Thursday, November 01, 2007

Busting the Box -- Robin

When it comes to writing, I’ve come to the realization that I’m one of those people who does not fit in. True, I am very tall and typically don’t “fit” into most things (I can’t actually shop at The Gap, I have to go to Gap online). But now it seems my books are shaping up to be!

My middle grade book, Dude, Where’s My Locker?, is about a boy getting through Day One of middle school. It includes drawings and graphs and letters and quizzes and just general weirdness. By the end of the day, he defeats the bully, gets the girl, and finds his locker. I’ve been getting amazing responses, including one publishing house that said they passed the book around the office because they thought it was so hilarious. Their problem was that they couldn’t figure out how to market it. I think this book is a case of needing to find a publishing house that loves a book that doesn’t quite fit the mold (which sounds like the plotline of virtually every Disney movie ever made -- a story about a kid who doesn’t quite fit in…or a lion, or a clownfish, or a cowboy doll, or a mermaid). And those movies seem to do just fine!

I took a break from writing Dude a few years ago, and decided to write something completely different. Something that might actually sell, I thought. What came out was a chapter book called The Nitwits about a couple of bumbling boys who solve local mysteries that always end up being spoofs. And how did that turn out!? Totally and completely outside of the box. Nitwits is part novel, part graphic novel, part screenplay, part, um…something. But it was fun to write and it involves lots of scenes where someone falls down. And I find falling down very funny. I love slapstick comedy. (Give me a Jim Carey/Three Stooges/Naked Gun movie marathon and I’m in heaven!) And again, I’m getting a great response to Nitwits, but no one’s willing to publish a little book that refuses to get in the box. (I like to think of this book as more of a happy chicken on a cage-free ranch.)

I’ve considered adjusting my writing style…believe me, have I ever considered it! But in the immortal words of Popeye (another great dude who never quite fit in), I yam what I yam!

- Robin


Rita said...

heh. Well I, for one, cannot wait to read these books. How come only these editors get to see??


Hélène Boudreau said...

This is so trite, but the right editor is out there SOMEWHERE!

I'm having the exact same problem placing my work. Lots of yes- maybe-um-no type of responses. Two of my books got through the editorial board just to be nixed by sales and marketing. Two others got through acquisitions, but got canned because of competing titles. (recently, still hurts, *ouch*)

It's a cruel, cruel world.

But, please don't stop now! I've been licking my wounds by just writing something else. And I'm sure that one day the world will realize that it needs more dudes and nitwits! They just don't know it yet...

Colorado Writer said...

Perhaps you need to eat some spinach and start a new book!

Go, Robin, Go!

Disco Mermaids said...

Honestly, I've never heard of anyone getting so many amazingly positive rejection letters. You're just a little too brilliant and funny for your own good, Robin.

- Jay

P.S. Admit it, these types of rejections are frustratingly cool, aren't they?

cynjay said...

You're just building your own box that other people will be clamoring to get into someday.

A shout-out to all the gals who have to buy Gap ultra-talls online! Whoot!

laura salas said...

These out of the box books are the ones that make a huge impression once they do find a home, though. Hang in there!

Jen said...

You're not just writing, you're building the box. That's gonna take a bit more time.

Keep writing until you fill that box. Then you'll have created a whole new genre!

Helene's right.

Disco Mermaids said...

Hey, Cyn..we should shop together online some time!
And yes, Jay, this is frustratingly cool. Kinda like dental surgery...painful but better for you in the end.

I only mention dental surgery because my son had to have his tooth extracted today. And as he was coming to from the anesthesia, he looked at me and said, "Mama, where's Harry Potter?"

I can only hope that someday some loopy child high on pain meds will ask for my main character.

Thanks for all the out-of-the-box support everyone!

;-) Robin

tammi said...

Out of the box is a GOOD thing.

There was that line in a high school movie a few years went something like this...
"Why are you trying so hard to fit in when it's clear you're meant to stand out?"

That's YOU. You will stand out b/c you are original and brilliant and different than anyone else.

Why be a regular potato chip when you could be the kind with cracked black pepper?

Lee Wind said...



Okay, humans have been telling stories for a long time, and there's some argument over whether or not there are any completely NEW stories to be told - but there are new WAYS of telling stories all the time - that's where all the talk about writers needing to find their VOICE comes in - how can you tell a story in a way that could ONLY be told by YOU.
It's the thing that makes a story really stand out, and how many editors have we all heard go on and on about what they're really looking for is a unique voice?

It sounds like you've found your VOICE - celebrate that, and know that you WILL find a publishing home for it...

Oh, and keep writing!

Debby G. said...

Oh, those dumb publishers! I want to read your middle school book. It sounds like so much fun. How could they not publish hilarious? I love hilarious. Please keep on plugging away.

Laura said...

I think they should consider marketing it to middle schoolers!

3 cheers for the online tall girls!!!! Gap and JJill!

Disco Mermaids said...

>>I think they should consider marketing it to middle schoolers!

OMG, Laura! That totally and completely cracked me up. Can't stop giggling...


Lisa S. said...

I love hilarious, Robin, and so do kids!!! I wish publishers loved hilarious. I don't get it.

I have a different little mid-grade making the rounds now, too. It's frustrating to hear no after no.

Keep on keeping on, girl. I do believe it's going to happen for you!

Wendie O said...

Robin -- it sounds like Jennifer Holm's book -- middle school is worse than meatloaf, published by New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2007.

Why don't you contact her to find out who her editor was for that book and submit your stuff there?


Idaho_Laurie said...

My son is looking for this book! I just showed him Jennifer Holms' MIDDLEGRADE IS WORSE THAN MEATLOAF (a nifty book) and he asked why no one did that kind of thing for guys?

LindaBudz said...

Maybe we should create a land of the misfit books, like on that Rudolf special.

I used to have a crush on Herbie.

Natalie said...

This is all just fodder for those inspiring speeches you'll be giving once you're published, when schools and author event organizers will be scrambling to book you. Go, Robin!

Anonymous said...

Humor is the most desired and yet the hardest to write and the hardest to sell. What is with that?


Leslie Muir said...

Stay out of the box! It gets boring in there, and stuffy.

Anonymous said...

have you considered submitting to a graphic novel publishing house like the place that published THE PLAIN JANES?

perhaps you are inventing a brand new genre and you don't even know it!

best of luck--


Anonymous said...

Robin, will you let J.B. read your ms's when we come for Thanksgiving? I think he would LOVE them. Lamy

Disco Mermaids said...

OF COURSE J.B. CAN READ THEM! I'd love for him to. And I can't wait to meet him.
See you soon! Woohoo!