The Unusual Publishing Battle
At least one news cycle this past week included the controversy over cover of The New Yorker magazine with Michelle and Barack Obama dressed in unusual garb. Maybe you saw it on your television news or some other means. It came across my desk in several different formats.
If you read these entries on The Writing Life, you will be aware that I read The New Yorker magazine and often call to your attention some of the great articles about the publishing world. Beyond the controversy about their July 21st cover, I wanted to make sure you read Jill Lepore's article, The Lion and The Mouse, The battle that reshaped children's literature. Thankfully the full version of this article is available online. Some times I locate articles that I would like to point out but they are not so easily accessible.
I encourage you to read this piece and you will learn about the battle between Anne Carroll Moore who yielded huge power in the area of children's literature because of her initiative setting up a children's library in New York City. As the article explains, "In the first half of the twentieth century, no one wielded more power in the field of children's literature than Moore, a librarian in a city of publishers. She never lacked for an opinion. "Dull in a new way," she labelled books that she despised. When, in 1938, William R. Scott brought her copies of his press's new books, tricked out with pop-ups and bells and buttons, Moore snapped, "Truck! Mr. Scott. They are truck!" Her verdict, not any editor's, not any bookseller's, sealed a book's fate. She kept a rubber stamp at her desk that she used, liberally, while paging through publishers' catalogues: "Not recommended for purchase by expert." The end. The end of Moore's influence came when, years later, she tried to block the publication of a book by E. B. White. Watching Moore stand in the way of "Stuart Little," White's editor, Ursula Nordstrom, remembered, was like watching a horse fall down, its spindly legs crumpling beneath its great weight."
Yes Stuart Little is the mouse in the title of the article. Through the movies and other reinventions, a new generation has come to love the stories about Stuart Little. Yet few people know the struggle that some of these ideas have to come into print. Notice in the last paragraph of the article there are more than four million copies of Stuart Little in print today.
What are the people around you or the editors or the literary agents telling you as a writer can't be done? Can you keep thinking about your idea and come up with a creative way through the obstacle? I hope you can draw some courage and strength from reading about Stuart Little.