24 August 2013

Yum Yuck - evaluation received.

I was on the phone with my son-in-law, Gabriel when my email notified me that Susan Hughes had sent her evaluation!
I felt like I was waiting for the results of an exam... instant nerves...brought me back a few years.
So I hung up on Gabriel and screamed excitedly to Desmond, who was working in our shed.
"It's here!  Susan answered us... quick come and see!"
"Hurry up, I didn't peek... I am waiting for you!"

I was waiting impatiently on the porch, I knew better.  I knew if I went inside the chances are I would probably wouldn't be able to resist reading it.
So we both walked into the house and I opened her email... after reading the preliminaries I downloaded her evaluation and comments and suggestions she had done on the manuscript.

We sent her just the manuscript - no illustrations because in our research we read that a book has to stand alone.  So isn't that the ultimate test?

So in a nutshell her comments were...

Content has Clear beginning, middle and end.
She likes how Mattie's story begins -takes her out and returns back home.
Mattie is convincing as a character! Dialogue is convincing and moves into a sing-song, repetitive style which works well.  The setting is in modern day mixed with fantasy. We get a good sense of the setting through the minimal description and, of course, visuals will add to this.
Our point of view is used consistently, our technical ability of writing is strong.  She suggested
rethinking a few word choices. Our style is consistent throughout and appropriate for a picture book manuscript.

General Comments :  She liked the circular effect of the story, the sequence the learning aspect.

That in itself is great...
HOWEVER...we had things to reconsider.  She made us re-think some aspects which we corrected.

She found that Mattie had a little hard side to her... so we softened her up by the way she would ask questions.  We did and what a difference it made.

In her opinion, Mattie was saying yuck too often and she questioned if that made her seem a little negative.  We loved the rhythmic aspect to it and we were afraid we would lose it.  When we read the story over and over... kids would always know what to say when the next page was turned, and we didn't want to lose that.  We pondered and questioned and tried different things to see if the sing-song aspect was still there... In order to keep the sing song rhythmic storytelling the change we made for Mattie to come up more positive required that we add a sentence with every animal she visitied.  I am glad we did.

Susan also found it hard to understand the relationship with her bear and the bear at the end... which gave us the perception of an editor.  So we fixed that and made the relationship clear.

When you have your nose in your own manuscript, you understand it... and when you know how your going to illustrate it... it is very CLEAR to you... because you see the different elements that make up another side of the story which is the visuals which usually add on to the written work.

Also we added all sorts of different things in the thumbnails that we feel children will absolutely love!
I get so excited about this part.... It's sooo cute... and if I feel like that about it... then it's a good thing.

What this process has done for us is made us see through the eyes of an independent editor.  So now after we do modifications, we put ourselves in an editors position... anyhow we try... I am sure it is much more complicated than that.

Her questions also made me see the book in another way and from that I was able to turn some aspects of it around and make it into a big positive plus... let me explain... Mattie goes from animal to animal  and when Susan asked us about the different animals, I made a list and then I made a visual map who Mattie goes and sees first.  Well, we decided it would be a good thing to have that as an end paper...like a treasure map that you can follow.  I thought it was a good idea... however I know that if a publishing house picks it up, they might just scrap it.   Hey it's part of the deal... we are totally open!

You have to be open for things like that because it is the nature of the game.
Desmond corrects some of my words because I'm completely bilingual, but here in Quebec... completely bilingual can also means mixing languages...
On the other hand... Desmond is sooo English... and I correct him in the French...
But then he's so much better on the italian than I am and he's not even Italian!
Open-minded... that's the answer.  Hey I am even open enough, that if a publisher wants someone else to illustrate the book, okay... Doesn't mean I wouldn't be disappointed...

So next step... the dummies....
Anne -Marie


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