Friday, March 22, 2013

Patience, Practice and Persistance

At the beginning of my writing career I wrote a story fictionalizing the life of a thirteen year old boy, Joseph Onderdonk, an ancestor who lived through real events during the American Revolution. Joseph witnessed British soldiers occupying Long Island  and was forced to serve as a carter for the British barracks. Joseph's father wouldn't allow him to fight with the Continentals because he was needed on the farm. His story gets to the heart of what it felt like to be a boy struggling between liberty and loyalty. His  father was imprisoned on New York Island for tyranny against the crown, and I fitionalized Joseph's part in his rescue from prison. I created many other fictional adventures for him during the first year of the revoulution, but at the end of the war Joseph was an actual witness of  George Washington and his army's triumphant return to New York; authenticated by true accounts found in letters and family books.

This book, entitled The Red Cockade, won First Award at a Southeastern Writers conference and was chosen by a small publisher as a component of a History Project proposal for an NEH grant. Discouraged when the grant was not received  I put The Red Cockade on a shelf and began to write adult fiction. Though I have been successful with historical fiction and a contemporary series, the book of my heart, The Red Cockade never left my  mind.

I applied for and  received a partial grant to attend a four day Highlights Foundation Workshop in Honesdale Pennsylvania.  The workshop was Editing For Writers taught by Stephen Roxburgh. It was a writer's dream come true. Only six participants in an intensive retreat, meeting for meals, sharing in group activities and each having four one-on-one meetings with Stephen about the material we sent in our application( mine was The Red Cockade). The exercises provided help with clarity, concision and impact of our writing. I learned much from our teacher and the group discussions. I was fortunate to be housed in the beautifull Boyd's Mills Press farmhouse  where all meals and meetings took place. The gourmet meals, friendly staff and ambiance were long remembered.

Back home I tried revising The Red Cockade in first person. I submitted my polished edition to four children's publishers, with no takers.  I came to the realization that it probably was the wrong time for a historical about the Revolution.  The market was flooded with fantasies, witches and vampire stories. However, one thing bout editing stayed with me from the workshop, "your writing requires patience, practice and commitment." Even though I put my effort on the shelf again, I have not given up. I know I will add persistance sometime in the future for The Red Cockade. . . maybe when the time is right.


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Mary,

This truly sounds like a wonderful book. You're right about witches, vampires, werewolves and dystopian fiction in general being what YA authors are buying and publishing these days. Personally I'd like to see more historical fiction for children and teens published. Your novel sounds like it's in the tradition of JOHNNY TREMAIN by Esther Forbes, a revered book that I always admired.
You just have to hit the right agent or editor at the right time, never easy, but it does happen.
As you say, persistence is crucial.

Susan Oleksiw said...

This sounds like a terrific story. It's too bad that editors can't buy outside of current trends. Perhaps someday . . . The workshop sounds like a rare treat for a writer--all that time to write and talk with other writers, with a good editor to guide you.

Alice Duncan said...

Oh, boy, I know JUST what you mean, Mary! I swear, I think this is what self-publishing is for; major publishers only what what's in fashion at the moment, and so many of us write stuff that just doesn't quite fit.

Mary F Schoenecker said...

Persistance paid off with my adult fiction, but I still have hopes for the book of my heart. Thanks so much for you support.

Mary F. Schoenecker said...

Susan and Alice,
The publishing field is changing with every month, it seems.I do appreciate thoughts of colleagues who have lived through the changes and had the persistance to succeed. Continued good fortune to us all!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Good thoughts, Mary!

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Mary: This sounds like a great YA story, and I love the title. Good luck with the book.

Sharon Ervin said...

I think if we write what we love, the love will show. Recently, I've read several historical novels, most of them based on actual people and/or situations. They are refreshing after the frantic reads in the market today. Modern technology can make a person weary.