Tuesday, February 4, 2014

They refused to give up

The eighth in a series of blog posts for my 8th grade students about the process of trying to publish my YA historical/science fiction novel.

Currently I have received nine rejections out of thirty submissions. Among my most recent rejections from literary agents I take inspiration in this one line:
"Also remember that sometimes, writers endure long terms of rejection before they find the winning combination for themselves. They refused to give up, as I hope you will continue to do."
Sketch in my writer's notebook as I kicked around the idea.
I don't know this agent. Until querying her, I had never heard her name. But for someone to take the time to craft this encouraging line appeals to me. It makes me understand what I want to find in a literary agent, irrespective of the possibly being that it was a stock response that is sent to any writer who queries her.

That agent could have written anything, even just the bare minimum: "Sorry, this isn't right for us."

Since the rejections have been trickling in, I have been mulling over my manuscript. The addition of a character and a new subplot has moved from story from purely historical fiction to a combination of historical fiction and science fiction. Both genres have begun to blur in my text.

As one of my 8th graders offered in her feedback of my revision, "The idea of time travel will excite readers and make them want to continue to the 2nd and 3rd chapters." I never started out trying to write about a time-traveling immigrant, and as I read what I just wrote I have to laugh at myself and the ridiculousness of how it sounds. What's next, a superhero immigrant? However, she makes a point that I have seen written quite a bit by agents.

A writer of YA literature has a very small window of time to grab and keep an adolescent's attention, so a writer needs to get to it immediately.

When I consider why my story was slotted for the YA market in the first place, it is because I wanted to share the deeply human experience of my ancestors with today's generation of young readers.

And more that, times were hard, they rode over on a steamship, and stood in a lot of lines in frumpy clothes. I didn't want to write a history book, but I wanted to write something that shows adolescents that history hides some of the greatest stories never written. The stories of what people endured in a fixed point in history. The stories of people who never gave up no matter what life threw at them.

The literary agent's encouraging line reminded me of that point.

For a writer must endure and never give up because he/she has an unwritten contract with a reader, and an unbreakable bond with his/her heritage.

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