Patrick? I Hardly Knew Ye…
So, kind of a strange day for me. I was busy updating some stuff on this dusty ol’ website. This included updating links to where people can buy some of my books and changing them from Amazon to the two different Capstone sites where my books are published.
As I got to the bottom of the list, I discovered something that made me get a lil’ bit melancholy:
PATRICK’S SUPER SOCKS is no longer listed.
Immediately I thought: Oh, wait. There’s gotta be some mistake! Maybe I spelled PATRICK wrong. Maybe it’s under something else. Surely it isn’t what I think it is…is it?
I tried just SUPER SOCKS. I tried PATRICK. I even typed my name in and scrolled through the list of stuff I’ve been lucky enough to write over the last 6 years.
Nope. PSS was no where to be found. I’m guessing it’s been retired to that big ol’ Out Of Print Shelf in the sky, sitting next to other titles that had a good run but needed to make room for some other books.
I get it. I really do, but considering Patrick’s Super Socks was my first published book and is what I use as the “how I got started” portion during my author visits to schools, it’s got me feeling a little nostalgic.
Here’s what’s funny about PSS. It was originally a short story I entered into a contest for a book store called BookSmart. I don’t even know if the place is around anymore of it they became Half Price Books or WHAT happened. All I know is they had a contest for writers to enter in a 300 word short piece about going to bed. They wanted the stories to be something they could pile together into a volume of it’s-bedtime-so-get-yer-butt-to-bed stories for kids.
300 words? No problem, I thought.
Writers can enter up to 3 different pieces? Perfect!
So I did just that. I wrote 3 little stories that I thought were kind of fun.
– One was called JASPER’S JOB and it was about a dog who sleeps all day and is up all night protecting his family. Kind of a cute little story that shows how valuable a “lazy” dog can be to a family, yadda yadda.
– Another was called MOLLY’S NIGHT LIGHT. This one was about a little girl who doesn’t want to give up her favorite night light, but when she hears her baby sister crying all night, pulls it out of the socket and plugs it in near her lil’ sister’s crib. The crying stops and Molly (and heck, all of us) grow up just a little bit.
– The last one was (you guessed it) PATRICK’S SUPER SOCKS, which was about a little boy with red hair who didn’t like sleep without the socks his grandma made for him. He dubbed them his SUPER SOCKS.
I entered all three into the contest after polishing the heck out of them and getting them in right on or just under the word count. I thought they sparkled and were going to make it into this book. I sincerely thought it might be my first real chance to be a published author-type guy.
3 chances to get in? It wasn’t going to be: Which one will they choose? It’ll be: Thomas, can we have all 3?
Sure thing, you greedy so-and-sos. Help yourself.
Turns out, NONE of them were picked.
I was no stranger to rejection, so it wasn’t completely soul-crushing. I put those stories in a folder somewhere and kind of forgot about them. But dang…
Then, a year or two later, the opportunity came for me to submit some samples of my work to a little imprint called Picture Window Books. I decided to give them little tastes of some of my best (and as-of-then-and-still) unpublished work. They got a little bit of TRAVIS & THE MAGIC SANDBOX, a little bit of THE SHORT BUS JOURNAL and some other stuff I don’t quite remember. I had it all packaged up nice and at the last minute, I thought: You know what? I’m going to send PATRICK’S SUPER SOCKS too.
I sent it all off. I waited. In time I got a letter (or was it an e-mail? I think it was a letter) from editor/writer supreme, Jill Kalz. She thanked me for submitting my stuff. Before finishing it, I immediately figured it was a thanks-but-no-thanks letter.
Remember, I was no stranger to getting a big ol’ REJECTION.
Turns out I was wrong. Jill let me know that they were interested in PATRICK’S SUPER SOCKS and that if I worked on it a bit, they’d like to publish it.
Friends, I was through the roof with excitement.
I worked on the book and with Jill’s help, got it to where it needed to be.
I think it never really hit me that it was actually happening. As a first time author, I felt like it was taking forever and I was waiting for Jill (or anyone at Picture Window Books) to say: “Ha ha. Just kidding, Thomas. Your story is garbage. We’re not making it into a book.”
That didn’t happen. Sure it got delayed a little bit which made the usual year-or-so turnaround even more excruciating. But…reality set in when Jill sent me an e-mail with a PDF attached. (I still have it) She let me know that while the book was taking forever, it was in sketches. She also mentioned that they changed my main character’s species. Patrick was no longer a little boy with red hair. He was now an alligator. Did I have a problem with that?
I was beyond excited as I opened the PDF and saw the initial sketches that would bring my goofy little story to life.
It was seriously almost as cool as watching the birth of my sons. But you, know, with a lot less screaming.
(okay, so I screamed a little bit)
And from that point, I knew that I had finally (FINALLY) gotten something published. Was it my action-adventure middle grade novel that clocked in at over 300 pages and already had a sequel written? Nope. Was it the book about the “normal” kid who had to endure bullies for riding the Short Bus with the handicapped kids? Nope. It was a little story I wrote on a whim to try and get published in some stinky little collection.
(I’m sure the book didn’t stink. My attitude did when I wasn’t accepted. Rejection is HARD, kids.)
I felt like I’d made it. And when PATRICK’S SUPER SOCKS came out and I was able to hold it in my hand, I did the thing I always do: I felt the weight of it my hands.
(I know, I know. Weird.)
I checked out the spine. TROUPE. I opened it up. The illustrations were colorful and cute. They spelled my whole name out on the cover. It showed the illustrator’s name. I was certain she and I would be best friends. My book had a bar code on it.
A bar code. I had made it!
I told everyone in the world about it. I was finally a published author! Sure you couldn’t find it in stores, but if you went to the counter of Borders (RIP, old friend) you could ask them to order it for you. They would totally do it, too. Or, you know…you could save yourself the trip and order it yourself.
I started planning sequels where Patrick the alligator got himself into other little predicaments. I made big plans.
I had friends from across the country telling me that they saw my book in their libraries. A firefighter I worked with told me he hated Patrick and his stupid socks because his kids made him read it to them EVERY night. Another let me know that the book was read so much they had to duct tape the cover back on.
It was a cool time.
But one of the best parts? After I showed Picture Windows Books that I was pretty dang easy to work with, they asked me if I wanted to write another book for them. A non-fiction book about MOUNT RUSHMORE. Sure! I’d never been there (at the time) but why not? And thus began my beautiful, continued relationship with Picture Windows (writing non-fictions) and later Stone Arch Books (writing fiction).
So yeah…finding out today that my “first born” was no longer in print was sort of a strange and unavoidable milestone. Heck, I didn’t expect Warner Bros. to swoop in, buy the rights and make it into a 6 minute movie or anything, but it’s still a little sad.
2008 doesn’t seem like THAT long ago. You know?
Anyway, thanks for indulging me. And thanks Patrick, for opening doors for me and for giving me what is easily the best part-time/night job a fella could ever ask for.
I hope wherever you are, your little book toes are safe from the creepies.