And guess what? It wasn't as easy as I expected. By mid-month I was grasping at straws, frantically looking for any source of inspiration. Any little shred of an idea. Just so I wouldn't have to count a big, fat zero for the day.
And in one of those "I have no creativity and what was I even thinking?" moments, I started thinking about my YA novel. KISSING FROGS. And I started playing the "What if?" game.
What if there was a princess who loved frogs more than anything else?
What if she wanted a frog for a pet?
What if she loved frogs so much that she
couldn't help kissing them goodnight?
What if she wound up with a castle full of princes, all proposing marriage...
The idea made me giggle so hard that I couldn't wait to start writing. I pulled out my notebook and a special story pencil and wrote my first draft that afternoon. And it was brilliant. Hilarious. Beautiful. Perfect! (Okay, not really. It was a first draft. And first drafts are always messy and awful. But the potential was there!! And I was absolutely in love with my spunky Princess Cassandra!)
After many, many rounds of revision, including a full manuscript critique from Christie Wright Wild, feedback from more than a few online writing workshops, and countless sessions with my fabulous CPs, Amie Rose Rotruck, Laura Shovan and Connie Collins Morgan, who helped me figure out the perfect ending to my story ... I put the thing in a metaphorical desk drawer to wait for the right timing.
Fast forward to November 2013. I was hard at work on final edits for my debut YA novel, TWELVE STEPS, and I had signed with my dream agent, Jessica Sinsheimer. And it was time to figure out what to work on NEXT. (Because, in writing, there always has to be a next project. Waiting for things to happen is much too crazy-making if you don't have something new to focus on.)
"What else are you working on?" Jessica asked. "What would you LIKE to work on next?"
So I told her all about the other MG novels I have stored in various stages of revision on my hard drive. And the YA novels that I've written and abandoned. Or plan to come back to one day. And the shiny new YA contemporary novel that I really wanted to write, but I wasn't sure if anyone would ever love as much as I do. And then I admitted, "And I have this picture book. People seem to like it. I don't know. Maybe we could do something with that someday?"
She loved the shiny, new YA idea and told me to start writing it immediately, and then she asked me to send her the manuscript for THE PRINCESS AND THE FROGS. (She loved it!)
Fast forward a few months ...
When the first "I love this book! I plan to take it to our acquisitions meeting next week" email arrived from an editor I'd had at the top of my Dream Editors list for years, I literally fell off my treadmill! (*Note: Reading life-changing emails while working at a treadmill desk can be hazardous to your health.)
I've been dancing around for a LONG time, waiting to announce this news, but the day has finally arrived, and I can shout it from the rooftops!!
My Debut Picture Book:
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROGS!!!!!
So for those of you who are keeping count … Yes, this means my first TWO book sales were BOTH based on the first manuscript I ever wrote. Two books (TWELVE STEPS, and now THE PRINCESS AND THE FROGS), both inspired by the novel I counted as a failure. There is no wasted effort in the writing game. As long as you are learning and moving forward, as long as you never give up, you will find success. It may not be what you thought you were striving for, but if you keep working, you’ll probably find something even better.