Files Full of Stuff

Since the switch to fabric art, I’ve found that this new craft requires a lot of space for the stuff! As the stuff started to pile up in my small clothes closet, leaving little room for what few clothes I own, I realized that my file cabinets were full of keepsakes that I no longer needed to keep.

So, last week I went through the 40+ years of files that, while I had culled out ancient royalty statements several years back, still had acres of paper that needed to be reviewed and probably tossed. And of course, it was fun to look back over the items I’d preserved for all those years.

This photo of my tattered little brochure I sent out in 1985 is a keeper, btw. I landed 17 interviews from that brave and presumptuous little advert.

There were folders full of articles and reviews. For example, my first published book, Pussycat Ate the Dumplings, had lots of reviews from small publications as well as the usual suspects. The reviews were all very kind, which was encouraging to a new illustrator. However, one stood out from the others and I almost kept it, but decided to just recall it instead. The reviewer felt that the book was delightful, however, the word that I (actually it was Mother Goose) had chosen to use for “cat” would be too much for her “street-wise kindergartners” and therefore she could only recommend the book for older children.

I did save this, the first illustration for my first book idea, called Samuel Grows His Own. In spite of that ridiculous title, I actually landed a contract for this book, but the publisher went out of business.

There were also scores of rejection letters. I hadn’t kept them all or else there would have been hundreds. The ones I kept were the nice rejections, which is not an oxymoron. Editors used to reluctantly reject projects that they loved, or saw promise in, but rejected for a variety of reasons, and we were told in these kind letters that still broke our hearts but gave us promise (if we were paying attention). These kinds of responses I was getting are pretty much a thing of the past. There is no longer time to give a struggling new writer or illustrator some glimmers of hope that they were close, but not quite. Now we either receive a form rejection, or no answer at all. The latter is more common. Back when I started, a children’s book creator did not need an agent to break in. That is no longer the case.

So, did I toss all of these precious gems? Yes I did. For one thing, just about every one of them came from editors and agents who have since retired, moved to another house, or moved to another career. I read through them, including two from one editor each of which had a hand-written note at the bottom that read, “It’s a girl!” and, “It’s a boy!” about her new babies, born about two years apart. She’s a friend on Facebook and that girl is in college now and the boy is in high school. Wo.

The other relics I found were proposals for book ideas and other projects, some that sold, most that did not. Dominals was one of my favorites back in 1990 so I saved it. I first pitched it to School Zone Publishing, because I was doing illustration work for them and the art director was always championing my illustrations to the Deciders. Later I learned that someone had created a Dominals set, but it wasn’t the same idea as mine, so I figured it still had a chance. But alas, nada. The same was true for a lot of the filed stories, some of which I’d forgotten I even wrote! I saved a couple for possible future resurrection, but the rest: Poof! Time to move on.

Happily, I managed to condense three giant file drawers into one, and made room for the fabric stuff. There’s even a bit of room left, so obviously, I need more fabric stuff!


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Robin Koontz says:

    You’re welcome, Beck. It becomes a necessity when you live in a small house and have lots of projects.

  2. Susan Jerde says:

    Yep it’s always time to thin out the pile, but hard to toss your artistic creations. Sometimes I donate original art to benefit auctions, and keep some of the tear sheets for my grandkids. I do remember mailing out our hopeful samples, and trudging the streets of Manhattan with a list of appointments. It’s all so different now. I am happy to be drawing for myself, and giving it away. Looking forward to seeing your fabric art!

    1. Robin Koontz says:

      I bon-fired almost all of the art, just saving a few special pieces (for de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection which I’ve yet to send at their request). It felt cathartic as I recalled comments about my art, such as the woman who didn’t want to pay “living room price” for art she felt was more for the bathroom or kitchen. Ah, memories. I’ll probably blog about that.

  3. Beck Hickox says:

    What a fun trip memory lane for me too. I had the experience of coming across a few stories that I’d apparently written but have no recollection of doing so. Weird feeling! Thanks for providing some philosophical encouragement to get rid of at least some of the file folders 🙂

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