By Gerald Hausman
Bokeelia, FL, USA
Twenty-two years ago I heard an unusual story about the genesis of climate change. It was a Creek Indian tale from northern Florida and I wrote it down as I usually do and put it into a folder and filed it away. My wife re-discovered it a few years later and suggested that it was an ideal picture book and I should submit it to one or more of our children's book publishers.
I'm always interested to hear that something could, would or should be a book. I polished up the rough draft, and sent it off to Philomel, a division of Putnam. They turned it down saying it was too long. I shortened it, sent it to them again. They turned it down a second time because they said they were going to publish my other manuscript, Coyote Walks on Two Legs.
So I sent the Creek tale to Simon and Schuster. My editor there accepted it and I was thrilled to see it now had a home. I breathed a sigh of relief. I shouldn't have.
S&S kept it for four years and then my editor left that company and went over to Orchard Books. As is the custom, sometimes, she took the picture book with her. S&S bowed out, Orchard bowed in, and now my little unpublished book had a new big publisher.
But two years later, my editor left Orchard, went to Greenwillow, and after that she went to another company.
My little picture book was lost in the Great Flood of editors coming and going and publishing houses changing directions and changing hands. I sent it to Clarion/Houghton Mifflin, and they kept it for a year before respectfully, and regretfully, turning it down. Whereupon I sent it to Hampton Roads Publishers and they accepted it, but a few years later, they merged with another publisher, and I got my book back again.
Then I sent it to Northlands who turned it down for no reason they could cite. There were a couple more tries after that, but I was obviously not having any luck and I took a break.
That was when I met Ramon Shiloh. As an illustrator he knew how to take the story to the next level, how to illustrate it in a realistic, yet unusual way, and he quickly came up with some irresistible pictures, and these plus text went off to a friend of his at Disney, but that didn't work out either.
Well, I loved the story, unconditionally. My wife loved it and Ramon said he'd keep working. So the three of us kept on and the book began to look like what it was meant to be – a picture book for all ages with some of the most beautiful illustrations ever.
It was then we tried World Wisdom, Inc., a fine publisher in Bloomington, Indiana. I'd done another book with them a few years before and they'd done a terrific job with it (The Image Taker: The Unpublished Writing and Photographs of Edward S. Curtis), so it seemed a natural, as well as hopeful, choice. But, sadly, at that time, they were not doing children's books.
A year passed. I received an email from my editor at World Wisdom saying they had just opened a children's division, Wisdom Tales Press.
Away went our book on a raft of hope.
And Wisdom Tales accepted it, designed it, and published The Otter, the Spotted Frog, & the Great Flood.
"How do you like your overnight success?" a friend asked the other day.