On the bright side of this weirdly eerie day is the fact that I just added another anecdotal morsel to the story of "how I first got published." Won't I have great fun regaling audiences of children and their families about how the earth shook when Beach Lane Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint, graciously declined my cute little story of an adorable little black girl on the first day of school with outrageously uncooperative hair and unattractive shoes. I see that day as clearly as I felt the earth shift beneath my feet today, so I know it's possible.
But until that glorious day comes to pass, I am just like the structural engineers who are no doubt assessing buildings all along the East Coast: assessing my manuscript, my query, and my choice of publishers. Where I need changes, they'll be made. Where I need advice, I will seek it. And where there was a "no," I will continue to seek out the "yes." Sure, my plans for forward movement look good on paper. But I know the proof is in the execution.
Lucky for me, Beach Lane Books was merciful with my virginal submission and said no quickly, giving me a chance to shop my manuscript in greener publishing pastures. They could have taken weeks and kept me dangling in the wind. They didn't, and I'm grateful. So tonight, I am scouring my Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market bible for my next earthquaking response.
So, what of the rejection correspondence you wonder? For now I am printing and framing my adorable little rejection email as a reminder of my courage to believe I have something to say that children want to hear. And I am clinging to the page I snatched from my President's book that gave me the audacity to capture and live my dream.
If you're curious about my query and their response, check it out below. And I hope you'll join me in celebrating the fact that an editor at a highly regarded publishing house read my manuscript! I couldn't be more proud...well, maybe a little more ;-).
Greetings Ms. XXXXXXXX:
I am pleased to submit PIGTAIL BLUES AND UGLY SHOES, a 405-word picture book geared for children ages 4 to 8, for your consideration.
I had the pleasure of meeting you at the SCBWI 40th Annual Conference in Los Angeles, CA this month and was impressed with your enthusiasm for picture books and personal commitment to your authors. That, coupled with my desire to deliver great stories for kids featuring multicultural images and themes, led to my decision to submit.
This poetically humorous story opens with Lulu, a 7-year-old African-American girl waking up on the first day of school to hair disaster. Like most young girls, her hair is an important part of her grooming ritual. Through vibrant images girls of all nationalities will appreciate Lulu’s struggle to be a big girl by tackling her unruly hair, and the morning tango between moms and daughters on wardrobe—especially shoes.
Lulu’s story is timely, simplistically revealing, and marketable. Picture the imagery of GOOD NIGHT, WORLD coupled with Lulu's character joining the ranks of Sophie Peterman, Tallulah, Fancy Nancy, and The Ladybug Girl in the picture book market for child champions.
I am a member of SCBWI and have several picture book projects underway in addition to PIGTAIL BLUES AND UGLY SHOES. I would be happy to share those with you at your request.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Athena W. Hernandez
I’m afraid we don’t see a spot for your story here at Beach Lane, but thanks very much for sharing it with us—and for your kind words about the conference.
With all best to you in your career,