If I’d known how long and difficult the path to publication would be for my new young adult novel, Playing by Heart (Vinspire Publishing, 2017), I might never have started down this road. The journey began when I set out to write a picture book biography of a little-known 18th-century female mathematician.
Born in Milan, Italy, Agnesi was fluent in seven languages, some say by age eleven. Later, she wrote the first math textbook that covered everything from basic arithmetic to the new-at-that-time science of calculus. The textbook brought her acclaim throughout Europe.
Intrigued by Agnesi’s story, I began working on a picture book biography of her around 2002.
I took my editor’s advice and began writing a historical romance based on the Agnesi sisters. Researching not only their lives but the culture of Milan in the 1700s was rather daunting.
I kept revising and submitting, sending the novel to editors and agents, and entering it writing contests. The manuscript took second place in the YA category of the 2012 SCBWI Midsouth Conference. I continued to revise, eventually changing the title to Playing by Heart.
The novel did well in several more contests, including first place in the YA category of the 2013 Windy City Romance Writers Association Four Seasons Romance Writing Contest.
The contest success meant several editors and agents read the full manuscript, yet none of them were interested in publishing or representing the novel.
The feedback I kept hearing was that Playing by Heart was well-written but “historical YA is a tough sell.”
I eventually gave up and put the manuscript in the proverbial drawer. I focused my efforts on freelance writing instead. Still, deep down, I hoped historical YA might eventually come back in vogue. I shared that hope on our TeachingAuthors blog back in 2014.
Then, in March of 2016, I signed up for the Catholic Writers Guild Online Conference, which included pitch sessions with publishers. I’d planned to pitch my biography of Maria Gaetana Agnesi. Given her religious devotion and service to the poor, I thought a Catholic publisher might be interested.
Dawn Carrington, Vinspire’s editor-in-chief, liked my pitch and asked for the first three chapters. In April 2016, she requested the full manuscript. Less than three months later, Dawn emailed to say she wanted to publish the manuscript!
Before signing a contract, I did my due diligence regarding the publisher.
My experience with Vinspire led me to pitch the article “Working with Small Presses: Bigger Isn’t Always Better,” that will appear in the 2018 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books).
The book was beautiful.
That’s when I decided it had been worth the journey after all.
After the novel went out of print, she reissued a new edition with a revised cover and a Discussion Questions section. The new edition recently received a Catholic Press Association Book Award in the “Children’s Books” category.