Marsha Wilson Chall is the author of a chapter book for children and many picture books, including Up North at the Cabin, an American Booksellers Pick of the Lists and winner of an International Reading Association Teacher’s Choice Award; Bonaparte, a Smithsonian Notable Book for Children and winner of a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award; and One Pup’s Up, a Bank Street College of Education Best Books, a Fred Rogers’ Best Books for Babies, and winner of a National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) Gold Award.
For those of you working writers, this blogpost might come as nothing new. For those of you just dipping your quills, you may want to refrain from reading. Unless you are very courageous or enjoy schadenfreude.
My new picture book about Figgy, an adventuresome doggie, is nearly set to go to production. In a casual gesture, I recently handed the layouts to my husband, John. “You haven’t read this for a loooong time,” I told him. “Want a look with final art?”
Expecting nothing beyond “cute,” I was shocked when he asked a pivotal question about the story. “Why is Figgy so tired if all of his adventures take place in his dreams?” Sounds logical if you didn’t know better. Figgy does dream the adventures, but he also relives them in real time. John had somehow missed the words, “When Figgy woke up…”. No one in my writing or retreat groups or in the publishing office had missed that Figgy woke up and carried out his adventure for real. Could he have uncovered a subtle wrongness in the text?
I panicked. This was too late to change any art; was it too late to recast the words to show with no uncertainty that Figgy was awake when he reenacted his dreams? Writing my editor late that evening, I queried possible solutions, even hoping she’d say that I was too anxious or that my husband was a bad reader. Well, she didn’t. She told me we could change the words if I liked.
The words in doubt say, “WOOF! When Figgy woke up, he knew his dream had to be a sign. So he made one of his own: FREE ROCK CONCERT. I wondered if the introductory clause, “When Figgy woke up,…” is too easily overlooked and could be revised as such: “Figgy woke up. WOOF! He knew his dream had to be a sign. So he made his one of his own: FREE ROCK CONCERT.”
Do you have an opinion, dear reader? Or have your eyes glazed over like a pond in November?
I’ve revised at every level, from punctuation (“I’m exhausted. I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.” ~ Oscar Wilde) to pages. These are the rantings of a writer mad in the midst of micro-revision. My profound apologies and appreciation for your insight.