By now, the envelope containing my manuscript submission for a critique at the SCBWI summer conference has arrived in LA. I can only wonder where it sits this very minute. Perhaps in a large pile. Perhaps it has already been opened and processed. It's even possible that it has been carefully evaluated and assigned a critiquer. But my guess is that it has yet to be opened. The submission instructions did not request a cover letter, but I wrote one anyway. The opening paragraph contains the synopsis for my picture book story, Beetle and the Dung Ball and reads:
When a big pile of poop lands on the ground, Beetle is the first to grab a hunk for himself. He’ll stop at nothing to get his beautiful dung ball home. But as Beetle swipes even more dung along the way, he winds up in a Sisyphean predicament. With a little help, Beetle will gain an appreciation for his good neighbors, and also discover that maybe not everybody loves dung as much as he does. In Beetle and the Dung Ball, young readers will giggle at the poop humor, while learning about the very necessary service dung beetles provide.
Okay, so I might not put it on the dust jacket, but it gets the point across. We're talking about dung beetles here, people. I suppose there will be readers who wrinkle their noses and pass on the poop. No problem. Dung isn't for everyone. But, I'm hoping that there are other readers who find dung beetles as funny and fascinating as I do. Readers that would read this kind of book to a kid. Readers that would pay, say, $16.99 and buy copies for their friends, family and co-workers. And what about my mystery critiquer? What will they say? Good luck finding a publisher? Your poop book stinks? Dung beetles aren't relatable?
C'mon, look what my picture book has going for it! A unique hero with a unique objective. Kids think poop is hilarious. Kids dig insects. Lessons about greed, sharing and helping your neighbors. Cool factoids about dung beetles for the back matter. Merchandising opportunities--what kid wouldn't want a stuffed plush dung ball on their bed? And to top it all off, a bit of adapted Greek mythology. (Sysiphus was the guy who had to roll a boulder up and down a hill for eternity.) Seriously, if this manuscript doesn't end up in a major bidding war, I'll be sorely disappointed.
And so, as my little 5-page picture book manuscript makes its journey into the hands of my critiquer, I wonder what factors will determine who will be assigned to my 20-minute critique. I wonder how it will stack up against the other manuscripts they receive. I wonder if there is a publisher out there that would say yes to this manuscript. I wonder if there's an illustrator who will some day illustrate pictures of dung balls to go with my words. I wonder what it would be like to read this book to my son's or daughter's class some day. I wonder how my critiquer will respond when they read the opening page of Beetle and the Dung Ball:
A pile of poop fell from the sky. PLOP!
“Mine!” cried Beetle.
He grabbed a hunk as fast as he could. He kicked it. He pushed it. He flipped it over and over again. Pretty soon, the dung was smooth and round as a ping-pong ball.
“Perfect,” said Beetle. Then he rolled his dung ball straight for home...
FOLLOW MY MANUSCRIPT!
Chapter 3: Getting the Ending Right