I like write days more than work days

Hi everyone,
David from 417 Magazine
Yesterday was a work day. I wrote a poem early in the morning, but mostly I attended to other duties of a writer. As you may know, I don’t have an agent and can’t articulate why other than this is the way I do it.

I found an unfinished manuscript in the files that I hadn’t touched since 2015. It’s a proposal with samples and I still like it. I submitted it to an editor I know but so far haven’t worked with.

Remember that first middle grade novel I said I was going to write, also back in 2015? I finished it and tried two houses. Both editors called it too literary. Since then I’ve had more than half a dozen readers vet it and make excellent suggestions that I’ve incorporated into the story. Yesterday I spent time checking on possible homes and queried three of them about interest in seeing it, including one of the two that turned it down the first time. I also asked an author friend what she thinks about her publisher and hope to make that a fourth possibility. If I don’t place the book during this effort, I’ll start over and make another list. I’m pleased with the story and plan to work until I find a spot somewhere. As a footnote, one of the editors I queried responded in half an hour and I sent her the script.

I sat for a while looking over a collection of poems that I think has some of my better work. The problem is that it has no “hook.” Maybe I’ll coin a new term: “If it’s hookless, it’s bookless.” Many editors these days require a connection, a reason, a tie-in to the land of school and library sales, which means there must be a strong, obvious support for school curriculum such as Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I get it but this bias can lead to good stories being left off lists because they’re guilty of only being good literature. Other publishers maintain their philosophy of publishing literature, but of course the marketing opportunities change over time. Thus you might ask me again why I remain agentless. But moving on. In this case I have two houses in mind but they both have submissions from me at the moment so I’ll wait a while longer.

I also happily greeted the news that Polemo Books is bringing out HERE WE GO: A Poetry Friday Power Book, their latest title, and I’m one of twelve poets anchoring it.here-we-go That’s great news and, as always, I’m flattered to be included in anything that Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong publish. https://www.amazon.com/HERE-WE-GO-Poetry-Friday/dp/1937057658/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484248684&sr=8-1&keywords=here+we+go+a+poetry+friday+power+book
I used to know how to make those teeny addresses but seem to have forgotten. Soon afterward Janet sent this bulletin along: Good news! HERE WE GO is a Children’s Book Council “Hot Off the Press” selection for January 2017: http://www.cbcbooks.org/cbc_book/here-we-go-a-poetry-friday-power-book/#.WHeip3jAUrR

Next I spent some time making arrangements for an upcoming research trip to help me finish my current middle grade novel. I’ve done the story but want to visit the setting in Arizona once again to make sure I’ve nailed everything accurately. I’ll walk and visit and take pictures, then come home and put on the final shine. If I miss that window, I’m busy until mid-March. While I’m in Phoenix I will visit Burton Barr Main Library to see my poem in the sidewalk and have my picture taken with a group of youngsters who will be there. But to do that means I’ll need to drive four hours that morning after overnighting in Bisbee to meet them at 10:00 a.m. Little details like that can take time.

At 1:45 I took a break for cheese and crackers, dropped off leaves at recycling, and drove to the store for grub and grog in anticipation of the predicted ice storm. When I put away the grub, it looked just fine, but I wasn’t sure I trusted the grog. I took a wee sample to be sure and determined that there were no discernible imperfections. Satisfied, I settled back to work.

Correspondence involved a business matter and something to do with one of my favorite volunteer projects. I exchanged updates with my writing partner, Sandy Asher, on the new venture we’re exploring and sent a note to my editor at Guilford about the poetry chapter I’ve written for the latest edition of CHILDREN’S LITERATURE IN THE READING PROGRAM.

I can’t account for where the day went. I still had a lot of friends I wanted to talk to but I was out of time. It was suddenly 4:22. I had only one hour and thirty-eight minutes before 6:00, that fateful moment when my M.O.W. makes me quit playing. I had another wee sample, because of a certain lingering doubt about the first, relaxed for a few minutes enjoying the video provided by my U.K. friend, fellow poet, and frequent visitor to Word of the Month Poetry Challenge, Bryn Strudwick, (https://youtu.be/ePk3bK6oU90), and started writing a poem. Didn’t finish it, but that was yesterday. Today is a new day!
P.S. At the last minute I remembered to shave. Close call!

13 comments on “I like write days more than work days

  1. Muddle

    To shave or not to shave
    that is the question,
    Where tis nobler to write
    taking arms against
    a sea of rejections,
    and by sending out queries
    end them, I still don’t know.

    To agent or not to agent,
    a thornier question,
    the heartache with/
    without, the thousand
    natural cold shoulders
    that a manuscript is heir to,
    aye there’s the rub.

    To write or not to write–
    that is no question at all,
    for when I have shuffled off
    in my slippers one more time,
    without having written a thing,
    I feel robbed of the day.
    So, I write–and thus,
    may all my sins be remembered.

    With apologies to David Harrison and the bard.

    ©2017 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

    • Dear Jane, I’m confident the bard would mutter jealously. As for me, I think it a grand effort that will ennoble my writing this wintry day. Thank you! XO

  2. Jane’s poem sums it all up perfectly! Congratulations on your writing success, David – whereas the success comes from the writing, more than the publishing of what was written. The success of publishing of course, is even sweeter, but as Alfred Lord Tennyson once wrote, “’tis better to have written and gone unpublished than to have never written at all.” At least, I think it was Tennyson.

    As a relatively new guy on the scene, many of your concerns and frustrations are the same as mine, which gives me a modicum of comfort, to be honest: needing to write poetry thematically, keeping CCSS & STEM in mind, trudging through my fledgling career without an agent…all these things weigh me down when it comes to my creativity. If I have 2-3 hours available each day, do I spend that time writing, do I spend that time researching a publisher or agent, do I spend that time writing a query/cover letter, or do I work on marketing? I’ve yet to find the balance.

    By the way, congrats also on your inclusion in Janet & Sylvia’s new book – I hadn’t heard of it, but great news for you!

    • Thanks, Matt. You and Tennyson got it right. You also touch on points often not understood by writers when new to the field of publishing for children, which is why I occasionally describe a day in the life of a freelancer. Of course a good agent can do certain things for us but the writer must still know the market as well as his audience. How to keep up with it all in a limited amount of time is what frustrates nearly everyone. Thank you for the attaboy. Much appreciated. S&J do great things for poets and poetry.

  3. Enjoying your blog from not-so-sunny San Diego! Keeping my fingers crossed for your book! It WILL happen! Off to the zoo!

    • Not so sunny? Isn’t it against the law not to be sunny out there? Outlandish! Hope for better soon. Don’t pet the big dogs that roar.

  4. Hi David, I, too, wanted to congratulation on your inclusion in Janet & Sylvia’s new book. I want to thank you also for sharing your life as a seasoned writer and poet. As a fledgling writer, the glimpses you provide helps me to make sense of what I can expect while providing a frame of reference of the “real” world of writing.

    • Thank you, Beverly. It’s always a pleasure to be included. I’m glad you’ve been coming by my blog and that you find it useful. I appreciate your telling me. Good luck with your writing!

  5. Thank you, David, for another great post–and for the inspiring poem that you allowed us to include in our new book HERE WE GO. (Re the long links: I actually don’t mind those long links because they give more info than the short bit.ly and tinyurl links.)

    • Janet, you make me feel much better! I’m delighted to find myself among so many stellar poets in your newest creation. Way to go!

  6. Another day gone and all I was able to write is this. Hrmph. But glad to be in such good company before nodding off to la la land. Thanks for your posts which provide inspiration and commiseration to us all!

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