I know, is right! We talked and made some tentative plans. She called with follow up and said there was some activity going on with the structure of the company, so we’d need to just wait a couple of week for all the dust to settle and we’d go from there.
Two months later, I couldn’t find her. It turns out, her publishing company was swallowed up by another publishing house. (It was a harbinger of things to come with oh-so-many houses.) I sent some inquiries to find out what I could, and I finally got a letter back months later that said with the changes in management and lists and owners, they were no longer interested in my idea.
Fast forward many years later: I was sitting in a meeting at a company I often do freelance work for, and a woman introduced herself and ran the meeting. Her name was so familiar. I wondered why it was, and I got an inkling to look in a file at some old correspondence to check it out. It turns out she was the one who’d written me the letter that they were passing on my book. (I’m glad I didn’t remember who she was in the meeting. I might not have been a productive contributor to the group that day.)
Now that Indie publishing has taken the world by storm, I hope to get the picture book published “soon” and added to my list. Well, it is fourth in line, but I do hope to get to it before my kids put me in the home. I will have to dust off my brushes and try to remember how to paint. But it will probably be good therapy after the rush to get the Chloe trilogy finished and my memoir published (up next on my list). Though it took a detour around raising four kids, my writing certainly has allowed me to learn tenacity in order to accomplish my goals. You can’t write books without a certain stick-to-it-ness, as some call it. So it's not just eating the elephant one bite at a time, but you have to be willing to eat about a herd of them to get where you’re going.
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