From blog to book covers

Hi everyone,

Two years and six months ago I posted something called Still seeking research stories. Here’s the link: . Jane Yolen’s response triggered a long standing request from my son Jeff Harrison that I write a story about a tiger for him. He was probably under ten when he asked me. So I responded with an opening line and Jane added a first page, and I added, and she added, etc.

At some point Jane and I went offline to talk about the book we’d just started and we went from there to finish it. Yesterday we learned that we’re about to receive an offer to publish the story as a picture book. What great fun. And it all started here.


21 comments on “From blog to book covers

  1. Send from Jane Yolen:

    It is also an iconic story of idea-to-publication.

    1. We are not newbies. Each of us writes at least one new picture book a year, sometimes several. We also still get our share of rejections. I have nearly 30 picture book mss. making the rounds. I think David has a number of them as well. But you only need one acceptance to cancel out the pain of rejection!

    2. LONELY TIGER was one of those pleasures -to-write books, for both of us. The ideas kept coming, each one of us is a demon reviser as well. We didn’t sugarcoat our suggestions and we always listened carefully. Praised where praise was due. The educated second eye/honest beta reader was–in this case–built in.

    3. Agent (mine, and David’s for the book) sent it out. We had four rejections, all nice. But nice or not No is No. We didn’t take it personally. We didn’t hesitate to send the book out again.

    4. The fifth editor was someone David had worked with before. I know her slightly. She’d already turned down 6 mss. of mine, including a book of poems that David and I had written. So, knowing us, our reputations, didn’t particularly swing the deal. Honestly, the other editors we sent the book to who turned it down were all editors either one of us or both of us had worked with or were currently working with.

    5.What worked? Simply, Grace Maccarone at Holiday House love love loves this mss. She told David so.

    So you ask–why didn’t we send it to her first? Well, I don’t think she was at Holiday House yet when we began sending the mss. around. Certainly, Holiday House hadn’t been bought by their new Overlords and given the go-ahead to expand. Woudl that have made the difference? I don’t know. And, honestly, I don’t care. Grace loves the book NOW. Has bought it NOW. And I have done the happy dance NOW.

    Moral: Each mss-selling story is different. And each mss-selling story is the same. Same because it ends happily. Different because editors and authors are different every single moment of every single day. I recently had a book turned down because an editor’s wife had walked out, and the book was set in the milieu that the wife had grown up in. Too painful the editor told me. I have had a book turned down because an editor said, “We just bought a hedgehog picture book.” And “My art director is squirrel-phobic.” And. . .and. . .and.. those are just the ones that actually tell you something.

    So the real moral is: HAPPY DANCE. Cause we earned it.


    • Well said and summed, Jane. I love the rejection, “My art director is squirrel-phobic.” Most of the time we don’t know why something is turned down, which adds to the frustration. And yes, it helps to keep manuscripts in circulation. My total at the moment stands at 17. There are probably 10 more that finally went home to my “forget it for now” files until I can look at them again one day to see how to reinvigorate them.

  2. Congratulations to both of you! I remember that ‘search for authenticity’ thread you had going a couple years back, and I’m in the middle (actually, closer to the end now) of a poetry collection that turned out to be MUCH more work than I’d anticipated due to the amount of research involved; but I’m enjoying it, and hopefully an editor will, too.

    I know what Jane means about rejection and finding the right editor. Charles Ghigna and I are shopping a collaboration around at present and after 5 or 6 rejections, it’s discouraging, but not unexpected considering how the industry works. Just hoping we can find the right fit soon!

    • Thank you, Matt. Congratulation on your growing list of successes! You’re in good company with Charles. I hope your collaboration finds the right home before long. Sooner or later I bet you will.

      • Thanks, David. It was one of those “Here’s something I started but don’t know where it’s going” instances – a few stanzas Charles shared with me – and after looking at what he’d written I came up with a couple of stanzas of my own and a possible direction for the book. I shared my thoughts with him, he loved it, and we set about finishing it up, revising, polishing…and now we wait!

      • And so it goes and now you wait. An old story, and a good one. Thanks for sharing it, Matt.

  3. Congratulations, writers and happy dancers! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experiences. Matt, here’s hoping you & Charles are happy dancing soon, too!

  4. You all are inspirations to me, and thanks for the continuing advice. Congratulations David and Jane. It’s another book to look forward to!

    • And there you are, Susan! You must keep a jar of poet pens beside your computer. They come in handy all the time. Thank you!

  5. LOL!! Nope – just trying to get the brain working this morning! After several weeks in humid places, the dry Colorado air has my sinuses working overtime. Ugh! So happy for you and Jane! And another book I’ll get to share with students!

    • Sorry about the sinus tissue issue! I bet you have lots of good stories about your recent adventures though. Food for thought: your second graders today could be in seventh grade by the time this book comes out. And I would be . . . but let’s not dwell on that! Let’s hope it’s sooner!

      • Not to worry about the students, David. There will always be MORE to share your work with! LOL!

  6. Big congrats! A tiger book will be so much fun for kids.
    Getting an acceptance never gets old. Rejections get old. I’m going to print out your attitude toward them and read it every morning.

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