Yesterday’s mail brought me three bound copies of BROTHERS AT BAT: THE TRUE STORY OF AN AMAZING ALL-BROTHER TEAM.
Working on a picture book is so incremental and I love every step of the process, from my own first draft, revisions, more revisions, the decision about an illustrator, seeing early sketches, later sketches, color illustrations, first pass, unbound copies, all the way to real bound books. Every step, especially the ones that don’t involve any work on my part, is a real joy.
I’m only supposed to receive one bound copy at this stage of the game, but my editor had the grace and foresight to think of the brothers themselves–three of the twelve are alive–and to know that I’d want to be able to give them actual books instead of the (unbound) F&Gs I had planned to give them.
BROTHERS AT BAT is my third nonfiction picture book. There was also a fourth manuscript that never found a publishing home.
Ellen and I never met Tim, though we wanted to. Our interviews were all handled with Tim’s manager as a go-between. We’d send off questions via email and a month or more later, we’d receive Tim’s handwritten responses.
We never heard from Tim about the book once it was out, so I wrote to his manager to ask what Tim had thought. His response was something along the lines of, “He liked it,” or “He thought it was good.”
My second nonfiction picture book manuscript, A MILLION FLOWERS, was one very close to my heart. It was told from the perspective of a child, a real child (now a real teenager) who participated in a gorgeous ceremony in Seattle in the wake of 9/11. Members of the community brought flowers to a park for a vigil. Then (this being Seattle) the gardeners stepped in–taking those flowers and turning them into compost. The gardeners, the father and his son, and a team of politicians then transported some of that compost to a garden that had stood in the shadows of the twin towers in NYC.
I so looked forward to the day I would put a bound book in that child’s hands, but that day never came. I am still in occasional touch with his father, a Seattle Mariners fan.
Third nonfiction book: SHE LOVED BASEBALL: THE EFFA MANLEY STORY. I think I must have researched that story just before the Hall of Fame made such research really easy. More likely, I didn’t realize how easy the Hall of Fame made things for researchers so I trekked to Cooperstown to spend a day in their library. (For a small fee, the research library can send copies of DVDs, CDs, etc. right to your very own mailbox.) It is worth noting that no baseball fan would complain about the opportunity to trek to Cooperstown, New York, to spend a day in the Hall’s awesome research library.
Effa Manley died many years before I wrote this book. She was not a woman who shied away from the spotlight, so I like to think she’d have been pleased, but of course, I’ll never know.
And now I’m on the eve (or the eve of the eve, maybe) of the April release of BROTHERS AT BAT. For those missing my point, this will be the first time I’ve ever been able to hand my book to its subjects.
I wish all of them were here–I’d round up twelve books and another four for their sisters.
But I hope that this book finds its way into the hands of the descendants of the Acerra brothers and sisters no longer with us. Steven Salerno, the illustrator, did an outstanding job; it’s a truly beautiful book. (For an inside look at his work on BROTHERS AT BAT, visit his blog.)
Part of the joy of writing this book has been the time I spent with the two brothers I interviewed most frequently. As any writer knows, it doesn’t always work out. I still feel a great deal of regret that I didn’t get to present a beautifully illustrated bound copy of A MILLION FLOWERS to the father and son in Seattle. There’s a kind of responsibility a writer feels for her subjects, a need to do right by them, that lasts well beyond the interviews and research.
So I’m going to enjoy the moment as I hand off the three books to the three brothers. I’ll take pictures. And video. And I’ll let you know how it goes.