When Truth Prevails!
I’ve told the story of Avery and Gunner and how publishers felt it wasn’t edgy enough. A fourteen year-old boy, a Quaker, homeschooled by well-educated parents in the far corner of Virginia, in 1864, should be edgy? That’s insulting. I’d taken such care with all the details to get it “right.” Edgy wasn’t right. I put the manuscript away. I will make all the editorial changes but I will not compromise the integrity of my characters. It simply isn’t the truth. Then a few years later, along comes BJU Press Journey Forth, who thought it was perfect. The truth prevails!
Several years ago I volunteered at our local shelter. I live in the mountains, and it’s quite rural, so we often had hound dogs of assorted DNA sheltered there. It’s a no-kill shelter, and many volunteers foster and work hard to find homes for the animals. I helped with the training and care of a Treeing Walker Coonhound, who was languishing, losing weight and had lost his desire to thrive. Our town also has a resort that brings summer people from everywhere. That summer a wealthy family from New York City came to spend the summer. Along with their nanny, seven year-old twins visited Walker every day. They spent their vacation trying to find a home for him. They put their hand-drawn posters on the cars in parking lots. They approached strangers asking if they’d like to have a really nice dog. At the end of the summer Walker had put on weight, learned tricks, and looked forward to their visits. Walker left the mountains in a chauffeured limousine to go to his new home on Park Avenue in a high rise. And that’s the truth!
I wrote the story, had it edited, rewrote it, repeat…you know the routine, authors. First rejection: your story is charming, but not believable. These children are wealthy? They are too nice. Second rejection: While your story is intriguing, it would market better if the children were African American. Third rejection: Our marketing team accepts that the story is beautifully crafted. But our marketing concern is this: readers love their characters to be challenged, to have hardships to overcome. Have you considered writing the protagonists, at least one of them, to be poor or have something to overcome? Perhaps a sibling problem between them?
They all missed the point. This is a true story. I submitted it to Progressive Rising Phoenix Press who found the truth to be believable. They agreed that wealthy children are not all disagreeable with entitled attitudes. They would take it as it was. It was the truth.
Walker Hound of Park Avenue was released last week as a chapter book. The book is nearly word for word as it was originally written in 2003. The first review is in. This reviewer got it. I’m grateful and hopeful that readers will get it and embrace the idea of rescue. I hope shelters and rescue groups can use the book for education, to highlight the hidden potential of rescued dogs. And I hope they’ll use the book for fundraising. Progressive Rising Phoenix Press is imaginative, supportive, and well, progressive. If your group can use this book, give them a call. If you have a child to read to, read this one. According to the first reviewer, you don’t want to miss it! And that’s the truth.