Back and Forth
by Kelly Fineman
Repeat this line several times to get an idea what my journey to acceptance for publication was: "Back and forth. Back and forth."
In October of 2004, I sent a short rhyming poem (honest, it was only sixteen words!) to Highlights for Children. I'd worked hours to come up with a precise rhyme and ended up with something extremely simple and catchy. I was hopeful that my little poem would sell, but two years' experience in collecting rejections tempered those hopes pretty well.
In early November of 2004, I got a postcard from a nice editor at Highlights telling me that she'd passed the story along to the poetry editor and wishing me luck. My first non-rejection! I did what any aspiring author would do - I startled the cat by whooping loudly, called my husband at work, and then went back to what I was doing. Oh, and I put my little postcard in a scrapbook, too. A girl's gotta have her own motivational devices.
In early December, 2004, I got my second non-rejection from Highlights. This time, it was a postcard depicting editors putting manuscripts on scales. A scale card! They were still thinking about it. I startled the cats again, filed postcard number two in my scrapbook, and went back to work.
In January of 2005, I got a self-addressed, stamped envelope in the mail. On opening it, I discovered a revision request. My third non-rejection for my 16-word poem. Actually, the request was that I revise the first line of the poem. The request and rationale were clearly stated, as were the editor's hopes that I'd revise and re-send it.
Now for the tricky part: I had to complete the revision. Folks who know nothing about writing for children or using precise meter and rhyme would assume this was a piece of cake. Boy would they be wrong. I had six syllables to work with, and the last two were taken up by the word "dreidels," which simply had to stay the same. Four syllables. How hard could it be?
After a month of revising and running different formulations past my critique group, I sent the revised and now re-titled poem off in the mail. In mid-February, I got another scale postcard. It not only told me that my poem was under consideration, but thanked me for the rewrite. More paper for my scrapbook.
In early March, I received a contract in the mail for my little poem. Five months of mail had finally paid off. I signed my copy of the contract and sent it off. A few days later, I received a modest check in the mail. I agonized over the check - should I cash it or frame it? (Hey, it wasn't all that much money, and how many times do you make your first-ever sale?) As it turns out, I stashed it in a folder to show my critique group and forgot about it, so it expired. Framing it seems like the way to go. And someday (I don't know when), my little poem will appear in Highlights for Children.
But for now, I must get back to work.