A picture book takes longer than most people think….and longer than an author may think…so I love this post from Laura Perdew who persevered with this story, pulling it out of the drawer to let it evolve over time with new learning and realizations. So for all of you out there with manuscripts in the drawer…don’t give up! Sometimes stories take time and growth. So how about a “drawer” challenge”—do you have story tucked away waiting for a revisit? I do!
The Writing Journey by Laura Perdew
I wrote the first draft of The Fort in a time when submissions were mostly done by snail mail, and rejections came as form letters in envelopes I’d self-addressed, stamped, and included with my submissions. Among the many rejections (starting in 2008) were a few handwritten notes with positive feedback – nibbles! In addition, there was something about the story I believed in.
And so, I kept revising and seeking feedback. My writing partner read it and gave feedback. So did my sister. I took it to workshops. I used information from conferences to guide my revisions. I studied the craft. I read mentor texts (LOTS of them). I even got a critique. Obviously I didn’t work on the manuscript constantly for ten years, but every time I pulled up the story I applied something new I’d learned.
I continued submitting it to editors and agents over the years. Alas, no one picked it up. There were SO many rejections (I will not divulge the exact number)! Still, there was something about the story that made me keep trying.
At the beginning, the story was actually titled, The Princess and the Pirate – the girl was royalty and the boy was the pirate. Then one day in early 2018, after participating in Story Storm (hosted every January by Tara Lazar), my mind was whirling and full of ideas ping-ponging through my head. That’s when I was zinged by the idea for a twist in my story. Why not make the pirate a girl and turn the princess into a prince? Viola!
I had heard or read the advice to spin your stories in unexpected and original ways many times. Yet before that moment, before that AHA, I’d never been able to envision a way to do that with my story. Story Storm, though, generated the creative energy I needed to make it happen
That March I participated in the #PitMad Twitter event with a pitch for my old, yet new story now titled The Fort; Courtney Burke of Page Street Publishing “liked” it (yes, Twitter pitch events do result in requests and acquisitions!).
I sent her the manuscript, which was returned a few weeks later with a request for a revise and resubmit. I carefully, carefully, carefully combed through her editorial notes. I revised. I called on writing friends to read it and give feedback again. And then I resubmitted. In June, I was offered a contract. Suddenly I was talking about possible illustrators with the Page Street team! Soon rough sketches by Adelina Lirius arrived in my inbox. Then color drawings. My story came to life in a beautiful way that I’d never imagined.
The one thing I’ve learned through this experience is that writing is not a sprint to publication. Nor is it even a marathon – it is a journey filled with twists, turns, adventure, and surprises made all the better with the support of the writing community.