Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Forward March: Reimagining My Book

Too many of my posts seem to focus on getting BACK to something on which I have lost momentum. It is time to move forward. No excuses of holiday madness. No moping over another rejection. Progress is my most important product for the rest of this year.

Two weeks ago I attended the SCBWI Craft Weekend at Princeton Theological Seminary. For anyone  who doesn't know, SCBWI is the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. This weekend was a wake-up call at several levels. First, it brought home to me how many people like me are out there trying to get books published. Most of the attendees are hopeful authors and/or illustrators. Most have not gotten a book published yet. Some have, and I now have heard enough stories to give me heart to continue the process. My fifth rejection arrived days before the conference, so my project is now back in my hands. 
I am beginning to listen to what editors, publishers and agents say more closely. While every friend, librarian, teacher and parent I have shown my dummy to thinks it is wonderful and can't wait to buy it, I now believe that some of the comments from those "in the business" have more validity than I once gave them. A full afternoon with Joyce Wan showed me a better way to create my dummy. Joyce, thank you! It is now all double-spreads and it is easier to put together and to illustrate.

The big break-though came in the all-day-Sunday workshop with Patrick Collins, Creative Director at Henry Holt. He reviewed each of the eight dummies or mock-ups presented by workshop participants, gave thoughtful feedback and suggestions to each, and then spent the remainder of the afternoon cycling among us with suggestions, critiques and encouragement.

Prior to the workshop, we had each submitted work for Patrick's comments and then tried to prepare some revised work in response to what he told us. My revisions involved, for the most part, cutting out whole pages that don't add to the action, and setting the opening scene. Following discussions with Patrick, more was cut, the scene has been set more clearly and another fun dimension has been added. 

Each change requires adjustment to art work, development of new page turns and adapting my original ideas of some parts of the story. I had picked up one good suggestion in a peer group critique session on Saturday evening. I  remind newbies to the peer group environment to consider from where comments come. I was astounded at the way one member of the group had interpreted part of my story. She saw drugs and sex where I had written bunnies and blossoms. WOW! The only thing I will say here is, consider your word choices carefully.

Now almost every page is a double spread. I have added two new dimensions to the art work, as well as  adjusting the viewpoint on several illustrations. My beetles will now be in the tree, rather than among the dandelions. I was also encouraged to take more art classes. This was something I did not want to hear but, I am exploring options in my community. I guess one can never learn too much.
So now it's time to focus forward on refining the two new dimensions (one is numerals on each page and the other is a secret suggested by Patrick, which I love). I need to find an art class and/or check out more YouTube videos on illustration. I also need to do some revision in the rhymes for setting the scene. By next week I hope to have made some real progress. I wil keep you posted.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Where Did The Summer Go? Getting Back to Books

It's been too long since I set fingers to keys on this blog. Sorry to have kept you waiting.  The fingers have been busy excavating weeds, following routes on maps, tracing family tree branches and searching on line for a wedding dress. I think two more days will complete the rehab of the driveway. I've been digging weeds from between paving stones with a steak knife and sweeping loc-tite sand in to every crack to prevent more weeds from becoming entrenched. This is the price I pay for taking the low bid on the paved driveway! But it looks like it's going to work. At least I have listened to Black Arrow, by Robert Louis Stevenson, My Antonia, by Willa Cather, The Mozart Conspiracy by Scott Mariani and a lot of my iPod tunes. It's kind of a Zen activity. Not liking to use chemicals in our yard, I seem to always find projects that require an inordinate amount of time as the trade-off for an almost chamical-free landscape.

New World Trade Center
We also spent five weeks hosting and traveling with a cousin from Mexico who visited with us to improve her English. We visited the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the 9/11 Memorial and the new World trade Center site. We sailed on Lake Champlain, walked The High Line in NY, shopped at L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine and Zara in the Big Apple, and introduced the young lady to 46 of her other U.S. cousins in five different states. I was thrilled to discover that I have made a reader of her. Before visiting with us, she had only read required books for school. I introduced her to the YA section in our local library. She picked out a few books. She found two that she really enjoyed and these seem to have set her on the path to reading. That she read them in English makes the accomplishment even more exciting.

Over the summer, our young rabbit, the main character in my children's book, has grown from a tiny bunny to a near adult. It is becoming difficult to distinguish between the baby bunny and its parents. Family seems to have been a focus this summer.  I spent many hours expanding my family tree on
Ancestry.com. I added my future daughter-in-law's family back four generations and explored my own family roots in Germany. A great nephew will be spending his junior year abroad in Germany, and I wanted him to have the tree and the information about his Vonweisensee ancestors. Perhaps he can help me follow that trail further into the past.

As for the future... It is time to regroup and re-engage. I need to contact the current holder of my manuscript and then apply some of what I learned in the recent Webinar by Mira Reisberg from Childrens Book Academy and what I hope to learn from Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod in her new book, The Seven Day Manuscript Machine.

A comment from you will add to my motivation, so please leave me a note, even if it is only to say "You go girl!"  I must say, my heart was warmed by the recent sidebar exchanges during Mira's webinar where I discovered how many of us late bloomers are out here, working on our dreams. 

More soon. I promise!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Back to Blogging: Reconnecting With Passions

I just spent a week in Mexico visiting with some of my husband's family. It was a wonderful chance to distance myself from my (too) many projects and gain some perspective. One of the most delightful events was actually getting my hands on a copy of our cousin, Ana Gerhard's lovely book Listen to the Birds.

Ana Gerhard's Delightful Intro to Classic Music
Ana is a talented musician. She created this introduction to classical music for children with great thought, imagination and delightful creativity. I am personally not a huge fan of classical music, but this book brings back memories of some of the lovely experiences I have had with the classics, including "Peter and the Wolf" and "The Magic Flute." I am so pleased that Ana's second book is progressing well and that Listen to the Birds, has already been translated from the original Spanish into English and several other languages.

If you have children, this will be a delightful shared experience for you. The CD works beautifully with the text and illustrations bringing the classics right in to your home and hour heart. You can find it for sale on Amazon, and may be able to find it, or order it through your local book store. Here you can see an interview with Ana about her upcoming book, The Secret Mountain.  

We saw a lot of birds whilesitting in the gardens in Cuernavaca and Tepoztlan, including several that were new to me. The rufous-backed robin and golden-cheeked woodpecker were two newbies. I also saw a gorgeous old friend: the vermillion flycatcher, which I first encountered in the Galapagos, and a charming hummingbird I can't ID from my Mexican bird book.

Rufous-backed Robin in Cuernavaca, Mexico
The robin looks very like our American Robin, but has a rusty back, and the breast is not so orange. The hummer probably is way more iridescent, but the light doesn't show it. I sat for hours on the patios in the two yards, watching and taking pictures, chatting and listening to conversations in Spanish and Catalan. Our hosts were somewhat amazed that I was so interested in the birds, but once I showed them the Peterson's Field Guide to Mexican Birds, and they saw how many birds there are in Mexico, they too, began to take more interest.

This is a part of the point of the children's book I am trying to get published. All these natural treasures, birds, butterflies, bees, beetles, trees and flowers, surround us. My book will open eyes of readers so they can enjoy the same U are such a natural part of my life.

Unidentified Hummingbird in Cuernavaca

The text of my book is now with another publisher with whom I connected through a friend on LinkedIn. I didn't send the entire proposal, and now am thinking that perhaps I should have. I think tonight I will do the revision of the post card on Zazzle and when it comes, send it, along with the full proposal, to the publisher. This might get it to the top of her pile and I might hear one way or the other.

If the response is not positive, I will start sending out the postcards. I think I may begin to create the back yard garden website to go with the book, since that may prove to be another selling point. I'm told that telling publishers you will create a website, isn't as convincing as having one up. So here we go again. Into the fray!!!

Go out and enjoy your backyard for a bit now, before you spend any more time on line. Even if it's dark out!! Go listen for an owl and look for a shooting star. If you see one, wish for the right publisher to discover my book, please.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Reacting to Rejection: Questions to Myself

Roxie Munro and Me in 2013.
Though I believed I had targeted my next publisher SO accurately, another rejection letter arrived in the mail the other day. Of course I was depressed and down and felt a bit weepy. If you say you don't feel that way when you get a rejection, I'm not sure I believe you. To add insult to injury, the publisher enclosed a form rejection addressed to "Dear Author".  Couldn't they even reject me with a bit of class? No suggestions. No criticisms. No encouragement. No use. And really, no use obsessing over another lost two months. I'm so glad I did my Lenten Journey during the wait.

My husband is so wise. He just hugged me, kept quiet and bought me flowers the next day. I whipped out a feeling-sorry-for-me email to my mentor, posted my new status (REJECTED AGAIN) on FaceBook and went back to The Book, a valuable resource from SCBWI. The Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators has lists of publishers. Now I have checked off two. I spent some time searching the remainder of the list for my next target. Then checked on-line to find out if they are accepting unagented, unsolicited manuscripts. Most, of course, are not. But now I will work my network on LinkedIn and see if I can find some connections there.

Ready to stick my neck out again.
Questions to myself generated from reading other blogs and websites, email from my mentor, FaceBook responses from friends and serious personal reflection:

1. Was I foolish to send a dummy to the last company, even though they said they accept dummies?
2. Is there something wrong with my cover letter?
3. Does that fellow on line REALLY have the secret to the perfect cover letter and should I send him $37.95 to get it?
4. Should I join a critique group?
5. Can I afford to go to the 21st Century Non-Fiction Writer's Conference in June? (I found my mentor and a lot of positive reinforcement there last year).
6. Should I listen to people who suggest I self publish the book?
7. Should I do a multiple submission next time?
8. What might be wrong with my proposal, besides the cover letter?
9. Should I have included less art work, or more?
10. Do I have any talent, or is this all a waste of time?

Actually, number 10 didn't cross my mind. I KNOW the book is good. The text is engaging and everyone who has seen it (with the exception of the most recent rejector) thinks it ought to be published!

My answer to most of the other questions ranges from a firm "No!" to a soft "Maybe." I think I need to spend the next week or two reconnoitering on cover letters and considering who to share the book with, for new insights. I will check in to meetings of SCBWI for upcoming review sessions. I'm open to comments from readers about the concept of multiple submissions. I also plan to revise my postcard and start sending it to editors and publishers.

My Postcard to Be Revised
 I think sending the dummy was fine, but I probably need to revise it again. I know that the cover letter can be improved. Not sure how, but I will work on that. I don't think sending for the "perfect" letter is a useful step. I know that group critiques are not for me. I don't think I can afford the June conference, but maybe I can afford a local SCBWI conference. I know that self-publishing is my last ditch position. I know I need to talk to other authors about multiple submissions. It has taken 2 1/2 to 3 months for each of the last to submissions. At that rate it will be another year before I get the proposal to 4 more companies. More conversations or emails with published authors may give me some new insights regarding proposals and what to include.

There is plenty to work on, and plenty to learn. It's time to pick myself up, dust myself off and start submission over again. So, my friends, here I go again. Wish me luck, and send suggestions if you have them.

Happy spring.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Blog-Hop Into My Garden: Thanks for Coming

WELCOME TO MY GARDEN                    

Thanks for hopping in. Unlike many of you, I have not yet had a children’s book published. My blog is about the process of moving stories from my mind to a manuscript. I am a writer and illustrator, and I invite you to my garden of growth: growing my skills, growing my experience, growing my audience. 

 As you will see, if you check out my website (Pi-SunyerNaturally.com), my work is informed by nature. So on this blog hop I’m happy to share some gardening tips. They will be highlighted in red.

My yard is a registered Backyard Wildlife Habitat, through The National Wildlife Federation and is also certified as an official butterfly garden with the North American Butterfly Association. Both of these programs encourage me to provide for all the needs of wildlife: food, water shelter and nesting and breeding space. The yard is the setting for my first children’s book, which is currently being reviewed by a publisher.   Keep your fingers crossed for me, please. I'd love it if you would read some of my other posts and comment there.  My first rejection letter was awesome. You can read about it in one of my earlier posts. Those of you who are published, might have a fun flashback to that moment in YOUR career. 

If I were to win Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes, the first thing I would do is hire a gardener. I would love to get the yard back to where it was when I was a child, growing up in it. In those days, my grandmother had a gardener several days each week. She had my parents, my siblings and me to help keep our acre trimmed, weeded and filled with flowers, fruit and vegetables, as well as specimens of many trees and flowering shrubs. During World War II our place was home to a blue ribbon Victory Garden. 'Wishing I could get it under control again. Three hours in the garden today, made a miniscule dent in what could be a full time job. 

 One of the best things I have done in the yard is to build stone walls. It is a fun, but strenuous activity, but very worthwhile. My stonewalls not only outline gardens and provide the country feeling in our suburban setting, but if you build stone walls - at least here in New Jersey - chipmunks will come. They are a delight to watch and their cheery chittering is a happy addition to the bird songs which abound here.

I have also created one area of the yard which is a specific butterfly garden, though the entire property provides good habitat for these colorful charmers. In the butterfly garden I  plant many perennials, such as butterfly bush, lilies, echinacea, and milkweed. These are inter-planted with colorful annuals which also attract hummingbirds. I also put in a shallow pan filled with pebbles and sand, that I keep watered, so there is always a shallow source of water for the butterflies. 

 All of these aspects of the garden are elements that are part of my book. The plants and animals are also part of another project of mine: Copy-cology©. You can find out more about my Copy-cology© products on my website, Pi-SunyerNaturally.com.   My favorite item is the

memory card game. This is my GIVE AWAY. I will be happy to send a set of the Memory Card game of your choice to five people who leave comments on my blog. I'll put all your names in a garden pot, and pull out five names. SO please be sure to leave your name and email address on your comment so I can contact winners for their mailing addresses and their choice of sets. 

 SO head on to the next blog on the hop. It's been nice having you for a visit.  Please come visit again and see how my journey toward a published book is going. I can use your encouragement!! Please "Like" me on FaceBook (Nancy Arny Pi-Sunyer) and think about following my Lenten Journey (LentenJourney2014.com).
                        Now it's time to hop on to another website. Have fun.
1. Dianne Venetta ~ Cozy Mystery/Romance (US)  37. Stacey Joy Netzel  
2. Rose Anderson  38. Deb Sanders  
3. Alexa Grace  39. Janette Harjo  
4. Katharina Gerlach, YA Fantasy author  40. Lorraine Paton (INTL)  
5. Jennifer Lowery  41. Amy Saunders, Chick-Lit Mysteries (US)  
6. Catheirne Chant (US)  42. Jencey Gortney  
7. J.D. Faver ~ Bad Girls Need Love Too...(Intl)  43. Sandra Cox  
8. Tara Manderino (Intl)  44. Alisia Compton  
9. Judy Baker, Cowboys and Indian Romances  45. Cate Dean  
10. Sharon Kleve  46. Lisa Lickel  
11. Sara Walter Ellwood (US)  47. Iyana Jenna  
12. Anna Patterson  48. Jesse Kimmel-Freeman (INT)  
13. Karl Fields (Intl)  49. Sheila Seabrook  
14. LENA HART  50. Grace Peterson  
15. Janice Seagraves, author  51. Nancy Pi-Sunyer  
16. Gemma Juliana  52. Elena Williams  
17. Victoria Adams  53. Scandalous Stories  
18. Daryl Devore  54. L.A. Sartor  
19. Jeana E. Mann, New Adult Romance  55. BloominThyme  
20. Not Neccesarily In That Order  56. Margarita Matos (UF & Romance)  
21. Brenda Maxfield's Smart and Sassy Teen Reads (INT)  57. Lisa Chalmers  
22. Elizabeth McKenna  58. Diane Burton  
23. H. A. Somerled  59. Rebecca J. Clark  
24. Susana Ellis  60. Victoria Pinder  
25. Aileen Fish  61. Zelda Benjamin  
26. Cheryl Bolen  62. Liz Allen (US)  
27. Elizabeth Rose  63. Stacy Juba's Characters at a Crossroads  
28. L. Alison Heller  64. Jennifer Conner Romance Author  
29. Eleanor Moran  65. I Am A Reader  
30. K C Maguire  66. Darcy Flynn (US)  
31. Mindy Hardwick, Author  67. Cassandra L Shaw  
32. Karen McCullough  68. Janette Harjo  
33. Michelle Abbott  69. Louisa Mack  
34. Mary Laudien  70. Melanie Macek  
35. Aubrey Wynne  71. Tiffany Schlarman  
36. Kimberly K. Comeau  


Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Art of Waiting: What to do while a publisher holds your fate in his/her hands

     Three or four months is a long time to wait. From all reports, this is a standard when submitting an unsolicited book proposal. Many of us have had a lot of practice waiting this year: waiting for winter to move on, waiting for ice to melt, waiting for the first signs of spring. I have been filling the days since I mailed proposal #2 with a lot of work. It's been 16 days. No word, even of the publisher receiving it. But I am not just sitting around waiting.
Looking For Spring

     One of many things I am working on now is a Lenten series of drawings and mini-essays.  If you are interested you can find it on my website at www.Pi-SunyerNaturally.com. This is really quite a project, as it requires me to identify a topic, research it, write an essay, and draw an illustration on every one of the 40 days of the Lenten season.
      Some days, the inspiration comes immediately, it's easy to find information and reference photos on-line and the drawing flows smoothly off the tip of my pen. Other days, it is a real struggle to identify an appropriate topic. I've read more of the Gospel of Matthew this week than ever before. I guess I will dip into Mark,
Luke and John's versions of Christ's life to see if I find more inspiration next week.
Faith Like a Mustard Seed
   So far, for the first 10 days, I have been successful at finding and researching topics. One day I chose the "art" part to be the art of cooking, and took a photo of the Malta Lenten cookies that I baked. The recipe is shared on my website, and I highly recommend it to my readers. The cookies are delicious, if quite a bit of work.

   This entire project is, actually, a lot of work, but I think it is a valuable exercise. One of the topics I almost chose, and still may, are the related terms "disciple" and "discipline". The Lenten series requires substantial discipline. To get it all done every day, and posted both on my FaceBook© page and my web page, takes a lot of time. Still, I am learning much about my faith, the world and natural history. I am also polishing my illustration skills. Each day, I remember a new technique or find a new way of blending colors or producing shading.

     So I am growing as a disciple (a follower of Jesus), as well as growing in discipline. Both words have roots in the word which means "student," so I am studying every day of my journey.

Count the Crystals of Salt
 To give you an idea of how the essays and illustrations work together, here is the picture and the essay for day 4.

DAY 4 - MARCH 7th  -  When you Google “Lenten Symbols”, one of the more intriguing items that you will find is the lowly pretzel. What could this possibly have to do with the lead-up to the most holy of Christian holy days?
There is one claim that in 610 A.D. an Italian monk created pretzels as a reward for children who had learned their prayers. He calls the strips of baked dough “pretiola” (little rewards). They were an appropriate treat, as they were made solely of flour water and salt, thus not including any of the forbidden ingredients of Lent: milk, eggs, butter or lard.
      There is documentation that pretzel shaped pastries have been used as the emblems of baker guilds in Southern Germany since 1111. The little treats, known in Germany as “bretzels,” were described as showing the shape of a child’s arms, folded across the chest in prayer. The three holes, created by the twisted dough, are said to represent the Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This treat may also be the origin of the term, ”tying the knot.”
      A prayer book used by Catherine of Cleves in 1440, included an illuminated picture of St. Bartholomew surrounded by pretzels. By that time, pretzels were considered a sign of good luck and spiritual wholeness, probably because of their relation to the Trinity.
      Originally all pretzels were what we now call soft pretzels. According to several sources, the dry pretzels we now purchase by the bag, were a result of a baker in the Pennsylvania town of Letitz, who left his pretzels in the oven too long. The upside of this dried product was that they lasted longer and so could be sold further afield.

     Waiting: for spring, for ideas for topics, for the yard to dry so I can start gardening, for my laundry out on the line to dry, for days warm enough to really enjoy walking, to hear about my book. It will all happen. The laundry may be dry already. Five days til spring on the calendar. Thirty more days of Lent. And how many days til the rest? I'll just keep working, and learning and trying to grow, like the snowdrops in the garden, that waited under ground all winter, and then under the snow, but are now bringing great joy. Spring is just around the corner. Is a book deal? Hope springs eternal.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Submission #2: I'm On Track!

It's In The Mail!

The Memorial Post Office at Watchung Plaza closes at 3:00 p.m. At 2:50, after dodging a car that was in as much of a hurry as I, I walked in the door with my new proposal and its accompanying papers, ready to mail. I had to buy one more envelope for the SASE to enclose, but there it was. Ready to mail on February 28th, as planned! I am feeling really good!!!

When I received the first rejection last month, I pledged to get the proposal out to another publisher by the end of this month. I have worked diligently to research publishers, as well as to improve my project. I have a new set of thumbnail sketches which enabled me to consider the overall design more clearly. I have several new "finished" illustrations. I have revised the text a bit and have created a more polished dummy. I have also carefully chosen to whom to submit it.

As I wrote on a Post-It© on the dummy, the dummy is not only a model of my proposed book, but it is a window on the process of creating my book. It includes some near-final art work and the near-final text and back matter. There may be more to add, if National Wildlife Federation agrees to let me use their Backyard Wildlife Habitat logo in my illustrations. I need to get the non-disclosure agreement off to them next week.

While walking the dog with my husband this morning, I mentioned that I am really pleased with all the changes that I have made since my first version. He was kind of surprised, as he didn't think I'd really changed the story. Well, the basic story remains intact, but dozens of small changes have created smoother language, more inviting page turns and more a more compelling overall design and message. The new version is a far better informed piece of work, both artistically and technically.

The Old Dummy
My earlier dummy was little changed from my original text and dummy. I have now added several pages as well as revising  the language on other pages. I have been able to address the issue that one editor brought up last summer regarding point of view. She seemed to think this made the book a non-starter after the first two lines. I think she underestimated readers, but I have now shown the reader who is speaking, through a new  illustration.

The new dummy (version 3) has color on every page and even the rough sketches are more finished. Thought has been given to text placement.  I have not yet settled on a preferred font. That is the kind of thing on which I am sure the publisher or editor will provide guidance. I wish I had better technical skills with PhotoShop© so the dummy looked even better, but a dummy is not supposed to be a finished product, so I am not stressing about that.

It has been a busy week, bouncing from sketching, to drawing, to scanning, to cut and paste, to editing the proposal and accompanying papers. The final product is so worth it. Reading through the dummy before I put the finishing touches on it, felt like I was reading a real book. Hard cover and end papers help, but this version is just so much more "finished".

Author/Illustrator at work
The cover letter, along with the dummy, the proposal, the text and background materials were all proofread carefully more than once.  SO glad I did this, as I caught one typo in the cover letter, three space glitches in my profile and a wrong date for my M.S.  Hopefully I caught all the errors.

If you are following me and my journey, please cross your fingers for me, and send up prayers to St. Francis de Sales, who I just discovered is the patron saint of authors and writers. My book deals more with the creatures beloved by the other St. Francis, but maybe with both of them on my side, this exclusive submission will find its way out of the slush pile and into print.

I'll leave you with this hopeful quote from one of my favorite children's authors.

“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
Shel Silverstein

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Picking a Publisher: The next step in the journey

Too long since I've blogged, but I have not been idle. Nor have I been immersing myself in depression. Maybe a bit too much chocolate has passed my lips, but much good has come of the time as well. I spent a long day at the Montclair Public Library in the children's section.

This charming sculpture greets patrons just outside the Children's reading room. Like this odd couple, I spent a thoughtful day. I spent it  reading and analyzing children's picture books and counting books, and researching publishing companies. I had gotten leads through SCBWI and had checked out several companies on the net.

I now have a new target in my sights. The next company is one which prides itself on publishing "new voices." I read every picture book they published that was in our collection and sent for about ten more on inter-library loan. The books are coming in and I am making great strides in getting to know this company and it's authors and illustrators. I have linked to several on LinkedIn and have checked out many websites and FaceBook pages. What a treasure we have in the Internet, to enable us to "meet" and get know the works of other writers and artists.

I feel that I will now be able to write a well crafted, well informed letter to submit with my proposal by the end of this month. I know something of the authors and illustrators, their media, their background and experience as well as how my chosen company puts books together. I was thrilled, this morning, to find the first of their picture books with illustrated end papers. This is one thing I am hoping for, as folks have reacted very positively to the illustrated end papers in my dummy. Here is another plus: my chosen company is willing to accept a dummy, which many companies are not willing to do. I have a very nice dummy, but...

If you read my previous blog, you know that I had just received Writing With Pictures in the mail, and was expecting that it would provide some guidance. I can't recommend this book too highly to any hopeful author/illustrators. As Bonnie Ferrante wrote in the Children's Books Authors and Illustrators Group on LinkedIn, "Uri Shulevitz's book could be a text for a university class." As a result, I have redone my thumbnail sketches and am revising my dummy. So far, I like the new version a lot. It flows more smoothly, and I think the page turns will work more effectively as well.

My goal is to get the new dummy completed, and perhaps one more "finished" drawing, so I can submit the new proposal by the end of February. It's a short month, but I believe it is doable.
Of course, if Mother Nature would send less snow in the coming weeks, so I didn't have so much shoveling of snow, chopping of ice and feeding of birds and bunnies, I would have more time.

 I have used snow days, when it was too inclement to venture out, to create a new website with some of my art work. I invite you to visit it at www.Pi-SunyerNaturally.com.

As always, I welcome comments, suggestions or just a simple "Hello."

Hopefully there will be more art on the website and more progress to report on the dummy in the next week.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

My FIrst Rejection Letter

It is interesting to note that if you Google "First Rejection Letter," it yields 43,100,000 hits. Although several thousand of these entries deal with rejections from colleges (or preschools), or bank loan applications, a substantial number of them are related to letters of rejection from publishing companies to people like me. So, should I feel comforted that I am not alone? Or should I be depressed that I'm one among a throng of millions?

125 days after I submitted my proposal for a picture book to a publisher in New York, I received my very first real rejection letter. My literary and artistic creation has been rejected!

After an extra-large hot chocolate (with and extra shot of cocoa), a huge bowl of buttered popcorn and five pieces of chocolate candy (including two I snitched from my husband's chocolate orange) I sought consolation in a more positive way. Reading through some of the really brutal rejections received by many authors (and non-authors) I decided that I was better off than most. When you read the 1912 letter sent to Gertrude Stein, or the one George Orwell received ("It is impossible to sell animal stories in the United States"), I feel quite good about my letter.

My rejection was phrased very encouragingly.  The letter from the Vice President /Editorial Director  "...Appreciated the informative style that teaches about animals and nature..."  The animal examples I chose "are appropriate and would be engaging for young readers...". Unfortunately, as the country song (sort of) says "I came along one [manuscript] too late." The publisher has just signed another picture book, which mine is too reminiscent of. Sigh!!

Mitten The Mouse
I will take to heart the advice from the "Smart Nooks for Smart Kids" blog by Debbie Glade.

    1.    Don’t quit when somebody rejects your work; keep trying.
    2.    Know that all people who accomplish great things take risks.
    3.    Believe in yourself
    4.    Be realistic.  Educate yourself about the process.
    5.    If your story is good, know that somewhere out there, there’s a person who will read it, love it and publish it.

Yesterday a book I ordered came in the mail. It's called, Writing With Pictures. It looks as though it is filled with good advice for artist/authors like me. I will spend time with it this week. I will continue working on my art work, and explore the publishing process. It is time to select the next company to which I will submit my proposal.   I DO believe in myself, and I believe in this book. Who knows what the next 125 days will bring?

I am confident that  - at the very least - they will bring more polished illustrations, a good deal of frustration and anxiety and clearer insights into a good many publishing houses, their requirements and publishing lists. My days at the library and book stores will be filled with exploration of books that have the feel of mine, so that I can find a company that shares my philosophy and appreciates my story, my message and my art work. My job is cut out for me.

I will get by, with a little help from chocolate, and a supportive network of family and friends, all of whom, I know, have faith in my book, and who continue to cheer me on on this journey.

Oh! And I will set up a notebook called "Rejections." I'll let the letters live their, and not let them take up residence in my mind or my heart.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

IS IT A SHORT STORY OR A MEMOIR? Expanding or Contracting a Great Idea.

I have a story that's been running around in my mind, in my heart and on my computer for several years. Three or four years ago I screwed up my courage enough to share it at the local writers group Open Mike Night.  I had had to cut it down to 5 minutes after I arrived at the meeting. Not knowing that The Write Group has a strict time limit before I arrived,  I edited out what I could. It still went 8 minutes, but they didn't cut me off. That was when I knew that this story was something special.

I've written three or four more versions of the story since then. I've committed myself to getting it to a publisher this year, or possibly self publishing it, but now I am in a quandary. Every time I re-approach it, I find another part of the story that begs for more detail.  Do I simply breeze over the Spanish Civil War by mentioning a few of the more famous battles, or do I provide one or two in-depth scenes, introducing specific characters and revealing the true horrors of life in that time and in that space? Should I provide my readers with a clear picture of the dangers and deprivations of homesteading in the Big Bend region of Washington Territory in the 1880s, or simply pass it by with "She had homesteaded in Western Washington when she was a girl..."?

Will readers really care to be pulled into a Victorian living room to watch me cutting out paper dolls and listening to family stories? Do they want to know how I met my husband?

A few of my readers will be all too familiar with the dreadful and delightful details. Others will not have a clue. Is it my job to tell the story to those who know the setting and some of the characters, or is my mission to reveal an entire set of worlds to unknown readers who have never hear of Catalonia or Washington Territory?

Yesterday, between reading "Character", "Plot", "Dialogue" and "Set Design" in Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott, I delved into Auntie Kate by Katharine Garford Thomas, a distant cousin. I located my - as yet unread - copy of History of Catalonia by Jaume Sobrequés i Callicó.

Anne Lamott is advising me to tell more: to let my readers get to really know my characters. I like this idea. I'd love everyone to know Grandmother Arny  and Uncle Vin and Big Lina and all the rest of us. But is it too much?

If the story worked so well in 8 minutes, will I spoil it by making it 8 hours long? Or will I open the hearts and minds of my readers to events they never knew of, and to truths they have not discerned?

I'd love to hear from you, to know what you think.

Meanwhile, I'll keep reading Ann's book and skim through the history book, and maybe see if I can talk with a relative who crossed the steep mountain passes from Spain to Toulouse, France or Skype with a family member who was there, on the docks in Le Harve in 1939.

I really would appreciate your thoughts on this.