Thursday, March 8, 2012

Gentle Rejections

Yesterday, I admitted that one of the things I love about blogging is that you can push a button and magically see what you've typed up "published" and looking very polished and professional. It got me thinking about the two times--many, many years ago--when I tried to get a couple of children's books published.

I still have a pair of gentle rejection letters (one dated 1982 and the other 1984) from Dodd, Mead, & Co., Inc. in NYC that say:

"Thank you for giving us a chance to consider your material.

We are sorry to say that it does not fit in with our immediate publishing program, but we are nevertheless grateful to you for thinking of us in this regard."

These are form letters in content, but you can tell that they were actually typed up specifically for me--on cream-colored letterhead paper, using one of those Stone Age office tools known as a typewriter--so that my dreams could be squashed in the most personal way possible.

I never did send my manuscripts (and boy, do I use that term loosely here!) out to other publishers after those initial rejections from Dodd, Mead & Co. When I look at them now, I realize why: they just weren't all that good, and I knew at the time that if I was serious, I would have to polish them up quite a bit. (Or perhaps burn them and just start over.) But once I started having babies in rapid succession, I felt my time was better spent reading quality books by published authors to my sons rather than trying to write children's books myself.

One of the manuscripts I submitted for consideration was about a little boy who was a bit of a dreamer, a Walter Mitty type. The point of that one was to encourage kids to use their imaginations. It wasn't a bad idea in theory, but the execution was terrible. The other one was about a little girl who eats so many chocolate chip cookies that she actually becomes one. Yes, that's right: she becomes a human chocolate chip cookie.
Help, indeed.

I wonder why a big Madison Avenue publishing house decided that this gem of an idea didn't fit in with their "immediate publishing program"? Yikes! Just imagining an editor having to take the time out of his busy day to look at my amateur efforts makes me cringe. You can probably guess what the book is about, can't you? The little girl stops eating so many cookies and begins eating lots of healthy fruits and vegetables, and then voila! She's transformed back into a cute little girl, and she lives happily ever after. (So predictable!)

Again, not a bad idea in theory; but the execution left a lot to be desired, as you can see. I should be too embarrassed to show you this illustration, but I thought you could use a good laugh today.

I started two other children's books over the years. One had the working title Shame on Shamus, and it was about a naughty but lovable dog that gets into everything. I used our puppy Shamus, a Black Lab/Golden Retriever mix, as a model for the six acrylic paintings I did as illustrations for the book before the project got shelved. The other was a simple alphabet book. It was going to have three pages of illustrations for every letter--at least, that was the plan. I finished the work for letters A through D about eighteen years ago; but then my youngest son learned how to walk, and somehow I never got around to completeing that project either.

Now that I have the power to self-publish on this blog, perhaps I'll start working on that ABC book again and get it into print, posting one illustration at a time on "String of Pearls." (If I do that, though, I'll have to be ready to read critiques in the "comments" section that might go something like this: "Thanks for giving me a chance to consider your material, but I'm sorry to say that it doesn't fit in with my idea of what constitutes a good children's book...")
One should never give up, though; right? You have to keep on dreaming!...Hey, doesn't that sound like good material for a children's book?