After the final draft of a children's novel I was working on, was finished, I realized it was not. I took it to Susan Savory the children's book buyer in our local book store, the Bunch of Grapes, on Martha's Vineyard and she gave me one solid piece of advice. Take it to a professional children's editor.
But who, but where, but, but...but.
Susan scribbled this name on a scrap of paper and I went home and sent out an email. Emma Dryden, Emma Dryden, Emma Dryden, I recited her name like she would be the answer to all the mixed up links swirling around my head on traditional publishing, agents, direction, and just how many queries to send out in one lifetime.
After a few more emails, I finally got a contract with Emma to have my work edited with a view to the children's book market. I felt like I got the golden ticket in the chocolate bar.
That was late last winter. I sent it via the post, two copies of a manuscript that I had worked on for six years.
After a six week wait I got back a lengthy, detailed edit, that said I had work to do.
I'm not sure what I really expected, a letter of love for my work, a deal, a six figure movie offer. But it wasn't that.
I sat with those pages for two months, sometimes I wanted to bang my head against the wall. Think about cutting this, she suggested, it was like asking me to cut myself. Have fun with it, she wrote. I could have cried a million times but I'm not a crier. I challenge you, she wrote...it was so much of a challenge. The biggest was to take out all adult P.O.V. All! That was a lot. She explained, ultimately it would make Chesca a stronger character. It might, I remember thinking, but it could also kill me.
Slowly, overtime, like a thaw, I began making sidebar notes, highlighting important points, and check marks. I began to think about the changes. I got coffee stains on it and ripped it up and reprinted it two weeks later. Then I let all the energy and emotion of that edit go, and I set out to work on the final edit. I gathered strength and decided to give it to Chesca, my eleven year old character. I wrote like mad, and cut like a seamstress and stitched and smoothed and polished.
She's in print now, and on Kindle and just about everywhere online, she was released last December, here on the island in the beautiful Noepe Center. She's not on the NY bestseller yet, may never make it either, but she's the best she can be, for me and as a young (uuh-emm) author, a beginner, a new-be, there is confidence there, even if your first book means it is building your platform, then so be it, I understand the marathon theory. It takes time, and I'm fortunate to have had some professionals involved, guide, teach, from John Hough Jr, to Chris Beatrice the illustrator, and to have found Emma, who threw down the sword for the largest cutting job I ever faced, but, kindly and softly and all for the better good.
I finally got to meet Emma this week in New York, she came to support my first off-island book signing of Chesca and the Spirit of Grace, in NY and she was fantastic, helpful, wise, and professional, and she's coming to the Noepe Center on the Vineyard. Catch her if you can.