OWL GIRL Goes into its Fifth Printing!
When I decided to publish OWL GIRL with Maine Authors and Publishers in 2016, I had no idea where the journey would take me. Now, four years later, as I celebrate its fifth (!!) printing, I thought I’d share the story of bringing my children’s novel into the world. I hope this post is an inspiration: don’t give up on your dreams!
OWL GIRL was one of the first novels I wrote. The idea came to me one night in the woods of western Maine when I heard the mysterious call of a barred owl as I tried to sleep. “Just then, from deep in the woods, came a distant call. Holly sat up. Hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo-aw. An owl! Hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo-aw. It was a mysterious sound, a hollow sound, like the owl was calling through a long pipe from his tree, through the starry night, and into her room. That owl was calling directly to her.”
In my semi-dreamlike state I started wondering, what if I were a little girl (named Holly) hearing the owl’s call for the first time? What if I were homesick and lonely? Where were my parents? Why was I in this house, stuck in the middle of nowhere?
What if, what if, what if, we writers ask ourselves. The ideas come slowly and build on each other, especially as we write them down.
I workshopped OWL GIRL when I was a student at Vermont College with advisors Rita Williams-Garcia and Deborah Wiles. I revised and polished and revised some more. An agent signed me on and tried to sell the manuscript. Editors asked to see revisions. I was pumped!
But, alas, “in the end,” OWL GIRL wasn’t “right for their lists at this time” and they turned it down.
I put OWL GIRL and my dreams of publication away.
Years later, when my granddaughter Julia was in first grade, I reread the manuscript. It was good! (This happens sometimes to writers—we decide our work stinks and put it away, only to discover months or years later that it’s not so bad; in fact, it’s good!) I wanted a physical copy of Owl Girl for Julia to hold in her hands and read.
I went to a presentation by Maine Authors and Publishers and decided that working cooperatively with them was a good way to bring OWL GIRL into the world.
I met author/illustrator Jamie Hogan at a KidLit gathering in Portland. I love her work! She illustrated the cover of OWL GIRL. (I’m pretty sure that cover is responsible for most of my sales!)
When OWL GIRL came out, I entered the daunting world of marketing and hand-selling —book signings, festivals, social media, school and library visits, even farmers’ markets. Slowly, word got out and the book sold.
In spring 2020 an elementary school in Maine chose OWL GIRL as their community read, a first for me. Every child in the school got a copy and I was to come to the school for workshops and author talks. I was so excited! Unfortunately, my visit was cancelled because of the pandemic. The kids still got the books. It gives me joy to think of them reading OWL GIRL. I hope I get to meet them in person soon.
From that first call of the barred owl to a published book, OWL GIRL has always had a special place in my heart. The whole experience reminds me of the little engine that could: chug chug, puff puff, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.
And I did! With lots of help and support from friends, I didn’t give up. I hope OWL GIRL will keep on chugging!