Thursday, January 30, 2014

Letting Your Babies Go (plus a giveaway!)

Though it’s been ten years, my daughter’s first day of kindergarten is etched in my mind. She’d been in day care since infancy; she was social, comfortable with other adults and children, a good student who genuinely loved school. Yet on that first day at a new school--at “real” school--my wife and I could tell right away something was wrong. Our daughter was unusually clingy, her eyes wide and fearful. She sat rigidly at her assigned table in her little pink dress. She looked fragile, as if she could snap at any moment. And, when the time came for us to leave, she did.

She bawled.

She wouldn’t let us go. Either that, or we couldn’t stand to go until we were sure she’d stop crying. But she didn’t. She cried and cried, squeezing against us, looking desperate and terrified. Minutes ticked by, and we finally realized the tears weren’t going to stop. We had three options: stay there all day, take her with us, or leave her. Which meant we really had only one option.

So we left.

Things got better in the next few days. Her lip quivered at drop-off time, her eyes got a bit teary, but she was determined not to cry. She told us proudly at the end of each day that she’d cried only “a little,” then (after a week) not at all. She grew to love her new school. She excelled. She’s in high school now, as tall as I am, and all traces of that overwhelmed little girl are gone.

But I’ll never forget that day.

I narrate this family story because it's been on my mind a lot lately, the week after I sent my first pass pages of my debut novel, Survival Colony Nine, back to my editor. I made some changes to the manuscript, of course--how could I not?--but in truth, I didn’t find all that much I wanted to change. Or, to put this differently, I realized that I had a choice, similar to that choice I’d had ten years ago: hang on to the pages forever, laboring over them until they were finally ready for public consumption, or let them go.

It wasn’t really a choice, any more than it was a choice in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom. I let them go.

I don’t know if any parent, or any writer, is ever really ready to send their babies out into the world. I think all of us fantasize about keeping them at home forever, where we can convince ourselves they’re safe, where we like to believe nothing--bad people, bad reviews--can hurt them.

But of course, we can’t do that. Children, whether biological or literary, are destined to find their own way in the world. If we’ve been good parents/authors, careful and caring, they’ll manage on their own. They might not be ready; we might not be ready. The road ahead of them might be a rocky one.

But it’s time to let them go nonetheless.

If you like YA Guy's posts here, why not check out his blog, YA Guy? Or follow him on Twitter @TheYaGuy!

Can’t let go of your query letter? Spending your precious time endlessly tweaking it? In the spirit of this post, I’m raffling off one query critique (and as the author of several successful queries and an English teacher to boot, I’m a pretty darned good critic). Simply enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. You just need to promise that, once I’ve read and reviewed your query, you’ll send it out into the world!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I'm querying YA :D

  2. Querying is so scary, thanks for the great giveaway!

  3. Aaaaaw Your story is sooo cute! I remember being dropped off at day care and bawling my eyes out for the first day. But then I never wanted to leave! so many toys! haha
    Thanks for the giveaway, I'm writing YA Fantasy :)

    1. You definitely have a writer's memory if you can remember your first day at daycare!

  4. HA! Kindergarten's nothing. Wait 'til you send them to college and the day at school lasts for months, not hours. :) Great story!