Thursday, June 7, 2012

Banana Peelin' with George Shannon


As someone who is just starting out in this world of kid lit, I must say that I thoroughly enjoy my sheltered existence. I have not yet knocked the socks of an agent. I have not yet jumped for joy and wept sweet tears of success at the sale of one of my manuscripts to a publishing house. Nor have I experienced the elation of Disney branding my book's characters, creating a summer animated blockbuster hit based on the aforementioned book, where I as the author attend red carpeted movie premieres in Cannes and meet the Sundance Kid in Utah. Oh wait, excuse me...I think I got carried away a bit.. Eh hem... let me see. Oh yes. As much I would love for my work to be in the hands of little ones and their adults, I much appreciate being green for I know that someday (do you HEAR THAT Universe?!), I will experience the struggles even the most experienced and talented writers face, such as those so honestly described here by this week's amazingly prolific author, George Shannon.


Banana Peels or Yellow Brick Road?

George Shannon


In the 33 years since my first children's book was accepted I've experienced a variety of banana peels. There's nothing like having everything rejected for nearly three years to make you think it's over. And there's always the book your editor loves, marketing loves, and yet it dies a quick death upon publication. There's also the orphan book. The book accepted by one editor, and passed on to another when the acquiring editor leaves by choice or eviction. Perhaps the most bitter of banana peel experiences is the editorial letter stating something like "beautifully written, great characters, but out of style".  Those are the moments that bring out my inner curmudgeon. "What? So you'd like it if I added a flatulent fairy whose best friend is an imaginary vampire?"

My most personal banana peel moments have been with my writing group of the last twelve years. Those sessions where I arrive totally infatuated with my newest project. Feel certain it's my best yet. Can't help fantasize how it will rock award committees. Then I share it with my group, and a deathly silence fills the room as they struggle to put a gentle spin on their thoughts that clearly range from  "I don't get it." to "Dead on Arrival."

These moments certainly feel cold and disheartening, but I've learned that how I react makes all the difference. When my mother was learning how to walk again after a major stroke the therapists advised, "If you start to fall don't fight it. Don't get tense. Just relax and melt to the floor." The same advise works well for writing groups.

When I'm able to relax and not get defensive I give myself an opportunity to listen and learn. Truth is, when we writers get defensive about our work it's really our egos we're trying to protect not our creation. I may still believe in my manuscript, but having people I respect "not get it" tells me the best thing I can do for my story is relax and put it aside for a while. Like a romance, I may have been so smitten I couldn't see the train wreck waiting to happen. It often turns out to have been the failed experiment I needed to do in order to explore a different direction that leads to a gold.

There will always be banana peels. But how we fall can make the difference between bruises and broken spirits and Dorothy's yellow brick road to Oz and home.


Biography

George Shannon began his professional work with children in 1973.  After experience as a children’s librarian and professional storyteller, his first children’s book, LIZARD’S SONG, was accepted by Greenwillow in 1979. Since then he has had 40 books published including 30 picture books (among them DANCE AWAY, CLIMBING KANSAS MOUNTAINS, WHITE IS FOR BLUEBERRY, THE SECRET CHICKEKN CLUB and BUSY IN THE GARDEN).  TIPPY-TOE CHICK, GO! was selected as a Charlotte Zolotow Award Honor Book for picture book writing in 2003.  2008 brought both the Washington State Book Award and the Worzalla/Burr Award for RABBIT'S GIFT, and the "Life time Achievement Award" from PNWA.

His forthcoming books include WHO PUT THE COOKIES IN THE COOKIE JAR illustrated by Julie Paschkis (Holt) and TURKEY TOT illustrated by Jennifer Mann (Holiday). He has also published essays on various aspects of children’s literature, and continues to work with children around the world on their own creative writing.  Conferences, workshops, and author visits have taken him to schools from the Arctic Circle to Jakarta, and Kuwait to Japan.  

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As if his honesty was not enough, George has offered to generously give away two of his wonderful books, Wise Acres AND The Secret Chicken Club! To enter to win, please leave a comment below and mention you are interested in the giveaway. The winner of the two lovely books will be chosen at random, by none other than Random.org. (Imagine that!)

32 comments:

  1. "If you start to fall don't fight it. Don't get tense. Just relax and melt to the floor." The same advise works well for writing groups.

    I like that advice!! Thanks, Elizabeth and George, for this fun interview. Sure, I'd love to win books.

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    1. Have to agree with Tina - that is a great line to remember! Maybe I should suggest "Fall to the Floor" as a name for my new crit group! Thanks Elizabeth and George!

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  2. I like the comparison of manuscript to romance. "I may have been so smitten I couldn't see the train wreck waiting to happen." So true! Thanks, George and Elizabeth. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go break up with my latest manuscript.

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    1. You know what they say Hannah....there are more fish in the sea. :) now go eat some chocolate and watch Sleepless in Seattle!

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  3. It's always so uplifting to hear of other writers' banana peelin' moments, especially ones as prolific and successful as George Shannon, and to know that we are not alone in this world. Which is why I love your blog, Elizabeth!

    I would love to win his books.

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    1. Awwww...Natasha! Thanks so much! It is so great to see you here! =)

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  4. I love the "relax and melt to the floor" metaphor. Thanks to George and Elizabeth for sharing with us!

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  5. This is a terrific interview. I'll be linking this one on my blog. George's books look wonderful. I would love to be a winner!

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    1. Rosi! Great to see you here! Thanks so much for tuning in!

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  6. Such sage advice. We've all had those moments in crit groups and there's that kneejerk, panicky reaction that we all hope doesn't show. I'm going to use "relax & fall to the floor" to avoid all those strained smiles!
    And thanks for the generous giveaway-- I'm definitely interested.

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    1. Doesn't he offer great advice?! Thanks Dana!

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  7. Obviously the "Relax and fall to the floor." bit is pure perfection. But I have to admit, I laughed SO hard when he said, "What? So you'd like it if I added a flatulent fairy whose best friend is an imaginary vampire?"

    BAhahahaha!! So true!! Oh wow... I'll be saving this interview for a while. Thanks, guys! Fabulous!!

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  8. It's all in the way we fall! Love it! Though, I have to agree with Bethany, I was hooting at the flatulent fairy and her vampire friend. I love George Shannon's work AND his picture book writing advice. How cool that you had him here, Elizabeth!

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  9. This is great! I, too, love the the therapist's advice and how you have so aptly applied it to writing. I will be applying it, too. I did laugh, as others did, about the flatulent fairy & her vampire friend! So hilarious!
    I would love for random.org to choose me for one of the books :•)
    Thanks to both of you for this great post!

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    1. Penny, we all know you have the giveaway magic touch. I am so curious if random.org will choose you. It is my own social experiment. Will Penny win again? =) Thanks so much for tuning in!

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  10. I love this "Truth is, when we writers get defensive about our work it's really our egos we're trying to protect not our creation." I'm interested in the giveaway. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  11. Such a fun interview! My favorite lines have been highlighted by others in the comments already. I will do my best to relax and melt to the floor, as long as the gang of dust bunnies prowling beneath the sofa promise not to leap out and attack me!

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  12. Thanks, Elizabeth, for keeping it real with these amazing authors! I love George Shannon's books and am definitely interested in the giveaway.

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  13. Another truly inspirational banana peeler! Oh, Elizabeth... how I now love my Thursdays! Each one ferries (non-flatulently) a little magical backbone into my Writer's Bay.

    George, thank you for your words. I'm an abject fan - hopelessly in love with White is for Blueberries - and knowing that EVEN YOU can suffer a three-year dry spell (yoinks!) gives me the serenity I need to contine.

    (Giveaway? Sign me up as a hopeful, please and thank you!)

    Non-Anonymously Yours,
    Melissa Kelley
    missat13 at msn dot com

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  14. The flatulent fairy and the imaginary vampire had me laughing out loud!

    Thank you for the beautiful advice, George.

    Elizabeth, you have hosted some great authors here! You don't need to enter me in the giveaway :)

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  15. Hi there! I read this and it made me feel sooooooooooooooooo much better about where I am in my writing.. It actually made me laugh out loud, much to the bewiderment of my hubby sat across from me...

    My last rejection included an "it must be louder comment..." ??? Say what?! Short of oufitting it with a megaphone... *deep breath* I shall relax and melt to the floor... sigh.

    A great post - Thank you!
    I am very much interested in this give away, and I know who else would be...(my son aged two...
    ;-) ha!)

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  17. Excellent blog. Helps one to remember to keep hanging in there. I would love to enter to win a chance at Mr. Shannon's books. They would make a great addition to my seven year olds growing library!

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  18. Words to the wise...or should I say *from* the wise. And so poetic, too! I know I shall never fall again, but simply melt to the floor.

    Of course I'm interested in the giveaway! I'm also looking forward to the new book, not only for George's writing, but also for Julie Paschkis's wonderful art (love her work in Yellow Elephant by Julie Larios)!

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  19. Good to know that even the best stumble. I was pretty sure after my first book was published that the same good fortune would rain down on all of my fabulous writing. 5 years later, the elusive book #2 is still a no-show.

    Yes, I need to win the giveaway. It will bring some much needed good publishing Karma into the house!

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  20. Super advise! Thanks, George.
    "melt to the floor"

    I'm all in on the giveaway :D

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  21. What a wonderful interview, and what great advice! "Melt to the floor!" Easier said than done, but so true! I would love a giveaway book from the uber-talented George Shannon!

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  22. Totally unrelated to the awesome topic at hand... I have "Lizard's Song" in Spanish!!! That's the only way I know it! I'd love to see it's English counterpart, lol ;)

    Otherwise I must say... this was much needed today. Hearing that another successful author had to wait 3 years... and all the same terrible heartaches we (I) face. Thanks!!!

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