Monday, June 3, 2019

What I Learned from My First Completed Middle Grade Manuscript

gift-pillow my mother made
to commemorate my
first "book"

The first middle grade novel manuscript I completed was called WISH YOU WERE HERE, and it was about a girl's adventures as she searched for her birth-father.

When I attended my first SCBWI conference I signed up for a manuscript critique with an editor. My ms landed with Summer Laurie, then editor at now-defunct Tricycle Press.

I'll never forget how it felt when I met with Summer, and she told me she loved main character Cricket, and she thought I was onto something here, and would I send her the full manuscript? She was saying the words I'd always hoped to hear... my dream was coming true!

So, I sent her the manuscript. I waited, I hoped, I dreamed some more. When I heard from Summer a few months later, it was not the news I was hoping for. The manuscript wasn't ready, wasn't a good fit, wasn't – whatever. But would I please keep her in mind for future projects?

What did I learn from this experience? Well, about a billion things! Here are a few that leap to mind:
  1. SCBWI is awesome. I don't know where I'd be without this organization. Everything I know about publishing, and getting a book ready for publication, I learned at an SCBWI conference. (Shout-out to my Southern Breeze region!)
  2. Getting a request for a full ms does not guarantee a sell. There are a thousand reasons a manuscript gets rejected. Ultimately I'm glad that manuscript didn't sell. It wasn't the best first book for me. But I'd never have gotten to THAT book had I not written this one first.
  3. Children's book people are THE BEST. I'm still in touch with Laurie. She has continued to champion my books (and occasionally give feedback) through the years since we first met at that conference.
  4. The most important thing I learned from this first completed manuscript was... YES, I can finish a book. YES, someone out there will want to read it. YES, writing can be its own reward. And I will be “learning” to write for the rest of my life. I'm so grateful!

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Irene Latham lives on a lake in rural Alabama. Winner of the 2016 ILA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, she is the author of hundreds of poems and nearly twenty current and forthcoming poetry, fiction and picture books from publishers including Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Lerner, Boyds Mills, and Charlesbridge. Her books have been recognized on state lists and honored by NEA, ALA, NCTE, SIBA, Bank Street College and other organizations.




5 comments:

  1. What a great story about Laurie! You made some incredible progress with your first manuscript.

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  2. You are so awesome, Irene! And you share your experiences so generously. Thanks!

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  3. Excellent lessons, and hooray for SCBWI!

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  4. YES, AND LOOK AT YOU NOW! Ty for sharing this. Sometimes you write a book to learn to write that type of book. My1st stab at a CB isn't anything I'd send out now w/out a mojo overhaul, but I'm writing my 2nd CB and feel Know what to do better.

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  5. YES, AND LOOK AT YOU NOW! Ty for sharing this. Sometimes you write a book to learn to write that type of book. My1st stab at a CB isn't anything I'd send out now w/out a mojo overhaul, but I'm writing my 2nd CB and feel Know what to do better.

    ReplyDelete