When the generous and talented author Tara Lazar recently posted the cover of BEEP AND BOB book one for the first time online (https://taralazar.com/2017/03/02/beep-and-bob-cover-reveal/), she asked me to write something about my writing process. Though I was tempted to be flip and funny, I decided rather to talk about a painful but true step in the creation of my upcoming chapter book series: giving up. Here’s what I said:
Thank you, Tara, for hosting the very first peek (one year before publication) at the cover for book one of my upcoming chapter book series, BEEP AND BOB (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster), which I write and illustrate.
Though BEEP AND BOB is my debut series, it is far from the first kidlit book I was supposed to publish. That honor goes to a picture book I wrote years ago. I assembled an illustrated dummy, submitted to the finest publishers (in an envelope with stamps!) and waited for greatness. Of course, for that and a second book, only rejection followed.
Luckily, around that time I found the organization SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). While networking at SCBWI conferences, I found a great community of dedicated and generous creators, always there with support. I also found an agent, who picked up my first middle-grade novel. She began to submit and got some genuine interest from well known editors. Once again, I waited for greatness. But once again, even after a couple more mg novels and some almost-sales, came our friend rejection.
Of course, this story is heading for that age-old chestnut that the key to any success is PERSEVERANCE. Try and try again, and then try some more. It’s all about dedication and endurance. However, I also discovered one new gem that, for me at least, became a crucial part of the puzzle: GIVING UP.
Obviously I didn’t give up writing or I wouldn’t be here, but at some point after being endlessly battered by the waves, I gave up in the sense of letting go – letting go of being attached to the goal of publication. I stopped struggling so much and gave myself permission to just spit out whatever wanted to come out, no matter how silly or wild. In a short time, I had a draft of BEEP AND BOB, which is about a boy who is reluctantly sent to school in space, and his lost alien buddy. I let it burst with humor and heart, which for me are the two most important ingredients of my work.
But it didn’t take much stepping back to realize that trying to sell a zany, debut, sci-fi chapter-book series about unknown characters was going to be a quixotic challenge. Rare was the agent who even said they represented chapter books (I had since left my first agent). So back to perseverance, and that horrible chore of submission that all writers know.
Luckily, this time things turned out different: I was soon signed by the awesome Natalie Lakosil of Bradford Literary, and within a month of submitting she sold it in a four-book-deal to Aladdin. Please don’t tell Natalie, or my editor Amy Cloud, that BEEP AND BOB was really just an exercise in embracing failure.
Besides Natalie and Amy, I’d like to thank Nina Simoneaux, who designed this cool cover (I provided the color character spots). Hope you enjoy! And never give up giving up.