Animals, Toys, Magic and a Message
Since I was a complete novice, did I really know enough about children's book publishing to make any decisions about the "publishability" of this story? At that point, I knew I had, what I thought was a tidy bedtime nursery rhyme (written for my son} that would appeal to parents, grandparents and children alike... complete with animals, toys, magic and a message. This story was not unlike most nursery rhymes, iambic tetrameter, lyric style, but long... really long. But that would be okay, no? Wouldn't it just make practical sense to have the bedtime story outlast the tired, fussy and stubborn child? What more could publishers want, right? I would send a couple of letters, and a publisher would pick it up, absolutely. Of that I was fairly certain.
When the publishing house received my query letter, it would play out like a late-night infomercial. You've seen them... where the exhausted overacting housewife is so frustrated by her current black and white environment that only the life-saving gadget will rescue her from the absolute hell of middle class suburbia. Enter: life-saving gadget... scene transforms from drab to colorized with a sparkly swooshing graphic and the wife is clearly elated (showered, hair coiffed and stunningly beautiful). Ahhh... It should always be that simple. As simple as "Three easy payments of $39.99". Simple? Yes. Easy? Um, no.
Do you see where I'm going with this? So... replace the housewife with an overworked intern, and the drab kitchen in middle class suburbia with the editorial office at Generic Brand Children's Book Publishing House, and the life-saving gadget with MY lovely manuscript and...Voila! You have the trappings of a perfect fantasy. Don't wake me, I think I'm still living it. Are you there with me?
The experts of the day recommended sending the entire manuscript since it was a picture book, rather than query first, however; I was not aware that Dutton had recently changed their process and had put an aggressive moratorium on manuscript submissions. That hypothetical intern we visited one paragraph above? Completely overworked and submerged in unsolicited manuscripts, of which mine was one. After three months of waiting not-so-patiently, I received a gracious reply:
My Fantasy: Out of the slush pile emerges my amazing manuscript: the answer to every publisher's prayers. My Reality: Out of the slush pile and into File 13. It was the most crushing experience since the third grade and my disqualification from the regional spelling bee by misspelling the word "whether" (in my defense, I knew how to spell it, just didn't ask for it to be used in a sentence). Just kidding... I'd had crushing experiences after the third grade, believe me. But no one had ever said my creative baby was ugly.
Anyway... Ouch. But that was just one publishing house. There were more houses, more opportunities - that is, if I could just get over the disappointment and rejection. The experts warned this would happen; and it could happen again. But I had to keep trying. What other choice did I have?
Tell me one of the most memorable disappointments in your life...leave your comments below!