Wednesday, December 4, 2013
I've been thinking about the feedback from children on one draft or another of "my farm story," as I've called it. Some time ago I had the story copied and spiral-bound. Then I gave it out to grandchildren and the great-nieces and nephews. The feedback was helpful to me, though I trust that every writer reading this knows that it's the kiss of death to submit a manuscript to an editor with the words "my grandchildren loved this story."
The first to read it was my grandson Jonah. We were on a family vacation and since I had had a recent hip replacement, I came into the cottage when others were still outside, the children playing Frisbee and the adults watching. Jonah came in too. I had brought along a copy of what is now Duck Dreams but was probably then titled The Chicken Cheater, Duck Disasters, and the Rough Road to Friendship. It was an awful title but seven-year-old Jonah didn't comment on that. He flopped on his belly and began to read. Again the next night, he came in when the other children were still running around and he read until bedtime.
When his mother asked how he liked the book, he said "It's great." The next evening I asked: "Jonah, is there anything you didn't like or didn't understand?" I was a little worried about the anti-Semitism that enters into the story at one point.
"Nope. It's great," he said again and that's all he ever said. It was enough to encourage me.
Two Israeli family members were young readers as well. Roi was eleven, I think, when his uncle Joel came from the U.S. and left spiral-bound copies of the story with his nieces and nephews of the right ages. Roi was one of the recipients. He emailed me that one night he had been reading a book he loved and had read many times when his dad suggested he try instead this book that his great-aunt Betty had written. Roi took it a bit reluctantly but read until his dad turned off the light, then reports that he took the story to school in his backpack and read it whenever he could manage it.
His cousin Talia, age eleven, emailed: "I read your book and you know it was interesting because I hate to read English!"
Petra, a New York child, also got a copy of the story, and her response was very special. She drew an illustration for me and she had chosen the very same scene that Anni Matsick chose to do for the cover!
My oldest granddaughter, Isabel, read my story years ago and said without prompting: "You should publish this, Mimi." I sent it to many publishers, Isabel. Some gave me advice that helped me make the book stronger but none wanted to publish it,
I did it myself!
....with help from my friends