Saturday, January 28, 2012

Punxsutawney Phyllis- Road to Publication Part 2

Susanna Leonard Hill is back to continue her story of how PUNXSUTAWNEY PHYLLIS went from concept to contract.  If you missed Part 1, you can catch it here.

Take it away, Susanna!
I wrote the first draft of Punxsutawney Phyllis. I didn't even know how to spell Punxsutawney - it's wrong all through that draft! The original manuscript was slightly over 2000 words.

Ahem! What did I say? No judging!

So I rewrote it.

I had some lovely passages.... "Down in the hollow, she could hear the water in the brook chuckling under the ice as the cold loosened its grip..." that had to go!

It was painful, but I cut and I cut and I cut. And as I cut, the story began to emerge. It wasn't just about Groundhog Day, or a girl doing what had traditionally been a boy's job, or wishing for early spring. It was about believing in yourself. It was about having the courage to stand for your beliefs even when no one else seemed to be listening.

My first final draft was still over 1000 words, but I sent it to my agent.

She had a few suggestions.

I tweaked.

My second final draft met with her approval, so off it went to Holiday House. "They're looking for a Groundhog Day story," my agent said. "I think they're going to like this one!"

I waited.

I waited some more.

I hashed over that manuscript in my mind. I should have done this.... I thought. I should have done that... I should have said this differently....

I waited some more.

You know, you hear these stories of people who send in their manuscripts on a Friday and by Monday there's a furious bidding war going on between 3 of the Big Six houses? That has not happened to me! :)

I did morning drop-off, noon pick-up, afternoon bus stop. I folded laundry and washed dishes and vacuumed and picked up toys. I read stories and played games, cooked dinner and gave baths, and I wrote new stories whenever I could, often by the nightlight in the bathroom when I had an idea at 2 AM.

And I waited some more.

And then one day, in the end of January, my agent called with those magical, magical words!

"I've got an offer for you!"

Holiday House wanted to publish Punxsutawney Phyllis.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Punxsutawney Phyllis- Road to Publication Part 1

I love hearing how picture books evolve- from that very first second when the seed of an idea is discovered to the final draft.

Susanna Leonard Hill is here today to share the story behind her adorable Groundhog's Day book PUNXSUTAWNEY PHYLLIS:

It's morning drop off time.
Child number one, who is 5, gets dropped at Kindergarten.
Child number two, who is 3, gets dropped at preschool.
Child number three, who is 1, stays in her car seat and puts anything within reach up her nose.
Child number four, (who some mistake for a dog although she is actually a human trapped in a dog's body), licks the window experimentally to see if child number two left anything good there - always a distinct possibility - and yes! score! there is a trace of strawberry milk!
It's really best if you never look inside my car. It's called the Dogmobile for a reason :)
The morning is gray. The sky spits ice. Dirty snow is lumped along the road sides. Everything looks defeated. Whose idea was winter anyway?
As I drive toward home, the baby sneezes - has she found something to put up her nose or is this the onset of a cold?
I wish for an early spring.
Just then, the radio DJ announces that Punxsutawney Phil has come out of his hole and declared 6 more weeks of winter.
In my sleep-deprived state I have forgotten that today is Groundhog Day.
I think - hunh! 6 more weeks of winter! Why doesn't spring ever some early?
Then I think - why is it always Punxsutawney Phil? Couldn't a girl groundhog do the job?
And then I think - HEY! I have an idea for a story! and suddenly I feel a little less grouchy about the weather :)

This is how stories often come to me - in the middle of everyday life, a piece from here, a piece from there that suddenly seem to fit together. And that is where the idea for Punxsutawney Phyllis came from while driving my kids to school on a gray February morning - Groundhog Day weather prediction, girl instead of boy, early spring.

All morning while I played with the baby, folded laundry, (wait, who am I kidding all morning - anyone who has kids in preschool knows they only stay there long enough for you to drive home and load the dishwasher before you have to turn around to go get them!), but anyway, as the morning passed I made up that story in my head. I thought up the first sentence and rehearsed it so I could remember it until I had a chance to write it down. "It was February 2nd. Down in the groundhog hole things were stirring, but not very much. Mostly there was a lot of snoring and rolling around."

OK. Hold on there a second. Before you start judging me for my GACK-awful beginning, let's just remember - we've all got to start somewhere!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tell the Truth Tuesday

1.  I have a dentist appt at 10:00 and an agent call at 2:00.  Not sure which one I am more nervous about.

2. If you ask me to do a critique, sometimes I will have fantastic suggestions and other times I will have absolutely nothing helpful to say whatsoever.

3.  My husband blows a gasket because every night a half an hour after dinner, my kids say "I'm hungry."  I'm scared to tell him, but...  I'm hungry too. 

4.  Though I am extremely camera shy, I got caught on film Sunday night doing the Cruz Dance with Joshy after the Giants beat San Francisco.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What Are Little Boys Afraid of?

My son has seen every scary movie ever made. By the time he was four, my husband had shown him the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Is he scared of Orks? (like his mom) No. Is he scared of Golem? (like his big sister) No.

These are some of the things that keep him up at night.

He is scared he will get "out" in baseball.

He is scared that none of his friends will be able to make it to his birthday party.

He is scared that one the papers he glued onto his homework sheet will fall off and the teacher will get mad at him

He is scared to take his "smock" off in art class because someone might see his stomach when he pulls it over his head.

He is scared to go to school because he can't find his library books.

He is scared to go to camp. What if he and Jordan are not on the same bus? (Ha, ha... as if the camp would send two buses to the same house!)

And my all time favorite...

He is scared that when he gets older he might "accidentally" do drugs.

Friday, January 6, 2012

One Word

2011,  I can't say I am sorry to see you go!   You were a sucky year career-wise, filled with a lot of frustration and  disappointment.  You took all the joy out of the publication process for me.

But 2012 is going to be different.  I can feel it.  If I have to pick one word to encapsulate my vision for 2012 it is PSYCHED.

I am feeling very optimistic about 2012 sales and super pumped up about my upcoming Fall release!

For a sneak peek at THE THREE NINJA PIGS and several other amazing 2012 picture books, check out this trailer:

2012, the adventure begins!!!