On my drive home, after attending the NJ SCBWI Mentoring Workshop, I began to think about jeans; how hard it is to find the right pair. And how every time I feel hopeful about discovering the perfect pair, I end up with a pile of jeans in a dressing room, all of which need to go back on their hangers, or folded in such a way that you can never find your size easily among the uniformed stacks on the shelves. After years of trying on jeans, I haven’t given up. I can’t. Everyone needs a good pair of jeans. The right pair is out there. Somewhere. A pair of jeans that doesn’t bunch up at my thighs, squeeze my calves, require that I gain three inches in height, need a belt at all times, and are the perfect length and right shade of denim. What shade is that? I don’t know. I’ll know when I see the pair in some store when I’m not even in a jean-shopping frame of mind. Something about the denim will catch my eye. And then, the courtship begins. If the jeans fit in the dressing room, what shape will they be in after being washed? And dried? After a mini-celebration in the dressing room while my husband is texting to see if I am ready to leave the store–do I realize how my five minutes of “I’ll be right back” has turned into one hour?–I purchase three pairs, and then sit on the decision. I let a week or two pass. I keep the jeans with their tags attached in the shopping bag (receipt included, just in case I change my mind) and ponder this unexpected treasure. Are they really as spectacular as I thought in my moment of celebration at the store? Had I even eaten that day? Was I being delusional? While I decide whether I truly love these jeans, or not, I test myself. I wait three days. Try them on. Look in my full-length mirror. Turn to the side. Put them back in the shopping bag. Wait another week. I am not fully committed. Not yet. Not until the day I decide to recycle the shopping bag, snip off the tags, and file away the receipt, do I know I’m ready to take the plunge. I need these jeans. They speak to me. I look forward to wearing them, many times over. Unless the first washing is disastrous, the jeans and I have formed a bond.
Finding the ideal jeans is how I equate an editor’s search for the right manuscript that catches their eye, like a sliver of sun peeking through the branches of the tree, its leaves shimmering in the light. And you want an editor who will flatter your writing and enhance your features.
As a writer, I know how difficult it is to find jeans that are comfortable, fit well, are of good quality, and can stand up to numerous trips through the washing machine. I know how frustrating it is, and exhausting, to spend hours at multiple stores, thumbing through the racks and shelves, only to go home empty-handed and never wanting to see another dressing room. Yet, I never give up. My perfect, or near perfect, pair of jeans are out there. Somewhere.
And so, with the image of hunting for jeans (or the ideal pair of casual, yet dressy, every occasion, black shoes) I appreciate the challenge of facing stacks and stacks of unread manuscripts. The joy is in finding the right one.
My weekend with Eve Adler from Henry Holt, and Lisa Yoskowitz from Dutton inspired this thought process. They are both delightful, encouraging, and enthusiastic about the world of children’s literature. I am now deep into the magical process of novel revision, guided by their wonderful suggestions.