Monday, February 14, 2011

We'll Leave the Lights On For You

Happy Valentine's Day and welcome to my virtual blog tour celebrating the release of my new book, Reader's Theatre for Global Explorers.

Today, I want to walk you through my journey to publishing this book. It was a real adventure. One that you might want to take yourself. But first...

Yesterday's Question: What city sent a messages to an explorer in outer space?

Answer: Perth, Australia. Astronaut John Glenn’s first trip into outer space was in 1962 on the Friendship 7. Citizens of Perth decided to send Glenn a message. Everyone in the city turned on their porch lights. As the capsule approached Australia, Glenn noted to Mission Control that he could see a huge area all lit up. It was the good folks in Perth.

Thirty-six years later, Glenn returned to space in the Space Shuttle Discovery for medical experiments designed to explore the effects of aging on the human body. Technology was much improved, and the Discovery was farther from earth than the Friendship 7 had been. The citizens of Perth weren’t sure their lights would be visible this time, but they turned them on anyway. As he approached Australia, Glenn said, “The coastline is coming into view. I can see the lights. I think it looks even better now than it did all those years ago.” Now that’s a welcome.

Targeting a Publisher

Now, let's talk about the writing process. To see the full list of Readers Theatre books available from Libraries Unlimited, click here for the home page. Choose "Search by Series" in the left hand menu. Move your cursor onto the drop down list, then use your down arrow to scroll down until you see Readers Theatre.

This is where I began my journey. I went to the library and checked out a few of their titles. I looked at them and thought, "I could do that."

Take a look at the list. The first step was to find out what was not there. What was I interested in that I could offer as an addition to that list. I like history, so I sent an e-mail query to Sharon Coatney, the editor. She takes e-mail queries, so this is what I sent:

Dear Sharon,

I read on your website that you are interested in receiving queries for Reader’s Theatre topics. Would you be interested in receiving a proposal about Reader’s Theatre for global explorers, ..., or ...?

Doraine Bennett

I sent three topics, but I can't even remember the other two. Sharon sent an immediate reply back saying, Yes.

So I assumed she meant I could send a proposal for any of my choices. I picked the one I liked best at the time, explorers.

If you're at the website, click on the Contact Us link in the bar across the top of the website. Almost hidden on the page is a heading called "Acquisitions." It says: Manuscript Proposal Guidelines are available here. That was my next step.

I spent about two months writing the proposal, making sure I sent what they asked for. If you would like to see a copy of my proposal, please e-mail me at pdbennett at knology dot net, and I will send you the pdf. You can see how I followed their specific guidelines.

I wrote the proposal. I picked my explorers and wrote a table of contents based on continents. Then I wrote one script. I sent it all to Sharon in hard copy via snail mail in early July. Sharon e-mailed me when she received the proposal to say she would get back to me in a couple of weeks.

Then, I had an e-mail glitch. Who knows what happened? I was at a Delaney sales conference in August when I received a phone call. Sharon wanted to offer me a contract. She hadn't been able to reach me via e-mail. I hung up the phone and did a happy dance in the hotel lobby. No children's writers around to dance with me. Sales people don't necessarily GET IT.

Sharon gave me until the following July to complete the manuscript. Then the real work began. Yes, it was a lot of work, it meant taking a risk, but I didn't spend all those hours of research and writing BEFORE I had a contract. I got the contract first.

You can do the same thing. Target your publisher and dive into deep water.

Questions from Mrs. Gill's Fourth Grade Class

How did you come up with the idea for Sending a Message into Space?

I wanted to include some modern explorers in my book. After all the land on earth was explored and mapped, people didn't stop wanting to explore. They headed into outer space and underneath the ocean.

How long did it take to write Sending a Message into Space?

It took about two weeks to write this one. That was pretty short compared to some of the scripts. Of course, that's not two solid weeks of writing. I still had to cook dinners and wash clothes and do my sales job, as well.

What is your favorite thing about Sending a Message into Space?

I loved the idea that the people of Perth figured out a way to send a message into outer space. And to do it twice, that was pretty special. The set up for this script is a news program. I had fun playing with the commercials. I was trying to give a sense of how the times changed between Glenn's first trip and his last one. Using prices for grocery items that you would recognize today seemed like a good way to do it.

Today's Question: Why do you love Reader's Theater?

Stop by tomorrow for a full day of questions from students in Mrs. Gill's fourth grade class.

Remember on Wednesday I'll hold the drawing for the free books. Leave me a comment and I'll enter your name.


  1. Why do I like Reader's Theater? First, they are fun to read! Second, kids don't feel like the nonfiction topic is boring with RT. Next, Even kids who have trouble reading can feel a part of learning with RT because frequently their lines are spaced throughout the piece and it's not continuous, on-going reading. Lastly, kids like to put RT on like skits for other classes or parents. Are those enough reasons?????