In junior high, I wrote in my diary,“Maybe someday I’ll make my own children’s books, illustrations and all.” As the years slipped by, I didn’t forget about someday, but I was just so busy with today. Writing and illustrating could wait until later, when I had more time.
Then, in my mid-thirties, I had heart surgery, and when I woke up, I could hear my artificial valve ticking. Medical technology had saved my life, and our children called me the Bionic Woman.
But to me that tick tick, tick tick was the sound of a small internal clock, a constant reminder of the passage of time. I needed to get to work.
My first short story was published in a tiny magazine two years later. Encouraged, I tapped out more stories on a manual typewriter and sent them off – lots of them – and some were accepted by magazines such as Cricket and Highlights.
By then I felt ready to begin my first novel about a family’s adoption of a developmentally delayed eight-year-old. Don’t Call Me Marda was written chapter-by-chapter in long hand on notebook paper and typed on an electric typewriter.
After several rejections, I discovered a recurring misspelled word in the manuscript. The next revision was done on a computer with a newfangled invention, Spell Check, that corrected my “creative” spelling.
Soon I found a home for my novel with a small company, Our Child Press, that focuses on the topics of adoption and foster care. It was a good match. I even got to illustrate each chapter, and my book was published in 1990.
Two decades later, I still love Spell Check, but despite being “bionic,” I’m overwhelmed by the amazing advancements in technology. Without my husband, a patient and knowledgeable computer expert, I would have dismissed the idea of submitting anything to a publisher such as Stephen Roxburgh who has become an enthusiast of all things digital.
When I first heard Roxburgh talk about children’s literature it was the early 1990s before iPads, nooks, or tweets. He was the children’s book publisher at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, and he was participating in a panel discussion at an American Library Association conference. His knowledge and commitment were impressive, and I thought having him for an editor would be a great experience. Maybe someday . . .
In 2000, Roxburgh was the publisher at Front Street/Cricket Books, which accepted my novel The Shadowed Unicorn. Although he was not my editor, he did become acquainted with my work.
Several career moves later, he founded namelos. At first, this company functioned mainly as an editorial service, but in the fall of 2009, namelos expanded into book publication.
I submitted a novel – unsolicited– and paid a fee (later refunded) for what was to be a detailed evaluation and critique.
Instead, Roxburgh wanted to publish it, and I signed a contract three weeks later. Working with him and the other talented members of the namelos staff has been just as wonderful as I’d anticipated.
Waiting to Forget was released by namelos on Oct. 1. The novel begins and ends in a hospital, and in between, twelve-year-old T.J. struggles with memories of his difficult other life, before he was adopted, and with the reason why his little sister now lies unconscious in the emergency room.
In some ways this novel has much in common with Don’t Call Me Marda. Both were inspired by my experience adopting school-age children; both deal with the turmoil that seems typical when older kids join a family; and both stories, although fiction, concern a topic with emotional resonance for me.
But the process involved in creating, publishing, and marketing each of these titles has been quite different. And it illustrates the massive changes in technology that have occurred in the past twenty years. Electronic submission, e-mail correspondence, editing on-line, print-on-demand production of paperbacks and hardcovers, e-book formats, and Internet marketing – all of these are employed by namelos and are part of this astonishing new digital age.
|Sheila and Tristan|
Thirty years have gone by since the surgery that gave me the chance to fulfill my childhood dream of making books. Sometimes I think someday must have arrived by now. But the tick tick of my internal reminder urges me to create more stories that are dear to my heart.
Enter to win a signed copy of Waiting to Forget by Sheila Kelly Welch (namelos, 2011)! To enter, comment on this post and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or email Cynthia directly with “Waiting to Forget” in the subject line. Author-sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Deadline: midnight CST Nov. 7.