Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Sometimes words are like a warm hug that pick us up, fill our hearts and set us back on a path from which we may be faltering. Yesterday, I received an email from The Highlights Foundation announcing yet another amazing addition to their Chautauqua 25th Anniversary Writing Retreat, Little Brown Senior Editor Alvina Ling. In the generous tradition of Chautauqua, faculty include a writing tip in their announcement email. Alvina Ling, thanks for the hug:)

"Some people have a ton of natural talent, and some not as much. But I honestly believe in the power of hard work and drive. I've certainly read my share of manuscripts that I felt were so far from publishable that I was tempted to tell the writer to give up. But I will never, ever, ever do that, partially because I just don't have the right to do that—this is such a subjective business—and writing that I might think is bad, another editor might really love. But also, I'll never ever tell anyone to give up because I've seen writers improve so dramatically through hard work, research, and honing their craft. We all have to start somewhere. Each thing you write is a stepping stone—a step closer to the finish line.

"As Julie Andrews said, 'Perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth.' We've all heard the stories before. Dr. Seuss's first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street was said to have been rejected by 28 editors before finding a home at Random House. According to Internet sources, anywhere from 'several' to eight or twelve U.K. publishers turned down Harry Potter before Bloomsbury offered a contract. And Kate DiCamillo suffered through 470 rejection letters before Because of Winn-Dixie was published. What if any of these authors had stopped trying? If your goal is to be published, think of everything you do now as a step closer to your goal. If you write one book that doesn't seem to be working, move on to your next book—not every book you write will or should be published. Life is a journey, and so is your path to publication. Enjoy yourself along the way."   .....Alvina Ling

P.S. Alvina's words have been added to KEEP WRITING!


  1. And don't forget "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," rejected by eight publishers before it became a cottage industry.

  2. Great words of encouragement!
    This is a tough business!

  3. Thanks for this! Your words are the equivalent of throwing flowers on the ice after a skating routine. Lots of practice and hard work - but the payoff is great.

  4. What a positive treat at the end of a very long and treacherous winter's day! Nothing can deter me now!

  5. I love the positive energy on this page.

  6. I loved that quote from Alvina! She's an incredible editor.

  7. Douglas, perfect wording--cottage industry:). Hmmm, wonder if those 8 editors are still in the biz.

    Kelly, blogstradamus, Gael, Kim and Holly...I'm so glad Alvina's words moved you too.

  8. Alvina,
    Thank you again for allowing me to reprint your words. The Highlights Foundation's email list is just not large enough. Yours is a message every writer and illustrator NEEDS to hear.

  9. I received that same e-mail ... and thought the same thing! Perfect timing and wonderful words of encouragement! Thanks for posting it on your blog ... it was good to read it again!


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