Tallying it up, I’ve been rejected by the following:
- The Delacorte Press Contest for Young Adult Fiction
- Annick Press
- Orca Books (after the publisher asked to see the rest of the manuscript)
- Groundwood Books (after eleven months in consideration)
- Farrar, Straus & Giroux
- G.P. Putnam & Sons
- Raincoast Books (which hasn’t written back; I’m assuming ‘no’)
And, at last, Lobster Press, which was very professional and replied with a personal note about two months after I sent in the submission. Ironically, after all of the work I had done to bring down the age of Rosemary and Time, their reason for rejection was “we are currently looking for a YA manuscript to appeal to a slightly older market.”
It’s not that I can’t win; they would have rejected the original draft, whose straddling of the two genres made it difficult to market. In terms of getting published by Lobster Press, I picked the wrong direction to take the story in, but clearly Rosemary and Time is more a middle-grade book than it is a young adult novel. Still, that stings a bit.
So, tallying that up, that’s eight rejections. I just need another four to match Madeleine L’Engle’s count for A Wrinkle in Time.
Removing the Kiss
I believe I’ve removed the last vestiges of those elements which kept one foot of Rosemary and Time in the realm of the teen novel. Until this morning, after reducing the ages of the characters to twelve from fourteen and toning down the romance, I still had one kiss between Peter and Rosemary. It was difficult to remove because a plot point turned on it.
To get to the Land of Fiction, Peter and Rosemary have to pay a fare of believing in six impossible things before the Ferryman could let them across (scene here). Rosemary’s last impossible thing is whispered into the ear of the Ferryman and is revealed at the climax as believing that she could be kissed by Peter. This kiss happens late in Chapter 13 when Rosemary brokers a deal to save Theo by promising to commit herself to finishing Marjorie’s book, regardless of the consequences. As she says her goodbyes, an emotional Peter kisses her, in a scene that pays homage to a very similar scene in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Because this impossible thing comes true, Rosemary is able to hope; she transfers this hope to Marjorie, and that gives her the element she needs to defeat the Machine (which dominates by removing all hope).
Noelle Allan is a friend and publicist for Erin, who has many contacts and much knowledge about the publishing industry. She acknowledged Maggie DeVries comments about why Rosemary and Time was hard to sell as it stood. After extensive rewrites which addressed Maggie and Noelle’s suggestions, Noelle stated:
I think you’ve made some great changes, really deepened Theo’s and Peter’s characters, and done a lot with the setting. However, we’re still straddling that chapter book / YA gap. You’ve toned down the romance, which is good, but we need to keep in mind that with the main characters being 12, we are aiming at readers that are 9 and 10 years old, and for them, a kiss is not just a kiss.
So, as the kiss is a significant plot point, what the heck do I replace it with?
Erin came up with an idea, and again the solution comes out of Rosemary’s relationship with her brother Theo (something already emphasized in the rewrites). Instead of believing that Peter might kiss her, she instead offers this:
“And you?” The Ferryman turned towards Rosemary.
Rosemary had been staring at Peter; she jerked up at the Ferryman’s voice. Everyone stood still and silent. Finally a small smile dawned on her face. She took a deep breath. “I believe I can save Theo.”
The Ferryman put forth a long hand to the boat. “Board.”
They clambered aboard. Peter and Rosemary jammed themselves into a narrow bench while Puck lounged on the remaining seat. The Ferryman stood at the prow. Without oars or sails, the boat glided forward into the sea. As Rosemary glanced at the grey-on-black horizon, Peter nudged her. “Um, the fare… isn’t saving Theo the reason we’re here?”
She looked at him. “So?”
“So? Well, if you believe it and it’s impossible… aren’t we in trouble? Or isn’t it impossible?”
“Do you want off this boat?” asked Rosemary.
“Save Theo” has a hint of a double meaning, here, speaking of more than just getting Theo out of the Land of Fiction. As Theo says later in the story, it’s the job of the big brother to take care of his little sister; it doesn’t work the other way around. But Rosemary has stood by and watched her older brother succumb to nervous breakdown. She’s scarred by how powerless she was. In this story, however, she’s no longer powerless, and it’s her personal victory that she is able to turn the job around. Fortunately, I don’t go into this in such depth in this scene.
The kiss scene gets altered as follows:
She pulled away at last. “I have to go.” She turned to Peter. He grinned nervously and held out his hand.
He grunted when Rosemary hugged him, clasping him close, pushing the air from his lungs. He held her for a second, until they pulled apart quickly. Rosemary shifted on her feet and clasped her hands behind her. “Thanks,” she said.
“Don’t mention it,” he replied, looking at the floor.
Just because they can’t kiss doesn’t mean that we can’t play with their discomfort.
Finally, when things look darkest for Rosemary and Marjorie, the new sixth impossible thing comes into play:
“I want to be free!” thought Marjorie.
“You have no hope.”
“I want to be free!”
“You cannot get out.”
“I want to be free!”
“Escape is impossible.”
“Nothing is impossible,” thought Rosemary, her thoughts cutting across Marjorie’s panic. “I thought saving Theo was impossible, but it happened. It was the sixth impossible thing I gave to the Ferryman. Anything can happen in the Land of Fiction. Perhaps I can get out of this. Please, God, I hope I can get out of this!”
Hope warmed her heart, and at that moment, Marjorie/Rosemary’s heart began to beat.
The changes occurred surprisingly easily, despite being a major point of the story for three years, now. I think it works, and it finally settles Rosemary and Time into the 10-12 age group. Now to look for a new publisher. I’m eying Penguin.
Stronger, Faster, Higher and More Obnoxious
I wasn’t going to pay much attention to the Olympics, frankly. I’m too busy, and these games don’t really resonate with me. But, now, thanks to MrG at Teledyn, I now have a reason on which to hang my hat:
Strict regulations published by Athens 2004 last week dictate that spectators may be refused admission to events if they are carrying food or drinks made by companies that did not see fit to sponsor the games.
Now, Olympics organizers say that you won’t be turned away at the gate if you have a bottle of Pepsi in your hand. The policy is a move to stop ambush marketing, wherein a large number of people infiltrate the stands with the same logos on their T-shirts to spell out a competitor’s brand name. However, as MrG notes:
…they’ve also informed volunteers and staff to be careful which brand of shoes they might choose to wear, and all American medal winners are required to wear an Adidas outfit on the podium.
And you’re telling me that corporate advertising and sponsorship hasn’t gotten out of hand?