My First Manuscript
I wrote my first book, along with my best friend Claire, when I was in 6th grade. It was called Billy Bixby and the opening line was, “Fetch it, Mopsy,” yelled Billy Bixby, one bright sunny day as he threw a stick across the yard. Although Claire and I finished it, somewhere along the way it was lost or destroyed. Both of us had had fires in parts of our houses at one time, so that might explain it.
I never imagined being a writer at the time, but I do remember that I loved writing term papers in school and enjoyed anything that had to do with writing. I had pen pals back when that was the thing to do and wrote long, newsy letters. I loved receiving them as well. During high school, I wrote a lot of poetry, too.
My first taste of “rejection” came in college, during a freshman English class. On my first writing assignment I received an “F.” Although I was allowed to rewrite the paper and turn it in, my grade only improved to a miserable “D.”
My husband Buzz and I met on a blind date when we were 16. We’ve been together for over 46 years and have gone through all of the craziness of marriage and family. With our children – Tracy, Ben, and Nick — now grown, we love cruising in one of our old cars — a 1964 Corvair and a 1951 Chevy. We spend as much time as we can at our cottage, which is only 30 minutes away. I was fortunate to be a stay—at—home mother, but also helped my husband in our business – a local service station. My husband has since followed his dream as well and is an engineer and mechanic for a local scenic railroad.
While raising three children kept me busy full—time, I still enjoyed working from home. I typed term papers for college students – this was back before everyone had a computer – and worked for a professional association of architects for over 14 years.
My love of kids and reading took me to my children’s school where I volunteered in a lot of different ways. Besides being a homeroom parent, I served pizza at lunch once a week (since the school didn’t have a cafeteria), worked on numerous fundraisers, graded papers, and helped in the library. The library was the perfect spot for me and eventually I took a part—time position as the aide to the librarian. Jean became a good friend as well as my “boss.” I still run the library now, since Jean has long ago retired. And getting a new box of books that I’ve ordered is like Christmas Day for me.
Selling My First Picture Book
About 15 years ago, I wrote a rhyming picture book as a gift for my first grandson called Ty’s Ordinary Day. My son Ben illustrated it and my best friend, Linda, suggested I look into having it published. I didn’t really know anything about writing for children.
Much to my surprise, I sold the manuscript to a small publisher on the West coast within 5 weeks of submitting. I still remember getting off the phone and screaming at my good news. The downside was that they weren’t interested in the illustrations (I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to have your manuscript illustrated), so I had to share that news with Ben (who softened the blow, by assuring me that he’d rather be rock star than a children’s book illustrator).
A Disappointing End
I won’t go into the gory details, but suffice it to say that Ty’s Ordinary Day was never published. When 9—11 occurred, the country was in a tailspin, and the small start—up publisher who had purchased the manuscript (along with a second picture book), was struggling. After about 18 months, it was suggested that I hire an attorney to get the manuscript back. I did. And I’ve never been able to sell the story since.
Never Give Up
The silver lining to Ty’s Ordinary Day is that the initial interest by the editor gave me the confidence to believe that I had at least a little talent. Although I’ve got a binder full of rejection letters, I’ve also had my share of successes. I’ve been published in a number of magazines, including My Friend, Clubhouse, Fun for Kidz, and Highlights. I am also under contract for several non—fiction articles for Highlights magazine. I’ve sold greeting card text and craft ideas and I’ve appeared on local television and radio. My freelance work has been published in the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market and The Guide to Literary Agents.
As a past Regional Advisor for the Northern Ohio SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), I’ve met many wonderful people, made some great friends, and have connected with a number of editors. Not to mention, I’ve learned a lot about writing for children. I still serve on the executive board. I’m in two wonderful critique groups: the Jambies (with Gloria, Joan, and LeeAnn), and the Jemelies (with Emily, Janice, and Judith). And I have a great one—on—one critique partner – Charlie.
I’m very lucky today to have a wonderful friend and agent, Vicki Selvaggio, and we are just starting what I know will be a long and productive journey together. If there is anything I could change about my life, I’d have started writing professionally sooner. But with eight grandchildren – Ty, Aaron, Eli, Simon, Christian, Ryan, Tessa, and June – I have a lot of inspiration for good works to come!