The way that 88 Instruments has come together is far different from how my John Roy Lynch or Nutcracker books developed.
In March of last year, editor Julia Maguire let it be known that she’d be interested in a picture book about a child picking which instrument to learn. I had not yet written any such picture book, and it wasn’t until late May that I started coming up with an idea for how to tell that story.
For the next month or so I jotted down notes (no musical pun intended, but if you saw one anyway, I’ll gladly take credit) by longhand. In early July, I had a first draft. In mid-August, I swapped a revised draft with a critique partner and got some helpful feedback. A couple of weeks after that, I did a revision at my agent’s request. Three or four weeks later — late September — I did another revision, this one based on notes I got from Julia herself.
(Notice how I’m using words such as “month” and “weeks” and not “years,” “decade,” “lifetime.” Anyway…)
Julia liked that revision, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers offered to buy the book, I revised some more, and by early November the text was done. (Yes, my fellow picture book authors, I know. Famous last words.)
The holidays came and went. Nothing ever happens in publishing during the holidays — except in this case, I guess, because early January brought the news that Louis Thomas would be illustrating.
Not only that, but Louis Thomas would be illustrating very soon, with publication expected in summer 2016, roughly two years after my first draft.
Now, whether the development of this book has been speedy depends on your perspective. At a school visit this past Friday, a second-grader asked me how many books I can write in a day, so I suspect that she wouldn’t be impressed.
But at least now, when kids ask me how long it takes to create a book, I can provide an updated answer: from as many as twelve and a half years (and counting!) to as few as two (fingers crossed!!!).