Laurel Snyder's CHARLIE & MOUSE

Charlie and Mouse
The story behind the story
by Laurel Snyder
illustrated by Emily Hughes

      I’m almost afraid to share the story of how Charlie and Mouse were born, because honestly, it’s been a fantasy experience. Nothing else I’ve written has been so easy, or broken the “rules” in so many ways.
Rule 1: You think your kids (or grandkids, or nephews/nieces, etc.) are amazing and adorable, but that doesn’t mean they’ll make a good story, or that other people will care about them.

Rule 2: Dreams rarely inspire good books. They don’t make as much sense to other people as they do to you.

Rule 3: You can’t expect a book to just slide out finished. Books take time and effort. Be patient with them. Do NOT send your editor something new, until you’ve had time to sit with it.

Rule 4: Your book won’t look on the page like it does in your head. You rarely get to pick your illustrator, and even if you do, she can’t channel the pictures in your mind.

Rule 5: Don’t expect to pitch a series. Write a good standalone, and see what happens.
     The way it happened was this— like many folks, I often posted about my kids to Facebook, when they would do funny or goofy things. And people would comment on those posts often, saying, “You should write a book about this stuff.” Of course, I knew better than to try that (see rule 1), for a long time.
      Then one day, a bookish friend (Hi, Susannah!) was visiting, and we took a walk in my neighborhood, which is a pretty special place. She commented that nobody writes “neighborhood” books anymore, and that I should write about Ormewood Park. That planted a seed.
      And one night shortly after that, I woke up at 3:00 AM, after a dream about my kids, and I JUST KNEW I needed to scribble it down. I got up, went to the couch, and wrote a handful of “Mose and Lew” stories, all in a rush. Which I sent immediately, sleepless at dawn, to my then-new editor at Chronicle (hi, Melissa!)
      To my shock, she bought them! And then, when she asked me who I wanted to illustrate, and I said Emily Hughes, that worked out too! So much so that people who know me ask all the time how Emily did such a good job of capturing my actual family.
      Of course, as always, there was a lot of editing. We cut stories from each book, and tweaked and fiddled with both the text and the art, and then the book got pushed back a year. It’s not like it was all totally smooth sailing. But this has definitely been the easiest writing I’ve ever done, and the easiest submission experience I’ve ever had.
(This is Laurel's writing shed, although she admits she usually writes on the couch because it's lonely out there.)
      One thing that did change in the revision process was that we renamed the kids. That was my editor’s idea. She said that she wasn’t sure Mose and Lew would like having an early chapter book series named after them, as they got older. She thoughtfully suggested that we ask Mose and Lew to pick names for “their” characters. So Mose picked Charlie, and Lew picked Mouse.
      All the other characters in the book kept their real names. All the kids who live on Woodland are real people—Lilly and Helen and Sam and Max and Jack and Tess and Lottie and Marley and Spenser and Nora Ann and Baby Sylvia. And our grownup neighbors too—Miss Margaret and Mr. Eric and Mr. Michael.
      Sometimes I share this story with kids, and they ask me a funny question. They want to know, “Is it fiction or non-fiction?” I’m not quite sure how to answer. In truth, the events of the story aren’t exactly factual. Mose and Lewis never actually dug up the rocks in Margaret’s garden. But the essence of the book is true. The tone of it (I hope) captures what our family feels like, and the wonderfulness of our neighborhood. This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to writing a memoir.
      So there you have it—a “path to publication” story to make everyone gnash their teeth! I wrote about my own adorable quirky kids, inspired by a dream, and sent the manuscript, unrevised, to my editor, and now it’s a series, complete with my favorite illustrator! Totally unfair.
      If it’s any consolation, I wrote hundreds of rejected manuscripts before this one, and I’ve written a good twenty or thirty failed manuscripts since this one. But I guess every now and then, the universe grants a wish, a dream come true, and Charlie and Mouse has been mine.
      Which just goes to show. There really are no rules to publishing. Or rather, sometimes there are rules waiting to be broken…

Charlie & Mouse, Chronicle Books, on Goodreads, ISBN#1452131538


Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Pure magic! I can't wait to read.

Elizabeth O Dulemba said...

It is!! :)