Last Saturday, March 1, one of my favorite YA writing buddies and I met at the University of San Diego (USD) for the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Inside Children’s Books conference. After lunch, a fabulous panel of agents and editors chose the first page of my YA novel, TWO FEET, NO SHOES, among those worthy to read to the entire group of more than a hundred authors and illustrators!
Whoo-hoo! Sounds great, right?
At the end of the conference, full of anticipation, we picked up our written critiques from the agents and editors on the first fifteen pages of our novels. We read my friend’s feedback first, as I’d coached her on improving her pages and line edited them. Both agents liked her writing enough to invite her to submit her manuscript when she felt it was ready for them to read it. I was thrilled for her – and still am.
Then we read my critiques. The feedback an editor from a mid-size publishing company in Boston gave me was unclear and unhelpful, other than the fact that she didn’t connect with my story. Comments I’d received from an agent based in San Diego, although explicit and helpful were fairly scathing. The only positive thing the editor and agent could agree on was that they liked my voice – which is something.
My friend looked at me and said, “I don’t understand. Your writing is so incredible.”
I could barely respond – or breathe. I considered quitting writing, since I seem to be so much better at improving other authors’ work.
To be fair, In October, an agent in San Francisco told me I had drawn compelling characters, she loved my premise and voice, but she thought I spent too much time setting up for fifteen-year-old Maya’s stealth trip from Los Angeles to Jalisco, Mexico to confront her deadbeat dad. This agent requested the full manuscript after reading the first hundred pages, but I have yet to hear from her.
It appears from these latest critiques that my effort to get Maya on the road in fewer pages has been a disaster. So it’s time to be a Bad-ass and suck it up. Kathryn Stockett’s THE HELP got sixty rejections while she revised like crazy before someone took a chance on her. On Monday, I’ll look at the feedback again and get to work recreating the beginning of TWO FEET, NO SHOES. Hopefully, this draft will be the Momma Bear version: not too long or too short, not too much detail or too little, but the one that’s just right.