Sunday, September 20, 2009

Biography of The Freak Observer

I know that some writers crave information about the adventure from notion to print. Even though my notion, my little book, hasn’t really made it all the way to print, I thought I’d tell its story thus far.
Update: It's to be released this August, so it's less than a year between acquisition and publication dates.

[A note on acronyms: SCBWI is Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. YA is Young Adult.]

September 2007: I attend a SCWBI retreat near Yellowstone Park. I’ve accidently written a book, and I want to get some objective opinions on it. The response to my first chapter is generally positive but includes the observation, “It’s not YA.” It’s a middle-grade book--that’s the consensus. Later during the conference the attending editors clarify what YA is: “It’s not bestiality.”

October 5, 2007: I start work on a new YA novel with the working title Not Bestiality. By mid-November, life intervenes. I put it aside until the following summer.

September 2008: I have a couple of professionals look at my first 30 pages; their enthusiasm is limited. I revise when I have time, but I find myself not following their advice to simplify the narrative structure or plot. (One excellent piece of advice: “Seed in small points of progression.” I’m still not absolutely sure I know what that means, but trying to figure it out gave me a couple of lovely scenes.) Life intervenes. When I have time to write, I spend it on the book originally deemed “not YA.”

January 2009: I have some time so I send out some (five) queries. One results in a request for a partial. The agent is kind but forthright. She dislikes the narrative structure and writes that it didn’t seem particularly YA.

April 2009: I read about an editor’s interest in small novels and submit the full MS on April 21.

August 21, 2009: The editor writes expressing interest in the book.

August 24: The editor calls to discuss my book. He will be taking it with him to the acquisition meeting in late September. I’m pretty sure I behaved like a blithering idiot during the call. The editor is gracious and brave.

September 2009: I’m waiting to hear about the acquisition meeting. Even though I’m swamped with indexing, I’ve written the first chapter of another book: Its working title is Seducing Troutzilla; I may change it to Not Bestiality. (Note: I wrote the chapter just so I could have something to share at SCBWI BigSky. Less than a year later, it's headed for acquistions. And I'm starting book three to take my mind off the nerves.)

September 15, 2009: The editor calls to request some supporting documentation. A YA book that dabbles in theoretical physics requires some explanation. I keep pretty detailed research bibles for my books. It seemed like a pointless bit of anal-retentive nonsense until now.

September 23, 2009: The editor lets me know that my book lived through acquisition. I haven’t signed anything, but the deal is struck as far as I’m concerned. I’m ricocheting around the room, which makes it hard to type this. The (near) future: I leave for BigSky SCBWI on Friday. It was almost two years ago that I heard the words “not bestiality.” I can say this with confidence: those words changed the course of my life. I think I’m going to needle-point an escutcheon with that as my motto. Meanwhile, I continue to send out selective queries for my original “not YA” novel—I’m very careful to avoid suggesting that it might be YA. Whatever it is, it isn’t YA. For one thing, it’s about metamorphosis, Ovid-style, and that implies bestiality.

Update

August 1, 2010: The Freak Observer has officially been published. You can even buy it on Amazon in Japan. You can get it other places, but that one really makes me smile.

From now on, The Freak Observer will tell its own story. That makes me smile, too
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