This week I visited Oak Hill Montessori School and shared Boundary Waters ABC with students ages three through third grade. I’m sure different authors have different opinions about school visits, but I have to say that my favorite part of being a writer is sharing my book with children. They are always excited and curious. Their questions are fun and frequently catch me by surprise. For example, I asked the question, “If people don’t live in the Boundary Waters, who does live there?” I received the typical answers of bears, loons, deer, and alligators. But one girl said, “Penguins.” I’ve shared this book with thousands of children in the last five years but this is the first time I have heard anyone make this guess.
Another reason that I enjoy my author visits to schools is the feeling of being a celebrity for a day. If I see a group of students in the hallway that I have already presented to, often they say, “It’s the author! You came to my class.” It is always a nice feeling to be recognized and greeted with awe.
Often when I interact with kids during author visits I get ideas for writing future books. One time I met a little girl who prefaced everything she said with the phrase, “Guess what?” That may pop up in a future book sometime.
School visits can be fun and memorable. Interacting with the students and teachers is enjoyable. Seeing the excitement and the spark of curiosity for the topic at hand is very rewarding.
After writing Boundary Waters ABC I submitted the manuscript to a regional publisher. Not hearing back after a number of months, I sent the manuscript to Adventure Publications in Cambridge, MN. One day I received a phone call from Adventure.
“I’m looking for Wes Erwin.”
“This is he.”
“Are you the Wes Erwin who submitted Boundary Waters ABC to us?”
“We’ve been trying to find you. Your contact information became separated from your manuscript. We want to publish your book.”
I practically floated for the rest of the day!
What I didn’t know at that time was that authors, even published authors, often are rejected by scores if not hundreds of publishers before their manuscript is accepted for publication by a traditional publisher. Having the second publisher that I submitted this book to accept it was very lucky!
The second unusual part of the publication of Boundary Waters ABC was that the Publisher was interested in publishing the book in record time. I signed the book contract in November of 2013 and the book was published in April of 2014. That is lightening speed in the publishing business! I believe Adventure wanted to have the book available for the beginning of the summer tourist season in northern Minnesota.
It was only after I wrote and submitted several other books to scores of publishers and heard other authors’ experiences that I realized my first book was a huge anomaly.
However, I’m not complaining. I am very grateful for my first experience with a publisher and pleased that my first experience was such a positive one!
In 2009 my wife and I faced some important decisions. We were both working professional jobs and had two children under three years old. My wife was offered a promotion but it would necessitate a move from northwest Minnesota to the Twin Cities. The economy was in a down turn and morale was low in my workplace. I had been in my job for twelve years and it seemed like a good time for a change. We decided that I would become a stay at home dad and my wife would be the family breadwinner.
I had always been an avid reader. Now, with time to burn and two toddlers to entertain, one of our favorite family activities was going to the library. Settled in our new home in Shoreview we regularly drove to one of the Ramsey County Libraries. A Duluth pack served as our book bag. Often we stuffed over 100 books in the Duluth pack. My sons helped pick out books.
Reading many ABC books, I got the idea of writing an ABC book about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. That is a place I love to go and wanted my sons to know about. The idea of writing a book was exciting to me. So, during nap times and on weekends I began writing the stories and information that would become Boundary Waters ABC. Bedtime stories for my boys were often based on events that had happened to me in the wilderness. For example, on one trip our tent really did blow into the lake (T is for Tent).
Over a period of several years I wrote and edited what became Boundary Waters ABC. In my next blog post I’ll tell about the process of getting Boundary Waters ABC published. I didn’t know how unusual its path to publication was at the time, due to my inexperience.