I am tickled pink to host Tom Brenner today. We first met at the Western Washington SCBWI Great Critique. The manuscript he shared — And Then Comes Halloween — was so beautiful. I knew he would find a home for it. And he did, at Candlewick. They’ve since asked Tom to create more books in the series and today we are celebrating his latest, And Then Comes Summer (Candlewick). A lovely read for now and to bring out when winter’s chill has you longing for the sun.
AND THEN COMES SUMMER is the third in the series… and the first with a Kirkus starred review!
When I sent the editor the SUMMER manuscript, I was able to write it with the pattern, the flow, and pacing that she had established in the first and second books. Although the editing process took a long time, it was mostly a phrase here, a thought there, or try this for page 16. Stuff like that.
For each book, the editor let me rank her three chosen illustrators. For SUMMER, I liked how Jaime Kim, still a student at Maryland Institute College of Art, seemed fearless in the use of vivid colors …and I thought why not rank her #1? The editor agreed.
Because the editor suggested the CHRISTMAS book (!), how it all came about in the first place–with the angst and uncertainties and reaching out that’s a large part of my writing life—is the journey of the Halloween book.
I’m certain that if x or y* hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be writing this right now. At classroom visits I tell the kids right off that while I get my name in big black bold letters on the cover, I had a lot of help. I don’t go into what it was–it would put them to sleep instantly–but I am definitely aware of, and grateful for, that help.
It’s a mystery to me, but the idea for the book (now series!) popped into my head as I lay awake wondering what to write for the first homework assignment of the UW Writing for Children class. One thought I had, referencing my 8th grade students, was to cut class.
I wrote down the nighttime words and handed it in. I did re-writes from the teachers’ generous comments and then, having just found out about the SCBWI Great Critiques, I went and was assigned to a group headed by Kirby—a magnificent stroke of luck.
Kirby said nice things and also that I shouldn’t end with just eating the candy–my ending for our Halloween nights. She gave me two solutions. I took one and in early March sent the manuscript to eleven editors. Four never responded; four sent form rejections; one sent a rejection letter; one said she’d take another look if I beefed up the Halloween night; one sent an email that she had comments.
These last two happened in the same week mid-July. I picked the one with comments. Another piece of luck was that this editor had just been handed the ability to acquire books. Five months later, after countless number of words and much nail biting, this book was her first acquisition. I like to show the kids the first draft. Of the 376 words I sent, which weren’t all mine, only 130 made it to the 409 of the finished book.
For my math, nine out of eleven editors didn’t think the book worthwhile.
(*x and y–help and luck.)
Tom Brenner is the author of the picture books And Then Comes Halloween, illustrated by Holly Meade, and And Then Comes Christmas, illustrated by Jana Christy. Tom Brenner lives with his wife, children, and grandchildren on Vashon Island, Washington.
The statistics of rejection can be sobering! I’m so glad you stuck it out to find the right editor.