Sometimes we are defined by our obsessions.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about the inspiration behind my picture book manuscript, Momma No-Nose. The story is about as dissimilar from Sarah Gives Thanks as you can possibly get.

Here’s the gist of it: After a petting zoo burro goes rogue and gets a bit too nibbly, our narrator’s Momma suddenly finds herself noseless. This turns out to be quite a problem. She can no longer keep her glasses on her face or tell if the milk is sour. Worst of all, the once happy and outgoing Momma no longer wants to leave the house. Just in time for Mother’s Day, however, her artistic son makes Momma an ingenious PlayDoh proboscis that, in one fell swoop, restores her self-esteem and improves the family’s fortunes forever.

Oh, and, in case you need me to tell you, Momma No-Nose is supposed to be funny.

Now, I knew this story had long odds for publication before I finished the first draft. I kinda figured Momma No-Nose was gonna be one of those stories “just for me.” I was cool with that.

But I soooo loved the results of my early writing efforts. So I put in more effort. Then I put in even more effort. Then I presented it at my critique group – twice – and revised the story accordingly.

I admit, I went a little daft. I caught No-Nose Fever.

Sadly, No-Nose Fever is not contagious. Editors aren’t feelin’ the love for this story in a way editors have never not felt the love for a story of mine ever before. I actually got a rejection one hour after I submitted No-Nose – a personal record I have no desire to break, but one that kind of dazzles and impresses me, nonetheless.

But like the coyote’s obsession with his roadrunner, I couldn’t quite put this thing behind me. The more No-Nose was rejected, the more I refused to read the writing on the wall.

“I just haven’t found the right market,” I told myself.

So I kept at it, tweaking the cover letter and looking for ways to punch up the comedy and tighten the word count. Oh, and I kept submitting.

The story’s editorial appeal is as plain as the nose on her face.

My son, Alex, is the only other person with No-Nose Fever; it must be genetic. He would sometimes ask me about Momma No-Nose’s progress – and was almost as amazed as I was that no editor on earth seemed to like it. So the other day I made him a solemn promise: “If Momma No-Nose doesn’t get picked up by the end of this year,” I said, “I will draw all the pictures and make the book just for you.”

“Mine will be the only one?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“The ONLY one?”

“The only one.”

“Wow. The only one.” He let that roll around his brain for a while. Then he smiled.

I smiled, too. Suddenly the idea that Alex would have the only copy of Momma No-Nose felt like a wonderful, wonderful thing. I decided right then and there to stop pitching this story. I didn’t want to do anything to mess up my promise.

Besides, in that little moment with my son, I had achieved my goal; I had found a market for Momma No-Nose. It wasn’t a large market, but it was big enough for me.

64 Replies to “Doh!”

  1. That’s awesome! Momma No-Nose sounds like a winner. ; ) It is always a tough call as to what will be picked up… I have a nice novel you can use as a door-stop, if you’re interested. Audience: 1 (me). I guess there are creative things we creative types must do to get them out of our systems. Kind of like love children, I guess.

    BTW, hope you’re watching Parks & Rec. I think of you when I see Ron Swanson and his automatic door closer. ; )

    1. No-Nose won’t be out of my system for a little while yet; now I have a lot of pictures to draw.

      And, indeed, I’m watching Parks & Rec. While I admire Ron’s door system, I prefer to manually slam a door in a person’s face; it’s so much more personal, don’t you think? 🙂

  2. Awh, I’m gutted. I totally thought you were going to say that you had to let your son down in the end and we can all go buy it today! But how lovely for him that he had his own book, my son would love that!!! (But do keep trying ;))

  3. This puts me in mind of the I Love Lucy episode in Beverly Hills when she’s trying to avoid meeting William Holden after she freaks him out at the Brown Derby. While she didn’t lose her nose, she made herself a Silly Putty nose that caught fire when she lit her cigarette. Hilarious! So very nice your son gets a first, and only edition. Niche markets, especially this niche, are great! xoM

  4. That’s so lovely! What happens though if after you make the book just for your son, a publisher contacts you and says “Hey, I know we rejected your book a while ago, but there’s suddenly a surging interest in comedy prosthetics books for kids…”?

  5. I *love* the idea of Momma No-Nose! Why do publishers not like it? What feedback have you had from them? I think kids would find it really funny!

    I’m torn now, because I would like a publisher to see the error of his ways and pick up your book, but I also love the idea of Alex having a one-of-a-kind special edition.

    1. When editors hate something, they don’t give you a reason. Though, if I were to guess, I think they mighta found the idea of a bitten off nose to be a tad off-putting.

      But it’s not as if I made her noselessness gross or bloody or painful or anything. Here’s how Momma reacts immediately after the attack:

      “Hey, now!” Momma scolded, as Taco trotted to the other side of the pen with his new prize. “I did not say you could have that!”

  6. Oh, you made me do a ‘soooo sweet’ sigh and put my hand on my heart. I second the person who nominated you for best Dad award AND I second the librarian – may I borrow it too? I too can be trusted…even though I’m not a librarian…

  7. This is really fun blog! And you can draw – I’m jealous. I read through the Sarah book excerpt and I’m already a fan – congrats! I would love to read more.

  8. I think it also needs a companion book: Daddy Dear’s Ears – a man who finally listens to the sounds of his son’s heart. Personally, I think the book’s premise rocks! Why don’t you self-publish and sell it online?

    1. Our minds are very similar, Jilanne. At the end of “No-Nose,” Dad loses an ear to a naughty petting zoo goat. The book closes with our child hero creating a colorful prosthesis out of pipe cleaners.

      I kid you not!

  9. I really loved this post. I’m one of these writers who laughs while I type because I think I’m hilarious, but anyone else? Sometimes and sometimes not…I love Momma No-Nose, and I think you found the right market. For now…

  10. I love this story’s ending — just wish I had had a chance to read “Mama No-Nose” before it sold to your very special, limited market. I remember my dad pulling my “nose” off my face and showing it to me between a couple of fingers. Can’t imagine the workings of the editor’s mind. Good luck with the next project.

  11. What a wonderful story! Writing it just for your son. How wonderful is that? He’s a lucky little boy indeed!! Momma No Nose would be a huge hit with my grandson. I just know it. I may have to make up my own version to tell to him! HA! 😀

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