Yikes and double yikes!! You know how I told you I was going to have a phone meeting with Sarah Harvey, the teen editor at Orca Books? Well, it turns out Sarah wants some pretty major changes on my Holocaust manuscript. At first, I was a little ... well... taken aback. But by the end of the conversation, I'd come around quite a bit. All night I dreamed of the book, which means my mind is grapplingwith the story. Sarah's major criticism is that she feels I was being too careful with the protagonist -- a Dutch Jewish girl who is closely based on my own mum. She thinks I need to "release my mother from the equation." In my heart, I knew Sarah was right. Her other criticism is that she finds the historical information feels too "inserted." We discussed how a possible solution might be to include a preface that tells readers the background they need to know before they get into the story.
Okay -- all this goes to show something I talk about a lot with my students -- writing is HARD WORK. It's a PROCESS. I know I had to write the manuscript the way I did before I could move on to the next stage. Sarah expects to have detailed notes for me by the beginning of February -- and then I'll have about a month to do the rewrite. Which means I'm going to be working very very hard (I tell my students to avoid the word "very", but I'd say a double very is appropriate here). This experience reminds me of what it feels like to be a student -- we'd all prefer to hear we got things perfectly right first time around, but when we get constructive criticism like I'm getting from Sarah, we need to pick ourselves up and get to work. How's that for a pep talk? (Today, it's more for me than you!!)
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I always love the historical and cultural background a story gives it's readers. Most of the stories I've read have the historical part integrated into the story, and the acknowledgments page is often filled with the names of librarians and professors that helped the author do his research, and often the words are touching. A prefix for giving the historical background would be really nice as well; I'm sure whatever the decision is, the book will still be a success. Maybe the school library can purchase a copy so students might enjoy the book. Is the novel for older teens? I love the author (so much that I forgot his name! ;D ) that said he was not a good writer, but a great re-writer. Inspiring words.
Your holocaust story intrigues me, I'll definitely want to read it when it'll be published. I used to be upset when I received negative feedback from teachers, but now I love it because I know I'm learning and it makes my work better. I was wondering though, do editors ever say you should write something differently not because it would be better but because it would be more popular?
Wow, I think I'll print that pep talk and place it somewhere where I'll see it often!! I actually remember feeling really hurt when you corrected my first "essay" on Facebook... and thinking you were an evil teacher form whom no project was ever good enough . Well, one term later, I think I definitely improved!! (And I'm positive you'renot an evil person!!) But I still tend to be offended quickly, so I'll keep that pep talk in mind. I'm really looking forward to reading your book -- although, if I base myself on my recent trip to Chapters, I had to order On the Game because they had none left, and, 3 weeks later, I'm still waiting...
kim... if u see this.. i read 4 of ms. polak's books so far, three of which i took out of the school library and one i took out of my municipal library..might be faster than chapters!