>Fifth Grade Year

>This is my fifth grade year.

If I’ve counted back on my fingers correctly, the year I actually spent in fifth grade spanned the fall of 1964 and the spring of 1965. Wow! That was a long time ago!

I sat in the far corner of the classroom, where the desks of several girls surrounded that of a popular boy named Jerry. Our teacher, Mr. Klyn, liked to make little jokes about “Jerry’s corner.” I remember that “corner” as a lively, but well-behaved group. Since the seating arrangement remained that way long enough to impress itself upon my mind as the standard for my fifth grade year, I’m guessing our teacher viewed it the same way.

I’ve been revisiting fifth grade since the first of this year when I began concentrating on my novel about a fifth grader named Matthew. The one novel I began nearly two years ago, by writing over 50,000 words in the one month craziness of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), has morphed into my current series of four juvenile fiction novels.

In January, I decided this year I would try to get my Matthew novel to the point of seeking publication. I began expanding the manuscript and fleshing out the plot.

At the end of January, I registered for a mentoring retreat and signed up for time with the acquisitions director for the children and family section of a well-known Christian publishing house.

In February and March, I worked hard on the manuscript. Several plot elements remained elusive until the end of March, when I nailed down the time for the setting. The plot problems fell into place.

Early in April, I sent a query letter, book proposal, synopsis, and the first two chapters of the manuscript to the acquisitions director. We met the third week of April. During our first day of meetings, she asked me to come up with a plan for a series. On our second day of meetings, I presented my plan (which she liked) and she expressed her desire to work with me.

I returned home on April 18. I wrote a platform description for her, divided the manuscript into four parts, and began expanding and energizing the first novel.

On May 12, I sent the acquisitions director a revised proposal (reflecting the four book series plan) and the completed manuscript for “Matthew One”: Matthew Muddles Through.

Near the end of May, I read the first three chapters from the first book in the series to the fifth graders at Pella Christian Grade School. They listened intently during the reading and afterward asked great questions like: “How much does the book cost?” and “Can you tell us what’s wrong with the mother?”

In June, the acquisitions director informed me that she had read part of the revised manuscript and liked the changes. Her intern had read the entire manuscript and put it on the director’s “to read” stack. But the director was busy with other projects this summer and it would be some time before she could get back to me. I continued working on “Matthew Two”: Matthew Makes Strides.

During the first part of July, I was asked to write the fifth grade volume of a catechism curriculum project for grades 5-12. The request seemed providential.

I believe God intends this to be my “Fifth Grade Year.”


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