A Healthy Pause 
After a short but needed break, it's time to reflect on Not Fair! The Story of Abigail Scott Duniway, my latest project. My first thought is that I had no idea how much time and effort this project would take. In a few of my earlier books, I was responsible for getting the pictures as well as the permissions, and I was amazed at how much energy that took. But doing the whole thing - illustration ideas, deciding on the layout, font type, what exactly would go on each page - well, this was a first. It has made me very appreciative of the work publishers do.

I just reread the book for the four hundreth (or so) time. I was a bit anxious about reading it after it was printed. What if I found a big error? What if I found something that, although not a mistake, I would like to change. I am pleased to announce that neither happened.
That doesn't mean that, in the future, I won't look again and find something to change. But for now, I'm good with it.

Writers do not work in a vacuum. It takes help to create a finished product. I am grateful for the help I got: people who read the text and provided useful feedback, an artist who was open to suggestions and willing to keep drawing until she got it right, a pre-press guy at the printers who made innumerable changes until I was satisifed. I could have done it without help, but the book would not have been as good.

I regret that a national publisher did not decide to add this book to its list, which would have made it available to many more readers. However, I'm glad I was willing to take on this project myself and at least make the story of this amazing woman available to some kids. Some is better than none. Much better...

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Okay, the Duniway book is finally done. Hurrah! I stopped by the printer yesterday and watched a very exacting young man load the signatures (two pages, front and back) into a machine that uses suction to pull the sigs up, put them in order, add the cover, staple, fold, then trim the finished books. Very clever machine, and quite fast. The operator not only loads the paper, but he also makes sure the machine is doing its job properly, then he picks up the finished books and places them into boxes.

As I watched the books spew out from the machine I couldn't help thinking about the journey that producing this book has been. It's taken longer, and been a lot more work than I had anticipated. Mostly, when I saw the finished books, a sense of relief descended on me. I'll need a bit of time to reflect on the journey, but I'll report on that next. Until then...

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Press Check, Pt. 2 
Went to the printers on Friday to do a press check. Basically, what happens is the printer runs a large sheet (which contains 8 pages) through the press and then you look at it to make sure all appears well. They do this to make sure they don't print 2000 copies and then you say, "Gee, I don't like the color." So, they have you sign the sheet, which is an approval of the text and color.

The printer runs all the paper through, then turns over the sheets and runs the other side. Each sheet of paper, therefore, will contain 16 pages of the book. They'll add another sheet and do the same thing, which will end up with the 32 pages the book contains.

This week I'll go back to see the sheets cut, folded, and the cover added. More to follow.

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Press Check 
The Duniway book is ready to go to press. What's been holding it up is getting the illustrations right. First, we had another accuracy issue - oxen were not driven, they were led - then we had some color issues. All of the illustrations had a yellowish tone to them. So, the printer rescanned the original art and that seems to have taken care of that issue. Of course, in the meantime, I have been making text changes everytime I meet with the printer.

A very common issue for writers is knowing when their work is done. It must be true of painters as well ("Should I add a little more color here? Should I take something from there?"). It's the same with writers, except we play with words, not colors. I must have gone over the text for the Duniway book more than 100 times. I know when it's done when I can't find anything more to make it better. And that's where this text is now. The trouble is, there's no telling I'll find something else after is gets printed!

Tomorrow I go to the printer and do a final check, where they print one copy and I give the go-ahead to print 1,999 more. I'll let you know how it goes.

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What's Edison Have To Do With This? 
Heard back from one of the publishers that was considering the wolf book. They were interested, but already had their share of animal books. I suggested ways to make this book a part of a series and tie it to what is taught in classrooms, but they were still reluctant. Another publisher is still considering, but I need to research a few more to send it to. It is very easy to allow a "no" to dampen your enthusiasm about a project. But, it doesn't have to. Consider Thomas Edison, when he was working to invinet the light bulb. He tried thousands of different material (including cedar, flax, bamboo, and hickory) to be the filament, or wire, that would light and stay lit inside the bulb. Finally, after more than 6,000 tries, he found the right one: carbonized thread. Was he discouraged along the way? No. He believed the material that failed helped bring him closer to the one that would work. So, maybe I'm just one publisher closer to finding a home for this book.

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Boo Hoo! 
My, does time fly or what?!? Itís been more than two months since I last added to this blog, and for that I should be duly flogged. Itís not that I havenít had anything to say, but rather Iíve had too much to do. If that sounds like an excuse itís because it is, although not a very good one. Regardless, I am still waiting, waiting, waiting patiently to hear about the status of the wolf book. Usually I send out a manuscript to several publishers at once to maximize possibilities, but this time I had a good feeling about the publisher. Weíll have to see if that feeling was well-founded. While the wait goes on, I have been very busy getting the Duniway book ready for printing. Most of the work has involved communicating by e-mail with the illustrator. I divided the words into pages and made suggestions to her about the illustrations that would go on each page. She then made rough sketches of the illustrations and sent them to me. I looked over the illustrations and checked to make sure the details in the sketches were accurate. An example: One illustration shows wagons heading west, being pulled by horses. This had to be changed because most of the wagons were pulled by oxen. What? Not a big deal, you say? Well, itís not really, compared with suicide bombers or people starving or learning that you have a incurable disease. But still, this is a book about a real person living in a real time of history so weíd like to make it accurate. Thatís why it is so important to have communication between the writer and the illustrator. One book I worked on Ė a biography of Christopher Columbus Ė was very frustrating because I was not allowed to communicate directly with the illustrator. The result was that the book was not as accurate as it could have been. It was a hard lesson, indeed, but a lesson learned.

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Think I'm dressed up as a wolf for Halloween today? Good idea, but I don't have the costume. I do have a wonderful toucan hat, so I've been wearing that to welcome the ghouls and goblins that have been coming to my door.
The wait continues for the wolf book, and will for some time. As I mentioned, I am researching other places to send it. I'm also getting ready to self-publish a book. It's a book I wrote a while back, but didn't get picked up by a publisher. What I was told by several houses was that the topic was more of a regional interest than a national interest. The topic I wrote on was a fascinating and fabulous woman named Abigail Scott Duniway, who traveled west on the Oregon Trail, then fought the rest of her hard life for women's rights (is this a topic of limited interest?!?). After forty years of Duniway and others working for equal rights, women in Oregon finally won the right to vote, and guess which woman had the honor of being the first to register in her county? You got it!!
Anyway, it's a good story and one kids need to hear. It's a story about fairness, and what kid doesn't know or care about that issue. So, I'm working with a foundation to get it published and distributed to kids around the area. The plan is not to sell it, but to give it away using sponsorships by businesses to finance it. Several businesses have already shown an interest in the project. More to come later...

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Manuscript sent! 
Okay, all is done and I just sent off the manuscript to a publisher. Like most projects, it's a long shot, but every moment I worked on this book has been worth it, whether it is published or not.
Let's all think good thoughts. While I wait for an answer, I will research more publishers to send it to.

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Time to refine 
Okay, so I sent the wolf text to the Howling Acres folks. Then I traveled down there to talk with them and get their feedback. They really liked the text, but had some suggestions, too. Thank goodness...I want the text better so I really want suggestions. One of the suggestions I got was to add information about the sounds wolves make. Not only do wolves howl, growl, and bark, but they also whine, woof, yelp, moan, squeal, squeak, and even scream. I sure didn't know that, and I bet most others don't either. So, I will add those details to the text. After adding them, my next step will be to go back and start smoothing over the text. That means reading it aloud then changing words to make it more clear and sound better.

As far as the illustrations go, I'm planning to use photographs. I take some every time I go to Howling Acres, and they have provided me with a lot too. I'll have to find the best ones then match them with the text. But, that will come later. I need to find a publisher interested in the book first. To do that, I send our letters, called queries, to tell publishers about the book. If they have an interest, I'll send them the text to read. If they're still interested, then then send me a contract and we work together to make a book. It's an exciting process, but lots of work too, and no guarantee that a publisher will want it.

The truth is, the chances are slim that a publisher will take it, but the way I look at it is that a slim chance is a whole lot better than no chance. And being that this book has important information that I really feel needs to be shared, I'm willing to try - and keep trying - to find a publishing home for it.

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Working draft 
A good day today. I finished the draft for the wolf book. It's about 20 pages long, including the resource section. Does this mean I'm done? Hahahahahaha. No way! It's just a step beyond start. Basically, it's the information I want to share in an organized format. I'll need to do lots more refining, and probably some adding. I'm sending the text to the folks at Howling Acres today. They are going to look at it and give me their feedback. Are they going to make suggestions? I hope so; that will make the book better. When I show my writing to someone and ask for feedback, I love it when they tell me how great it is, especially the specific parts they like. But what's even better (and more helpful) is when people tell me what the writing needs in order to be better.

When I work with young writers, many tell me they don't like it when others make suggestions about their work. They take comments about their writing personally, get defensive, and sometimes even stop listening. It's too bad when this happens because the writer loses out on a great opportunity to improve. And, believe me, we can all stand to improve!

So, off goes the text to Howling Acres. I'll meet with them sometime soon to go over their comments. And, I will do my best to hear all their suggestions. Stay tuned...

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