I’ve been sharing stories of My Adventures in Publishing with my fifth grade classes ever since my first book was published – well, even before that – back before anything I wrote even came close to getting published. But this year was different.
In September, I told my students what I was working on – the story of a boy who discovers an extra day between Wednesday and Thursday and a mysterious girl hiding in the house next door who exists only on that secret day. They went nuts for the idea and wanted me to read it to them, but I declined, because I had written it as a YA story and there were inappropriate bits.
But they kept clamoring for the story, and when my agent got back to me and told me how much she loved the manuscript – BUT she thought it really ought to be written for MG – I knew immediately that she was right. Revisions commenced at once, and I hesitantly agreed to read the new version to my class when it was ready. This would be the first time I’d ever read one of my manuscripts to a class, and I was extremely nervous – even worried that parents might complain I was hawking my books. (This was not the case. Parents told me how excited their children were to getting a privileged peek at the book.)
The sale came in October, after an email from HarperCollins that arrived right before my last class of the day and stunned me to the point where I could barely teach. I shared the basics with my students – the 3 book deal, the enthusiastic compliments from the editor – but I also admitted I was nervous. Certain changes were mentioned in the offer, and I told the class, “I’m not sure if I’ll like these revisions.”
One of my students raised his hand. “Didn’t you tell us you already made a lot of revisions and ended up loving them all?” he asked. And he was right, of course. I had told them that, and furthermore, it was true. I could have hugged him.
I learned right then that students actually listen to what I say. They believe me. And they can even repeat back my own words exactly when I need to hear them. They root for me, and they believe in me. Needless to say, I completed those requested revisions, and LOVED them.
A couple days ago, I asked my students what they learned from following this book’s path to publication this year. Here’s what they said:
1. It takes a long, long time for a book to get published. Too long!!! (They have already seen a sneak peek at the proposed cover design and can’t believe the release date is still over a year away.)
2. You have to revise and revise and revise. Sometimes you have to revise things you don’t want to revise, but then you’ll probably like the changes anyway.
3. You don’t get to have your book just the way you want it. You have to collaborate with your editors and everybody else at your publisher.
4. The author doesn’t say what goes on the cover.
5. You have to have patience, time, and a tough skin, because people might criticize and say hurtful things about your book.
6. You don’t just send your book in to a publisher and they publish it. Sometimes they say no.
And perhaps the most important one …
7. You may be the teacher who tells us when we make mistakes, but when you are the author you make mistakes, too.