Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Year and a Day Dog

Welcome to Sally's book-a-day-for-2017 blog. If unfamiliar with the blog, scroll down.

The Year and a Day Dog  (Post 94)

As you probably perceive the picture accompanying this post is not a book cover. That's because The Year and a Day Dog never made it to publication. I can't even remember the year, but I think the first incarnation was written in the late 1970s or early 1980s. There was a later, longer version that was almost certainly 1980s.
 I've always had a thing for gardens. Winter Spring Garden (Post 75) and Boy Down Under (Post 60) and even The Peacock's Pearl (Post 41) are probably proof of that. The Year and a Day Dog was one of the most garden-full books I ever wrote. It began with Mrs Cherry, a widow whose great delight is her garden. Her daughter worries about her loneliness and tries to persuade her to get a dog. Mrs Cherry submits, just to get some peace, with the proviso that it must be a dog that won't damage her garden.
   She orders three packets of seeds from a catalogue, and is delighted to get a bonus packet with one single seed. The instructions tell her that the flower of this new variety lasts a year and a day.
    Mrs Cherry has a magical year with her perfect companion, whom she names Dogflower. Dogflower's coat changes with the seasons and when winter comes she turns white. She is less active and Mrs Cherry looks forward to the spring when they can get out in the garden again. This is not to be. A year and a day after their first meeting Dogflower drifts into her eternal sleep.
   Mrs Cherry is devastated, but in her sorrow she resolves something good will come. She chooses a little rescue dog to become her new companion.
   I gave the manuscript of The Year and a Day Dog to a local teacher who read it to her Grade 3 class. The children didn't know me, and the story had no pictures. It was just a typescript. The teacher told me later she'd never seen her class so enchanted by a story. The next art lesson was filled with pictures of Dogflower and her garden. 
    I offered the story to various publishers, none of whom wanted it. They liked it, but... The main objection was that the POV character was an older woman. There were no child characters.
  After a while, I rewrote the story into a junior novel with two children who shared the enchanted year with Mrs Cherry. They grew to appreciate the garden and the turn of the seasons. When Mrs Cherry was hurt and couldn't fetch Dogflower inside, they helped out. I offered this version of the story, but it still wasn't deemed viable. Perhaps it needed coloured pictures, but that suggested picture books, and it was possibly too sad for a picture book of that era. 
    I don't think I have a copy of either version of the story (I lost forty years' worth of manuscripts in the June 2016 floods) but I still remember it with affection.
   As with The Kamarand (Post 1), this is a book to me, as clear in my mind's eye as any publication.
About the Blog 
Sally is Sally Odgers; author, manuscript assessor, editor, anthologist and reader. She runs http://www.affordablemanuscriptassessments.com and Prints Charming Books. (Sally is me, by the way, and I am lots of other things too, but these are the relevant ones for now.)

The goal for 2017 is to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. If you're an author, an aspiring author, a reader or just someone who enjoys windows into worlds, you might find this fun. The books are not in any special order, but will be assigned approximate dates, and pictures, where they exist. If you enjoyed a post, or want to ask about any of my books or my manuscript assessment service, post a comment and I'll get back to you.

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