EXTRA INNINGS Issue 84
THE WRITER’S LIFE
Thankful for Rejection
It took six years to find a publisher for my first picture book. Along the way, Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show and Tell changed like you wouldn’t believe.
Before the story was conceived, there was a dog named Charlie. Charlie was rescued from the side of the road by a friend of mine. His unique background and loving nature inspired me to create a canine character called Trooper.
When I sat down to flesh out his story however, a new character barged in. Maggie had the gumption to tell me that Trooper was her pet. She also told me that she had a big problem at school: she had nothing to bring for show and tell.
So I had a lovable dog and a quirky girl with a problem, the makings of a story. The more I listened to Maggie than more she revealed the ways in which she wanted to solve the problem. In the end the piece grew to be 1000 words long. I asked my first reader (aka my husband) to review it. After he made suggestions, I edited the story, entered it in contests and submitted it to publishers. I was elated and shocked. Though this piece won three prizes, publishers rejected time after time.
With each rejection however, I became more determined to get the story published. I began with the title. Since the story was for children four to seven-years-old, the title was switched from Maggie and the Third Grade Blues to Maggie and the First Grade Blues. Now the title matched the targeted audience. But with even with the new title, the story was rejected.
I looked at the beginning of the piece. There was a list of countries that Maggie mentions when she comically tries to come up with as possible solutions to her problem. Though Mali, Monaco, Madagascar had nice alliteration, these geographical places were beyond the grasp of kids. Those places were slashed and the story was submitted again. No publisher was interested.
So, I simplified Maggie’s internal dialogue and musings and submitted the manuscript again. Despite these changes, there were no takers.
Maggie was rejected by 30 publishers and 15 agents. Sadly, the piece was shelved. But five years later, I revisited the story. Maggie had gone through many changes, but so had the publishing world. Picture books were getting shorter. I still liked Maggie. I wanted to submit it again, but doing so would require taking out 500 words.
Another year passed as I worked on the story. Most of the middle of the story was cut and then it was submitted to a handful of publishers. I didn’t fear rejection. In the past, rejections led to good things. Rejection caused the story to change and evolve. The title was more appropriate, the words were more concise, the length was more marketable, and the audience was better defined. Because of rejection, the story got better.
Eventually Maggie and Trooper won the heart of an editor at Cactus Moon Publications and Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show and Tell became the story it needed to become.