Tag Archives: mims house

06 Mar

Heights and Depths: A Writing Life

In the space of a week, I’ve gone from the heights to the depths.

First, the good news.

Last week, I was thrilled to learn that my book, Wisdom, the Midway Albatross was given a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. This book has defied all the odds–just as Wisdom has done.

“. . .Pattison writes crisply and evocatively, and her closing notes provide a wealth of information and resources for readers interested in Wisdom and her fellow albatrosses.” Publisher’s Weekly 2/18/13

The story is about a 60+ year-old albatross who lives on Midway Island and survived the Japanese tsunami. For over 60 years, she has soared over the North Pacific, only coming to shore to breed. Scientists estimate that she has hatched over 35 chicks, including one each year for the last five years. Last year’s chick was named Wonder and this year’s chick–just a couple weeks old now–was named Mana’olana, Hawaiian for Hope. Yes, a 62-year-old bird just hatched a new chick!

After the 2011 Japanese tsunami, I heard her story of survival and within six weeks, I had contacted scientists, researched her life and times and written her story. I contacted about twenty publishers and none would publish it. I decided to work with my long-time friend, wildlife artist Kitty Harvill to publish it from my own imprint, Mims House. Now, I’ve been in this business long enough to know that it would be a long hard road. But it was an important story, one I couldn’t let go.

It won the Children’s Book category of the 20th annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published award, a $1000 cash prize. So, I submitted it to Publisher’s Weekly for review and it earned a Starred Review! Right now, it is an Amazon bestseller (for the spring season, the ebook version is only $0.99).

The starred review was especially nice, because it was a validation of all the work we had put into the book. Go look for yourself: self-published can be quality.

Next, the Bad News

Publishing has weird math. 9 months + 5 revisions = NO.
The rejection I got yesterday was shocking and painful.

For nine months, I have been working with someone on a project and it has developed in amazing ways. The critiques were spot-on and I revised like crazy. I deleted chapters, added chapters, rearranged chapters, deepened characters, searched for ways to add humor. Then, I did it again: I added a character, took out a subplot, deepened characters and searched yet again for ways to add humor. I expanded the climax scene, set it up better. I created a stronger emotional arc, added a stronger villain. I revised.

I love this story now.
It was rejected.

The world tilted for me yesterday.
Nine months. Three major (huge, gigantic, difficult, rewarding) revisions and a couple more minor ones.

Yet, the moon rose as usual, I slept.
The sun rose as usual, I got up and showered and ate breakfast.
I have already queried someone else and will send it to them today.
I am raw. I feel wounded. A trust betrayed. A grieving because they couldn’t see the story in front of them; they only saw what they would have written, if only they were writers.

Are they right? Are they wrong?
I don’t know.

I only know that this is a heartbreaking week, but last week was an uplifting week. This is just the heights and the depths of our profession; somehow, it feels normal. And regardless of the reaction of others to what I write, my job is to plod along putting one word after another.

So, today, I will write.

03 Mar

Alternate Publishing: Niches

This week, I’ve let writers tell their own stories of alternate publishing. Today, I tell my story. This is part 8 of 8.

Alternate Publishing Series TOC

How to Write Revise a Novel

In 1999, I started teaching the novel revision retreat, unknowingly kicking off a fad in writing retreats of addressing a whole novel, not just a chapter or a scene. I became known for the shrunken manuscript technique, which enables writers to “see” their entire novel at once. The success of the retreat was gratifying, with many writers seeing their debut novels come out and establish their careers.

novel revision by darcy pattison

Novel Revision Retreat in a Book: Uncommon Ways to Revise

There was always a workbook, but it was a work in progress for about eight years. Then, it was time to look for a publisher for it. But here’s the problem: most publishers of how-to-write books go for the beginning writer market. It makes sense. For every 1000 writers who set out to write an entire novel, about 100 make it. Of those, perhaps 10 will realize the need for revision and perhaps one would actually buy a book about revision. The market was small and publishers like Writer’s Digest couldn’t successfully publish it.

But given my built in audience and the buzz surrounding the retreats, I thought I could publish it and make money doing it. I established Mims House, a niche publisher, named after the Historic Quapaw District house where I have my office. From the Blue House, I published, NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS: Uncommon Ways to Revise. As expected, it hasn’t sold thousands, but it has sold hundreds–over a thousand copies–and continues to sell at a steady pace, intermingled with spikes when I teach a retreat and participants go home and tell friends about the book. (Word of Mouth is still the best way to sell books!)

Since that first success, I have been growing the number of titles, focusing on intermediate to advanced writers who are interested in the craft of writing or book marketing. So far, I’ve only published books that I’ve written, but I wouldn’t mind publishing others, if the right manuscript came along.

This teacher resource grew from years of teaching professional development and joins my title, Paper Lightning: Prewriting Activities to Spark Creativity and Help Students Write Better (Prufrock Press).

Publishing Children’s Picture Books

When I talked about my publishing, I was always careful to say that it worked well for nonfiction, but I wouldn’t try picture books or novels because the publicity is so hard. But last year, I entered “The Help” Children’s Story Contest with a story about a girl whose father is away soldiering and while he’s gone she refuses to let any pictures turn out: without Daddy it is NOT a family photo album. “11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph” was a story I loved, but hadn’t found a home.

I won the contest. (I’m 100% successful on winning writing contests, since this is the only one I’ve entered). What I won was illustrations. Well–instant book. See 11ways.darcypattison.com

It was a steep learning curve to move from nonfiction to an illustrated picture book, because the demands of the quality of illustrations, the difference in software for layout, etc. But, it was a free course, except for my time. Marketing was difficult, at best and while I love this book, it is not going to be a best seller. Better, I can tell you why it’s not a best seller. I’ve learned to think more like a book seller, a skill that is growing in importance for writers these days.

And, with that book behind me, I decided to tackle another illustrated picture book, this time about an amazingly old albatross. Wisdom, the Laysan albatross, of Midway Atoll is over 60 years old–she’s been banded since 1956, when she was presumed to be five years old–and still laying eggs and raising chicks.

What? Over 60? Still laying eggs?
But her story was more fascinating than that. She was on Midway last year, when the Japanese tsunami overran the island at midnight on March 11. She and her chick survived. When I started researching her life and times–it’s a fascinating story of survival.

My father was a Japanese prisoner of war for three years, his is a story of survival of natural and manmade disasters in the Pacific, too. He survived, came home and raised seven chicks. The emotional connection to Wisdom’s story was strong for me.

Wildlife artist, Kitty Harvill

But illustrations? For many years, I’ve wanted to do a book with wildlife artist, Kitty Harvill. Why? Because she’s a great artist and we share the same birthday. Yes. That matters. (Publishing has always been about people connecting with people.)

Kitty now lives half the year in Brazil with her new husband, who is a naturalist who owns Hotspot Safari & Tours travel agency for over 30 years in Brazil, and specializes in eco-tourism. She’s had amazing experiences photographing wildlife in rain forests and swamps; her artwork has taken a distinct “green” turn, a change that has been exciting for Kitty. She usually photographs a subject, then using that as reference, she does amazing watercolor or acrylic.

For the Laysan albatross project, she couldn’t go to Midway for the entire life cycle of the birds; and of course, she wasn’t there right after the tsunami hit. But the Fish and Wildlife Service puts many wildlife images into public domain. When I sent her links, Kitty fell in love with this amazing bird. We decided to become partners for this venture, splitting costs and profits. Kitty finished the artwork in an amazing six weeks; I did the layout and design in an exhausting three weeks.

Already, the excitement from biologists who work with seabirds has been amazing (Read more reviews). And taking a big hint from Peggy Sissel PHelan about book marketing, I’ve already done some bulk niche sales.
I am now a niche publisher in two areas: timely, yet timeless stories for kids and how-to-write and market fiction.

Will this book become a best seller?
I want it to be a best-seller. But more, I want it to reach kids.
You can read it today for free.

You can read the book free for on March 9 and 10

FREE Kindle download on March 9-10.
The story of the oldest known wild bird in the world–over 60 years old–and how she and her chick survived the Japanese Tsunami.

FREE Kindle Download.
For 48 hours before the March 11 Japanese tsunami, this will be a free Kindle download.

No color Kindle? No problem.
This book shows up well on any Kindle desktop program or app. Get the free programs here:


Download your Kindle program now and on March 9 or 10, download the book. Read with your kids to commemorate the tsunami and discuss natural disasters. Gentle introduction to the disaster.

Read the story of the oldest known wild bird in the world!
At over 60 years old, she is still laying eggs and hatching chicks. See her page, run by the staff at Midway Atoll, at www.facebook.com/wisdomthealbatross

ONLY AVAILABLE FREE FOR 48 HOURS – 12 am on March 9 to midnight on March 10.

Please Tell One Friend about this Book! Thanks!

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