March 7th, 2013


Walking while writing…(or I just sold a picture book)

Short Version:
I just sold a picture book that I wrote for Kaden while pacing the hospital.

Longer Version:
When Kaden & I were in the hospital, there were days I thought I might be bordering on madness. I marked my days by the changing of the nurses’ shifts. My big excitement was which nurse we had that next shift. They were what stood between me and sobbing incoherency. Aside from social media & occasional phone calls if Kaden was having a particularly good spell, our beloved nurses were my entire source of adult conversation. Newborns, incidentally, aren’t great conversationalists. I talked to Kaden nonetheless.

One day, our doctor (Dr. Mark Brown, head of pediatrics at Eastern Maine Medical Center & all around amazing doctor) noted, “Kaden calms the more you talk. Are you singing or reading to him?” I have exactly zero ability to sing though, so I bought some songs* and only sang along with them in my room. I didn’t have picturebooks there, so I went online* & found three of my favourite poems to read kids: “The Adventures of Isabel” (Nash), “Jabberwocky” (Carroll), and “Instructions” (Gaiman). Both reading & singing were activities for in our room. Lots of nights & days we’d need to pace though. So I wrote a book (on my phone*) for Kaden while we walked.

I love all the things I’ve written in different ways, but this one (BUNNY ROO) is special. It’s the story I wrote and revised as I paced the pediatrics ward. Eventually, I typed it out on my iPhone and emailed it to my agent.

From: M
To: Merrilee
Subject: “Would you think I was crazy…”
Message Body: . . . if I told you I wrote a draft of a picture book over the past month? Give a read. Let me know your thoughts.

From: Merrilee
Message Body: No. I would think you were Melissa. (And then she added some revision notes.)

This is a top sign of a good agent, my dears: she knows you & doesn’t suggest you are crazy. I knew I was sleep deprived and emotional, though, so I wasn’t sure if this was her being kind or not. I knew she wouldn’t sell it if it was dreck, but I also knew she wasn’t as likely to say that when I was teetering near madness.

However, after I got home, Merrilee had started a submission list. It was wise and good, and I liked her choices. However, along with my two existing editors at my US houses (HarperCollins and Little, Brown--who are both awesome publishers, BTW) I asked her to send it on an exclusive to a specific editor who felt like the right fit for this. (See footnote**)

She sent it to my top pick editor for the book (Nancy Paulsen) who replied almost instantly: “I love this! Can I call you tomorrow?”

When Merrilee told me what Nancy said, we hit another of those moments that prove why we should have agents. As I did with Wicked Lovely 7 years ago, I immediately said, “I accept!”

Merrilee: “Let me find out what she’s offering & then—”

Me: “I accept!”

Merrilee: *long patient sigh*

So, yeah, she did her agenty thing and then called to tell me some details like what the actual offer was . . . at which point I said, “Tell her I accept!”

Merrilee: “I already told her, dear.”

So, there’s the news that I’ve been bursting to share: I wrote a book aloud while walking in the hospital, and my agent sold it to my number one editorial pick for it. This means I’ve now written books for all three of my kids: Wicked Lovely was for Asia, The Blackwell Page trilogy is for Dylan, & Bunny Roo is for Kaden.


* Smart phone tops my list of Essential Items For Long Hospital Stays: download heartbeat app, keep notes so you can remember all the nurses names, read poetry to the baby, create playlist for baby, set alarms for meds, take pictures of baby, check Twitter when you realize that the only person other than the nurse & Dr that you’ve spoken to today is only days old…also sometimes works to do that old-fashioned “phone” thing.

**I keep lists of editors & agents. It’s something I’ve done since before I sold my first book. It’s been useful in giving notes to friends, as well as in my own career. I knew which agent I wanted when I left my first agent, where I wanted to sell a middle-grade, which editor I wanted when my original YA editor left Harper, & now which editor I wanted for this book.