Tag Archives: children’s books

How *Not* to Get Published

In previous posts, I’ve shared the manuscripts of my nearly published children’s books Song of Life and When My Dad Was Little. Here is the story of how that “nearly” came to be…

Both of my stories were written during a period when I was facilitating a creative writing class at Alpine Valley School, the Sudbury school where I’ve been on staff I since November 1998. It was also around this time that I read many, many children’s books to my sister’s children during visits home to see my family.

From 2004 to 2006 I didn’t staff at AVS on a daily basis, but rather as a sub, trustee, and member of various committees, as for various reasons I had to take a full-time job at the University of Colorado. (Since my move to Austin this summer I’ve resumed a similar sort of substitute/consultant staff status.) When I returned to regular staffing at AVS for the 2006-07 school year, it was on a part-time basis, and I sought to supplement my Sudbury hours with freelance writing/editing and work for CASE.

Well, fairly early in that school year, I was talking with a prospective freelancing client whose ad described them as a children’s book publisher. Naturally, I mentioned that I happened to have a couple manuscripts of my own, and to my surprise, this person quickly and eagerly asked if I would submit them to her.

Before I knew it, I had contracts to review and sign, in addition to a substantial amount of work editing her other authors. Much as when I was offered my first teaching job, I thought I was all set, that my freelancing work was on the verge of really taking off. Enhancing this perception was some additional, early success in finding relatively easy and lucrative writing jobs.

I’m not sure at what point things turned with my pseudo-publisher, but at the very latest, it would have been one exciting morning when a package containing copies of Song of Life and When My Dad Was Little arrived at my apartment. Almost instantly the thrill of seeing my words become print was supplanted by a sinking feeling of horror, then outrage, when I saw what this publisher had done. Continue reading

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When My Dad Was Little

A couple weeks ago, I posted my first children’s story, Song of Life. Here’s the second of my “nearly published…oh, guess not” picture books. As with Song of Life, When My Dad Was Little was inspired by interactions with my sister’s children. In this case, they were so young that realizing their mother is also my sister was a little mind-blowing for them. This led me to wonder how different, and yet similar, was their world compared to the one in which I grew up.

When My Dad Was Little

This one’s for my own Dad and Mom, in recognition of all their support “when I was little”…and since.

It’s hard to imagine, but my Dad used to be a boy just like me!

Things were way different back then, though.

When my Dad was little, Grandma and Grandpa were his Mom and Dad (and they still are).

Aunt Patty was his sister—and she teased him just like my sister teases me.

When my Dad was little, the mall across town was a huge, grassy field with cows in it, and the children’s museum was a crumbling old train station.

When my Dad was little, they didn’t have cell phones. Their phones were always plugged in and couldn’t leave the house.

And there weren’t any phones with cameras or games or even screens! To call somebody, you had to stick a finger in this circle with holes and turn it a bunch of times.

When my Dad was little, there were only four channels on TV. They didn’t have cable or satellite, DVDs or Blue-Ray. There were no remote controls, and you couldn’t record anything.

When my Dad was little, they didn’t have iPods or CDs. They had to listen to music on big plastic circles called records, or funny little boxes called cassettes or eight-tracks that they plugged into bigger boxes called stereos.

When my Dad was little, they had to look things up in these huge, heavy books called encyclopedias….

…because THEY DIDN’T HAVE COMPUTERS OR THE INTERNET!!

But some things are still the same.

When my Dad was little, he had to go to the doctor and the dentist, and he went to school—just like me.

His parents taught him how to ride a bike and play baseball.

They took him to the library, and to get ice cream.

When my Dad was little, his parents made him brush his teeth and clean his room.

Sometimes when I get in trouble, my Grandma winks and whispers to me, “Your father used to do the exact same thing!”

And at night, when my Dad was little, his parents would tuck him in and read him stories…

…just like my Mom and Dad do for me!

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Song of Life

As one of the purposes of Write Learning is to showcase my writing, here’s the manuscript of one of my “nearly published…oh, guess not” children’s books. I wrote Song of Life while going through some gut-wrenching job turmoil, which had me so down I wondered if I’d be able to sing at my upcoming choir concerts. Randomly, the thought crossed my mind: What if that happened to a bird…?

Song of Life

For Logan, Erica, and Max,
who reminded me of the power of story
and taught me that mine is worth telling.

There once was a Papa Bird—
my, could he sing!
All over the town,
his words, they would ring.

In the mornings he’d wake
and the bright sun he’d greet
with a loud, happy song
of each day’s fresh new treat:

“Oh the grass, it is green
and the air, it is sweet.
There’s water to drink
and nice worms for to eat.”

He’d sing to his wife,
his dear Mama Bird;
he’d sing to their babies,
first, second and third.

He’d sing to the flowers
and people he’d meet—
why, he’d even sing to
that cat down the street.

In the evenings he’d tuck in
his babies with care;
singing a lullaby
softly, he’d share:

“My family’s a treasure,
and life is a pearl
I’m the luckiest bird
in this lovely green world.”

Every day, every night
he would sing, sing, and sing,
and all over the town,
his words, they would ring.

One bright sunny day
Mama Bird chirped, “Our brood—
I think they are hungry;
please fetch them some food.”

With a smile, Papa answered,
“My love and my life!
Whatever you wish,
I will do it, my wife.”

So away, far away,
he happily flew,
soaring and singing
as only he knew.

But when he got home,
the nest—it was bare!
Not a peep, not a chirp,
not a single bird there!

Papa flew about madly
from tree unto tree.
He just could not think
where on Earth they might be.

Then finally he saw them,
his deepest dark fear—
a few ragged feathers
and fur—it was clear…

“That cat, he has done this,”
our Papa Bird swore.
“My wife and my babies,
I’ll see them no more.

“This world is not lovely—
yes, that I now see.
And I just do not think
there’s a song left in me.”

So away, far away,
in grief now he flew.
Not a note did he sing,
for his heart was too blue.

For many long days
he was too sad to sing.
The town had gone silent;
his words did not ring.

The flowers, they wilted;
the grass faded, too.
The people were grumpy,
yet nobody knew

this was all from the sorrow
of one quiet bird.
Life had turned sour,
for no song was heard

until one day when Papa Bird’s
sadness grew strong.
Angry and crying,
he burst into song:

“My children were taken,
my precious wife, too;
my happiness gone,
I don’t know what to do.

“I once sang from gladness;
on high did I soar.
But my song is now sadness
and pain evermore.”

Then, just at that moment
a new sound was heard:
Continue reading

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