Linda Ashman shares the story behind her story …
Typically when I begin a new story, I like to have a destination in mind. But over the years I’ve learned that wrong turns and winding detours are not always the frustrating time-wasters I assume them to be. Sometimes, they’re actually a gift.
Take, for example, Babies on the Go, the first book I ever sold. At the time, I’d been writing and submitting picture book manuscripts for nearly two years and had amassed an impressive stack of rejection letters. I’d read somewhere that editors were interested in themed poetry collections and figured I’d give one a shot. I wrote one about magical creatures (several rejections), another about ocean life (more rejections), and decided to tackle a new topic: nocturnal animals. I brought home a bunch of books from the library, and started my research.
A few days later, as I looked over my notes, I noticed that these animals had many different ways of carrying their babies—on shoulders or backs, in pouches, in their mouths. So interesting! I scribbled down a few couplets, then a few more. Pretty soon, a manuscript took shape. But it wasn’t a poetry collection about nocturnal critters; it was a picture book about how animals carry their young.
Allyn Johnston, then at Harcourt, acquired the manuscript, and signed up Jane Dyer to illustrate it. I was absolutely thrilled—then stunned when I heard the book wouldn’t be published for another five years. It seemed like an eternity! But Jane’s gorgeous illustrations were well worth it (and now, ten years after the book was published, the wait doesn’t seem so long).
By the way, I’ve also learned to hang on to “dead-end” manuscripts—the ones you can’t seem to finish, or that repeatedly get rejected. That poetry collection about magical creatures eventually evolved into two books—The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide, illustrated by David Small, and Maxwell’s Magic Mix-Up, illustrated by Regan Dunnick, and the one about ocean life morphed into Rub-a-Dub Sub, illustrated by Jeff Mack. So, just in case, I’m hanging on to those old notes about nocturnal creatures.
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