Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Gracie will soon dive into public life

I’m delighted to announce that this winter, MW Book Publishing of Garden Bay, BC will be releasing my first children’s book, Gracie’s Got a Secret.

In this picture book, an impatient and feisty little goldfish named Gracie escapes her fishbowl and leaves her family, determined to share a secret with the outside world. Along the way, she befriends a weepy alligator who’s stuck in the sewer and a circus elephant with dreams of freedom. By helping her new pals, Gracie learns to slow down and go with the flow, gaining remarkable results and a clear way back to a loving home.

I never do reveal what the secret is, but leave it to the reader’s imagination. This uplifting story, which comes with engaging questions to prompt discussion, invites children to believe in themselves, dream big, support others, and find their inner stillness.

Unbelievably, this book was twenty years in the making. I first got the idea for it while travelling in India. The book started out all in rhyme, but after a number of drafts, I dropped that. The first woman who ever gave me feedback produced a scathing, 10-page , single-spaced critique and ended with”I wouldn’t read it again to my nine-year-old.” Ouch.

Still, I didn’t give up. I researched markets and perused picture books and sent the manuscript to publishers. Besides the usual generic, impersonal rejection slips, I got comments like “We don’t do talking animals.” (So much for Dr. Seuss, Dr. Doolittle, and every Disney movie ever made.) One twenty-something reader told me that using alliteration was the sign of an amateur. Double ouch.

Tired of rejections, I put the manuscript away. Over the years, I would pull it out, do another few drafts, and send it out again. More rejections. I got feedback from friends. Some read it to kids. I got their views. Overall, most people seemed to really like it. Various friends, who are published authors, thought it was ready for publication years ago. But no publisher seemed to want to take a chance with it.

Once, when I was in a pet store,  a goldfish ended up on the floor at my feet, having somehow escaped from its aquarium. I took that as a sign.

I found out that children’s picture books are a more competitive market than even adult publishing, especially since they require costly, four-colour printing. I did more drafts. Got more rejections. Time to put it away again. I figured that it was probably going to be one of those learning projects that would sit in my drawer. I was too cheap to publish it myself.

I grew more encouraged after sending the manuscript to Dennis Lee, author of popular Canadian children’s books like Alligator Pie.  He said that my book was better than most that crossed his desk and added that he would be delighted to see Gracie “swimming into print.”

That was years ago. I did more drafts. Got more rejections. Then recently, I attended a literary function in Gibsons, and happened to share a table with MW Book publisher William Gelbart. When I heard that he published a variety of genres, including children’s books, I thought: Hmmm, maybe it’s time to revive Gracie. I hauled her out, did some more fine-tuning, and sent off my story. He liked it,  calling it “cute.”

Gee, that last part of this long process seemed so effortless. Success at last. I look forward to having Gracie out in the world and sharing her with audiences, young and old.

November 22, 2010 at 10:33 pm Comments (2)