Finn and the (possibly biased) Beta readers
I sent my picture book out to a bunch of beta readers today. Amidst glowing reviews, superfluous (it makes me uncomfortable) praise and a few solid suggestions for things to change were perhaps the greatest edits I’ve ever received.
The audience I was most excited to hear back from were a five and almost eight-year-old who’ve read at least as many picture books in their short lives as I have in almost 42 years of mine.
Basically, they’re experts and I really wanted to know what they thought.
Wait. Didn’t I tell you I actually (or finally, for some of you) wrote a book?
I wrote it one night last Fall. It’s a story about an orphaned goat who shows up at a farm as a “foster kid” and gets bullied by the lambs who were born there. Llama intervenes, ewe teaches a lesson, know-it-all beagle chats up the kid, lambs learn kindness matters, apologize. The end.
It’s based on a real, orphaned goat I got to bottle feed at my cousin’s farm in Jersey and I may or may not have worked through a few personal issues in the course of writing the story. Foster kid, anyone?
I’d threatened to write the story for about a year, then one day I did.
I sent it to my sweet sister-friend (talented designer and illustrator) Monique to see if she wanted to illustrate it. Conversation picked up where we left off 18 months earlier in our Manhattan high rise office, talking about “Someday I’ll write one and you can do the pictures and “Someday I’ll draw a story and you can do the words.”
This time it included “neither one of us gets paid until it’s sold and published, but we could seriously do this.”
And illustrate it she did. And I lost my mind each time she sent me a page for several months. I loved watching the animals come to life.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of having a children’s chapter book author bleed all over the pages.
Seems I spent too much time DESCRIBING the scenes. “You don’t have to tell the reader the grass is green; they SEE the green grass.” Heh. Picture books are different. He didn’t just edit, though. He explained why he changed what he did and I literally felt smarter when we were finished walking through it, line by line.
Fast forward to a new round of edits to Monique which meant she needed to 1) adjust the artwork accordingly and 2) lay out the pages, again, with corrected copy.
Until we sell this story, she’s doing this for free, essentially, in the pockets of her time. I’m careful to read and consider edits before I send them to her. I worry about taking up too much of her time. I wake up to emails from her and I’m giddy.
She sent it to me late last night and today, on a whim, I sent it to a the “beta” readers.
There’s still more work to do, some illustration changes and a paragraph or two to be tightened up.
I have to find an agent, too. And a publisher. Last week someone in the industry suggested I find an agent for the manuscript and let them assign an illustrator.
I explained that’s not a path I’d ever consider. She filled my inbox with amazing tips and insights, people to follow on Twitter, how to look for an agent, what to expect. It was incredible and I feel lucky.
This is OUR book. WE created it. I’ll look until I find the right agent, the right publisher. I realize I did it backwards, but I was (am) adamant about Monique being the illustrator.
She’s been to the farm, met the animals, too. She knew this story before I wrote it down.
And so, I expected friends to say it’s good, because there’s a small voice in my head who says “my friends HAVE to like my stuff,” but getting feedback from Jess and her girls was overwhelming.
Have I mentioned how much I LOVED the red crayon? Or how fortunate I am that Jess took time to read it with them, discuss it and annotate their feedback. They are my audience, afterall.
She sent me a clip of them reading it, and I cried. < < <Click there for cuteness.
I sent it to Monique and said, “They’re reading OUR BOOK, dude.”
Writing (books, it seems),
Edit: Monique just read this blog, sent me a text. I’m going to bed with a full heart and a smile. One of the things I love the most about Moe is her enthusiasm and her drive. #dreamteam
That and, at 25, she thinks 35 is old(er). <3