WWJD: What Would Jane Do?


Writing Career. In Progress.

All hail Queen Jane! God save the Queen!

The queen I’m referring to, of course, is Jane Yolen, maven of children’s, middle grade, and young adult literature.  Author of famed Caldecott-winning picture book “Owl Moon,” along with fifty million other books.  I’m her friend on Facebook, due largely to begging sweetly via Facebook message.  Follow her if you can, even if you don’t officially “friend” her.  It’s like going to University in what it’s like to be a real effing writer.  She journals her progress, rejections, and successes each day.  Here’s a picture of the lovely queen, in her younger years, when she was a newbie like you and me:

young jane yolen

And here’s the Queen now, with all the wisdom and beauty her years of experience and hard work have given her:

jane yolen

I offer this tidbit from her Facebook page, with her permission.  It’s about rule number one of having a successful writing career: Showing Up.

BICHOK, baby!

(Butt in Chair, Hands On Keyboard)

All Hail the words of Queen Jane:

“OK–listen up. All those rejections over the last few months? They don’t count. Thursday Heidi and I sold a new picture book. (And no, I’m not at liberty to talk about which one yet, not till the ink’s dry on the contract which is not yet signed.)

Wait–of course those rejections count. Of course they hurt momentarily. But the important thing is what a writer does after the rejection. And I don’t mean the moaning, groaning, grousing to one’s friends or critique partners. I mean the getting-the mss.-right-back-out-there-again. Long ago, Phillis Whitney famously said, “A manuscript in a drawer can’t sell.” I always remember that.

But publishing is a matter of money and taste and the perceived ability of your work to make the company rich. The editor is the conduit for publication, though she’s no longer the final judge. As much as an editor can act friendly towards you (some may even actually be your friends), she is still employed by the company. And she can still be overruled by company colleagues. It ain’t the old days, folks, when Ursula Nordstrom fell in love with a manuscript, told the author she was buying it, and walked down the hallway to say to the marketing folks, “You will find a way to sell this book.”

Owl Moon (even in the old days) was turned down by five editors, all of whom said it was too quiet. I could have left it at that, in a drawer. My agent could have said, “Let’s put it aside.” And children’s book history would have been changed–and my writing career as well. And why did it sell on its next outing? I could point to Patricia Gauch who had just become an editor for Philomel and fell madly in love with the book and made it her first buy. Who had taught John Schoenherr’s kids in high school. Who had a soft spot for owls. All coincidences I had no control over nor did I know of them ahead of time. If I were religious (instead of “spiritual”, a word I have come to hate) I might point to a reasonable God, ie a God open to reasoning with. If I were a betting woman, I might say the odds had fallen in my favor at last. But then I remember my late husband, whom other birders called “a lucky birder” because he found so many rarities. When called that, he simply shook his head and said, “I show up.”

I show up as well. Not only every day at my computer to work.I show up by sending a manuscript out again and again. If someone asks for a revision, I show up. If I meet a new editor (fourteen years old or not) at a convention and she seems interested, I send her something. If I figure out a new way to rewrite the book–I do that ASAP. Then send it out again.

And if the gods are willing, the planets aligned, the rare bird hops into my garden and sits posing on a fence post, or it’s it’s just my lucky day, I sell the new book.

As I did Thursday.”

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