On Monday, I got an envelope from Clarion. I thought it was a poetry book, since I’m on the CYBILS nominating panel. But it was a copyedited manuscript of my poetry picture book, STAMPEDE! POEMS TO CELEBRATE THE WILD SIDE OF SCHOOL.
My lovely editor, Jennifer Wingertzahn, had gone through with blue pencil (I think that was her first color) and made a few marks about punctuation. Then a Clarion copyeditor had gone through and marked the heck out of it. She (I don’t know if it was a she, but I’m sticking with she to make it easy on me!) used a brown/red pencil and asked questions all over the place. She wanted to add punctuation, italicize certain words, and hyphenate some things. Then Jennifer had gone through it again, this time with green pencil, and responded to some of the copyeditor’s marks. Then she sent the manuscript on to me for me to respond to the whole thing.
It was a bit of an internal debate for me over whether to use periods in a kind of prose way in this collection, which is what the copyeditor suggested and Jennifer also thought would work well. I read the ms several times and also opened up a bunch of the CYBILS-nominated books to study what kind of punctuation and with how much consistency it was used in excellent books for this same age range (1st-2nd grade). Jennifer and I emailed back and forth a couple of times. She’s very open to hearing my side of things, and I’m very open to hearing hers, so this whole process is not contentious at all. It’s just everyone trying to figure out what makes the best book.
And then there were other decisions. For instance, the copyeditor wanted to hyphenate hide and seek. But in the poem I used it in, I was describing the act of hiding and seeking, and I wanted the meter of HIDE and SEEK, DUM da DUM. But hyphenating it to hide-and-seek makes you say it faster and also changes the meter to hide-and-SEEK, da-da-DUM. So I rejected that change.
It was fun dealing with the minutae of words, hyphens, and periods for a little while. Especially as I’m immersed in overall, big picture structure questions with my work in progress. Periods and hyphens I could handle. It was a relief after asking myself about a different work: But what am I really trying to do here? What will serve this topic the best?
Anyway, I finished marking it up (in plain grey pencil), made a copy to keep, and overnighted it back to Clarion. The illustrator, whose name I think I can say now but I’m not positive, so I’ll hold off a little longer, is ready to paint! The sketches, I assume, have all been approved, and Jennifer was eager to get the copyediting stage finished so the illustrator could get to work.
Hurray! It’s really happening. It won’t be out until spring 2009, but it’s so fun to have it move through each stage!