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.


Joanna said...

I don't think one could ever become jaded with those magical words!

I LOVE the phrase that had to be binned and so hope it creeps into another manuscript!

You pack a lot of themes into that little groundhog!

Thanks for sharing this process, Susanna... My first Jan 12x sucks big time, but I know it can be worked and reworked and reworked!

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I know I haven't gotten jaded with those magical words yet - I would be VERY happy to hear them again... soon! :) And i bet your January draft is better than you think, but like I said, we've all got to start somewhere. if you've got a draft, you're way ahead of the people that don't!!!

Corey Schwartz said...

I don't have a draft! So, you're way ahead of me :)

Julie Hedlund said...

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who's verbose in first drafts! Great story, and I love how you "chipped away the marble" until you found Phyllis' true story. :-)

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Thanks, Julie! And yes, I'm learning as I go. When i first started writing picture books it was the norm for the drafts i considered agent-ready to be 2000 words! I feel like I've made a lot of progress that I can almost always bring first drafts in under 900 now :)

Hardygirl said...

I love hearing these stories--especially learning where and when inspiration strikes!

Yay for magical words!!!


Anonymous said...

Fabulous story! Hooray for Phyllis! (Notice I didn't even attempt to spell Punxawhatchamacallit.)

Penny Parker Klostermann said...

It was fun to read Part 2. Thanks for sharing your road to publication.

Leigh Covington said...

Okay - I love this! I think we all look at Susanna and all her amazing accomplishments and think she doesn't even have to try! I love knowing that she had to cut and revise and get rid of fabulous passages. Seriously - you mean she's human? This is wonderful. Thanks so much for teaching us about the road to publication.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

@ Sarah - it's fun isn't it? Inspiration strikes us all so differently!

@ Tara - it's hard to spell! You'd be amazed how many people get it wrong :)

@ Penny - thanks so much for sticking it out all the way through part 2!

Jackie Castle said...

It is fun to hear about how book ideas came to be. I've been working on my blog and reading other's blogs this morning and had written down one sentence for an idea that had popped into my head. Then I read this post, and went to check the first post and when I read that sometimes a simple thing like hearing about Ground Hogs day can spark an idea, that one sentence idea blossomed.

Ideas must be contagious.
love it.

Lori Degman said...

I love a happy ending!!

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

@ Leigh - yes, I am WAY human! :)

@ Jackie - so glad you got an idea you can work with!

@ Lori - me too :)

Susan R. Mills said...

Nothing like going through daily chores while waiting for good news. Thanks for sharing your story.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

These are wonderful posts! I love them both, and the hopeful message they give us all. :-)

Joanne R. Fritz said...

This is truly inspiring. Thanks, Susanna, and thanks, Corey.

Anonymous said...


Tara Lazar has a keen sense of humor...guaranteed giggles every time she posts!

Ishta Mercurio said...

What an inspiring, encouraging story. I can really relate to the waiting! (I think we ALL can...)

Thanks for sharing the story of your journey!

Anna @ green tea n toast said...

I love the illustrations for this book and great to hear the story behind it.
Also, Corey, I have 'awarded' you the Kreativ blogger award (on my blog yesterday), which means you now need to tell us all five things about yourself and then pass it on to five other bloggers. Enjoy & congrats!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Congratulations on your publication. It sounds like a really cute book. I think waiting is so hard. I'm glad your wait ended with a contract. :)

Corey Schwartz said...

Thanks for visiting, everyone.