When I'm not being interrogated by the police, or having my parenting scrutinized by much of the country, I'm usually sitting at my kitchen table writing books. This is kind of an insane job. There is a lot of whining and hair-pulling. There is a lot of self-doubt and stomping around. There is a lot of laying on the kitchen floor while sighing deeply. But then also… there is actually a lot of writing. And the best thing that happens after a lot of writing is that everything somehow comes together into an actual manuscript. It really is kind of like magic.
Then I take the magically created manuscript, I pat it gently, read over it, and send it quietly off to my agent. She returns it with gentle reminders that complete sentences are important, character arcs are also important, and having a plot is kind of a big deal when it comes to book writing and reading.
I take the manuscript back, wonder how in the world I ever let it out of my sight, and then I start to fix it. Sometimes the fixing is easy, sometimes the fixing is horrible, and sometimes the fixing just never works at all and the manuscript has to go sit in time out for a few months (or years).
In the case of my newest book, RHYME SCHEMER, the revision process wasn't too torturous. The tortuous part was deciding whether I should have even written the book at all. It has no spaceships. It has no zombies. There are no fantastic elements. It's a contemporary book, with a boy main character, and the entire thing is written in free verse. It's about as far from my typical fare as you can get. But there was just something about the character. The more I wrote about Kevin the more real he became. I fretted over his decisions just like I fret over the decisions of my children. I worried for him and was angry with him. I hated how misunderstood he was, and also how mean he was. As I wrote the book, Kevin became a real person to me, and I wanted to be able to tell his story. So I did – even though there were no spaceships or zombies.
My agent supported me the entire way. She told me not to worry about the dreaded author "branding". She soothed me with the idea that my brand is "middle grade author, K.A. Holt" not "sci-fi author, K.A. Holt" or "zombie writer, K.A. Holt." She supported me through the entire journey of this book, giving me the confidence I needed to take a very big, very scary step.
And so… a couple of years ago, the manuscript was finished. It went out on submission to editors at all the big publishing houses. We got a lot of great feedback, but no one was sure what to do with the manuscript, until Tamra Tuller at Chronicle Books read it. We talked about Kevin, about the story, and BAM. She got it. She totally understood this kid and his conflicts. She understood what I was trying to do with the verse. It was a great match. My agent had not only found me the perfect editor, she'd found me a new friend.
The manuscript was whisked away into revisions and copy edits and interior design. The cover was created, a marketing plan drawn up. A team of people worked tirelessly to turn my pages not just into a book — but into a beautiful work that kids will love. I mean, hopefully, they'll love the words, but I know they'll love the art, the cover, even the feel of the paper. Chronicle Books has outdone themselves.
And so, today, RHYME SCHEMER, officially launches. After years of writing and revising and worrying and learning to just trust my gut, it's out in the wild with the best team behind it. I can't say enough about the folks at Chronicle, about the support from my agent and agency, about the help (and butt kicks) from my friends and fellow writers. It's been four years since my last book launched, and just like when you have a baby, even though there should be some kind of familiarity, everything feels really new and vaguely scary.
There's always this conflict within me: do I mix my shouty, political blog persona with my children's book writer persona? Do I let the two intermingle at all? Ever? Should I write about being a writer on this blog, or should I leave that part of my life out of it?
I decided this morning that I have to intermingle the two, if only for today, because writing RHYME SCHEMER has been such a big part of my life. It really is symbolic of change within myself, of a desire and an attempt to try new things, to be funny but heartfelt, to scooch out onto the skinny branch and to trust the people around me to keep me from, you know, humiliating and injuring myself.
It's a very exciting day, and I'm just so proud of this book.