Guest post from multicultural children’s book author Charlotte Riggle
When I was young, my life was full of little kids and big dreams. I had wonderful kids, five of them. They were beautiful and brilliant, funny and fascinating, complex and interesting. And it wasn’t just me calling them complex and interesting. Doctors called them that, too. That meant that I had to manage more than the usual number of doctor visits and school conferences. It meant that I suffered more than the usual amount of misplaced maternal guilt and self-doubt.
It meant that my big dreams were pushed aside by the relentless demands of raising my children.
I worked as a writer. I dreamed of writing something besides computer manuals and engineering reports. I dreamed of writing a book.
Not a novel. A children’s book. A picture book. A book about Pascha, about Easter as it is celebrated in the Orthodox Church. I wanted to write a book that was as beautiful as Pascha itself, a book that sparkled and glowed with the joy of the feast.
And when I still had only three children, and they were very small, I wrote that book. It was the story of Pascha from a little girl’s point of view. A little girl very much like my six-year-old little girl. I called the little girl in the story Catherine. The book was Catherine’s Pascha. It was perfect. Except for one teensy problem.
I’m a writer, not an artist. So there were no pictures.
And I had no publisher.
Okay, so that’s two things. But if I solved the second problem, the publisher would take care of the first problem.
So I took my kids to the bookstore, as I did every Saturday morning, and as they listened to story time, I looked at the picture books on the shelves. I made a list of the publishers of the most beautiful books, the books that were beautiful in the way I wanted my book to be beautiful.
Then I bought books on how to format manuscripts and submit them to publishers. I polished my perfect story, then I sent it to the first publisher on my list.
It was rejected. Of course. But it was a lovely rejection. They sent a personal letter, telling me who had read the manuscript, and how beautiful the story was, how much they loved it. But, they said, it was too niche. They didn’t think they could sell enough copies for the book to be financially viable.
So I sent my manuscript to the second publisher, and the third and the fourth. I kept sending it until I ran out of publishers that I was willing to send it to.
And then I put the manuscript away. Every so often, I’d open it, read it through. Maybe I’d change a word here or there. Mostly, I was just checking to see if my dream was still alive.
Over the years, though, printing technology changed, and the publishing world changed with it. Big publishing companies became huge. Smaller presses disappeared. Self-publishing became a real option. Micropresses appeared.
Twenty years after I first wrote Catherine’s Pascha, I opened my manuscript again and saw that my dream was still very much alive. And not just that, but I realized that all of the changes in the publishing world meant that it was time for my dream to come true.
Through the magic of the Internet, I found an illustrator who, as it happened, was also a publisher. She operated a micropress. And she wanted to illustrate and publish Catherine’s Pascha.
Amazingly, incredibly, it took only a year – but exactly a year! – from the day we agreed to work together until the day Catherine’s Pascha was released. It was available for Easter last year, and it was every bit as beautiful in real life as it was in my dreams.
And while I had wanted to have the book for my children when they were small, I will have it for my grandchildren and my godchildren.
And I will be able to tell them that dreams really can come true.
Charlotte Riggle is the author of Catherine’s Pascha. She lives in the Pacific Northwest in a house full of books and joy and a large fluffy white dog. Learn more about Pascha at the Catherine’s Pascha website.
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