I have been laid up for a few days after surgery. The doctor told me to do nothing for at least a week. By nothing he meant no dishes, laundry or cooking or working at a preschool with little ones who, if they were people yet, would be gross. So I took off work for the week and turned my bed into a cushiony castle and began writing.
Well, write I have. I have completed two children's picture books with illustrations. And more than that I have systematically sent them to agents and publishing houses.
I have received three rejection letters or rather I-am-not-taking-on-any-new-clients-at-this-time-emails which is not the same as rejection. I thanked one lady for her timely response with hugs. For her to get back so quickly and on a Sunday, she too was probably in a bed tented with a blanket and a bit under the weather.
One of the agents caught my eye with the pronouncement that she likes to shepherd books. It took me back to the two weeks I spent on a sheep farm at shearing time. If she does shepherd those books, she has to first separate the lambs from the ewes.
Because I was new and a girl, the boss sent me into the small enclosure where sheep stood pressed together. They were a heaving woolly mass. I squeezed among them trying to peer about for the little ones that had nimbly slipped into the wrong pasture. The men were elbowing each other and laughing at me. The ewes were tall and the lambs were completely covered. They had sent me on a hazing mission and I knew it. After guffawing at me they lifted up the gate and sent the sheep running into the next paddock. I caught the two lambs that had escaped and the curt nod the boss gave me was a grudging acceptance that maybe I was not completely useless after all.
In the same way, books need to be separated. There are the ewes which are complete, useful and ready for the world with a little agent-tweaking. The lambs may be cute but they aren't ready yet and need culling.
I swept the shearing shed and helped drench the lambs to remove parasites and worms. I also worked building a shearing men's quarters. I cut wood with a bandsaw, laid insulation paper and hammered like a fiend.
And from my vantage point high above the fields on top of the cinder blocks I watched the sheep. Sheep don't see well and need guiding. They cannot cross a rushing stream because if the water tosses them on their backs they get cast. Their wet wool weighs so much that once on their back they can't get up without help.
They are gentle darling creatures. I especially loved seeing them spring into the air after shearing. With their burden lifted, they leap for joy.
So I sent my lamb of a book, my precious pages that need guiding into the world to the agent who likes to shepherd. I hope she wants to nurture it further.
Now, I must wait. Something I confess that I hate to do, but there are my other lamb-books that need writing and polishing.
N.K. Wagner is the Executive Editor and Publisher of Page & Spine.