Guest Post by the Fabulous Author and Illustrator Linda Hoffman Kimball
Yesterday an editor emailed me that she “adored” the story I had just sent her. She was going to do her best to get the publisher to “contract” me for it.
So why am I not turning cartwheels?
Well, I am turning inner cartwheels. I am thrilled that something I wrote (finally) connected with an enthusiastic person-in-the-know who is in a position to champion me and my work. That’s validation!
But no outdoor gymnastics for me.
I’ve been this close too many times before to get my hopes up. I have had stories taken to marketing meetings and not gotten green lights. I have been asked for revisions on manuscripts that I have poured over and provided, only to receive a “no thanks.” I have, at an editor’s suggestion, turned poetry into prose and still been rejected. One editor asked that I create “worksheets” to add at the back of my submission, but passed on the project anyway. Another wanted to merge a picture book story with fun animal facts so readers would get more bang for their buck, elephant or lion. One editor told me that the manuscript needed more illustrator’s notes so she could follow the story line better. When I provided that, she declined the manuscript with a note saying, “there were too many illustrator’s notes.”
But…another publisher accepted that one, lavish illustrator notes and all!
There were cartwheels that time! And joyous hoopla when it was named among “The top ten rhyming Halloween books your kids will love” by Yahoo’s Associated Content. So what if that’s a very small subset of picture books? I was thrilled.
You’d think – I did – that after you have one book published, the world of kid lit would open up to you. Not so. One book for kids (and the books I’ve put together for adults don’t even factor in) still ranks me in the “new writer” category, according to one agent I spoke to. She also told me, “Picture books are dead, dead, dead.”
So why do I keep at this?
Because I can’t not. I am creative and if I don’t acknowledge that, my soul gets wonky.
To keep myself sane – and to keep my inner gremlins at bay – I remember these gems of wisdom. One is from Anne Lamott:
“But I try to make sure they understand that writing, and even getting good at it, and having books and stories and articles published, will not open the doors that most of them hope for. It will not make them well. It will not give them the feeling that the world has finally arrived… But I also tell them that sometimes when my writer friends are working, they feel better and more alive than they do at any other time. And sometimes when they are writing well, they feel that they are living up to something.”
“The problem that comes up over and over again is that these people want to be published. They kind of want to write, but they really want to be published. You’ll never get to where you want to be that way, I tell them. There is a door we all want to walk through, and writing can help you find it and open it. Writing can give you what having a baby can give you: it can get you to start paying attention, can help you soften, can wake you up. But publishing won’t do any of those things; you’ll never get it that way. —Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
The other is not from a writer, but her wisdom applies all the same:
“I think there are two keys to being creatively productive. One is not being daunted by ones fear of failure. The second is sheer perseverance.” – Mary-Claire King.
So I’m going to let myself turn a few more interior cartwheels and let that creative part that feels “more alive than at any other time” come out and play!
Wanna join me?