Bringing a book to life is a lot like bringing a child into the world only having a child takes less time. When the first tiny grains of the idea for my book presented themselves, I was busy working with a classroom full of PK students 14 boys and 2 girls mind you! I was also holding an after school journalism class where I was helping third, fourth, and fifth grade students learn about writing newspaper articles (that was the fun part).
Anyway, one of my students was named Gianna, a wonderfully bright girl with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. She and I connected immediately and she wrote some wonderful articles for the school website. But it wasn’t only Gianna who inspired me but ten long years of being the family genealogist. That began when my mother found out her father was still alive after forty long years of thinking he had died. At least that’s what her mother had told her. But when my mother finally found out he had been alive all that time, she also found out he had passed away a few months earlier.
This news broke her heart as well as mine. It spurred me on to find out more about my family as soon as possible. So, that journey into the web of family history began and still continues to this day.
That was the way the idea for Gianna the Great came into being.
When I first sent the idea to a publisher, Anaiah Press, it was originally written submitted with Saraphina as the protagonist in a young adult novel with very heavy subject matter. I received a nice reply from the editor, Jessica Schmeidler, saying she liked the idea but thought the subject matter was too heavy for even a young adult novel. She also recommended I re-write it as an early reader.
It was like hearing the baby I had carried within my womb for nine long months was ugly! I didn’t want to re-write it, it was perfect as it was. But knowing as least this editor was interested I tried again but never submitted it. (Good idea huh? Duh!)
Several months passed and I put it on the back burner. The editor (God bless her!) got back with me and asked how my book was coming and wanted to know why she hadn’t heard back from me.
That one spark set me ablaze. I finished writing the early reader on that same day. Since I had dammed it up for so long, it poured out of me in a flood. The story had already written itself in my head and heart.
Off my story went to the publisher and was accepted. I was jubilant when I began to receive all the author kind of stuff (contracts, request for my bio, book synopsis etc.). I almost felt like I was filling out an application for a job.
Then? Nothing, nothing for a long, long time. Now, admittedly, I know absolutely nothing about the publishing industry. How was I to know it was going to different hands? How was I to know that baby I had carried for so long was being proofed and edited and passed around for all to see? How could I let it go through that alone? That was my brain child!
When I received my work back with notes about change, I didn’t blink an eye. (Well, maybe one eye). I complied willingly except for the few passages that were very close to my character’s heart (and mine as well). I made the changes and returned them long before the due date hoping it would push the book along.
Well, it didn’t. I still had to wait. When my editor the left the publisher, I felt bereft, abandoned by my surrogate mother and friend who had encouraged me to proceed. It wasn’t until much later that I finally got in contact with another editor who would take me through the illustration part of my book. As an early reader chapter book, it still needed pictures for the kiddos who would be reading it.
The pictures were easy since I got to pick out my own to place in the book. I already knew what these characters looked like since I had long conversations with them in my brain. After I submitted the artwork and the galleys back I thought soon, soon I would hold that child in my arms!
It took months, not days, to get the final product completed. Eden Plantz, the Executive Editor, was patient with me as I asked my multitude of questions. I think I was e-mailing her every day for a while. She took the time to answer my questions and dry my tears.
The day came when I received my books in the mail and I was exuberant! I insisted my husband take my picture just to memorialize the very day! I finally gave birth to my book and I was such a proud mother. It only took sixty years on my own and one in the hands of Anaiah Press to bring it to life!