Thursday, August 20, 2015

Writing for Children or Adults: A Choice - A Guest Post by Dorothy Francis

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Dorothy Francis. Her works include a series of animal stories for children; "Captain Morgana Mason," a middle grade novel; and six cozy mysteries set in Key West. Dorothy was our featured author on June 15, 2011.

A sixth grade girl sent me a fan letter that made my day for a few moments.I loved reading Captain Morgana Mason,” she wrote, “would you please tell me all you know about writing?” Her words flattered me until I looked inside the envelope she had sent. For my reply, she had enclosed a stamped self-addressed post card. My ego took a nosedive.

Creating children’s fiction was my favorite kind of writing at that time, and Captain Morgana Mason was also my favorite book.  I wondered why. Was it the story’s plot? Or was it the story’s characters? I’m convinced it was the characters. Any writer could have used the plot idea to write a book, but the characters in that plot were unique.  I’m convinced that the characters led to the story’s success.

And although many unfortunate things happened to Captain Morgana Mason, it survived. The first good thing that happened was that it received the honor of being chosen by the Florida State Historical Society the best children’s book of its year with a Florida background. My editor was thrilled and said she’d have plenty of books at the historical society’s meeting. I thanked her and gave her the date and place of the meeting.

The book didn’t arrive. I called the editor. She said she was sorry, but she had forgotten.  So for the several hundred potential buyers who were present, there were no books for me to sign. Later, when I met that editor in her New York office, neither of us mentioned that meeting in Florida.  She smiled and told me Captain Morgana Mason was doing fine and asked what I was currently working on.

Had she  been lying to me?  Perhaps. I was home only a few weeks when her letter arrived  saying Captain Morgana Mason was going out of print. I asked why. She said the company suddenly had a shortage of storage space for unsold copies.  Soon I received another letter offering me the 3000 unsold copies at a dollar each.

My husband suggested I buy those books and sell them when I was making speeches at libraries and writer’s conferences. We bought the books.

I soon learned from a Children’s Literature prof  at a Missouri University that Captain Morgana Mason had been chosen Children’s Book of the Year by Missouri school children. I smiled until he told me they’d have to cancel their order because books chosen had to be readily available to the schools. I was devastated, but the professor bought 400 copies.

After many months, I’d sold enough copies to break even. Later, I gave copies of Captain Morgana Mason to every elementary school in the Florida Keys.  

 For years before my husband and I started spending winters in Florida, people asked me when I was  going to write books for grown- ups instead of for children?  And with the question I heard the challenge—can you do it?  Can you really write for adults?

So I decided to give it a try.

I loved Florida from the moment I saw it.  Everything about it called to me.  The exotic  flowers.  The unique houses.  The fascinating  people.  The major part of my research involved looking out my window and writing about what I saw. The tales the natives told were extraordinary. I spent hours in our back country boat taking notes on my surroundings while my husband fished. Soon I could hardly wait to start writing—this time for adults.

After finishing my first adult mystery, I learned that a literary agent was searching for published books for teens. She was offering second rights to buyers in other English-speaking countries.  I wrote to that agent, and she took on many of my teen books. Here was my chance. I showed her my adult mystery. she took it on and it sold as The Conch Shell Murder. A few years later, I had six Key West mysteries to my credit. They received good reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus.

But now, several years later, I’m living full time in Iowa and my heart is back with writing for children.  A friend helped me place Captain Morgana Mason as an e-book on Amazon, and I’m ready to start writing a book for children once again.


No comments:

Post a Comment