Last year’s SBWI conference, I submit my weird and wonderful work in progress for a one-to-one. I get a lovely agent: young, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I have more butterflies in my stomach than Tropical World at Roundhay Park, Leeds. I almost run away. She is clearly a girl of taste: she says I can really, really write, but has some problems with the commercial saleability of the central idea. Okey dokey.
I read around. A lot. I learn lots more about ‘show not tell’, ‘killing my darlings’ and generally writing in, shall we say, a more conventional manner. My ‘voice’ is now not so thick with regionalism that you need translation. I have a contemporary setting. I have a hero whose gender is very, very clear. I edit for consistent point of view, I cull my own adverbs and read every last one of the 30k+ words aloud.
I push the hope down inside me, trying not to let it slip out, trying to keep calm and carry on. I tell myself whatever happens, I’ve learnt a lot and I’ve nothing to loose. I tell myself she’s bound to reject it and not to get too Tiggerish.
She’ll probably ask me to come back after the MA – that would be something. The dreams, the hope persecute me.
She was kind enough to say she really liked the strangeness of the earlier piece – she found that rather appealing. And thoughtful enough to say ‘The Thirteenth Pharaoh’ has lots of great action.
But what do I do now?
Write self indulgent bizarreness that I fear no modern kid/agent/publisher would ever like?
There’s no point writing something so strange it’ll never get published – but on the other hand, I am strange. In the Venn diagram of normal, I’m not in any subset. I like ghost ships and sea witches and Vikings and hobs and dragons and selkies and pirates and smugglers and weird underwater creatures. I know far too many fairytales, remember too much folklore and definitely know far too much about Middle Earth. I have to write peculiar and children appreciate it better than adults.
Or get over myself, learn to please, learn what kids/agents/publishers want and deliver the goods?
I try to fit in. Honest. But oddball is as oddball does. I can’t write what most normal children want any more than I could belong to the school hockey team. ( I was rather good at cutting up oranges, though.)
Eventually I might learn enough to get somewhere?