then (about) a hundred...
Some were good, some were downright terrible. I was particularly passionate about one of my manuscripts, though. It was the true story of a woman who lived in a country where I'd been a volunteer and had traveled to multiple times.
It wasn't until late in 2012, around the same time that Red Fox Literary agreed to represent me, that we sold One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia to Lerner Publications (Millbrook Press).
The book—which was 12 years in the making from the seed of an idea to publication—tells the story of a real Gambian woman and five friends who creatively tackled their village's plastic trash problem.
It has received a starred review from School Library Journal, along with praises for Elizabeth Zunon's stunning mixed media art from The Horn Book, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher's Weekly, and the popular social justice blog The Pirate Tree among others. The Jan/Feb issue of the SCBWI bulletin also includes my essay outlining the decade-long quest to bring Isatou's story to a wider audience.
One Plastic Bag released this week, and I got to talk about it on the PopTop stage at ALA's Midwinter Institute in Chicago beside other members of We Need Diverse Books and the Diversity League. The overwhelming positive response to the book has really touched me. I'm honored that my book will bring more recognition to the women of Gambia, shine a spotlight on a pressing environmental issue, and offer inspiring messages of hope and creativity.
The takeaway message from my story, for aspiring writers, is to focus on the manuscripts and story ideas you are passionate about. Most of the "terrible" stories I wrote way-back-when were my attempts at writing something I thought someone else would want to buy. Write what you know, what you love, and what you can't stop thinking about. In other words, be yourself. Your wonderful self.
One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon is available at Lerner, Amazon, or through finding a local independent bookstore at IndieBound.
If you'd like to win a free copy, head over to the Lerner blog and leave a comment for your chance at the giveaway!