It’s spring again. What can I say? Most
winters we wonder if it will ever come. When those first daffodils unfold,
something stirs in all of us. Even the most curmudgeonly can’t help it; they
have a lighter heart and step.
For those of us who have experienced the
hard winter of our souls, we dip our toes cautiously into the spring waters.
Maybe we don’t trust those cold swirling ripples quite yet. As writers it may
be that we’ve been waiting so long for a bite from some editor out there; we’re
certain our manuscripts will never be reeled in again.
That is, of course, why we cherish those
stories of the long-awakenings. Authors who waited, not months, but years, to
be found by an editor and readers alike. Kate DiCamillo is one of those authors,
and one of my favorites. She collected 400 rejection letters for her now famous
Because of Winn Dixie. It’s hard to believe there were that many publishers out
there to reject her manuscript. She must have resubmitted to the same editors
several times. And yet, she persisted. Her tenacity carried her through the
snow drifts and blinding hail, into the sweetness of spring.
As for my own stacks of rejections, I
will have a hard time calculating them. When I first submitted my poetry to the
outside world, I kept a pin cushion to measure my successes. Actually I measured
my “failures” first. I would push red tacks
into it every time I got a rejection. Soon the tiny Chinese men huddled around
the cushion looked like they were holding up an ocean of red. Then one day in
January 1999, a green tack arrived. Gradually, it became a pasture of green,
with a few stray red sheep in the middle of it all.
But that was poetry. God knows, maybe I
should have stuck with that genre. But here I am in a mountain of red tacks
again, struggling for the next picture book manuscript to find a home. Agents
and editors alike ask me, “Have you tried writing longer stories? They sell
better.” And yes, I am trying that too (more on that someday), but my heart
lies in the poetic picture book. [Oh, I’ve mentioned heart twice…big No-No in
the halls of critics].
So here we are, you and I, waiting for
spring to happen again to our writing. How to answer this cry? With words of
course, words of Awakenings. It is through these words that I know, I’m a
winter survivor, a lover of spring.
I am that stone
at your water's edge,
granite flush against
a silvered brook.
Once I churned
under these woods,
a relentless fervent fire,
a magmatic torrent.
Then came the cooling,
the precise hardening,
a shifting of land and life.
I await first droplets now,
sun on snow,
snow into water,
first steamy risings
(NancyTupper Ling’s Coming Unfrozen, Blue Light Press)