Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Path to Published

We all have hopes and dreams in life. Some wish to be a race car driver, a surgeon, a fireman, movie star or a myriad of other things. As parents, we do what we can to encourage our children to reach for the highest stars, and to not let anyone tell them that they can't do something. As a mother of three young children, I am no exception to this. I feel the best way to teach any lesson is by example.

My dream to become a published children's author began when I was in the third grade. My first teacher to tell me that I would have a future in writing was my third grade teacher, Mrs. Belingeri. Later, in junior high school, it would be Mr. Merrill. Consistently through my life, my father, Bob Davidson, as well as my God Mother, Camille McElroy, would tell me that I am missing my calling. They insisted that I was, "born to write".

By July, 2009, I decided that, after seven years of being "Mom" and not being gainfully employed to speak of, it was time to take a leap of faith. There were other factors that helped me come to this conclusion, but I will save that for another time. At any rate, took me on as their "Hudson Valley Family Examiner". I enjoyed the position from the start. I continue to write for them, as it allows me to explore people and places that I may not otherwise be connected with. As much pleasure as this has brought me, I still had a nagging feeling that something was missing. Have you ever heard the expression, "right church, wrong pew"? Well, this suited my circumstances.

By September, 2009, I had a bit of an epiphany. It was in my heart to be a children;s book author. What a relief it was to finally figure this out! However, I had no idea how to make this dream a reality. The way I had always seen things, was that, these sort of things, only happened to "other" people, definitely not me.

I had plenty of material to work from, much was on my computer files, in notebooks and still unwritten in my head. There was a favorite that I had written about a year prior. I decided that it was the one meant to be my first.

Again, not knowing how to become published or what the process entailed, I first looked into becoming "self-published". There are lots of great online resources for this, and they make becoming published a reality for many. It costs a fair amount of money to get started, but I have thrown money away on lesser things, I suppose. Next, I needed to find an illustrator.

My oldest son made a good friend who he has maintained a relationship over the past few years with. I remember our family going to their house for a dinner and remarking at their beautiful artwork on their walls. It turned out that each one was done by our host, Ana Lia Schiariti Croci. I was amazed at the revelation, and it was "filed" in my mind, not knowing how much it would mean in our future.

I called Ana Lia and shared my idea of the book with her. I told her that I would be self-publishing and that I would need an illustrator. She agreed to take a look at the story for consideration. It was in quick time that we decided to move forward together.

After a couple of weeks of preparations and Ana Lia's beginnings of illustrations began, I started to feel overwhelmed by the project. I was afraid of the technical know-how that I lacked in putting it all together myself. After several days of contemplation, I decided that I was selling my dream short. Never in my dreams, had I imagined being "self-published". I didn't even know what that was until earlier in the year. I wanted to be published by a traditional publishing house. I spent the next several days online, submitting the manuscript to five different publishing houses.

Many people have asked me how I chose those five. Honestly, it was nothing more than a process of elimination. All of the large publishing hoses won't accept manuscripts unless they are submitted through a literary agent, which I did not have. Many, many publishers were crossed of this list by this. Many more traditional publishers were not accepting children;s stories, no matter how they were being submitted. I took this as a sign of the down-turned economy, and crossed many more publishers off of the list. This left me with five uncrossed.

It takes a long time to submit a manuscript. Most publishers want to know that you are serious enough about the project that you will invest that initial time. It takes even longer, according to their sites, to hear back from them, no matter their decision. Most tell you to expect up to eight months for a reply. Publishing is a slow process. I suppose this test of patience right off the bat, is an indicator to both the author and the publisher, if this is going to work.

For whatever reason, I heard back from one of the publishers within a few days! Their only rejection was to my having my own illustrator. Little did I know, publishers like to use their own in-house illustrators. They told me that they would like to take on my project, but would have to "loose" my illustrator. That, just was not possible for me.

Ana Lia and I, in my mind, were meant to be partnered in this. God gives us all talents. As far as I am concerned, we are obligated to bless others in some way with theses talents. Therefore, whatever good was going to come out of this book, was meant to be shared by Ana Lia and I together. I told the publishers that it was going to be the both of us, or neither of us. They ended up agreeing to the terms, but told me that the contract was going to be between "author and publisher". Any contract between "author and illustrator" would be left up to Ana Lia and I, leaving the publisher completely out of it. I agreed.

Six months later, Harry the Caterpillar, was released. Ana Lia and I have been welcomed into the published world. Perhaps more importantly, "Harry" has been welcomed into the hearts of so many young ones!

As Fan Pages have been launched on Facebook for Harry The Caterpillar, and for Michelle M. Birkenstock, Author, I have gotten many emails and messages from aspiring writers. We all start out in the same boat, holding with white knuckles to the dream of being published. The most popular question asked is, "How did you do it?". This blog entry is the best response I can give. Through this, aspiring writers, dreamers like me, can read my story of how it all happened in detail. But one thing that you cannot read, rather you must feel, is faith. No matter what your dream is, have faith in it; have faith in you! Many times our biggest obstacle is nothing more than ourselves.

Write your comments to me. Keep sending me the emails. I want to know how the faith in you is coming along!

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