Tag Archives: trust

Hold the Vision

Look what I got in the mail the other day! My signed contract for THE NIAN MONSTER! I was so excited that I hugged it. But not too hard, because that might crinkle the pages. If you look closely, you’ll see that the contract was issued last August – 7 months ago. And that was nearly 7 months after receiving the offer to buy my story.

My first book contract!

My first book contract!

I found out that this is not at all unusual in the publishing industry. It’s still hard to get used to, though. When I worked as an environmental consultant, we never did any work unless we had a signed contract from the client. Sometimes, we even asked for a retainer — payment in advance! But over the past year, I have done a lot of work on the book — all without a signed contract. It didn’t make me feel better to read this line at the bottom of the offer letter: “Please note that this offer is subject to contract and in no way does this offer represent a binding agreement.”

 

And that got me thinking about trust. From the very beginning, when it was just me and the blank page, there had to be trust. I love what Neil Gaiman says about this part of the process: 2016-03-24 07.04.53

After the story was written (and re-written many, many times) and an offer had finally been accepted, there was still no guarantee that there would be a book at the end of the tunnel. I had to trust that my editor and art director shared my vision of the book. I had to trust that my illustrator would bring my words to life and add a layer of emotion and richness that I couldn’t. I had to trust that people were working on my book when I wasn’t there to watch. It was hard. I’d never met any of these people in real life; I hadn’t even spoken to them on the phone. Communication was done over email. I’m sure I could have called, but I didn’t want to hover — I was afraid that if I made any demands, the offer would just vanish into the ether. So I just took a deep breath and chose to believe in them.

2016-03-24 07.12.29

I realized that although it felt like I had lost control, I really hadn’t. My editor had to learn to trust me, too. And I could do something about that. I listened to her feedback on my manuscript. I revised to the best of my ability. When she asked for information on the landmarks and the monster himself, I researched for days and produced what felt like reams of photos and data. And strangely, the more work I did, the more comfortable I felt with the situation, despite the lack of a “binding agreement.” The fact that my editor and the art director were asking for more information proved that they were working on my book. Just like when I was writing the story, I had to trust the process — but this time, it was the process of publication. My editor, art director, illustrator and I ultimately had the same vision: a beautiful book butterfly emerging from its publishing house cocoon.

2016-03-24 07.36.53

2016-03-24 07.29.42

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know that the path to publication isn’t always smooth; I’ve had it easy in comparison to some. But even when the road is bumpy or full of detours, trust is involved. Trust in yourself and your story. You will both be fine.

2016-03-24 07.25.01

 


 

Andrea WangAndrea Wang’s debut picture book, The Nian Monster, is a Chinese New Year folktale retelling set in modern-day Shanghai. The Nian Monster will be published by Albert Whitman & Co. in December 2016. She has also written seven nonfiction books for the educational market.

Andrea spent most of her first grade year reading under the teacher’s desk, barricaded by tall stacks of books. At home, she dragged books, chocolate chips, and the cat into her closet to read. Not much has changed since then, except now she reads and writes sitting in a comfy chair in a sunny room. With a lock on the door. Before embarking on the writer’s journey, Andrea was an environmental consultant, helping to clean up hazardous waste sites. She lives in a wooded suburb of Boston with her very understanding husband, two inspiring sons, and a plump dumpling of a rescue dog.

You can find Andrea online at http://www.andreaywang.com and on Twitter under @AndreaYWang. What’s the “Y” stand for? Take a guess!

 

Advertisements

8 Comments

Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Faith, Uncategorized, waiting

Off To Grandma’s House

I remember when my husband and I took our son to the airport to fly to his grandma’s house. We had to leave him with those in charge of unaccompanied minors-those who would help him get to his grandparents without a hitch. I felt a bit sad that he was ready for this adventure. He was my little boy and he was growing up. I felt nervous that he was going on his own without me to see to his needs and interpret his moods…because Momma knows best. Momma notices every little nuance and expression. She doesn’t have to guess at their meaning. I also felt excitement that he was “ready” for this adventure. I knew this was part of his maturation and the process of preparing him for the world. I knew that his grandparents loved him. I knew how much they were looking forward to this. I knew the importance of his relationship with them and I knew the importance of their influence in his life. I knew that grandparents add a layer to a his life experiences that is important.

As writers we give our stories life. We are the mommas and daddys of our stories. We know every little nuance. But we have to leave them to those in charge-those who help our stories on their journey. We have to leave them with agents and editors and illustrators. It is very emotional. We are excited about this because how else would our stories get out into the world. But we are also nervous. We are hoping that those in charge of our stories will pay close attention to every word. Every mood. Will they notice that expression on page six? What about the humor I see so clearly on page two?

Right now, my debut picture book, There Was An Old Dragon, is at Grandma’s house. It is with Ben Mantle, the illustrator. He will add that extra layer to the story. But before the manuscript arrived, it had to be left with those in charge. First it had to be with Tricia Lawrence, my agent. She got it! She so got it! When she called about my story she mentioned my favorite things. She loves this story and I knew it was in good hands. Then the manuscript spent time with my editor, Maria Modugno. Her excitement was inspiring. She suggested some edits that would make the visit at Grandma’s house more beneficial. She loves my story, too. It’s in good hands. So how am I feeling about the visit with Ben Mantle (Who may not appreciate being called a grandma because . . . well, he’s a man . . . and he’s way younger that me!) I’m feeling especially good! Not because I have a Mommy-cam. I haven’t even seen sketches. But my editor, Maria Modugno, and I talked last week. We talked about changing a few words in manuscript. A few words  . . . but Oh So Important Words. We had this conversation because she had been talking with Ben Mantle about the same few words. He called her to discuss the few . . . but Oh So Important Words. He is paying attention to each expression and mood. Every little nuance! Do you know how good that makes me feel? How confident? He sees the importance of these few words so clearly that he wanted to discuss them. So I know he is adding a layer to the life of my manuscript that I couldn’t add. I know he is taking it very seriously.

I have a feeling I’m going to be very pleased to see my manuscript’s growth and change once it gets back from Grandma’s house. Ben’s influence on the story will make this our story! His and mine. A picture book that is prepared for the world.

_________________________________
penny3Penny Parker Klostermann’s debut picture book, There Was An Old Dragon, is coming from Random House Children’s Publishing Fall 2015. You can follow her on Twitter @pklostermann and visit her blog HERE. Penny is represented by Tricia Lawrence.

38 Comments

Filed under craft~writing, Editor, Publishers and Editors, Writing

The Gibbet Stays in the Picture

The writer/editor relationship is one of trust. We trust that when we allow ourselves to freefall into waiting editorial arms, the support and structure we need will be there. They trust that what comes barreling onto them out of the sky won’t be a load of bird poop.

Seagull

HERE COMES THAT NEW CHARACTER ARC YOU WANTED.

But there’s another kind of trust that must be part of the equation, and it might be a bit harder to come by.

As writers, we have to learn to take criticism. Criticism is like vegetables — you may not like it, but you have to eat it or your organs shrivel up. Or something. We fear what Rita Williams-Garcia calls the “Righteous Manuscript,” the prose so precious and perfect it can’t be exposed to the corrupting oxygen of real world feedback, and so molders in a drawer. We learn how to be in critique groups without fainting from the butthurt. We learn to adjust and adapt.

And it’s freeing to get rid of the risen hackles, to look back on our rebellious writer-youth and smile condescendingly.

maturity

Ah, maturity!

But we can also get too used to criticism, and sometimes, you just have to trust yourself.

I started out as a playwright. Plays are not like novels. Novels might get bounced off the critique group or the writing class or the bachelorette party along the way, but by the end of the process, they usually only have two brains looking at them and jiggling them around. Plays acquire brains as they go. It’s never very clear when they’re done or where they’re going or who changed that line and where are they so I can stab their eyes out.

The playwriting/producing process is great at making you examine your creative choices quickly and decisively. Plays are in your face. No hiding or ignoring the bits that make you cringe. Regret using the word “rhinoceroserian” in Act II? Too bad you have to hear an actor belt it out, a director tweak the emphasis, and someone’s busybody mom bitch about it every day for weeks. 

And remember all those brains you picked up along the way? Take the back and forth that happens between a writer and an editor, and throw like twenty other people into the mix. People who have their own vision of your play. People who decide what it looks and sounds like, people who worry about the logistics of set pieces and sight lines and whether Greg has enough time to change his pants before his next entrance. All those people need to be happily spinning cogs in order for The Greater Thing to function.

So playwriting also teaches you to choose your battles, and, in doing so, to trust yourself when it matters. A few years ago, my writing partner and I were commissioned to do a stage adaptation of Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs, which is not actually as hilarious a novel as you’d think. The theater company had a respectable budget, but choices had to be made, and in the midst of the period costumes, hand-made puppets, visual effects, and pit orchestra, I had written a gibbet.

A gibbet that appears for all of two minutes. Maybe. At the beginning of a three-hour show. In the dark.

gibbet

Ta-DAA!

OK, so technically it was Victor Hugo who had written a gibbet. But he’d written 800 pages of The Man Who Laughs, and I had no qualms about axing a lot of it. (Srsly. We know the duchess’s bedroom has nice things in it. Stop describing them. Nobody cares.)

The thing is, even though this gibbet had less stage time than pretty much everything else in the show, I didn’t want it to be a victim of production penny-pinching. It was important. The main character, a child, is mutilated and abandoned in the middle of the night, left to trudge barefoot through the snow toward certain doom. The first vestige of humanity he finds is the gibbet, whose occupant’s tootsies are so decayed his shoes have slipped off and are lying on the ground below. And the main character is so terrified, he can’t bring himself to take the shoes, even though his own feet are frozen.

victorhugo

Sorry, I know. I was waiting for a punchline, too. Um . . . they all die?

How important did I consider this visual element? Put it this way — a photo of me is literally the first Google image result for “the man who laughs gibbet.” Go ahead, I’ll wait.

RIGHT? Already looking haggard and jaded at 25. Anyway, I went to bat for the gibbet, it looked amazing, and it set the tone for the whole show.

So, yes, trust your editor. Be thoughtful. Be a grown-up writer who can look objectively at your bloodstained manuscripts.

But hang on to your gibbets.

8 Comments

Filed under Advice, Editing and Revising, Happiness, Publishers and Editors, Satisfaction, Writing, Writing and Life