Our critique group met the other day, at Mary's house, and Mary had a birthday. So we had to celebrate. Left to right, we are Susan, Marcia, Mary, and Connie.
Then, Susan had a book out! Route 2, Box 12 is the third collection of her weekly "life on Sunnybook Farm" columns that have appeared in several regional newspapers since the early 1980s. So we had to celebrate again. This time, we are Mary, Marcia, Susan, and Connie.
And yes, we did actually do some critiquing after all this. :)
This past Saturday, April 20, Wendy McClure, Senior Editor at Albert Whitman, spoke at the SCBWI-WI Spring Luncheon. She gave an entertaining program on her favorite MG childhood series, the Little House books. The most interesting part of the program for me was the excerpts from Laura Ingalls Wilder's early drafts; the long, single-spaced editorial letters sent to her by her own daughter, Rose Wilder Lane; and rejection/acceptance letters, the former from RWL's own literary agent and the latter from Knopf; which we got to see onscreen through Power Point.
I was really struck by this: Laura's early attempts were (1) all telling, and (2) from a distant observer's POV. Rose told her she had to be inside Laura, and Rose was right on. While listening, I thought about the need to allow first drafts to be poor if that's the only way they will come out, about how we sometimes can't put the emotional content into our stories until we can first bring ourselves to record them at all, about how steep and difficult the climb to publishable-prose level is for all of us, and how the newbiest of writers can go on to produce something special, even timeless.
And I thought of the kinks, rocks, and boulders in the road to publication even after you succeed. Because it wasn't Knopf who published Little House in the Big Woods, even though they accepted it. The year was 1931, and Knopf closed their children's book imprint because of the Depression. The book had to go back on the market and sell again, this time to Harper, who did publish it.
All of the biggest successes we can think of were achieved by people who, when they first set out, couldn't be sure they'd accomplish a thing. And this is why I believe, on every level, that life is a faith walk.