It’s been a VERY long time since I rambled on about my mouse visitor. If you have no idea what I’m talking about (or need a refresher because, as I said, it’s been a LONG time), read “A Visitor for Heather” Part 1 and Part 2. If you’ve clicked those links and thought to yourself, “I don’t have time to read all of that!” here is a summary: Mouse is the little visitor who represents children’s book writing. For many years, he tried to wiggle his way into my life, but I ignored him or whisked him away, until around 2012, when I finally became serious about becoming a children’s book writer.
Part 2 ended with me allowing Mouse to visit more regularly. I wrote ideas and lines of text between driving and meal prep, revised during sports practices, and regularly read and studied new children’s books. My husband entertained the kids for some chunks of time on weekends so I could write. At the end of 2014, and thanks to “Tuesdays with Grancy,”* I was able to commit to a local, monthly, in-person critique group. I gradually immersed myself in the children’s literature community by subscribing to blogs, listening to podcasts, following kid lit folks on social media, watching webinars, attending conferences and book events, participating in challenges, getting professional critiques on my manuscripts, networking, and volunteering for my local SCBWI chapter. I learned and wrote and revised and revised again.
I entered 2021 with an even more aggressive plan to submit to agents and small presses that allowed non-agented submissions. One of those presses was Clavis, a well-established, reputable company that publishes authors and illustrators from around the world. During the pandemic, Clavis posted several read aloud videos. I got a feel for their tastes and wondered if a story I had written several years prior might be a good fit for their list. I pulled it out of the virtual drawer, made a few small changes, and submitted it to them in February 2021. I continued writing and revising and submitting other stories to agents. I continued collecting rejections and filling my jar, reminding myself that it only took one yes. Then one Sunday morning in March, I opened my email and saw a message from Clavis. I scanned it quickly and read, “It is a nice and sweet story, very close to children and told from their perspective.” I expected the rest to read the typical, “but, unfortunately, it isn’t a fit for our list.” Oh, well, another dollar in the jar.
But it didn’t say that.
Instead, it said, “So, we would like to consider publication.”
What?! That couldn’t be right. I read it again. I looked around for someone else to read it to make sure. For so long, everyone was home—ALL the time. But, at this very moment, NO ONE WAS HOME! I had been waiting for Mouse to bring a publishing friend for tea (or chocolate), and now he was here, but no one was around to witness it! I think I was afraid he’d change his mind and scurry away before anyone else could meet him. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Before the shock and confusion wore off, my husband arrived home. I pointed to the computer and asked, “Can you read this and tell me if it means what I think it means?”
After that there was lots of hugging and smiling and sharing the news with my family and critique partners (who all are, incidentally, the best cheerleaders anyone could have). Later, I had a meeting with the CEO of Clavis who explained that the book would be published in Dutch first and then English several months later.**** I signed a contract (after careful review, of course). The wonderfully talented Natallia Bushuyeva gave life to the characters I dreamed up and made them our characters. A translator translated my text into Dutch. Then, 20 months after that email, a copy of a picture book, written by me, arrived at my doorstep.
And that rejection jar? I emptied exactly $100.
Then I started filling it again, waiting for Mouse to invite another friend for tea.
And he did!
But those are stories for another day.
* “Tuesdays with Grancy” are what I fondly termed the days my mom picked up our youngest child from half-day school and took over all the lunch/nap/greet the bus/homework/activities for all five kids until I got home
** I wanted to be represented by an agent who was knowledgeable of the industry, could submit my work to more publishers than I could on my own, could negotiate contract terms, etc. Typically, if an agent is interested in one picture book manuscript, they are going to ask to see more work before offering to represent the writer. That is why it is recommended to have at least three (if not more) polished manuscripts ready before even beginning to query/submit. This is not necessary for novel writers.
*** I wish I remembered who to credit for this idea. Whoever you are, thank you, it really helped!
**** How fitting that my first book would be published in Dutch. My maternal grandfather’s (mentioned in Part 2 of my story) family, the VanDerveers came from Holland.
Heather is a busy wife and mom of five rambunctious children and one lovable pup They all provide lots of distractions, but oodles of inspiration. Sometimes the pictures and ideas in her head turn into her own children's stories, but she always makes time to read other people's books. Sometimes she reviews them here.