Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Submission a Month

My writing goal for 2017 is to submit something somewhere every single month. The "something" can be a children's book proposal, a completed children's book, a scholarly children's literature article, a philosophy article, a personal essay, a short how-to piece on craft, a grant application, a poem - any of these will count.

Right now (of course, it's only the start of February!), I am totally enamored of this plan. A month is just the right unit of time to accomplish a medium-sized task of this sort, or to make progress on a big-sized task (while also completing a small-sized task to serve as the month's submission). This plan will make me start every month with enthusiasm as a new project awaits. It will make me finish every month with an adrenaline surge as I sprint toward my self-imposed deadline.

In January, my submission was a grant application to the Kerlan Collection of children's literature at the University of Minnesota (where my own manuscripts are archived). The grant, if I receive it, would provide travel funds for me to visit the Kerlan Collection in Minneapolis and do research on the manuscripts and correspondence of two mid-20th-century children's authors on whom I've already published several articles: Eleanor Estes and Maud Hart Lovelace. Maybe I'll get the grant. Maybe I won't. But my goal for the year makes no reference to success. The goal is simply to submit.

That task took only an hour or two, so I spent the rest of the month blissfully revising a middle-grade novel I drafted during my second year as a visiting professor in Indiana: 2012-13. It's a time travel story where the magic mechanism is a cookie jar: you bake a period cookie and insert it into the jar, and it transports you into that period of the past. To return home again, you simply eat the cookie (unless your dog eats it first - spoiler alert for the big climax scene!). My writing group read the book several years ago; some of them loved it but one person hated it. On reflection, her hatred struck me as warranted. So I set the book aside. Then this past December - after a brainstorming breakfast with my brilliant mystery writer friend Leslie O'Kane - I had a plot breakthrough for fixing the hatred-triggering plot problems.

I finished an extensive, intensive round of cookie jar revisions on - yes - January 31. The book is not yet ready to submit, as first I want my new writing group, the Writing Roosters, to read it, which they probably can't do until March or April. But once they do, and I revise it yet again, it can be a submission for June or July.

This month, alas, I have a tougher revision to face. It's on a philosophy article I've been delivering to various audiences for literally years. I decided I was too ashamed to keep on dragging it out to present, so I gave myself the choice: either revise it and submit it to at least one journal, or give up on it and throw it away. I chose the first option. So on February 28 I expect to submit this paper - on artistic integrity - to an appropriate journal that I've chosen. Then, after a few months of waiting for the review process to play itself out, I'll see what they say.

In March I'll revise and re-submit my paper on Ginger Pye and Pinky Pye by Eleanor Estes, from comments I received from the two blind reviewers for the Children's Literature Association Quarterly, where I submitted it in November. Unlike the cookie jar book and the philosophy article, which are long shots, I'm fairly confident this revision will bring success.

Then in April - well, I haven't figured out April yet. Maybe it will be a month focused on a shorter, less labor-consuming project: a poem? or another grant proposal to go somewhere else and do something else fun?

But whatever it is, however puny the project, it's bound to be more than I would have done if I hadn't made myself this Submission-a-Month Plan.

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