Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dreams Do Come True-A Journey

Dreams do come true. How do I know? Well, let me tell you. After working on a picture book idea for  two and a half years, countless revisions, rewrites, sketches, character studies, etc. my little story is going to be published. Faraway Friends, published by Sky Pony Press, will hit the book shelves in April of 2015! It all seems so surreal. 

This journey started with a simple sketch. This one in fact. It was a quick doodle I did out of the blue.  No real rhyme nor reason, just pencil to paper. Debbie Ohi saw the sketch and said I needed to write a story for it. Me? Write a story? You must be kidding. I cannot write a complete sentence much less a story. A few more folks started saying the same thing,"Write the damn story!" One even threatened to write it if I did not. "Okay! Okay! Okay! I will give it a shot." So I sat down one evening and started writing. No sense of direction or structure. After a few hours, I had something down on paper. I read it to my wife. She basically said that it wasn't very good. Hmmm, I guess I better get a clue on the basics of writing a story. 

After chatting with many people who are real writers, Ann Whitford Paul's Writing Picture Books came up many times. So I bought a copy. 

And begin to read it.

Study it.

Learn it.

Get it.

I saw my errors. And there were MANY!

With new paper in hand, I rewrote the story and shelved it for a few days. 

Read it aloud.

Edit. Edit. Edit.

Shelved it again for a few weeks.

Read it again.

Edit. Edit. Edit.

Now it was ready for fresh eyes. I asked some writing friends and a few illustrators to critique the story. They were a tremendous help. Their fresh eyes saw fresh mistakes. Another round of edits.

This lump of clay was starting to take shape.

I was ready for the dummy phase.

Sketch. Erase. Sketch. Erase. Curse. Rip up. Fresh paper. Curse again.

Rinse. Repeat.

I looked up from my drawing table a few months later and had a dummy. It was then that I went back to the words and saw more flaws and mistakes. 

Read it aloud. Read it to my wife.

Edit. Edit. Edit.

Shelved it again for a few weeks.

A-ha! Epiphany!

What I learned at this point was that my method to doing my own stories was to work out the visuals first and the let the words flow, pulling it all together. You can teach an old dog a new trick.

What happened next was the extra-locomotive in the train. Pushing, gaining steam in this little engine that could. I landed an agent.

Jodell Sadler was a godsend. She worked with me on the wording and flow of the dummy. We did several variations of the story and layout.

Again, time to:

Edit. Edit. Edit.

Sketch. Erase. Sketch. Erase. 

Rinse. Repeat.

Faraway Friends was shown to our newly formed critique group. Lots of good feedback and comments. I then knew the dummy were ready.

The dummy was sent out into the world with no training wheels. It wobbled here and there with some rejections, but then it gathered its balance. Picking up speed. One publisher was interested. And then another called.  


This is crazy!

©2014 Russ Cox

A contract was sent. It was from Sky Pony Press. Julie Matysik, the editor, wanted it on their list for 2015. 



Now it is time to deliver.

It is easy to toss in the towel and give up. It is part of human nature. But sometimes you must have faith in what you are doing, you don't stop believing (cue Journey now).

The journey is not over (every pun intended). It really has just begun (do not cue The Carpenters). The past two and a half years were the qualifying races before the main event. Now it is a race to the finish. September will be here in a heartbeat.

The silly doodle that leapt onto the paper one evening will now be printed, bound, and hopefully read to a child. Dreams do come true.

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