Monday, October 24, 2011

Guest Post: Sheila Kelly Welch on How a Bionic Author Joined the Digital Age & Waiting to Forget Giveaway

By Sheila Kelly Welch

In junior high, I wrote in my diary,“Maybe someday I’ll make my own children’s books, illustrations and all.” As the years slipped by, I didn’t forget about someday, but I was just so busy with today. Writing and illustrating could wait until later, when I had more time.

Then, in my mid-thirties, I had heart surgery, and when I woke up, I could hear my artificial valve ticking. Medical technology had saved my life, and our children called me the Bionic Woman.

But to me that tick tick, tick tick was the sound of a small internal clock, a constant reminder of the passage of time. I needed to get to work.

My first short story was published in a tiny magazine two years later. Encouraged, I tapped out more stories on a manual typewriter and sent them off – lots of them – and some were accepted by magazines such as Cricket and Highlights.

By then I felt ready to begin my first novel about a family’s adoption of a developmentally delayed eight-year-old. Don’t Call Me Marda was written chapter-by-chapter in long hand on notebook paper and typed on an electric typewriter.

After several rejections, I discovered a recurring misspelled word in the manuscript. The next revision was done on a computer with a newfangled invention, Spell Check, that corrected my “creative” spelling.

Soon I found a home for my novel with a small company, Our Child Press, that focuses on the topics of adoption and foster care. It was a good match. I even got to illustrate each chapter, and my book was published in 1990.

Two decades later, I still love Spell Check, but despite being “bionic,” I’m overwhelmed by the amazing advancements in technology. Without my husband, a patient and knowledgeable computer expert, I would have dismissed the idea of submitting anything to a publisher such as Stephen Roxburgh who has become an enthusiast of all things digital.

When I first heard Roxburgh talk about children’s literature it was the early 1990s before iPads, nooks, or tweets. He was the children’s book publisher at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, and he was participating in a panel discussion at an American Library Association conference. His knowledge and commitment were impressive, and I thought having him for an editor would be a great experience. Maybe someday . . .

In 2000, Roxburgh was the publisher at Front Street/Cricket Books, which accepted my novel The Shadowed Unicorn. Although he was not my editor, he did become acquainted with my work.

Several career moves later, he founded namelos. At first, this company functioned mainly as an editorial service, but in the fall of 2009, namelos expanded into book publication.

I submitted a novel – unsolicited– and paid a fee (later refunded) for what was to be a detailed evaluation and critique.

Instead, Roxburgh wanted to publish it, and I signed a contract three weeks later. Working with him and the other talented members of the namelos staff has been just as wonderful as I’d anticipated.

Waiting to Forget was released by namelos on Oct. 1. The novel begins and ends in a hospital, and in between, twelve-year-old T.J. struggles with memories of his difficult other life, before he was adopted, and with the reason why his little sister now lies unconscious in the emergency room.

In some ways this novel has much in common with Don’t Call Me Marda. Both were inspired by my experience adopting school-age children; both deal with the turmoil that seems typical when older kids join a family; and both stories, although fiction, concern a topic with emotional resonance for me.

But the process involved in creating, publishing, and marketing each of these titles has been quite different. And it illustrates the massive changes in technology that have occurred in the past twenty years. Electronic submission, e-mail correspondence, editing on-line, print-on-demand production of paperbacks and hardcovers, e-book formats, and Internet marketing – all of these are employed by namelos and are part of this astonishing new digital age.

Sheila and Tristan

Thirty years have gone by since the surgery that gave me the chance to fulfill my childhood dream of making books. Sometimes I think someday must have arrived by now. But the tick tick of my internal reminder urges me to create more stories that are dear to my heart.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a signed copy of Waiting to Forget by Sheila Kelly Welch (namelos, 2011)! To enter, comment on this post and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or email Cynthia directly with "Waiting to Forget" in the subject line. Author-sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Deadline: midnight CST Nov. 7.

16 comments:

angela cerrito said...

I loved reading about your publication journey and now want to read ALL THREE of your books! Congratulations on making your childhood dreams come true and on the publication of WAITING TO FORGET!

Angela (from the blue boards)

Gabi said...

Waiting to Forget sounds like something I'd love to read. :] Congrats on publication! Gabi: teddycavygal at yahoo dot com

Leone Castell Anderson said...

Since we've been friends since the beginning of our "journeys to publication," I'm pleased for and proud of you, Sheila, as are all our ABC writing cohorts! "Waiting to Forget" is a book that all kids (and parents, too) will not forget! Nor will I. Lee: leeeric@aeroinc.net

Mirka Breen said...

I love this post. Mr. Roxburgh was the editor of a friend of mine at Front Street, and he is the real deal when it comes to literary fiction.
I am so happy for you, and glad you shared your journey. I, too, depend on spell-check a bit. Now if only someone could invent a true typo-check (grammar misses most of those) I’d be more confidant that my manuscripts are going out as polished as I’d like them to be. We still need living readers to comb-over our offerings.

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Agreed, Mirka! And if you ever come across a true typo-check, by all means let us know!

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Thanks for your sweet post, Angela!

Gabi, your entry is duly noted!

Leone, what a lovely connection. May you all have wonderful writing lives!

Sheila said...

Hi,

Thanks to all of you for your kind remarks. I want to say a special thanks to Cynthia for giving me the opportunty to tell the story behind my stories.

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Sheila, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, and congratulations on your success!

Evelyn said...

Sheila, I really enjoyed reading about your writing journey. I'm so often interacting with authors who are much younger than I am, it was great to get to hear from someone who's more my contemporary age-wise. Congratulations on your many successes! I'm impressed with the way you've adapted to the new technology and taken advantage of what it has to offer. Best wishes on your newest book. I'd love to read it. ( evelyn dot christensen at gmail dot com) Thank you, Cynthia for hosting Sheila's blog.

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Evelyn, thank you for your lovely comment! I think we're all constantly adapting to new technologies--or at least it feels that way. Come back soon, and best wishes with your writing life!

Tasha Squires said...

Hi! First I have to say I might be a bit biased since I'm Sheila's daughter and I loved the book! But I'm also a middle school librarian and have already booktalked this book to the 8th graders at my school to much success. We are also using it for our teacher book discussion group for November (Mom is going to Skype in for the discussion) and have 3 teachers who have read it already and love it. Love you MOM! Tasha

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Tasha, it sounds like books run in the family. How wonderful it is that you and your mom and, for that matter, your students have such a wonderful connection! Thanks for surfing by!

T.B. said...

Lovely guest post! Wow, it's amazing how the publication process has changed due to technology. I think in some ways its opened up many new doors and so many more people can connect and have access to books now. Being a teen, I've grown up with technology, but it can be overwhelming at times! Congrats on all of your successes and Waiting To Forget sounds like a book I'd love to read. Thank you so much for the giveaway!

ftbotbblog at gmail dot com

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

It's definitely a new world, T.B.! And yes, new challenges and new opportunities! Thanks for surfing by.

Sheila said...

Hello,

Thanks again, Cynthia!

Angela, I'd be thrilled to have you read all three of these novels. Check them out at your library -- that wonderful place where books are free for the asking.

Gabi, I'm glad my new book sounds interesting and hope you read and enjoy it!

Leone, my "true friend and a good writer," thanks for saying such nice things and thanks for many years of friendship.

Mirka, yes, Stephen Roxburgh has been a thoughtful and inspiring editor. I, too, am in need of a typo-checker! I didn't mention this in my guest post, but I have Parkinson's and now make an astonishing number of typos. I may switch to a voice recognition program someday although my learning curve is very steep with anything new!

Evelyn, I often find myself among younger authors, too. But Leone has a "few" years on me and is still going strong. We all have something to offer kids of today.

Tasha, what can I say? Thanks for crying when you read my book! Thanks for being such a good sister to all those siblings.

T.B., thanks for the kind comments. I'm actually glad to hear that even a teen feels a bit overwhelmed by technology. I hope you read and like my book!

Thanks again to all of you!
Sheila

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Sheila, thanks for stopping by again and for your gracious thoughts! Take care, and keep in touch!

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