Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 9, 2015

Stone Mirrors: Good News!

Selling a book means joy, of course. But there’s a lot of tenderness, and a bit of tiredness mixed into the triumph. It was a long way to this moment. Years of writing and rewriting, bolstered by belief from my husband, my writing group, and friends as I sent around a book in verse set in the past. I heard praise from editors, which was followed by their sense that this wasn’t a book that would sell like cupcakes. The editor who I loved working with at Holt for Borrowed Names turned it down, but just over three years later, she remembered the manuscript and asked to try again at Atheneum, where she works now. Oh so happily, this acquisition team saw what she saw, and made an offer for Stone Mirrors: A Life in Verse of Sculptor Edmonia Lewis.

Sometimes a door closes, and opens again. We’re often reminded of the need for persistence, and we should be. We can never know when or if publication will come. I try to keep my eyes on the work at hand, while devoting a morning or two a month to sending or checking on submissions. I’ve given up on some manuscripts, half-given up on others that wait their turn in drawers, but some I keep sending out, looking for the right person at the right time and place. Meanwhile, I keep writing. When Reka made an offer, I had a new manuscript to send her. And I’m a smidge past midway through another (well, who knows how far in I am, but this is what I tell myself.)

I’m filled-to-the-brim-happy and grateful for what’s beyond-a-second chance. Do I feel more hope? Yes, but it’s not like the sky turning from banana-yellow to blue. I’ve had my gray days, but hope was there all along. I wouldn’t want to argue with Emily Dickinson, who called hope “a thing with feathers,” but my own feels sturdier, while keeping movement: more like my hands on the keyboard, trying to get the next word right. The hope is in writing what matters to me, and what I aim to make matter to others, deepening my love for people in the past, trying to get close enough to feel I can carry their voices into the present. And I found good company with the subject of my work. Edmonia Lewis never had it easy, but found her way toward beauty and art.


When I started writing for children about thirty years ago, I heard a woman speak of sending a manuscript to an editor who read it on the subway and made an offer the next day. I loved that story, though nothing like it ever happened to me. I became friends with that writer, who wrote and sold some beautiful novels, but felt so crushed by the business of publishing that she stopped writing for years, only to begin again slowly and privately. I understand. But I kind of hate that story. We have to be vulnerable enough to express our deepest truths and still bear rejections, waiting, and editorial shenanigans. We can’t know if our work will be read overnight and bought – well, we can know, those days are pretty much over – or if an editor might keep it in mind for years. All we can control is what happens at our desk. We can take walks with our friends, offering all kinds of stories of wild cheer, losing faith, and slow roads, cutting through brambles, back to light.

I mean to celebrate this sale and seeing a book make its way into print in the fall of 2016. I feel stronger from having a trusted editor at my back. It’s a great view from the mountaintop, but you can’t stay on a peak for long. In one way or another I’ll be back in a forest, digging around for a compass and flashlight, biting my fingernails, and grateful for everyone who keeps me company, helping to haul me over ditches, while I grab someone else’s jacket to drag them past some muddy spots.



  1. HOORAY HOORAY HOORAY! I love hearing this wonderful well-deserved news! Here’s to open doors!

    • I look forward to celebrating all good news in person!

  2. Woohoo and congratulations!!

  3. Congratulatoins, Jeannine! I’m so happy for you! And for the book, and me and everybody else for getting to read it in 2016!

  4. “All we can control is what happens at our desk. We can take walks with our friends, offering all kinds of stories of wild cheer, losing faith, and slow roads, cutting through brambles, back to light.”

    Jeannine – So many congratulations! I cannot wait to hold this book and wish you joy in the light until it’s back to a different kind of joy in the forest. x, a.

    • Thanks! I look forward to seeing this book in your hands, with or without fingerless gloves!

  5. What marvelous news! Simply delighted for you, Jeannine! Many congratulations!

    “The hope is in writing what matters to me, and what I aim to make matter to others, deepening my love for people in the past, trying to get close enough to feel I can carry their voices into the present.” I love the things that matter to you. Thank you for sharing them with us! xo

  6. Jeannine, I’m celebrating with you! This is wonderful news and I love the way it happened. Coming in on little cat’s feet. It’s a tribute to your persistence and not being lured away by the next Twirly.

    I once had an editor open her drawer and pull out a contract when I *told* her about a book I wanted to write. That was a very long time ago when editors had that kind of power. But it didn’t end well. She didn’t like the book and publisher wanted their money back. (Which we had to fight for).

    So while I moan about the “old days” and how I miss them, there’s much to be said about the present. I hope your husband fills your writing room with tulips.

    • Thanks for the congratulations and the story. Yes, those dream stories had their false floors and traps; thanks for reminding. I’m lucky to get tulips on the drearier days — and today, too! Thanks for the kind wish.

  7. REALLY happy to hear this!! It does pay to keep the faith. It’s so wonderful when someone like your person really gets what you’ve written. Your dedication to keep writing even if some manuscripts are not submitted inspires me. Having just gone through my first round of edits (and it was far more brutal than I could have imagined, mostly because of my emotions getting in the way of my reason), I get it how working with publishers can make a fine writer jaded. Your perseverance tells me to persevere too!

    • Yes, so great when someone gets what you’re trying to do. We do have to envision Marmee by our side sometimes! It can take a while to find that person or those people who have faith like that. I am glad you feel encouraged to persevere — that’s a happy ending all its own..

  8. This is a happy story, Jeannine! I’m thrilled for you! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Thank you for the row of smiley faces, Carol!

  9. Oh, boy, always giving the whole picture, even in the midst of glorious joy. And always ready to reach back for those struggling in a bog.

    • I seem to have one foot in the bog most of the time, but am always ready to kick off the boots and do a little dance, too. Thanks for being there through all of it, Sarah.

  10. SO thrilled with this good news, Jeannine! I’m glad this publishing story had a happy ending after all. It does restore your faith in good editors. Congratulations!!!

    • Thank you for your enthusiasm, Jama. We do need to keep up our faith, which can get shaky. So much thanks to you for the steady nurturance.

  11. Big congrats, Jeannine! It’s good to know that perseverance and belief in yourself and your manuscript can result in happy endings. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story. It’s totally made my day!

    • Glad the story made your day. We WILL keep going!

  12. Oh Jeannine, I am so happy for you and so happy for us readers with this news! Congratulations!
    And there is something deeply satisfying to hear that meaningful projects find their way into editors’ hearts and eventually do find a home. I’ve never heard of Edmonia Lewis, and with your gentle guidance I’m looking forward to discovering her art and journey through life. Hooray! ❤

    • Thank you, Lorraine for the kind words here and years’ of them before and beyond, the sharing of virtual tea across the country.

  13. I love this line, “my own feels sturdier, while keeping movement: more like my hands on the keyboard, trying to get the next word right. ” Your hope has kept your beautiful hand moving. I can’t wait to hear more about this journey and then, at last, to read your book. Thanks for spreading hope!

    • Thank you, Margaret. I guess my style of hope could also be called stubbornness: we don’t mind. And I’m glad to spread it around.

  14. It’s beautiful news, Jeannine, & I look forward with excitement to read your book. I loved Borrowed Names, & of course, your Views From A Window Seat. Others also loved these lines, & they give me a boost, too: “We can take walks with our friends, offering all kinds of stories of wild cheer, losing faith, and slow roads, cutting through brambles, back to light.” Celebrating for you!

    • Thank you, Linda, for your constant kindness and encouragement.

  15. Congratulations! I look forward to reading it–it’ll be 2016 before we know.

    • Those who aren’t see the pub date as far away — those who write, like you, know that will be here soon enough. Thanks, Diane!

  16. So very, very happy to hear this, Jeannine! There are so many curves in a writer’s life, and so many circles. it’s wonderful to see this one come back to a place that feels so right and just.

    • I love how you see this as a circling around to get to the right place. Thank you for the good company through the bends and curves.

  17. Jeannine, this makes me so very happy! We’ve never met but you’ve always been kind and inspirational, and it thrills me to tears that you have a happy ending for your beloved project.


    • Thank you, Tracy. I understand it’s been a rough time for you, and I hope you land on happier shores, too. Swinging out ropes of hope!

  18. Congratulations!

  19. Congratulations on your exciting news! Thank you also, for your words of wisdom about keeping our eyes “on the work at hand.” Looking forward to Stone Mirrors!

    • Thank you, Catherine. I was very lucky to have a mentor in my twenties who repeated that advice, to keep my eyes on the writing, not “prizes” or their absence.

  20. Jeannine, I cannot wait to meet Edmonia! Every character so far that has captured your attention has been a favorite of mine as well. CANNOT WAIT. So very happy for you and inspired & touched by this story. An editor who remembered and tried again! Love it. Love you. xo

    • Irene, it will be wonderful for you to “meet” Edmonia, who has been a quiet and important part of my life … for years. Thanks for your enthusiasm. And yes, so precious to have an editor who kept the story in her heart. Sending love back!

  21. I’m a huge fan of Canova, so I’m particularly excited to read your work on Edmonia! Congratulations on the book and the reminder that with persistence, open doors will eventually appear!

    • Now that is not something I hear every day: “I am a huge fan of Canova.” It made me smile. Edmonia adored his work, and got to work in the studio where he, and later, Gibson worked. Those Rome studios have some lineage! Here’s to open doors in 2015!

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