Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Horse Jar

It's here! It's here! My long awaited second middle grade novel, THE HORSE JAR, was just released by Mondo Publishing in New York. Mondo is an educational publisher, selling primarily to schools and libraries.

I'd like to share the long story leading up to publication of THE HORSE JAR, especially for those of you who are about to give up, or who have a first novel shoved in a drawer (or under the bed) for good. Please keep reading.

I wrote and completed THE HORSE JAR (well, of course, the first draft of it) in a six month period beginning in the late fall of 2001. I was, like many of us, deeply affected by the events of 9/11/2001. My words seemed frozen after that date, and other than a long treatise about my feelings on life and religion, I couldn't seem to jump into any of the writing projects I had on the table. I did not know what to write.

But I decided, finally, that I wanted to write for children, because they, the next generation, needed to feel hope. So I began a story about horses (write what you know). And about a dog. And about wanting something really, really bad. And about choices. So began my career as a children's author.

I was quite proud of myself for finishing the manuscript so quickly, and after giving it to some adults and a few children that I knew to read, and getting mostly rave reviews, I decided (naively) that is was ready for prime time. I printed up many copies, and began to ship it off to publishers. How did I decide which ones? Well, I still hadn't learned to write a query letter (or a synopsis) and didn't want to take the time to learn (quit laughing) so I simply made a list of all those publishers that accepted entire manuscripts and sent away. Sound familiar? I spent a lot of money supporting the USPS, at any rate.

Cut to several years (yes, years) later. I had now learned patience (waiting for rejection slips from publishers) and that nothing happens quickly in the publishing business. I had also learned to write a query letter, been to several children's writers conferences, joined a critique group, and revised (and re-named) THE HORSE JAR several times. The manuscript got better and better, and I actually got a few handwritten notes and suggestions on my rejections slips. What a world of hope that gave me!! But still no takers.

Meanwhile, my second manuscript, FINDING CHANCE, was chosen for publication by Mondo, and I had the thrill of working with an editor and seeing my first book published. Did I give up on THE HORSE JAR? Well, every so often I pulled it out and reread it. And you know what? I still loved the story, and the ending still gave me goosebumps. That made me dream of good things, maybe someday, for it. But I began working on other projects, other manuscripts, and finished two more novels in the interim. By this time I had sent THE HORSE JAR (or at least a query for it) to almost 50 publishers (including Mondo) with no results. I did not put the manuscript under the bed, exactly, but it sat in a box under a lot of other boxes with more recent things. Gone, but not forgotten.

So imagine my surprise when I received a letter from Mondo (on Christmas Day, believe it not, delivered to the wrong address and brought to me by a kind neighbor) asking if I had any more manuscripts. (Did they not remember I queried them about this one earlier?) Timing is everything, however, in this business, and so I immediately e-mailed the entire manuscript of THE HORSE JAR to them. And early in January of 2008, I received wonderful news. They LOVED it!! And they WANTED it!!! Oh Happy Day!

So as you read about Annie and her big dream of getting a horse of her own, remember this about dreams. Do. Not. Give. Up. Keep working for want you want. Make it better. Push. Try again.

And if you drag that first manuscript (the one you have given up on) out from under the bed every six months or so and reread it - if it still gives you goosebumps - then revise it one more time and send that thing back out. Because "it seemed to Annie that whenever things looked really bad, there was always something around the corner, sometimes surprising things, that made everything better." Yup.


Dee said...

Congratulations Linda!

Katrina Stonoff said...

The cover is gorgeous!!

Thanks for the motivational speech. Maybe I'll dust off my first manuscript someday.

Linda Benson said...

Dee - thank you so much!!

Katrina - thank you! I LOVED your first manuscript, and definitely think you should shake the dust bunnies off it and give it another shot.
Hope to see you soon!


Joanna said...

Yay!!! When do I get to check it out???

Congrats!! You definitely have more down the road :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Linda! I popped over to see if you'd posted any good news about THE GIRL WHO LOVED HORSES and WOW, what a surprise! A blog and a new book! How cool! I LOVE it! Way to go, girlfriend!

Oh, and Buddy the horse? Your story broke my heart, in the best way. The world could use a few more million people like you.

Hope you are doing well,
Monica Vavra

Linda Benson said...

Jo and Monica - thanks so much for the sweet comments. Monica, here's wishing good news for you, also. Hope it's soon!