I have been working on two picture book manuscripts, one a rhyming rollick about a dinosaur who gets loose in a library—as a librarian, my own personal nightmare—with a working title of NO T. REX IN THE LIBRARY. The other is a longer, more poetic piece entitled A LEDGE LIGHT CHRISTMAS about two children whose father is named the lighthouse keeper on a distant Maine lighthouse island. Deep in December, the children are worried that Christmas and Santa won’t find them at their isolated outpost. A sea rescue, their personal resources, and the arrival of the Flying Santa Service (popular at lighthouses during the last century) all conspire to create a meaningful Christmas for the family.
TWO fabulous things happened in the past year!
Second, my editor, Lauri Hornik at Dial Books for Young Readers, just bought A LEDGE LIGHT CHRISTMAS! She’s in the process of looking for an illustrator now, and I am so anxious to see whom she comes up with. She has such a wonderful eye for the pairing of text and art.
The funniest parts of my job come as a result of my frequent interactions with kids! I do a lot of school visiting and often get priceless letters and notes from students after I visit. Here’s one DAWDLE DUCKLING thank you note that delighted me! Note the size of that beak and the fabulous hat!
On a global level, I’ve been disappointed in the downturn of the picture book market. So many editors and agents are saying that the picture book market is soft right now, and many of my picture book author friends have found this to be all too true. In fact, at conferences, from the podium, children’s picture book authors have been advised to turn to novel writing! Yet more and more celebrity picture books continue to be scooped up at high advances, capturing the relatively few spots in the flagging market. Personally, I feel quite lucky to have sold a picture book in this climate, but I am looking forward to a time when quality picture books will once again be hot properties.
I work on several projects at once because I often let a piece “rise” for a time after I’ve written a first draft or done an extensive revision. Right now, NO T. REX IN THE LIBRARY is on a back burner, rising away with revision suggestions received but not yet implemented. And I have a second novel that’s just about ready to be punched down, kneaded, and popped into the oven.
I really think I could benefit by a ritual! I do struggle so, in my home office, to settle down to work. Yet when I’m away on a writing retreat (five or so times a year), I have absolutely no trouble settling down to work and often work 10 or 12 hour days! The change of scenery helps me to overcome my resistance. When I am at home, however, I find that it often helps to unplug my laptop and come downstairs to the sunny ell of my colonial farmhouse and sit on the couch in the quiet. That gives me 2 hours of uninterrupted time, a good long stretch, before I have to plug back in.
The best advice I ever received was from my writing mentor Jane Kurtz during my first year of writing for kids. When I had received a particularly heartbreaking rejection from an editor who had been encouraging me, I was in tears, thinking about quitting. She said, “Maybe you should try to quit. If you CAN do it, you’ll know you have quitting as an option. If you CAN’T do it, you’ll know you have to continue and stop entertaining the thought.” She knew, I think, that I wouldn’t even be able to TRY to quit, so really, what choice did I have but to persist?
LITTLE LOON AND PAPA, illustrated by Margaret Spengler (Dial) will be released May 24, 2004 just in time for Father’s Day. Margaret’s vibrant pastel illustrations are just delightful once again (she also illustrated DAWDLE DUCKLING last year) and her rich turquoise palette is delicious.
READY OR NOT, DAWDLE DUCKLING, illustrated by Margaret Spengler (Dial) will be released in early spring 2005. It’s a charming sequel about Mama, Dawdle, and the sibs, involved in a game of hide and seek! Margaret has outdone herself on this one! I’ve been so lucky to work with such a talented illustrator three times in a row!
I’ve just signed a contract with Libraries Unlimited (who published TERRIFIC CONNECTIONS WITH AUTHORS, ILLUSTRATORS, AND STORYTELLERS: REAL SPACE AND VIRTUAL LINKS, co-authored with Jane Kurtz, 1999) to write a book in the “Author and YOU” series, to be titled TONI BUZZEO AND YOU. It will be a book aimed at teachers, librarians, and parents about me and my books and effective ways to use them with children. I’m really excited about it!