I thought I ought to write a few lines so that you'd know...I get it. I'm an editor; I work in a publishing house. I regularly have to say "no" to authors. But guess what? I know just what it's like to be the one on the receiving end of that horrible little word, too.
I've written a middle grade creative nonfiction book about punctuation. I know, what a dork! But it's true what they say (especially when it comes to nonfiction); write what you know. I know commas. I just do.
This story came about in a rather unusual way. Back when I was getting my specialization in editing books intended for young readers, one of our assignments was to assume the position of an editor already working in the field by conceptualizing an original nonfiction title in the area of children's literature. We were to do the required market research to find comparable titles, sales numbers, recent publications in the area; formulate a table of contents that would roughly outline the concept and how it might be written; identify a few authors we might consider approaching with the project; and prepare a proposal for the book that we would present to our imaginary senior editor and marketing team.
I came up with a book about punctuation, but...if you know me, you know that I am not capable of creating a serious book of nonfiction. Mine was to be a mystery---who stole the comma? To solve the crime, readers were to accompany a detective, interrogate all the other pieces of punctuation, then figure out which other mark might have the motive to snatch Comma.
After I handed in my assignment, quite some time later in fact, my professor---a then editor at Kids Can Press---sent me a private email inviting me to complete the story (it was made clear in my proposal that KAT HAWTHORNE would be the absolute BEST author for the task, of course), prepare a real proposal, and submit it to Kids Can.
And then LIFE, the jerk, got in the way and it didn't happen.
As some of you may know, I recently completed Ryerson University's course in book design. (I LOVED this course, BTW). And guess what our final assignment was? That's right, to design a nonfiction title of our choosing. It could be a reimagining of an already published book or something original---we would not be judged on our writing skills.
Well, I may or may not have mentioned this to Kat Hawthorne in passing, and guess what? The story is now complete, partially laid out, and was graded at 94%!!!!
(Okay, for any of you who don't know, "Kat Hawthorne" is my pen name.)
And THEN guess what happened? That's right, my prof, a wonderful book designer and all around top notch lady, sent me a private email telling me that I should consider writing a proposal and submitting my book around to agents and publishers. That's two industry professionals telling me the same thing on two different occasions. For me, it was as if someone from the great wide cosmos had slapped me with a wet herring and shouted, "Finish the bloody thing and hurry up about it!" So I did. One doesn't ignore a herring slap.
On December the 4th, Twitter hosted its winter #PitMad session. Do you know what that is? Basically, zillions of keen writers have the space of a Twitter tweet to pitch their manuscripts to zillions (or maybe half a zillion) keen agents who are looking for new material. When #PitMad gets rolling, there are easily close to 50 pitches coming in every minute. Yeah! It's THAT crazy! I often attend #PitMad on behalf of the house I work for, mostly because it's fun, but also because we have found and signed great authors that way. This time while I was there, as an experiment, I threw a pitch out for my punctuation book.
Immediately, I got three agent requests.
So then I gathered all my somewhat questionable wits, hastily threw together a submission package (NOT the way to go on submission! I made so many errors), and sent out my work.
Let the rejections begin.
The point of all of this is to say that I'm there with you, folks. I'm taking it really slow, being really selective on which agents I query. I don't know if I will ever land an agent. It's something every author dreams of, no? But still, I'm trying. And I know how you feel.
I haven't heard back from those three agents yet (except for one, who this morning gave me my first "no"). Man, there is something both sweet and terrifying in the waiting. I've never been so afraid of my inbox before.
Now...do you want to see a spread or two from my laid out book? Okay! Let's do that! I had so much fun with this I want to share it.
First, the full cover: