Note from Aimee: So much about hosting this series has been humbling. I use that word in almost every email I send to an author of one of these posts. Every single story submitted to me has moved me, spoken to me, humbled me. Many of them because I related. Glenda’s story humbled me because I did not. If I could ask one thing it would be for every American reading this post to share it, to think on it, to appreciate what is being said. Because there is so much conversation to be had packed into so few words…
A Tale of Two Manuscripts
By: Glenda Warburton
I have to confess that I have not pitched for many months because I didn’t believe that I could become inured to the effects of another rejection letter.
My son is an actor and his practical advice whenever I bemoan my agent and publisher-less state is: Grow a skin, Mum! Well, the skin is a little raw and sensitive and I am not sure how to toughen it.
My first manuscript I eventually self-published on Kindle, and printed 400 copies, of which over the years I have managed to sell about 350. All those who have read the book say they have enjoyed it, and a number have asked when they can expect a sequel. It is a Middle Grade book, which may be my first mistake, set in the Kruger National Park. It is part fact, part fantasy.
Kindle is not an option for those of us living in this part of the world, Southern Africa, because they do not recognise our banking system, so we cannot get paid. Agents and publishers are the only way to go. Locally, publishers are directly approached, and seem more focused on biographies of politicians and sportsmen, although this is changing now that the COVID years are waning.
My best rejection letter was also my worst. The agent, fascinated by the title: Tell it to the Wind – the Story of an African Lion, said she read the whole manuscript, enjoyed it, but did not love it enough to publish it. I have no doubt she thought she was letting me down easily, but anger and the inability to put word to keyboard for close to a year followed. How dare she admit to enjoying my labours, and yet not want to take it further?
My second manuscript is historical fiction, set in World War I. I have a collection of letters from my grandfather, the holder of an OBE, from the trenches where he not only fought, but was responsible for a small group of 57 Swazis whose task it was to assist in the offloading of ordnance. There is not much available in the archives, but the thought of these rural African men, most of whom had never worn shoes, giving of their best in a war so removed from them and the realities of their lives fired my imagination. Again, well received by a number of people who have read it for me, but little response from international agents, favourable comments from local publishers while politely declining publication. I had thought with the centenary of that war this would be a tale with a difference, but, alas, no.
One comment I had was the difficulty with pronouncing the names. Really? I struggle with many European names, but that doesn’t stop me reading the book! I did include a glossary of pronunciations and meanings. I have another manuscript, and two works in progress and often wonder what the point of it all is. I live on the hope of ‘one day’ and pray it will not be a case of ‘one day never comes.’
Bio: Glenda Warburton was born and raised in a small, African country, formerly a British Protectorate called Swaziland, now Eswatini, sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique. She began her professional life as a journalist in 1973 and worked in various aspects of media until 1987. In 2012, she returned to writing full-time, heeding the voices in her head that needed to get onto paper. Or a laptop! She first pitched the manuscripts described in this post: TELL IT TO THE WIND, in 2013; and SIPHO’S WAR, in 2017. You can read more about her and her writing at her website: https://glendawarburton.com/