Monday, June 23, 2014

The Little Book That Could

Sometime around 1990 my writer friend and fellow bibliophile gave me a copy of Pauline Baynes' Good King Wenceslas. This simple picture book fired up my imagination, and I wanted to know MORE about this young man, since there was obviously a great story beyond the scene portrayed in the Christmas carol.

I did a lot of old-fashioned research, reading everything I could find about Wenceslas. I found a copy of a rare book through interlibrary loan--a "Life of Saint Wenceslas" published in 1929, the thousand year anniversary of his death. I discovered this 10th century ruler had been a duke, not a king, and his Czech name was Vaclav. I decided to write his story through the eyes of a servant boy.
Another great NF source

I first submitted a summary and sample chapters to an agent I met at a writer's conference.

The manuscript won first place in our local writer's guild contest.
I received a lot of good feedback from editors, but no one wanted to publish it. Since I'd immersed the reader in the raw, gritty tenth century where human sacrifice and slavery and all kinds of yucky stuff was going on, it was either too raw or too Christian.
Editor critique at SCBWI conference, later rejected

Eerdman's wanted to publish it, and held it for about three years, but they finally went with a "safer" picture book version that merely illustrated the Christmas carol. My manuscript must have influenced the artist, though, because it's the only one featuring a young "Good King" Wenceslas.
Then I was distracted by cancer and working on Leandra's Enchanted Flute while poetry gushed from me in every possible form, so I didn't do much with the manuscript for almost ten years.

Then my energetic writer friend, Sally learned that Pauline Books & Media was publishing fiction, and I sent a query. They had actually rejected this story in 1994, but I'd always thought they would be the best publisher because Wenceslas is the patron saint of the Czech Republic.

Pauline asked to see the whole manuscript, and a few weeks later asked if I could make Poidevin a little older when the story began (he was originally eight years old) so they could fit it in their YA catalog. The oldest I felt I could make him was twelve, since Wenceslas/Vaclav was fourteen, and they liked it and sent a rather intimidating marketing survey for me to fill out.

That worried me a little since I still haven't learned the secret to successful marketing, but I ran it by my critique group, and they said it looked great and gave me some more ideas. I didn't hear back for a few more weeks so began to worry they weren't going to publish it after all, but the office manager sent an eleven page contract, and a follow up email from the YA editor I'll be working with gave a tentative publishing date of January 1, 2016.

All of that was pretty exciting, but it was even more exciting when I received a thick packet of information and a "Welcome to Pauline Books & Media." I think I better understand Sally Field's Oscar gush, "You like me! Right now you like me!"
Years between first submission and acceptance: 22
Rejections received: 17

Stay tuned for more updates as this publishing process progresses! (Alliteration intentional....)


  1. What a great story, Katy! I look forward to seeing this in bookstores!

    1. Thanks, Rebecca! As our good friend, Sally, proves all the time, persistence is the key in publishing. :)

  2. Katy, this is such fantastic news! I remember reading an early excerpt of the story and thought it was so good and so needed. Congratulations!!!

  3. This is so inspiring, Katy. I can't wait to read it. Congratulations on your talent and tenacity!

    1. Thanks so much, Ann. Sometimes I wonder if there's a fine line between tenacity and insanity. LOL! :)

  4. Congrats!!! I love this story about persistence and never giving up on a good story.

    1. Thanks, Dena! Writers have to believe in and love their stories, and be patient. (Faith, hope, and love....) :)