The Ouch Chronicles


Is it about the destination or the journey? You have to decide.

Ouch, ouch, ouch…there are lots of popped-out nails and splintered planks on the path to publication.

Although I’ve written 3 books for adults, now I’m trying to find an agent or editor for my first middle grade novel, Whistling for Elephants.

I’ve gotta admit, I was downright blessed with those other books. The first one, Gardening with Heirloom Seeds, happened because an editor from a small publishing house saw an article I’d written for an in-flight magazine (Delta Air Lines Sky). She contacted me and asked for a proposal. I sent it, but ultimately, it was turned down.

Well, I figured, I’d written an outline, market analysis, sample chapters, and so forth, and I didn’t want to waste the work, so I sent my proposal elsewhere. My second try, at UNC Press, was accepted, and the book came out about 18 months later. (In case you don’t know, yes, it really can take years to get a book to print).

Then I wrote an essay about my spiritual journey, also for Delta Sky, and it happened again. An editor saw the essay and contacted me. (See a pattern here? Getting published in an in-flight magazine is amazing exposure. Literally millions of people read them each month.) I wound writing Mustard Seeds for B&H Books, and even got a contract for a follow-up, Little Mercies.

I’d always loved kids’ books, so next I tried writing one. But lots of life-stuff started happening, so I kept shoving the manuscript to the back burner, until this month, when I finally finished it and began circulating it.

I’m discovering that few publishers take unsolicited, or so-called “over the transom” manuscripts anymore. They’re so inundated with submissions, they’ve stopped reading new work unless it’s represented by an agent.

Unfortunately, it can be as hard to get an agent as it is to find a publisher. It seems almost everybody wants to write, but few stories see the light of (published) day, unless the writer really works hard to learn and practice her craft.

So here what I’ve decided: I’m going to share my path toward publishing a children’s book here, and on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn.

And here’s why: I’ve told friends that I’ve already gotten a couple of rejection letters (which is not a sign of failure, I’m learning; award-winning children’s author Kate DiCamillo got an overwhelming 470-some rejections before she sold her first book, which went on to become a best-seller and a TV movie. Read her interview with PBS here).

As I share my own turn-downs, I’m reminded about what really matters. Writing feels like a calling, and doing what you love matters more than what you may or may not get in the end (a contract and money).

I often debate how much to share. I mean, if I let down the public mask that most of us wear, do I look like a loser? Well, sometimes I am, but that’s okay. That’s what it means to be human, right? I am what I am, and what I am is — a work in progress.

So please check back with me to see what’s happening on my journey toward publication. I’ll share what I’m learning, in hopes it’ll help other aspiring writers. And if nothing else, those of us who feel called to write won’t feel alone.