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.
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!”
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. ; )
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? 🙂
But . .. but I want to read it, too!
Do you think Alex might loan it to me for a few days? He can trust me—I’m a librarian!
Alex borrows plenty of books from libraries; it seems only fair that he should return the favor.
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 ;))
Oh, I’ll never stop trying, but No-Nose is off the table.
Mike, you could always turn it into a poem 🙂
Love this story! And that is a darn good doodle! You just need some more car breakdowns, and you’ll have that book illustrated before you know it.
No! No more breakdowns! I’d much rather draw at home!
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
That’s one of my favorite episodes!
Yet another reason to like you! xoM
And sometimes the life of a writer is as dignified as stomping around in a big vat of grapes.
And I LOVE that episode. Just thinking about it gets me laughing great, wonderful belly laughs! hahahahahaha!!!!!! xoxoM
Best Dad Ever Award!
Indeed. The perfect market.
That’s more beautiful than anything I’ve heard in a long time.
Thanks! What a nice thing to say!
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…”?
If that ever happens, you’ll be the first to know.
Honestly, I can’t understand how anyone would not like your book. The concept intrigues me. Keep submitting. 🙂
I am submitting. Just not that one.
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.
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!”
Love this post 🙂
A beautiful story, Mike, kind of a morality tale for any writer, illustrator — any of us with one eye on the market. Let’s keep our priorities straight! Thank you!
Yep. There are times you have to focus on marketability and there are other, more important times you have to focus on noselessness.
You are more than welcome to illustrate No-Nose, by the way! 😉
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…
I’m sure we can arrange something with the boy. Sometimes owning a one-of-a-kind book means you gotta share a little.
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.
Thanks, Amy! And welcome!
I don’t have plans for any new “Sarah” excerpts for a while — but, hey, you can always buy the book. (And if you live nearby, I’ll stop by and autograph it for you!)
Despite the adorable premise of your story, your son will be very thrilled to have a copy of a story that only he has and nobody else. That is special. 🙂
He deserves it, that’s for sure!
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?
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!
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…
And you’re tackling your writing in the right spirit, I think. If you can’t find the fun in writing then you shouldn’t be doing it!
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.
Exactly! The “Got your nose!” thing makes “No-Nose” universally relatable! 🙂
Many thanks for the kind words Liesa. Here’s hoping my next endeavor gets a little more love from editors.
Oh! So that’s what I can do with that pesky manuscript that is so darn funny to me and my kids, and *only* me and my kids. Genius lemons-to-lemonade plan!
I’ll bet other writers would find the funny in your manuscript, too. Try me!
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! 😀
I mean, go ahead!
Now you can feel important HUMAN because I have visited your site!
Ooooooo Play-doh. I love that stuff. Hmmmm maybe I’ll stick around for a while
Yay! Welcome, Little Blue Lady!
You actually want me here ?
Wait! This is A trick, isn’t it ?
Stay a while, why don’cha.
I do like kids books
Awww. Darn editors. Don’t they know what comic genius a play-doh prosthetic is?!?
Sigh. Apparently not.
Love this post!
What a great story! I think your son likes having a writer dad 🙂
Well, that good, because I really like him!
This is the story you will tell the audience when you are the keynote speaker at a future SCBWI Conference.
It that should ever happen, I’ll be sure to give you a shout out.
That’s majorly cool!
Thanks! So are you!