Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Launch Day: Lost in Lexicon rises again

Today is a great day, the culmination of a lot of hard work by many people: the Scarletta Press launch day for the second edition of Lost in Lexicon: An Adventure in Words and Numbers.

What has it taken to get here? I began writing Lexicon in November, 2006, a little less than five years ago. It was time to start writing again. My three older children were heading off to college, threatening to leave a gaping gulf behind. David would be following in another year. The time had come for a different expression of a link to the world of childhood. I set myself the goal of finishing a book in time to give it as a Christmas present to my youngest son son, Damian. For the first time since the days of my own childhood, the fiction poured forth. I knew I wanted to delight Damian with math and language; I knew I wanted my characters to visit a magical land; I looked out the window and saw the soaring cupola of our own big red barn. The rest I discovered on the way.

I finished the book in time for Christmas, but I wanted to format and bind it for Damian, and there wasn't time, so I set my new aim for his ninth birthday, February 7, 2007. That gave me time to revise the book as well. After the birthday I set out on another round of revision by joining Critique Circle, an online critique group, and submitting a chapter a week. To all my friends and faithful critters there, especially Marva Dasef and Shana Silver, thanks for all your help. I revised to make the book more kid-friendly, to sharpen descriptions and remove adverbs, to make things a little funnier, and to shorten sentences and plunge into the story more quickly.

Then followed a long foray into seeking publication, a tortuous route most debut writers encounter. The trek wasn't entirely foreign to me: twenty years ago, with a book called Tulku that still remains and forever will remain unpublished, I had found an agent who submitted it for more than a year. We got very close at Little, Brown--I spent six months revising under the guidance of an editor who wanted to acquire it-- but in the end the sales folk at the editorial conference were unconvinced, and there was no deal. That final turndown led my agent to give up on the book, a double whammy of news that arrived days after my father's sudden and untimely death. Although I tried to keep writing for a while, even attending a writer's conference with Jane Smiley in Aspen that summer, I didn't feel the dream anymore. Instead, in memory of my father, I turned to work in education with the Noyce Foundation.

Well, that was a digression. Just as well. I want to tell the story of publishing Lost in Lexicon, the roundabout route from attempts at traditional publishing, through the side road of creating my own company for a self-publishing adventure, to finding a home with Scarletta. I learned a huge amount along the way that may be of use to others. The world of publishing is changing rapidly, and authors need and deserve to find a way to take more of their careers into their own hands.

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