July 13-26, 2011:

It has been a while, mostly because I have been mammothly busy with writing and friends and visiting relatives. So here’s a quick catch-up.


I had written in the Interstitial Moment above, saying that having many manuscripts and proposals out at once can mean you get many rejections on one day (been there, done that, got the tee-shirt) or you can sell that many all at on a single day. Well, on a single day, I won an award, got a grand review, and SOLD THREE PICTURE BOOKS. The picture books were all sold to the same publishing company–Boyds Mills. They consisted of two poetry collections, one a sequel called Grumbles from the Town with Rebecca Kai Dotlich, and one of just my own poems called Thunder Underground. The third is a picture book in rhyme with my daughter Heidi called You Nest Here with Me which has a long and interesting history. Short version: editor Liz Van Doren of Harcourt originally bought the manuscript close to ten years ago. We spent a couple of years revising it for her. Then Harcourt hiccuped, was vastly undercapitalized, solved this by dumping editors right and left (including the wonderful aforementioned Liz), and sold itself to Houghton Mifflin. The few editors left were either not interested in the book or kept passing it around in a kind of editorial shell game. But nearly five years later, we were able to get the mss. back from them. Meanwhile Liz (are you following this?) had several editorial posts elsewhere, not appropriate to children’s books, and eventually ended up at Boyds Mills which only produces books for young readers, a good fit. She called me up and said, “The committee agrees with me that this is a wonderful book and we are buying it!” There’s a moral here. You figure it out.

Also got my first copy of my graphic novel Last Dragon. The color proofs of Take Two, the book of twin poems by J. Patrick Lewis and me arrived, as did a copy of Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers which is the Chagall poem that Pat Lewis and I also wrote. And the ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of Things to Say to  Dead Man, my book of adult poems about my hisband David’s last days and the aftermath of mourning arrived.

I have begun the massive revision of the novel The Thirteenth Fey which the editor sent back with many notes. (There is likely to be a title change, too.) It will take me a while. But in the interstices, I was surprised by a picture book based on a picture posted by an illustrator friend on FaceBook, Tara Chang. So I finished about five drafts in record time (it rarely happens, but when it does, I adore it) and she is busy working on a book dummy and a finished picture. It is called The Trouble with Taking Three Trolls Out to Tea. And in-between the interstice (are you still following all of this?) Rebecca Dotlich and I have been shooting poems back and forth for the Grumbles collection.

Yeah–a LOT of book stuff these fourteen or so days.

Other Stuff:

Of course life goes on as well. So in this two weeks I  saw the Harry Potter movie (thought Neville was about to jam the sword down on the bridge and proclaim YOU SHALL NOT PASS! ala Gandalf). Had a dessert party here at the house for fifteen or so friends. Hosted my young cousins (second cousins? thirds?) Paul and Ellen Vercesi and their delicious young daughters Ava and Francesca (Chezie) for five days. Had several meals at Bob and Debby’s and a lovely meal out that the Vercesi family took me to. And the building began on the garden room. So lots going on outside of bookmaking, book writing, and being bookish.

Interstitial Moment:

I always tell writing students of mine that they should try and have seven things (at least) working for them at all times and yesterday showed me once again why this is significant. Yesterday, I received notification that Elsie’s Bird (Philomel), published last year has won a significant award. Though I am not yet at liberty yet to say what award. In another email almost at the same time, I heard that Creepy Monsters, Sleeping Monsters (Candlewick)–even before it was officially published–had to be reprinted! And that after I’d gone to sleep here in Scotland, but still during the editorial day in the States, an email told me when I awoke this morning that a poetry collection with Rebecca Kai Dotlich called Grumbles from the Town (Boyds Mills) had been bought. And there’s a strong possibility, though by no means a certainty, that the same editor at Boyds Mills may be buying a second book of poetry from me on Monday.

I tell, you this not to boast. Okay, okay, honesty propels me to admit it: I’m boasting a little. But mostly I mention those things because it reminds all of us that if you only have one thing out there, it could (literally) take years before you hear anything at all. Publishing is a slow death by inches unless you are self-publishing. And then you have to spend your writing time being an editor, art director, type designer, marketing specialist, publicist, and pay for the damned thing besides. Frankly, I’d rather be writing which is what I do best and leave the rest to the real experts.

This is what I usually have out making the rounds at any one time: single poems to anthologies or journals or online magazines or magazines, maybe as many as half a dozen. Short stories if I’ve been asked for them, it’s rare that I write them on spec these days. Picture book manuscripts (as many as 20) going to particular editors who’s editing style I admire and who’s lists appeal to me. Usually between 3-8  novel proposals (though having recently sold a single book and a trilogy as proposals, I only have two other things out there now–a completed animal fantasy and the proposal for the third book in my graphic novel series Foiled, and will wait until I am further down the line with those books before sending anything else out. And about 10 poetry collection proposals, all pretty well along.

While those take their long winding paths through the thorny publishing woods, I am at work on the books under contract. So I don’t have to worry if what I have making the rounds takes its usual snailing way. I always know what my next day’s work will be. This means I have no down time between projects, no emotional slough of despond, no going months, even years, without hearing something. And most important, by spreading out the variety of things I can do, I am fad-proof. Yeah–I may not be the latest flavor of YA or kid’s book, but at 72 I don’t expect to be. Still my books are coming out every year and probably will long after I’m gone. I promise to haunt the hallowed halls of publishing, though, because I will be so dang curious to see what the books look like, whether they get good reviews, win awards, get reprinted before they are actually published. Oh yes, and if stuff left behind gets sold by my kids as “Mom’s Last Book.”

July 1-12, 2011:

My days continue with writing, friends, reading, movies, and some alternative forms of fun. But writing of course comes first. Mostly I have continued on with the poem a day, as well as the Girls’ Bible, reworked some of the Ekaterinslav poems, and three chapters/6000 words (with Adam) of the first book of the Seelie Wars Trilogy. Also I have been reading and critiquing stuff by friends Debby and Bob, a draft of a Dragon’s Blood movie script by someone who wants to option it, and a picture book by an old friend, Jan Adkins.

Here is one of the poems. Still a work in progress:

July 4:

Independence Day: in Scotland

“Ha, ha, we won, you lost”—Elizabeth Kerner Ewing

No wonder, then, the celebrations,

fireworks, parades, patriotic songs,

are ignored, spirit dampened

by the oceans between. Even ex-pats

find it hard to summon more than

a line of snark, a wink at the Scots.

Still on the English leash, they give back

the quiet snarl of well-trained dogs.

But what have we won, besides

a country so divided along lines

of wealth, health, and versions of God

that we cannot agree on anything,

not even our independence.

I had a small party for visiting friends of Debby and Bob’s, here at Wayside. Bob and I went into Edinburgh for a children’s book party, though Debby declined. We walked so much, Bob’s knee went out and I had to tell Debby, “Thanks for the loan of your husband. I’ve brought him back broken.” We went to two museums (saw the new Elizabeth Blackadder show at one), the Thistle Chapel at St Giles (designed by Sir Robert Lorimer who designed Wayside, so obesiance must be given every few years), watched a street performer, and then to the party.

Went to the dreadful (though popular) “Bridesmaids” movie with Nora and we both hated it. Probably the only two people in the theater to feel that way, given the amount of laughter.

Debby and I went to Doone Antiques emporium and I bought three pieces of Arts&Crafts smalls including a mirror and  a serving tray, as well as  several presents for friends and family.

And on a sunny Sunday mid-morning,  went to the Wormiston House open gardens with Christine. Afterwards, I carried (through the then showers) two overflowing bowls of strawberries and whipped cream up about a quarter mile to a neighbor’s house for the annual Hepburn Gardens garden party. We were inside part of the time but typically, the rain ended and out we all trod, carrying food.

Good week. Good food. Good friends. Good (I hope) writing. Very needed since I have just gotten back The Thirteenth Fey novel  from the editor and it needs MAJOR work and possibly a new title.




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