Friday, March 26, 2010

Waiting Out the Storm, Part 1: Inspiration to Acceptance

My brand-new picture book Waiting Out the Storm was released by Candlewick Press this month. Yippee! My generous fellow Teaching Authors offered to organize a series of brand-new-book interviews like we did for April’s New Year at the Pier (starting here) and Esther’s S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet (starting here). But spring is a busy time for me—especially this year! School visits and teaching fill up my days and nights in March and April. So I’ll write this week about the beginning of the process and continue the story in next Friday’s post. In the meantime, you’ll have a chance to win an autographed copy of Waiting Out the Storm. See the Giveaway Guidelines link below. I’ll post the winner next Friday.


Waiting Out the Storm began as a need to do something in response to the terrible events of September 11, 2001. Like many other writers during that time, I had trouble focusing on my work. I was wordless. I couldn’t stop thinking about the children affected by the tragic events, and the only thing I thought I might do was try to offer some comfort. But how?

I couldn’t write about terrorism. Not only did I feel it was not appropriate for the audience, but I knew I wasn’t equipped for such a task. A thunderstorm seemed a common childhood fear that symbolized a vague threat but that parents could explain and reassure children about. I’d write about a storm.

As for each of my books, personal experience went into the creation. Years before in Florida, I’d heard our friend Susan call her baby son “Buttercup.” I'd saved the memory of that delightful name, and I used it in the book. I researched animals, played with rhythm and rhyme, and kept trying to focus on my goal of providing comfort to children during a difficult time.

Between September 2002 and June 2003, I submitted the manuscript five times. Even though the rejection letters included positive comments, they still stung. One said it “felt too sentimental.” Another called it “not quite special or unique enough.” Ouch! I still cringe when I read them.

What did I do next? I put the manuscript away. I must have been discouraged. I kept writing, though. I  submitted other manuscripts.

I pulled out Waiting Out the Storm again to submit to our 2005 SCBWI-Wisconsin fall retreat. There, I had the great fortune of receiving a critique from a Candlewick editor, who gave me suggestions for improving the manuscript and said she’d be willing to look at it again after I revised it. I felt so hopeful!

With help from my brilliant writing group, I revised the manuscript over the next few months and resubmitted it in January 2006. We returned from a canoe trip that April to find a message on the answering machine from the editor, who said she’d like to offer a contract. I'll always remember the thrill!

For a chance to receive an autographed copy of Waiting Out the Storm, read our Book Giveaway Guidelines. Then enter our drawing by posting a comment to today's post that includes your name and e-mail address. I'll continue the story of Waiting Out the Storm and post the winner next Friday.

JoAnn Early Macken

28 comments:

Doraine Bennett said...

Joann, This sounds like a lovely book with a tender heart behind it. I look forward to reading the rest of your story. Congratulations!

April Halprin Wayland said...

It's a FABULOUS book--perfectly crafted rhyme, tender but not corny. Simply beautiful.

elsie said...

This sounds like an experience that many students will be able to make personal connections. I think it could be the spark to reliving some past events. It made me think of the time I was most scared (being lost in the department store). I am looking forward to the book.

Jenn said...

Congratulations on the recent publication, JoAnn! Your book sounds wonderful. I'd love to be entered in the giveaway contest. My email: fromthemixedupfiles(at)gmail(dot)com

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, ladies! I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

Scotti Cohn said...

Congratulations! (I'm jealous that you only had to submit the manuscript 6 times, including the editor at the retreat!) It sounds like a beautiful book, and I would love to be entered in the contest. My email is sm_cohn (at) hotmail.com.

Judy said...

As a Pre-K Teacher, my co-teacher and I read many different types of books to the children; Theme based, holiday, rhyming and favorite authors. The books most cherished though, are the ones we find that listen to the hopes, dreams and fears of the small child. You wouldn't believe how many doors are opened when we invite the children to share their experiences. At the age of 4 and 5 the children are not inhibited and most times we can address issues first-hand. I will be looking for Waiting Out the Storm at Anderson's, but in the meantime I would like to be put in the drawing for one too. (Teachers, as you know spend their own money for these things.) My e-mail is judypeters514@gmail.com Thank you!
My best wishes to the six writers! Keep up the good work! :)

elsie said...

I would like to be entered in the drawing for the book. I posted earlier but forgot the email. You can contact me at leannecarpenter@sbcglobal.net

Bobbi Miller said...

An endearing story, on two levels! The story itself, and the story how it came to be. Both offer hope! My daughter was attending college, three blocks away from the towers. She was haunted for a long while by the images. I think this influenced her decision to become a child psychologist, to help others through trauma. I look forward to reading part two!

TinyReader said...

I selected your blog for two awards! Check it out! http://tinyreader.blogspot.com

The Wild About Writing Trio said...

Thanks for sharing the backstory of your book. I'm looking forward to reading more about your journey next week.

Kim H.
kiddos@warpnet.net

Winning Readings said...

This looks like a special book I'd love to share with my daughter...

Janemaritz at yahoo dot com

We posted about this giveaway at Winning Readings: http://winningreadings.blogspot.com/2010/03/waiting-out-storm.html

Laura said...

JoAnn,

Congrats on your book publication! Every empty chair at the family table reminds us of 9/11. I'm sure any book that helps children cope with that event is welcome in the world.

Thank you for entering me in this contest.

Laura Evans
all things poetry
laura AT teachpoetryk12 DOT com

Barb said...

What an inspiring story from the original inspiration to the persistence in the story crafting. Great to share with a classroom! I would love to win a copy (if I'm so lucky!) Barb Rosenstock
barbrosenstock@gmail.com

Ticia said...

I'd love to win this. There are so many times this book would be helpful.
pucktricks6802 at yahoo.com

Boni Ashburn said...

Congratulations on your new book! And thanks for sharing the road-to-publication story behind it- I love those!

Donna M. McDine said...

Congratulations on your new book and for sharing your story of road to publication.

Best wishes for your continued success,
Donna

Margo Dill said...

Thanks for sharing your story with us and the hard road to publication. It always helps writers to hear other writers' stories of their books' journeys. I look forward to reading your book and hearing more about the story.

Margo
http://margodill.com/blog/
margodll (at) aol (dot) com

Linda Kish said...

I would love to read this book. It is hard to explain troubling times to kids without scaring them even more.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great book to have.
DebP
twoofakind12@yahoo.com

Abi said...

I love Children's books. I'd love to be entered in this giveaway. Thanks

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Anonymous said...

I would like to add this to my kids' library. Thanks for the chance.

Wendy
ebeandebe at gmail dot com

Hannah Ruth Wilde said...

Being from the east coast, I grew up with lots of thunder storms - often the kind that make one pull the covers over your head. A few times, the lights went out. Then we had to get out our camping gear and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. These are among my best memories! - Hannah

jan said...

Please enter me to win & thx for the contest..
thehighflyer3(at)hotmail(dot)com

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Wow! Thanks, everyone, for the positive feedback! I've enjoyed reading your messages. Watch for more about the process on Friday.

Benita said...

What a positively uplifting story! I can't wait to read on.

bgcchs(at)yahoo(dot)com

Sandra Stiles said...

Please enter me for a chance to win "Waiting Out The Storm". I had not thought of teaching about that day to the younger ones. As a matter of fact I have a WIP about 3 teens in the Twin Towers on 9/11. Why? I sat in a classroom with middle schoolers on that day and watched the catastrophe unfold. Most of my students now know very little.
Thanks for talking about not giving up on the book. I needed that
skstiles612@yahoo.com

Nancye said...

I would love to win this book. My daughter has lots of fears and perhaps this book might help her to to deal withthem.

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net