Saturday, September 02, 2006

I've got a book about a crew of mermaid vampire pirates I'd like you to read...

Here's a recent article I read about children's book publishing, courtesy of Fusenumber8:

Weddings, Funerals, and Everywhere In Between, by Diane Roback

The occupational hazards to working in children's publishing are legion. As I read through the stories about people with book ideas approaching publishers in bathroom stalls and at funerals, I remembered one relatively benign but still cringeworthy episode that started out so well: my manuscript was one of 15 selected to undergo scrutiny by an editor at Candlewick Press. We had 15 minutes to talk about the manuscript. At minute 12, I blurted out the premise of a novel I was working on. The editor nodded and said something vaguely encouraging, but I inwardly kicked myself. For what was I hoping? That, like the late, great Ursula Nordstrom, she'd say, "Oh, wonderful! You write that book and I'll read it?" Dream on. (Anyway, now you know one of my embarrassing secrets, which, like my other embarrasing secrets, usually make no one cringe but myself.)

Speaking of Ursula Nordstrom, it's worth reading Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, edited by Leonard Marcus. Nordstrom was the now-legendary children's book editor of Harper & Row (Harper and Collins). Chances are that some of your favorite children's books made it into your hands thanks to Nordstrom. If you're not inclined to read Dear Genius, at least check out this book review: Confessions of a Former Child, by Rebecca Pepper Sinkler.


The Moy said...

I don't think it was out of line for you to bring up a book idea while talking to an editor under those circumstances. It's not like collaring him at a family picnic, etc. Don't angst about it.

Storytelling is a rare and wonderful gift and I salute you. Too few people have or even seem to understand it these days. One of my favorite books is a small volume called "A Readers Manifesto" which talks about "the rise of pretentious fiction." There's all too often an emphasis on writing "lyrical" prose at the expense of telling a story that's interesting and lucid and engaging. Anyone who's had to read some of the fiction published in THE NEW YORKER will know exactly what I mean.

Good luck!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Thanks so much, The Moy! I'd been brooding about that meeting for some time. :( I'll check out "A Reader's Manifesto." I think for so many years I was one of those people trying to write lyrical poetry at the expense of the poem. Then, I read Neruda and Sandburg, thought, "Yes, this is what I want," and changed direction.

I have enjoyed reading your writings, by the way. There is something uncanny and lingering about your stories.