Friday, June 27, 2014

Passionate or Practical? Writing To Market Children's Books {and Poetry Friday!}

Howdy, Campers!

Woo-woo!  The winner of Joan Bransfield Graham's new book, The Poem that Will Not End is Rosi Hollenbeck, who happens to be the SCBWI critique group coordinator for Northern and Central California. Congratulations, Rosi!  You'll find Joan's Wednesday Writing Workout here and my interview with her here.

Today we conclude our series on Writing What We Want to Write versus Writing What is Marketable (or, as I like to call it, WWWWWWWM). Each of us is taking turns thinking aloud about Marion Dane Bauer's terrific post, The Creative Mind, in which she writes convincingly about WWWWWWWM.

It's also Poetry Friday at Buffy's AND it's the start of TeachingAuthors' Summer Blogging Break--woo-woo!
Thanks, for hosting PF, Buffy!

First, let's review what TeachingAuthors have been saying so far this round:

JoAnn began the conversation by sharing her monarch haiku project and the new direction in which she's taking it; Carmela talked about how hard it is to work so long on beloved projects that don't sell...but finds redemption; Laura writes that it's a matter of prioritizing, e-publishing, sharing poetry love and more: and writing coach/writers' booster Esther sees the light, rewrites, submits like the devil, and stays optimistic. Her post has helped me stay optimistic, too.  In fact each of these posts has. I've been mulling over how to talk to you about this one.  It's potent. And personal.

Just like each of my blogmates, I've sent out countless manuscripts that have bounced back again and again and again and again.  *Sigh.*  I'd be a great boomerang maker.

For example, Girl Coming in for a Landing--a Novel in Poems (Knopf) took me ten years to sell. Then it won two major awards. Editors who rejected it said, "Teens don't read.  And if they do read, they don't read poetry."  As Esther reminds us: "Times change; markets change; publishers' needs change; editorial staffs change." Oy--is that ever true.

More recently, I finally found a way to fictionalize the story of the flood which destroyed my family's farm and how we rebuilt afterwards.  I'd been taking this picture book manuscript out, rewriting it, and putting it back in my bottom drawer for years.  Last year I was invited to join a dynamite critique group; I took a risk and showed them my story. At this Magic Table I learned what my story was missing and how to strengthen it.
This is what happens at our Magic Table. Sort of.
I was elated.  I sent it to my fabulous agent.  She told me that picture books these days must be short. VERY short.  Picture books used to be for ages 3-8 and could be as long as 1500 words.  These days, editors want picture books for ages 3-5.  After 650 words, editors roll their eyes, my agent told me.

I told the Magic Table this.  They helped me shorten it.  I sent it flying out my door again.

Editors said that it was too regional. I went back to the Magic Table. They said, What about all the floods around the country? What about your themes of resilience, problem solving, weather, storms, climate change and life cycles for heaven's sake? You've just got to help them see this.  You'd got to help your agent sell it.

SO...I hired a curriculum specialist...and resubmitted the story complete with Supplementary Materials including Themes, Common Core-related English Language Arts activities, Science-related activities, and a Glossary.

(Huh! Take That, I say with all those Capital Letters!)

And it's still not selling.

And yet...I believe in the Power of the Table. I do. I love this writing biz. I do. And I love my gang around that table. So what else can I do but believe? I keep on keeping on.

I wrote a poem recently to our group, to our leader, to the Magic Table. It was reverent, in awe of the smarts and wizardry at the Table.

But today I changed the poem. Maybe it's not a Magic Table after all. Here's the revised version:

by April Halprin Wayland

It's magic, you know.
Impossible feats of metaphor.
Six of us around this rosewood table,
savoring tea.

Spilling over our pages,
foreshadowing, fortune telling,
drawing stories
out of the shadows of these drapes.

The illusion of allusion.
A prophecy of sorcery.
The tinkling of full moon necklaces.
Shamans jingling bracelets
dangling from our sleight of hands.

But…are we clairvoyant?
Are we soothsayers, 
sorceresses, sorcerers?
Maybe it's all just make believe.


poem copyright © 2014 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

I am boldly stealing the following EXACT WORDING (and formatting) from today's Poetry Friday host, Buffy Silverman because it's 12:15 am here in California...and because it applies to Buffy, to me, and to many other poets in the kidlitosphere you may know (thank you, Buffy!):
In other poetry news, I recently submitted a poem to a children’s poetry anthology being prepared by Carol-Ann Hoyte on food and agriculture, and was happy to learn this week that the poem was accepted.  I’m in good company with many other Poetry Friday folks–look for the anthology in October of this year.

TeachingAuthors will be taking our annual blogging break--we'll be back Monday, July 13th.  See you then!
Four TeachingAuthors on summer break.

Written by April Halprin Wayland who thanks you for reading all the way to the end.


Ann said...

great post ~ and love the poem ~ drawing stories out of the shadows of these drapes?!? spectacular!!!

Jeannine Atkins said...

I love your Table and your hope. And that ten year story. I wish for happier endings, but, like you, am glad for the good company we keep.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Ann--it's always nice to get feedback because people react to such different pieces of a poem, don't they? So thanks for resonating with the drapes. I was visualizing velvet drapes.

Jeannine--yep, we're all in this together...trudging this happy/confounding/fabulous road...

Robyn Hood Black said...

Oh, April, what a wonderful poem - from a magical writer. And a persistent one.
Wishing you success in all of your projects and thankful you have this starry yet down-to-earth group. [So many great posts from all of you on this whole marketing/art thing!]
Happy, Creative Summer Break!

Buffy Silverman said...

Love the name "Magic Table" for your crit group (my group is simply called The World's Greatest Critique Group which accurately sums it up.) But it is magical when others comments resonate with you and make you re-see and find where your story wants to go. And your poems ending--I'm glad you Believe!

Esther Hershenhorn said...

I ALWAYS read to the end of your posts, April, and those of each of our TA's! :)
I hope readers who belong to Writers Groups will share your Magic Table tribute.
Keep believin' in your flood book!
(Do you know Jane Kurtz' pb about the flood that struck ND?)
Congrats to Buffy - and- to you too, Ms. April, because I saw YOUR name on the list of poets for Carol's upcoming anthology.
Your Fan Esther

Carmela Martino said...

I love your poem, April, especially the last two lines! Congrats on being in the anthology, and keep on BELIEVING!

Rosi said...

Thanks for a post full of hope. I love the ten-year story. Not that I'm happy it took you ten years, but that you ultimately sold the book. I think people are still reading, and reading poetry, because it is checked out of my local library.

April Halprin Wayland said...

"This whole marketing/art thingy" would have been a MUCH better title for my post!

Buffy--I wrestled with that ending because the word Believe has been cliche and cloying...but I liked putting it near the words Make Believe...

Esther, thank you--I do believe in my flood book and do know Jane's flood book. It's always good to know we've got cheerleaders!

Rosi,yes, they are reading...and poetry fits the short streams of info we're reading more and more. And thanks for checking to see that my book's checked out of your library!

Pen N. InkBlog said...

Oh my, I LOVE that poem. Thank you so much!

Myra Garces Bacsal said...

Hi there April. I do hope that you keep on believing - I am sure there is a perfect timing for everything - same with publication. :) Love Magic Table. :)

April Halprin Wayland said...

Pen N InkBlog and Myra ~

Sorry to be replying so late! Thank you for thanking me for the poem (we could go on thanking each other forever, right?). I wasn't sure it was clear or would resonate.

I still love the Magic Table, too!