Writers are no strangers to droughts. There are droughts when good ideas don’t come. Droughts when the right words won’t come. And there are droughts when no one wants your stories.
All those droughts are painful, but that last type of drought can break your heart and your spirit. It almost broke mine. But fear not, dear readers/writers, this story has a happy ending.
My blog for the Picture Book Academy is supposed to be about character-driven stories. I’m going off-course a bit to share some news and encourage all of us to persevere. If there’s a character here, it’s me; I’m not as interesting or determined or spunky as my book characters, but I hope you’ll stay tuned for a bit of drama and that happy ending.
The years passed. It didn’t feel like 5 or 6 or 7. It felt like I’d been wandering in the wilderness for forty years, like the Israelites. Like them, I’d be there, “until the whole generation that had done what was evil in the Lord’s sight was gone.” Except I was the whole generation and the Lord was the Big Six (soon to be the Big Five).
I had sold my first 11 books on my own, with no agent. But with drastic changes happening in publishing and more and more houses closing their doors to unsolicited manuscripts, even from published authors, it was time for an agent. Luckily, I found the wonderful Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary. She loved my stories. She was heaven sent.
But something was wrong. My manuscripts were still getting “close;” an editor would love my story, then acquisitions would turn it down. ETC. I’d been down this road alone, in misery. Now, I was just sharing the misery with someone else.
Then suddenly and unexpectedly, as happens in a drought, it began to sprinkle. In early April, Karen emailed there was interest in one of my manuscripts. (Blah. Blah. Fine. This had happened before. No reason to get overexcited.) But it didn’t take long for the sprinkle to turn into a shower. There was lots of interest in my manuscript.
And in the end, it was a downpour. The drought had ended. The offer that could not be refused came from the man who emailed: “It’s utterly simple….and simply brilliant.” My story was bought in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal from the exceptional Neal Porter of Neal Porter Books. There is simply no better way in the children’s publishing world to end a 7-year drought.
I cannot tell you what the “simply brilliant” story is, but I will tell you it is minimal text. Really minimal text. It’s a story that came to me in images, in the early morning hours. My art notes show the way to a character-driven story. Indeed, there are many characters driving the story, into oblivion and back again. I cannot wait to see how the illustrator paints them.
So now I am rejuvenated, regenerated. I feel a bit like a phoenix rising, like a cicada chirping my song after being underground, unseen, for 13 or 17…or 7 years. Detours, bumps, and droughts come to us all. But, writers, if we persevere, if we have faith, if we keep “showing up,” we can survive the drought and rise like a phoenix.
After a 7-year drought, my story is now…to be continued.
Marsha Diane Arnold is an award-winning children’s book author with a heart of gold. Besides writing, she enjoys visiting schools internationally, nationally, and through Skype, sharing her love of books and writing through presentations and writing “funshops”. In 2008 Marsha was honored as one of seven artists invited to be part of Sequoia National Parks Foundation’s Artists in the Back Country, the only children’s author ever invited. The program’s goal is to rekindle the American tradition of enhancing public appreciation of our natural world through the arts. She shares her adventures in the high Sierras at www.earthsvoices.com
Meet the Friday Blogonauts
First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
Second Fridays will feature awesome multi-award winning author Marsha Diane Arnold who will be writing about character-driven and/or nature-based books and/or anything she likes :)
Third Fridays will feature independent Aladdin/Simon & Shuster editor Emma Sector who has helped bring many books into the world.
Fourth Fridays will feature the great Christine Taylor-Butler who has published over 70 award-winning fiction and non-fiction and nonfiction books including the acclaimed new middle grade series - The Lost Tribes.
Fifth Fridays will feature the fabulous Carl Angel award-winning multi-published Illustrator and graphic designer.
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