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.”

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