Monday, June 23, 2014

Seeing the Light vs. Seeing the Light of Day

Kudos and Thanks to my courageously-honest fellow TeachingAuthors JoAnn, Carmela and Laura - and to our TeachingAuthors readers as well - for sharing their understandable publishing and marketability concerns once they begin writing a story.
My filing cabinet too overflows with as-yet-sold manuscripts.

The adjective as-yet-sold speaks volumes about my optimism and Faith.
I’ve always believed that my Writer’s Story – and any story in which I’ve invested – would eventually bring that “inevitable yet surprising satisfactory resolution” required of all stories.
I truly am the Susan Lucci of Children’s Books. 
I fortunately have what editor Ted Solotoroff once called endurability, as referenced in Dani Shapiro’s STILL WRITING: THE PERILS AND PLEASURES OF A CREATIVE LIFE.

I write stories that grab my heart and won’t let go until I get the telling right.  Period.  
I write them one at a time, for however long it takes, in between teaching and coaching and speaking since I bring home the bacon, ’til each is ready for editorial submission.
I also revise them, again, and then again, for however long it takes, ’til each is ready for yet another editorial submission.
Prolific I am not. 

Do I creatively envision the manuscript as a published book while  I write and revise, listing likely publishers when I come upon them?
Of course.
Do I imagine an editor’s offer or a stellar review or the look of surprise on a Doubting Thomas’ face.
You bet.
And when Reality arrives, when my story still fails to see the light of day?
I tuck it away...for another day.

In other words, for whatever reasons, sane, sound or not, once I’m invested in a story and begin writing, I keep on going, no matter the current market place.  Period.

                                                                   (Morgue Files/lightfoot)

I first wrote my first published picture book THERE GOES LOWELL’S PARTY! some ten years earlier as an easy-to-read titled CALLING 'ROUND ABOUT THE RAIN.  I couldn’t give up on either Lowell or the Vance Randolph Ozark tales I’d studied in college.

I wrote and revised THE CONFE$$ION$ AND $ECRET$ OF HOWARD J. FINGERHUT for at least 7 editors over 12 years before Holiday House published it. I believed in Howie and his story whole-heartedly.

A year came and went while an agent worked unsuccessfully to place my newest baby board book TXTNG MAMA TXTNG BABY with a publisher.  I withdrew the book and lo and behold, my Sleeping Bear Press editor phoned to tell me of their new ownership and yes, they were looking for a first-time baby book!

Times change; markets change; publishers’ needs change; editorial staffs change.

My filing cabinets hold three of my favorite picture books: LOOP-DE-LOOP LEO, about a little boy who’s afraid to go out-and-about on his nursery school teacher’s looped rope; SING A SONG OF YITZY, about a little boy who longs to travel with his Papa’s Klezmer band; and my first book ever, CATCH A PATCH OF FOG, about a little boy who always has a piece of him hanging out when he plays Hide-and-Seek. Wouldn’t a patch of fog be the perfect solution?

The Truth is: I found my own courage writing Leo’s story; I learned each of us has a song to sing writing Yitzy’s tale; and my fog catcher’s wondering proved to be mine: Maybe I was someone worth finding?

In other words, writing my stories helped and helps me see the light.  Period. 
And those Aha! Moments sustain me and keep me keeping on.
I’ve always known: the right story at the right time helps the reader discover, uncover, recover his own story.
My years on task taught me, though: the same is true for the writer too.
Each of my stories, whether sold or not, has proved to be for me the right story at the right time.

Maybe, like Laura, I’ll soon consider epublishing, or better yet, independently publishing one or two of my tucked-away stories.  I’ve helped several of my writers successfully do both. 
I know that like JoAnn, I can’t help but return to several  of my much-loved unsold picture book texts and restructure them, reshape them, turn them on their sides, to see if there’s a better story-telling way to draw editorial interest.
Like Carmela, I’ll always keep my eyes and ears open for homes for my stories.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to share my unsold manuscripts, publishing histories and all, with my students, to illuminate their journeys, and Cubs Fan that I am, keep believing in my stories.

Yet another perspective (minus Morgue Files photos of filing cabinets and light bulbs I couldn't upload!)

Esther Hershenhorn


Linda B said...

More inspiration, Esther! Thank you for sharing your story, too. Love the way you weave through the books & their history.

Patricia Toht said...

I love your endurability, Esther. And your capacity for encouragement. And your enthusiasm. So many E's about Esther! :)

michelle kogan said...

I really liked There Goes Lowell's Party, and The Confes$$ion$ and $ecret$ of Howard J. Fingerhut, so I'm sure I'd like to hear a few of those tucked away stories of yours. Hope they come into the light…
And thanks for all you share Esther!

jan godown annino said...

Uplifted by another heartfelt sharing in this series, thank you.
The mini-stories about these great titles, especially specificity about the Confe$$ions & $ecret$ publishing path, is a boost to someone with only one 1 p.b. published & the others written from the heart but not right. I keep going back to how in my life, often a fabulous work of a craft artist in an art co-op is not quite right for me to purchase or I think of all the books I pick up in a bookshop....but don't carry to the register.
Still, it's imperative to have soothing butterscotch or, currently, fresh dark cherries, handy for that email that says "nada." (substitute chocolate for butterscotch, if you are of that flavor. At the risk of t.m.i, I eat chocolate in the morning because the caffeine later in the day interferes with my sleep...)

April Halprin Wayland said...

It's no wonder you're a writing coach, Esther. You had me standing and cheering like a Cub's fan for all of us as we choose to go around round in the ring!

(And Jan--the caffeine in chocolate means I can't eat it late in the day either!)

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thank you, Linda, Michelle, Patti, Jan, April and Ann C., who privately emailed me, for taking the time to share your positive response to my Monday post.
I remind myself often: if - we - don't believe in our own stories and our ability to tell those stories so well, they resonate in our readers' hearts, how can we expect - others - to believe in them and us?