An open letter to Kathryn Stockett

Dear Ms. Stockett:

I’ve read your book, The Help, several times. I keep it on my bookshelf next to the novels of Ray Bradbury and John Steinbeck.

Only recently did I learn that the novel was rejected by 60 agents. Sixty! That number takes my breath away. I can’t imagine few people who have your persistence.

I’m so glad you did because your book meant a lot to me and to others. I cannot speak to the characters of Minny and Aibileen, except to say that like Minny, I can’t refrain from speaking my mind and I usually pay for it.

For me, it was Miss Skeeter whose story was most inspiring. I liked reading about a young woman who just didn’t quite fit in her small town. Your book offered me a sliver of validation: it’s okay to be smart and want something more.

Now that I’ve jumped, or perhaps tripped, into this writing life and am peddling my own books, I have a question to ask of you: how did you do it? How did you keep sending out your story after so many rejections? Are you this tenacious in all aspects of your life? Holy buckets!

Recently, I finished writing a middle-grade novel for readers ages 9-12. My book, Bone Girl, is the story of a young girl who desperately seeks to rebuild a relationship with her incarcerated mother. Instead, she finds comfort in her father’s horses and learning to play a hand-me-down trombone in the school band. She plays the trombone because her father cannot afford to buy or rent her the instrument she wants, a clarinet. She practices in the barn, surrounded by her father’s horses, so that she doesn’t feel so alone. When her father and the stallion he trains go missing during an equestrian endurance ride in the Ozark Mountains, Josey plays her trombone and calls the horse in, thus saving her father’s life.  

I think this novel is the finest thing I’ve ever written. It’s complete, though I can’t keep myself from polishing it here or there. I’ve queried agents, and usually within a few days, they send me the nicest email, telling me they have no interest in my book. And I think of you: sixty rejections. You must have really believed in your book and its characters.

Well, I’m no Kathryn Stockett, but I believe in this manuscript and the characters that come to life on its pages, especially my main character, Josey Miller. So I pledge that I will not stop sending Bone Girl to agents or publishers until I have sixty rejections. 

Just so you’ll know, Ms. Stockett, I’m a quitter. I quit high school. I quit two marriages. I quit the profession of journalism. I even quit the doctorate of nursing program at Washington State University after spending more than a year getting admitted. Yep. I cut bait and run. So for me, this pledge is a huge commitment. Sixty rejections. Wow. Okay. Let’s do this.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: I’m heading to Seattle for the western Washington SCBWI conference. Party pics!

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