Archive for February, 2006

The Gift of Reading Time

February 28, 2006

When I flew across country last week, I joined the others on the plane and strapped into my seat, settling back for a long flight.  It’s always interesting to see how other people spend those five hours.  Cut off from email and the Internet or their telephone, the time to travel amounts to the same gift of time.  Some people sleep while others strike up a conversation with someone nearby. Others pull out a laptop and work on some project while others use their laptop to play a game or watch a DVD.  Another group of people purchase earphones and catch the airline film. There are a variety of choices how to spend the time.

Some of the people on the plane take out a book and read a few pages, then stop.  Usually I begin reading a book before I take the trip. From my years in publishing, I understand that all books are not equal. I want to make sure I’ve got a page-turner when I’ve got an extended period for reading.

Within a few pages, I was lost in the story and characters of my book. It’s an almost magical experience for me to have a lengthy time for reading.  I quickly turned the pages and the hours of travel seemed to happen in the blink of an eye.  There is a lot of things which demand our attention and a recent report shows with the increased use of the Internet, people are spending less time reading magazines, newspapers and listening to the radio.  As the article, Time-wise, Internet is now TV’s Equal by Heidi Dawley, says, “Researchers also asked those surveyed which media they were using less as a result of the increased time on the interned. Books were the big loser, with some 37 percent saying that they spend less time reading books.”

What does such a survey mean for those who love books, dream of writing books and continue to work in book publishing? It means books have to continue to be better in quality.  The reader is less patient with the opening of a novel or the beginning of a nonfiction book.  As the editor watches out for the reader, it means your query has to instantly draw my attention. The drawing sentence can’t be the third one or in the second paragraph. Your book proposal has to instantly capture my attention and move my interest. As writers, we need to continue to grow in our ability to write excellent prose.

And when you find that gift of extended reading time? I’d encourage you to curl up with a book and plunge into the pages.

The Power of Simplicity

February 27, 2006

The past few days I’ve been on the road and away from email and phone. It’s been a challenge to get my regular email—much less find a second to blog. I’m hopeful the week ahead will allow a bit more consistency on the blogging front.

Last week, I was starting a new project. The experience has reminded me again of a common truth about writing: the power of simplicity. When you are writing a story, does the story make a logical progression? If you jump from the simple to the complex, then you completely lose your audience or your reader.  I was working with a person who loved to mix metaphors. His sentence structure went from talking about his work with an animal to a verse from the Bible to corporate scandals in business—and each subject switched and didn’t contain the connecting information to take the reader to this next level.

I was intensely following his conversation but I couldn’t make the jump from subject to subject without simple transitions. Over and over, I had to push this person to return to the simple story.  There is great power in telling a simple story with dialogue and action which takes the reader to a single point or takeaway. This power is demonstrated in a chapter of a book or the opening of a book proposal or a magazine article. It’s your task as the writer to guide your reader—and not lose them in the process.

John the Baptist prepared the way for the arrival of his cousin Jesus Christ.  His bizarre dress of camel hair with a simple leather belt drew the attention of an audience. His message was steeped in simplicity: Repent for the kingdom of God is near.

As you look at your own writing, make sure with each change or transition, that you take the reader with you. There is great power in simple storytelling.

A Remarkable History Lesson

February 22, 2006

Normally there is no mail on President’s Day—but I got a single package. I had been watching for this book and it finally arrived.  A beautiful hardcover book called Simon & Schuster, The First Seventy-Five Years (follow this link and you will see that you can find a copy).  This short 160–page book covers the years from 1924–1999 and the remarkable past of Simon and Schuster. S-&-S-cover

In a wide sweeping format, the book shows the continual changes in publishing and the surprise publications which become huge hits. Here’s one example in a book loaded with these stories. One of the first three employees of Simon and Schuster was Leon Shimkin who was the office manager, bookkeeper and business manager. “Self-improvement was an integral part of Shimkin’s personal and business philosophy, so he enrolled in a fourteen-week course of [Dale] Carnegie’s inspirational lectures. He was so impressed he suggested to Carnegie that he expand them into a book. Carnegie was hesitant, but Shimkin won him over. The book became the number one bestseller in 1937 and remained on the list at number six in 1938. Still in print today in every country in the world where it has been published, the book has sold more than 30 million copies.”

The name of this little book? How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

Notice how reluctant Carnegie was about the idea of a book. He was probably comfortable in his teaching environment but wondered how those ideas would translate into print. Yet Leon Shimkin visualized the book in print and how it could help people. Shimkin made his idea happen and it found it’s audience.

It’s the same opportunity today for you and your book idea. First, you have to gain a hearing. One of the best ways to gain a hearing with a literary agent or an editor is through an excellent book proposal. Over the last few days, I’ve been sorting through the stacks of submissions for Howard Publishing. It continually amazes me at the unskilled pitches from writers. Each of them see the potential in their idea yet that potential will not resonate with the editor unless it is pitched in the right way.

Because I’ve been a writer, some times I do more than send a form letter. It’s harder and takes more time and energy to craft a little postscript to the author. It’s why many editors never bother to do it. It also involves risk. I’ve seen writers snap back at my postscript and cause even more correspondence (not what the editor wants to happen). Or some writers want to use that postscript to start an argument (again not the purpose). 

Other times you get a response of appreciation from the author.  Like today I received a pitch addressed “To Whom It May Concern” yet it was sent to my personal Howard Publishing email address. I wrote the author and gently encouraged him to look at his letter through the eyes of an editor. Was that email sent to thousands or only to me? I recommended a couple of how-to books to help the author. He wrote back a brief note of appreciation. Apparently that submission was his first attempt at a submission.

I commend this writer for being willing to learn the ropes. It’s my hope for each of us—to learn the expected system, then pitch great ideas.

Loss of A Champion

February 20, 2006

Have you ever faced the death of a dream? I have and it happens many times in the writing life. It’s something I’ve found rarely discussed in the publishing community. As writers and editors, we have more ideas for something to appear in print, than we can ever accomplish in a single lifetime—even a prolific and productive lifetime.

One of my “dreams” was to write a book for a ministry.  The idea came almost three years ago and looked like it was going to move ahead. A New York literary agent was excited about the concept and believed it could be sold for a substantial advance. I had an advocate or champion within the ministry who would be able to guide the idea through the approval process. The finished book looked like something that would have a large ministry and a long shelf-life in print. I was excited about the book concept and anticipated a success.  Over the last few years, I’ve invested a great deal into this project—thought, brainstorming, hours of telephone calls and emails, conference calls, lunch meetings and other things. Yet it never got off the ground. The book proposal was never created—except for several pages of rough material to lay out the concept.  I was persistent (a key quality for any writer) and knew I was working with some busy people. It was slow but still perking along as an idea.  A year ago, a key executive in the ministry left the organization. I should have seen the handwriting on the wall for the death of this project when I lost a key champion. Yet I had other advocates and continued working with them—more calls, more face to face meetings and more effort.  There were other personnel changes in the ministry. Then last week I received the official death rattle for this idea. It was over and will never happen.

While I told this particular story about working with an organization, it happens within book publishing as well. Book publishing is often a long process with months between contact between an editor and the author. For example, you may currently contract a book for fall of 2007 which is due in six months or August 21st. You sign your contract and receive a portion of your advance, then you don’t have much communication with that editor.  The publishing community is constantly changing. Barely a week goes by that I don’t hear from some editor who has moved to a new location or an editor who has become an agent or _______ (you fill in the blank with the change).  Often there has been a single editor who has “carried the flag” for a particular project. This editor has been the champion who has convinced others inside the publisher about the importance of a particular book. What happens when the champion moves to a different publisher? The change surprises many authors. I’ve experienced this change as an author (when my editor changes) and as an editor (when I change and leave behind my authors).

Here’s a few ideas about what you can do when you lose a champion:

1. Plan for things to change. It happens with every project so you might as well plan for it.  Then when something changes, it will not surprise you.

2. Manage your own expectations for yourself and the publisher.

3. When you lose your champion, I suggest you increase your own marketing efforts for the book. It can’t hurt anything for your book promotion and sales—and it may be what tips the energy from the publishing house in your direction. Success breeds success so if you are beginning to get a buzz going related to your new book release, it often gathers greater energy from the publisher.

4. Take some preventative steps before the change happens. Develop and foster your relationships with others in the publishing house beyond your editor or single contact person. If no one changes, it can only help your relationships with the house—and it might be the preventative step which will be critical. After the change happens, increase your relationships with others inside that particular publishing house. Now this increase will be a challenge to actually achieve because other authors will be taking the same steps but it’s worth your attempt.

5. Finally, be aware that change breeds change and what can happen with your book. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

It’s a reality of the business. Between the signing of a book contract and the published book, there are many different possibilities that happen.

Focus on the Words

February 19, 2006

Over the last few weeks, pages of ink have been written about James Frey and A Million Little Pieces.  I’ve added to this mass of communication myself with a couple of entries (my last one was January 14). Much of the controversy has been about how the publisher (and Frey) called the book a memoir and investigative reporters revealed the book has some fiction sprinkled into the nonfiction (which is an admitted problem).

This morning I spotted a well-written essay from John MacDonald in The Arizona Republic.  He made up some dialogue for Oprah Winfrey that he would have liked for her to have said. Here’s the paragraph that caught my attention, “Does it matter whether the book is fact or fiction? Of course it does, but not enough to throw it in the trash. Had it been properly sold as fiction, I would have felt just as much emotion, cried the same tears and been every bit as happy for the main character’s trip back from the gates of hell. So after we all calm down, after we vent our anger, let’s talk about the story. Let’s focus on the words, because words matter.”

When we reach the last page of a book, whether you have read fiction or nonfiction, the key is whether you held a great story, well told. As an editor, I’ve seen stacks of submissions from people who want to get their work into print. The great irony is they haven’t learned how to tell a good story. They want their prose to appear in print—but it’s boring and lacks the skills of a storyteller.  Some of this skill can be learned and developed. The first step is to recognize your own need to grow as a writer, then take whatever steps you need to take to improve your skills.  If you need to attend a writer’s conference, then plot a strategy and get to one. If you need to write, then write shorter forms such as short stories or magazine articles and get that work published.  You will be able to hone your skills on a much shorter form of writing than a lengthy novel or nonfiction book. Focus on the words.

Come A Long Way

February 17, 2006

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to interview a number of best-selling fiction authors. You’d be surprised how often I hear the story an author repeated recently with her own slight variation.   When it comes to fiction, this author didn’t read “Christian” fiction while growing up. She tried a few of those books and didn’t like them. The stories were too neat and tidy. The characters weren’t like anyone she had ever met and the plots and conclusions were totally predictable.  Yes, she had tried a few and given up reading the “inspirational” genre. End of story. Not really because years later, a friend in Christian retail continually asked her to read it. Finally she agreed and learned inspirational or Christian fiction had come a long way in the area of issues and quality.

I’ve been pouring through a number of fiction proposals for Howard Publishing. I’m often amused when a writer will propose they write “edgy” fiction. What does that mean? Often it means they feel the need to include explicit cursing or detailed sexual scenes into their Christian fiction.  If they have a really bad character that changes, then the transformation makes it edgy? I don’t think so. There aren’t many taboos in the Christian market but one of them relates to explicit language. It is zero tolerance when it comes to this issue. I mean zero. Publishers who have “tried” with some pretty innocent language have been amazed at the returned books from retailers.  If you don’t understand, returned books mean the book has sold into a bookstore, then someone has complained and the book has been returned to the publisher for a full refund. Writers who want to be edgy often fail to understand the risk for their publisher. Who wants to risk returns? No publisher that I know because they want to remain in business to continue another day.

Now if with edgy fiction, you mean the issue that the book and plot tackles, then you are moving in the right direction. The storytelling has to be excellent but you can write about a gamut of issues.  Just to give you a taste, I’m including a list of recent Christian fiction titles. It’s not complete. It’s not my list but came from another author (where I received permission to include it in this post). She didn’t want “credit” because apparently this list has circulated and a number of authors have added to it.  I hope you find it helpful and interesting. Christian fiction has come a long way.

Abortion

Showers In Season, Beverly Lahaye & Terri Blackstock

Tears In A Bottle, Sylvia Bambola

The Atonement Child, Francine Rivers

Ain’t No River, Sharon Ewell Foster

Cover Girls, T.D. Jakes

 

Aging

Always Jan, Roxanne Henke

 

Alcoholism/Drug Abuse

 

An American Anthem Series, B. J. Hoff

An Emerald Ballad Series, B. J. Hoff

Beyond The Shadows, Robin Lee Hatcher

Finding Ruth, Roxanne Henke

Looking For Cassandra Jane, Melody Carlson

Shadow Of Dreams, Eva Marie Everson & G.W. Francis Chadwick

Ain’t No River, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No Mountain, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No Valley, Sharon Ewell Foster

Passing Into Light, Sharon Ewell Foster

 

Cancer/Breast Cancer

 

A Time To Mend, Angela Hunt

After Anne, Roxanne Henke

Coffee Rings, Yvonne Lehman

Healing Quilt, Lauraine Snelling

Loving Feelings, Gail Gaymer Martin

Seaside, Terri Blackstock

Season Of Blessing, Beverly Lahaye & Terri Blackstock

 

Connection/Isolation

 

Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels, Mindy Starns Clark

 

Domestic Violence

 

A Nest Of Sparrows, Deborah Raney

Cloth Of Heaven & Ashes And Lace, B. J. Hoff

Evidence Of Mercy, Terri Blackstock

Sadie’s Song, Linda Hall

Serenity Bay, Bette Nordberg

Ain’t No River, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No Mountain, Sharon Ewell Foster

Cover Girls, T.D. Jakes

Blind Dates Can Be Murder, Mindy Starns Clark

 

Drunk Driving

 

After The Rains, Deborah Raney

The Living Stone, Jane Orcutt

Waiting For Morning, Karen Kingsbury

 

Homosexuality/AIDS

 

A Season Of Grace, Bette Nordberg

Spring Rain, Gayle Roper

Tiger Lillie, Lisa Samson

Riding Through Shadows, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No Mountain, Sharon Ewell Foster

 

Infertility

 

Ashes And Lace, B. J. Hoff

Breaker’s Reef, Terri Blackstock

Coffee Rings, Yvonne Lehman

In A Heartbeat, Sally John

Lullaby, Jane Orcutt

The Long-Awaited Child, Tracie Peterson

 

Infidelity/Divorce

 

Breach Of Promise, James Scott Bell

Coffee Rings, Yvonne Lehman

Footsteps, Diann Mills

Private Justice, Terri Blackstock

Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers

The Breaking Point, Karen Ball

The Forgiving Hour, Robin Lee Hatcher

The Scarlet Thread, Francine Rivers

Times And Seasons, Beverly Lahaye & Terri Blackstock

Ulterior Motives, Terri Blackstock

Ain’t No Mountain, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No Valley, Sharon Ewell Foster

Riding Through Shadows, Sharon Ewell Foster

Passing Into Light, Sharon Ewell Foster

Cover Girls, T.D. Jakes

 

Lying

 

Little White Lies, Ron & Janet Benrey

 

Pride

 

Humble Pie, Ron & Janet Benrey

 

Mental Illness/Depression/Suicide

 

An American Anthem Series, B. J. Hoff

Becoming Olivia, Roxanne Henke

Cloth Of Heaven & Ashes And Lace, B. J. Hoff

Finding Alice, Melody Carlson

Songbird, Lisa Samson

The Living End, Lisa Samson

The Novelist, Angela Hunt

When Joy Came To Stay, Karen Kingsbury

Riding Through Shadows, Sharon Ewell Foster

Passing Into Light, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No River, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No Valley, Sharon Ewell Foster

Passing By Samaria, Sharon Ewell Foster

Cover Girls, T.D. Jakes

 

Pornography

 

Last Light, Terri Blackstock

Ain’t No Mountain, Sharon Ewell Foster

 

Responsibility

 

The Second Mile, Ron & Janet Benrey

 

Unplanned Pregnancy

 

A Moment Of Weakness, Karen Kingsbury

An Emerald Ballad Series, B. J. Hoff

Child Of Grace, Lori Copeland

Cloth Of Heaven & Ashes And Lace, B. J. Hoff

Firstborn, Robin Lee Hatcher

With Love, Libby, Roxanne Henke

Ain’t No River, Sharon Ewell Foster

Passing Into Light, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No Mountain, Sharon Ewell Foster

 

Rape/Incest/Sexual Abuse

 

A Distant Music, B. J. Hoff

A Nest Of Sparrows, Deborah Raney

Afton Of Margate Castle, Angela Hunt

An Emerald Ballad Series, B. J. Hoff

Antonia’s Choice, Nancy Rue

Ain’t No Mountain, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No River, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No Valley, Sharon Ewell Foster

Cover Girls, T.D. Jakes

Cloth Of Heaven & Ashes And Lace, B. J. Hoff

In The Still Of Night, Deborah Raney

Justifiable Means, Terri Blackstock

Margaret’s Peace, Linda Hall

Mending Places, Denise Hunter

The Atonement Child, Francine Rivers

What She Left For Me, Tracie Peterson

When You Believe, Deborah Bedford

Why The Sky Is Blue, Susan Meissner

 

Sexuality/Attraction

 

The Hidden Heart, Jane Orcutt

A Quarter For A Kiss, Mindy Starns Clark

Passing By Samaria, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No River, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No Mountain, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No Valley, Sharon Ewell Foster

Riding Through Shadows, Sharon Ewell Foster

Passing Into Light, Sharon Ewell Foster

Cover Girls, T.D. Jakes

 

Racism

 

Trial By Fire, Terri Blackstock

All The Way Home, Ann Tatlock

Passing By Samaria, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No River, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No Mountain, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No Valley, Sharon Ewell Foster

Riding Through Shadows, Sharon Ewell Foster

Passing Into Light, Sharon Ewell Foster

 

Purpose

 

Passing By Samaria, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No River, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No Mountain, Sharon Ewell Foster

Ain’t No Valley, Sharon Ewell Foster

Riding Through Shadows, Sharon Ewell Foster

Passing Into Light, Sharon Ewell Foster

Cover Girls, T.D. Jakes

 What a wide range of relevant issues! Christian fiction has come a long way.

Sweet Words

February 15, 2006

During the last few weeks, I pitched a magazine editor on an idea for their publication. Within a short time, I received a short response that began, “Sold!”  For more than 20 years, I’ve been consistently writing for magazines and it amounts to thousands of articles and assignments. The news of acceptance never gets old and the words continue to have a sweet sound. There is something invigorating about creating the right idea at the right time for the right publication.

Within another couple of exchanges, this editor and I agreed on the specifics such as the deadline and the word length. A few days later in the mail, I received the magazine’s standard contract. Plus the letter included instructions to submit an invoice for payment when the editor tells me they have accepted my submitted article. 

Everything is rolling ahead toward that official acceptance. The editor likes my idea and I’m eager to write something that meets the needs of the editor. Many times I’ve had this relationship grow and develop.  Then with my next pitch to this magazine, the editor reads my query letter a little closer. If it’s not exactly on target (you can’t hit it every time), the editor may come up with an alternative suggestion. She wouldn’t send that suggestion to an unknown writer but we’ve got a working relationship.

There is another aspect to this story which is rarely discussed—but the writer in particular needs to think about in the creation process. What if you don’t meet the editor’s expectations? Then what happens? Do you get the opportunity to fix it with some guidance from the editor then rewrite it? Or do you simply receive a kill fee or a “thanks but no thank you” letter? I have received a kill fee for a magazine assignment.  Depending on the publication, the money can be OK, but the satisfactory feeling of seeing your work in print never happens. I’ve never liked kill fees.

It can also happen in the book world. You pitch a dynamic book idea. Your editor and the entire publishing team loves it. But when you deliver your manuscript (after weeks of work), it’s not what the editor and team expected. Instead the manuscript is froth with problems and things which need to be rewritten and fixed. Some authors push right through this process, fix the concerns and ultimately the book is publish. I’ve had this experience of rewriting to the satisfaction of the publishing team. Other times the contract falls apart and is canceled. The writer feels bad when you cross that bridge and have that experience but yes, it happens.

After experiencing the variety of responses from an editor, I know that I’ve not received all of the possible responses. Each editor is unique and each publishing arrangement is different. Here’s my encouragement to you regarding the sweet words. Celebrate when your words appear in print—however large or small. You’ve succeeded in a way that many people don’t understand and you should celebrate. Many years ago, an editor shook his head at my response to seeing my work in print. Looking back I probably should have been a bit more reserve in that particular setting. He said, “Terry, each time you act like it’s your first time to see your work in print.” He spoke the sentence as a concern but I took it as a compliment. I never want to take for granted the wonder of seeing my work in print.

Simon & Schuster Acquires Howard Publishing

February 13, 2006

Agreement with Growing Christian Publisher Marks S&S

Entry into Christian Publishing Marketplace

 

 

NEW YORK, February 13 — Simon & Schuster has acquired Howard Publishing, a leading Christian and inspirational publishing company based in West Monroe, Louisiana.  The announcement was made by Jack Romanos, President and Chief Executive Officer of Simon & Schuster, Inc., and John Howard, President of Howard Publishing.  Terms of the acquisition were not made public.

            As part of the acquisition, Howard will become an imprint of the Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Division.  John Howard will serve as Executive Vice President and Publisher, reporting to Carolyn Reidy, President of the Division.  Howard’s editorial and publishing staff will continue to be based in Louisiana.  Read the rest of the official news release.

A Glimpse at A Different Writer

February 12, 2006

I’m constantly amazed at how the craft of writing can play into many aspects of our lives. There are a wide variety of writers and each is crafting a unique type of prose for an individual audience.

How often do you hear the details of speechwriting? In my own reading, it is rare. This week’s New Yorker magazine includes a detailed profile of Michael Gerson, President George W. Bush’s speechwriter.  The article provides a glimpse into this world. Some of you may wonder about the career path of a speechwriter.  Some of Gerson’s path shows up deep inside this article: “Gerson attended Georgetown University for a year, but transferred, in 1983, to Wheaton College, an evangelical school near Chicago. In 1985, he wrote a column for the Wheaton College newspaper in praise of Mother Teresa for her commitment to “the poor and the helpless unborn” and, notably, to AIDS patients. The column was written long before AIDS became an issue of general Christian concern, and it was noticed far from campus. Charles Colson read it and invited Gerson to work for him in Washington at the prison ministry he started after his release from jail, where he served a sentence for his role in the Watergate scandal. After that, Gerson went to work as a writer and adviser to Dan Coats, the U.S. senator from Indiana, who was looking at ways to interest conservatives in issues of poverty. During the 1996 Presidential campaign, Gerson wrote speeches for Forbes and Dole, and then went to work for U.S. News.”

Note the emphasis on prayer and faith in these speeches and the core value for Gerson and how his words show this particular value: “Gerson’s life is built around prayer and faith, and so, too, are his speeches. Bush has been criticized for his regular invocations of God, but in that respect he is part of a long tradition. Bill Clinton often invoked the Deity, even referring, on occasion, to Jesus. (Bush frequently mentions “the Almighty,” and “the Creator,” but a close reading of his speeches shows them to be scrupulous in their nonsectarianism.) “The President can’t imagine that someone who is President of the United States could not have faith, because he derives so much from it,” Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew Card, said. ”

I found this article fascinating—and hope you will as well. It reveals again the diversity of writing.  Some of us will write speeches. Others will write children’s books and others will specialize in magazine articles. Another group will write nonfiction books while others will write fiction. Each one involves crafting words for a particular audience.  From my perspective, it’s key to discover which type of writing is your specialty then do it over and over.

A Curious Story about George

February 10, 2006

As a child and as a parent, I have spent hours reading Curious George books. Today the new movie, Curious George, from producer Ron Howard enters the theaters.  Yesterday I was listening to NPR and heard an interview with Louise Borden, author of The Journey That Saved Curious George. It revealed some interesting insight into the authors, H.A. and Margaret Rey. Journey Saved Curious George cover

In 1940, the German Nazi army was marching toward Paris, France and people were fleeing with the clothes on their back. Two unknown Jewish artists gathered a few belongings and got on bicycles to flee away from the German Army. Among their limited possessions, Hans and Margaret Rey carried their unpublished watercolor drawings. Eventually these drawings became the first Curious George book. Today more than 30 million Curious George books have been sold worldwide.  Here’s the link to download this 10–minute MP3 interview with Louise Borden.

While this background story about the Reys is fascinating, it can only be told in hindsight. It has a storybook, bestselling ending with millions of books in print.  At the time, I’m certain the Reys had dreams for their drawings and their story idea, but no certainty it would happen. They eventually made the right connection so the first book was published. Now Curious George is one of the classics of children’s literature.

What are you doing today to move ahead your writing dreams? Planning to attend a writer’s conference or read a how-to writing book? Or spending time writing on a magazine article or your book proposal? If you keep moving ahead with your dreams and plans, maybe you will be able to look back with wonder at your amazing journey—like Curious George.