Sunday, December 31, 2017

Keeping a Promise I Made to Myself

It is now the last day of 2017.

On the first day of 2017 I made a commitment to myself: to submit something somewhere every single month. I worked out some rules. It had to be something new - I couldn't just submit the same manuscript twelve times to twelve different places. But it didn't have to be something completely new: it could be a significantly revised and resubmitted version of a previous manuscript. The project specified nothing about having any of these submissions accepted. I was giving myself a grade on effort, not results. But I wouldn't count something as a submission unless I thought it had at least a chance of being accepted. I couldn't just scrawl a four-line ditty and send it off to The New Yorker.

Here is my report on the first eleven months of the year.

JANUARY: sent a grant proposal to the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota Libraries for travel funds to spend a week in Minneapolis doing research on Maud Hart Lovelace, author of my beloved Betsy-Tacy books  - VERDICT: I got it! And spent a most happy and productive week there in May.

FEBRUARY: revised an old and never-submitted philosophy paper, "Artistic Integrity," my last-hurrah as a now-retired philosophy professor, and sent it off, without much hope, to the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism - VERDICT - accepted (!!!!) conditional on major edits.

MARCH: revised and resubmitted my paper on Pinky Pye and Ginger Pye of Eleanor Estes to the Children's Literature Association Quarterly - VERDICT: accepted and now in press.

APRIL: spent the month writing poetry and sent one poem, for children, to Highlights Magazine - VERDICT: after a wait of many months, rejected.

MAY: revised a children's literature paper I had delivered at the Children's Literature Association conference a few years ago and sent it to Children's Literature - VERDICT:  revise-and-resubmit, which I plan to do.

JUNE: short article ("The Most Underrated Line in Your Book") to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Bulletin - VERDICT: accepted and published, to some nice responses.

JULY: did the "major edits" on the "Artistic Integrity" paper and sent it back to the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism - VERDICT: accepted and now in press.

AUGUST: sent a story pitch to an educational publisher that had approached me as a possible contributor - VERDICT: rejected.

SEPTEMBER: sent my 15,000-word chapter book (already under contract) to my editor Margaret Ferguson at Holiday House - VERDICT: she pronounced it "darling" but of course has lots of revisions for me to undertake in the new year.

OCTOBER: sent in my proposal for a paper (on child poet Hilda Conkling) to be delivered on a panel at next year's Children's Literature Association conference in San Antonio in June - VERDICT: still waiting to hear, but this one is practically guaranteed to be accepted, as the other panelists are all academic super-stars.

NOVEMBER: sent another story pitch to the educational publisher, and then, with their encouragement, sent the full story - VERDICT: rejected - WAH! - but with a generous "kill fee" of $1000.

Then came December.

I was tired of submitting things. I was discouraged by the last rejection. My heart was heavy with family woes and stressed by Christmas preparations. I had hoped to have the energy to revise-and-resubmit the children's literature paper (May submission) sent back by Children's Literature, but couldn't face the additional research needed. Maybe it was enough to have done this submission project for eleven months? After all, as a result of it, I had already gotten my grant to go to Minnesota, published my article for SCBWI, and had both a major philosophy paper and major children's literature paper accepted in good journals - plus wrote an entire children's chapter book. Wasn't that enough?

No, it wasn't. I had made a promise to myself in the bright new morning of a fresh new year. Now I had to keep that promise.

So yesterday, with just 48 hours to spare, I unearthed some of the poems for grownups I had written back in April. I liked them! I researched places I might send them, by looking at places that had published work by poet friends who also wrote "accessible" poems drawing on their own life experiences. I picked one journal, looked at its submission requirements (maximum of three poems sent in one MS Word file), chose my three best poems, and sent them off. I have little hope for this one - but I also had little hope for my last-hurrah philosophy paper.

It feels SO GOOD to keep a promise to myself. I sometimes think that I owe any success I've had in my long career to one thing only: the ability to follow through. In the waning hours of 2017, I followed through on this January commitment, dear readers, and I'm so grateful to myself that I did.

Now I have to decide: what commitment to myself will I make in 2018?


  1. As always, Claudia, you are an amazing inspiration!!! Congratulations on keeping your promise to yourself, and on it being so very productive! How about if our 2018 promise is to get together at least once every month?

  2. I love that idea for a 2018 promise, dearest Jeannie! And of course my year had in it all kinds of other hideousness that I didn't write about!

  3. Lazily I would like embedded URLs so I can read the items that have been accepted and published!

    1. No links available yet - the journal articles are still "forthcoming" and the SCBWI Bulletin (I think) is protected by a members-only barricade. But thanks for wanting them!!

  4. Claudia, during December you also submitted a load of hats and gloves and socks and things to the homeless, Christmas carols to St. Paul's elders and neighbors, and an excellent sermon. Those submissions were not for publication, but they were certainly worth something!

    1. Thank you, dear Scott. Those submissions meant the world to me!

  5. After watching this project from the beginning, t's so fun to see the conclusion of your year and the success of your goals - pushing onward even when the finish line was maybe the hardest part! I'm praying for you, and I'm also really proud to count you as my friend.

    1. Thanks, sweet Amy. And you know how proud I am to count you as my friend, too. Friend and ice-cream-eating buddy!