I am a writer, which is great. And, as you know, writers, write. Obviously. But writers also have a need to be read. So adding “published” to “writer” is even better. And, for the first time since getting my master’s degree at Hamline University, I can say that I am a going to be a published writer! I’m excited to share my process with you.
About two years ago, I was searching through my files, looking for inspiration. I couldn’t find a thing that moved me—or my pen. Needing a distraction, I went online and checked my emails. There was a message from my niece, who has three small children. She wrote: “Somewhere in the city, a little girl is singing when she should be sleeping.”
First of all, I live in the city. I love the city, with all its hustle and bustle. And the idea that, somewhere in the city, my little five-year old great-niece, Lucy, was singing, made me smile. Think of all the other kids somewhere in the city who might be singing. And then I thought of author and former teacher Jane Resh Thomas and what she often said—“What is this child in want of?” And I thought, the child is waiting for someone. And I thought of all the children waiting for a parent to come home. Sometimes a mom and sometimes a dad. And, of course, I thought of my own history.
When I was a kid, my dad would dress up in a suit and tie and leave early in the morning. Sometimes I would be up to see him go, but most of the time I would be asleep. Around five o’clock my mother would call us kids (there were seven of us) to go meet Dad at the corner a few blocks away.
He’d get off the bus with his tie slightly loosened, holding his jacket over his shoulder. We’d walk the three blocks back home together. I always wondered where he went and what he did.
And so when this image of Lucy looking out the window and singing entered my head I knew what my character was “in want of.” And, as an adult, I got to answer the questions, “where does dad go every day? And what is it like to go from home to work and back?”
Somewhere in the City was born. I knew just what to write and how to write it—that is after at least twenty drafts.
After I was satisfied I started my research to find the best possible publisher. I sent it out time and again, only to receive rejection after rejection, with comments like,
“Where’s the mother?”
“Topic doesn’t grab me.”
“Love the writing but don’t think it’s quite right for us.”
Finally, a publisher took an interest, sending me comments and suggestions. I was very hopeful. But then that publisher rejected the book. “Just too hard a sell.”
Really?! This is a story that plays out every day, all over the world.
I understood why a story about a father making his way home to his daughter might be a little tough to sell these days. But it was a story that needed to be told.
Finally, I learned about Familius, a small publishing house. In researching the organization, I discovered that this publisher was all about family. It wanted family stories. Would Familius want Somewhere in the City? I sent it that day.
I waited—a month. Then two. I thought it strange that the publisher didn’t even respond with the typical, “We got your submission and are looking forward to reading it. Blah, blah, blah.” So I sent the email again. This time, I did get a response—and it wasn’t the standard form. It was a real email with comments, which showed that the publisher was actually reading the story! Familius was interested. Could we talk? And the rest is history.
I am sure that the next book I sell will be just as hard and just as tricky. But one thing I know for sure: hard work pays off. So keep refining your story, making it the best it can be. And then take those next steps of really knowing your market and finding the right home for your work.
Somewhere in the City there is a writer who’s going to add published to her title!
Loretta Caravette got her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. She has been published in a number of magazines for kids such as: HIGH ADVENTURE, BOYS’ QUEST, APPLESEED, ONCE UPON A TIME… (A Specialized Magazine for Children’s Writers and Illustrators), THE LOOKING GLASS: New Perspectives on Children’s Literature (Internet magazine). Most recently in MaryJane’s farm Magazine.