An Uplifting Pourquoi Tale and Science Study on Ladybugs
In August 2018
After years of trying (on and off) to publish my children's book titled How the Ladybug Got Her Spots, I submitted my query to one more publishing company with my dear husband's gentle push.
Experience had already taught me, through several failed attempts, that a query letter does not go far.
By the way, did you know it is taboo to simply send a written manuscript to a publisher? They frown upon it. They have plenty to read already. Most publishing companies request a query letter first. And, then, if interested, they'll ask to read your story.
Being the rule follower that I am, that is exactly what I did time and time again.
And, time and time again, my former query letters were either ignored completely or kindly rejected.
"Thank you for your query, Mrs. Webb. At this time, we are not looking for a book on this topic."
So, when Covenant Books, Inc. asked for my query, tentatively I sent it.
The biggest difference was that THIS time I was going to go ALL OUT and share as much about my story, its background, my experience, the study guide I was creating to accompany it, a book series idea I had in mind, and my passionate enthusiasm for stories in general.
Imagine my surprise when 24 hours later I received an email requesting my manuscript.
SOMEBODY WANTED TO READ MY STORY???
SOMEBODY WANTED TO READ MY STORY!!!
I cried. I truly did. It did not matter if they liked it. I was just so relieved that a book I poured my heart and soul into would finally have eyes other than my own moving across the lines I took such care to create.
Then, on Monday, August 21, I came home to a phone message from the literary agent at CBI.
"She must have a question for me," was my thought. They'd had my manuscript for less than a week.
So, on Tuesday morning, after dropping Derek off at a school, I headed to meet a couple of girlfriends for coffee.
While waiting in my car, I returned the call to answer any questions she might have.
And, that call - that moment - will never be forgotten.
On August 22, 2018 I received my FIRST EVER "Formal Offer to Publish" from Covenant Books, Inc.
Funny enough, I did not cry. I was in SHOCK. For the remainder of our phone call, all I could utter was, "Great. That's great. Okay. Great. That's great."
Truth. I did cry later.
It was the BEST DAY EVER!
In September 2018
After submitting my manuscript to my editor (through my PUBLICATION ASSISTANT - yes, people, I have PEOPLE! Lol), my next job was to choose my illustrator.
This time-consuming task included completing a detailed questionnaire on every minute detail imaginable. After a couple of hours, my 12 page dissertation was complete. Off to my PA it went.
Then, I waited.
In October 2018
The editor returned my manuscript!
Now, let me just say, I have combed over this 500+ word story approximately a billion times. And, YES, there were STILL editing suggestions! (I can't wait to share this with my writing kids.)
Two commas were removed for better rhythm and flow. (It is a rhyming story.)
And, there was one word substitution.
"Near the bubbly brook," became "Near the babbling brook." Love it! I approved the edits.
Now, I wait some more.
In November 2018
Right after Thanksgiving, I got an email from my PA (Publication Assistant). She instructed me to log into my Author's Dashboard and open the first illustration created for my book.
She encouraged me to communicate any thoughts, corrections, or suggestions back to her.
Here was the first picture:
May I just say that it was a FANTASTIC feeling to see another person's interpretation of my characters and setting. It made this publishing experience REAL on a whole new level.
This was an exciting day for me. Right away, I snapped a screenshot and made it my iPhone wallpaper!
On November 28th, after sharing my appreciation, I compiled a list of things that were spot on and things I would like altered or tweaked.
Here is what I sent. As well, I included some sample illustrations found from other sources to clarify my vision.
1. I love the colors of the fall foliage and how it is depicted in the background. 2. The trees in the foreground are too stark white and bare. If we could warm those up a bit that would be ideal. 3. I love the grass details! But, it looks like “spring” grass. Could we add varying hues of greens and yellows? 4. Could I also ask that some more detailed leaves be added to the front/foreground of the trees? There are so many amazing details, I’d love more leaves to be part of that. Perhaps even some on the ground? It seems strange that only one leaf is on the ground. 5. The path/dirt trail is fantastic. The details in the sand are amazing, too. 6. I love the addition of the stick. Perfect for a little boy. 7. The aspen leaf is gorgeous but a little too big in proportion to the boy’s hand. The colors are perfect! 8. The water is great, and I love how I can see the transparency of it over the sand in places. 9. The spotless ladybug is great. However, I’d like her to have a black head and legs, not brown. 10. The boy’s hair is too green. Maybe we should move from blond to a lighter brown? Here are some colors I like. Maybe a light brown with some blonde highlights? 11. There is something about the boy’s eyes that don’t grab me. It almost looks like he has two sets of eyebrows, so maybe the lids just aren’t right? I’m thinking his eyes look long. I’d prefer something more “gentle” looking. Nose, mouth, and ears are all great. The hairstyle is great, too. 12. The overalls are too “new.” I’d love to see them a faded denim color, maybe a bit dirty on the knees?
And, this is what I received in return on December 5th.
In December 2018
It was clear to me at this point that the illustrations would be computer generated. The changes all seemed digitally altered.
The improvements were made, but I still felt a few other things should be mentioned.
Hi CBI Team! Okay, just a couple minor things - 1. The hair is better, for sure. Could we add some white to reduce the “yellow” tone to it? Or, maybe it needs more of his “flesh” color to tone it out a bit? It may just be the background colors making it look so yellow, so if we can avoid the same color mix, that would probably help. 2. His eyes. They are smaller now and therefore aging him a bit too much. They also seem out of line with the tilt of his head. He looks “sleepy” and I am going for “curious.” 3. I like the faded overalls and rough knee area. However, at the bottom portion of the boy, the fade looks very computer generated, with a straight line across. Can we keep the texture on his bended knee but erase the other marks? 4. The stick looks faded, too, but I’d like it to be the same shade of the tree trunk behind him.
And, just like that, they made those corrections happen. And, I really like this boy. I will say, there is still "something" about his eyes... Your thoughts?
My last request was to add some wild life. THAT suggestion came from my Friday Class students at JCS. Aren't they smart?! (Thanks, guys!)
The fox and deer are a bit conspicuous, but we can work on that next.
In January 2019
All of my BLACK LINE DRAWINGS have arrived!
I must say that it is a mighty surreal moment when a story that has only lived in my head is interpreted through someone else's handy work.
This month the illustrators and I have gone back and forth adding and adjusting drawing details.
For your interest and enjoyment, I am attaching the images here.
I realize the majority of you do not know the storyline. So, I will add an abbreviated summary to go with each picture. The actual story is written in rhyme.
Before doing so, you should also know this is a pourquoi tale. Through the years I have loved teaching children how to write pourquoi stories. Pourquoi means "why" in French. A pourquoi tale - also known as an origin tale or etiological tale - is much like a folk tale or legend. These creative stories have been used for centuries to explain things like why tigers have stripes or why snakes have no legs.
Most often they have a sense of silliness about them but with a small moral lesson embedded into them as well.
For years I've searched for these fun stories to use as examples for the pourquoi technique.
Clearly, I did not feel there were enough and created one of my own. Ha!
Now you, too, will come to learn just how the ladybug got her spots.
The story opens with a young boy and his grandfather enjoying stories together. The grandfather begins to tell his grandson, Ted, about a story that took place some time ago...
In a lovely picturesque garden - perfect to delight any child's joy of exploration - wildlife and nature surround him.
And there, in the woods on a colorful fall leaf, a small red ladybug rests. (Spotless, of course.)
Busily exploring and playing, Ted does not notice her at first.
Ahhh... but soon he does!
Before long, they make a special connection and a kind, gentle, and trusting friendship blossoms.
But, as all days do, this one comes to an end. The young boy takes the ladybug back to her colony only to discover she is one of HUNDREDS of red bugs. He is not sure how he will tell her apart from all of the others.
Quickly he devises a plan! If he could just add a few black dots to her protective shell, he'd be able to find her once again.
Well, you can certainly imagine what her friends and family had to say to her!!!
Alas, they were just relieved she survived such an assault.
Except. It wasn't an assault. In fact, she was treated with kindness, gentleness, and love.
So, after she nestled herself under some fallen leaves to dream about her perfect day, her friends and family decided they TOO would like to be treated with kindness, gentleness, and love.
And that, my friends, was the inspiration needed for all ladybugs to become spotted themselves.
So, now are you even MORE excited to see the story in all its completion and glory!
I know I am.
Soon I will be putting together a PRE-SALE BOOK LAUNCH! I am open to any and all ideas you may have.
By early February I took a third peek at the black-line drawings for any other final tweaks. And, fairly quickly we were ready to move to the next stage.
On February 18th I gave my approval for the storyboard and on February 19th I received the following from my PA - Michelle.
My ladybug book sits cradled in the hands of the "color art illustrator."
I imagine each picture coming to life with splashes of color on every page I turn. Yep. I'm smiling.
In my mind, it is much like the Wizard of Oz, and I'm waiting for the TECHNICOLOR to appear!
It's hard to believe that the production is getting so close to completion. I'm not ready yet! I have no idea how many to order or how to best market the book.
Did I already mention this? Covenant Books, Inc. is only a publication company. They do not market the material.
Thankfully, they will be helping me create a 30-60 second video commercial, acquire some reviews for the book, and print a press release.
But! The selling falls on my shoulders - OUR SHOULDERS!
And, I want to do something REALLY awesome for the first 100 people to buy a copy. I will be offering this in a "pre-order package." (Yes, yes, yes! YOU will be given the first opportunity to purchase.)
a signed copy, of course
a storybook companion guide (how to use the story to teach science on the lifecycle of ladybugs, etc.)
a ladybug finger puppet
What do you think? Do you have other suggestions? What would entice you (or someone you know) to buy it before it hits the stores? I want to have this pre-order campaign ready to go the first week of April.
Part of my offer agreement with Covenant Books, Inc is that my book will be distributed "in secular retail stores, Christian bookstores, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Apple." If it goes to print in April, I'm thinking it will be in stores by May or June at the latest.
It's time to start planning for the success of its publication, my friends.