Thursday, May 26, 2011

Moving Ahead: There is "Hope for Amizero"

By Georgeanne Irvine
One of my mottoes in life is to always have hope, even in situations where hope is just about the only thing you can have! For me, hope is inspiring and motivational as well as a way to keep myself positive and my spirits high. In a blog I wrote in early January, I mentioned that I hoped at least one of my writing-related projects would come to fruition this year. I’m happy to report that one project—my children’s book, Hope for Amizero—is a step or two closer to being published!

This is a true story about an orphaned chimpanzee at the Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Burundi, Central Africa. I researched the book in the early 1990s when two of my friends managed the sanctuary, although the story is just as pertinent, if not more so, today as it was then. The chimp infant was initially captured by poachers, who most likely killed her family, and then rescued by my friends when she was near death. She was in such bad condition she wasn’t expected to survive, but when she amazingly recovered, my friends named her Amizero, which means “hope” in the local language. Amizero grew into the most mischievous, fun-loving chimp at the sanctuary in spite of her difficult start in life. The book focuses on Amizero’s antics and provides a glimpse of her comfortable life at the sanctuary until a tribal war between the Hutus and the Tutsis changes everything.

So here’s where the project was in early January: The first draft of my manuscript had been read by an editor at a publishing house on the East Coast. He liked the story and said they definitely wanted to publish it as a children’s book. However, he hadn’t sent me suggested edits and a year and a half had passed. In addition, my plan was to partner with a well-known children’s book illustrator, who introduced me as well as my story concept to the publisher in the first place. Hope for Amizero was to primarily feature beautiful colorful drawings, with an Amizero photo gallery in the back of the book.

Here’s the update:
In late January, my illustrator friend met with the editor, who said he and his new senior editor boss were very excited about the story—BUT, they now wanted photographs to dominate the book (my initial book concept in the 1990s). My friend, who is already working with the publisher on other projects, is fine with that but I’m sure we’ll be able to include at least some of his exquisite art.

My assignment was to send an assortment of about a dozen images to the editor. Next, he asked me to send enough photos to illustrate every paragraph of the book! Having a plethora of photos wasn’t the issue for me: their format was the challenge. They were shot before the digital era, so I spent weeks sorting through transparencies and negatives, getting them scanned, color correcting the scans, organizing the digital images, and inserting them throughout the manuscript. In addition, I had a few “photo holes” in the story, especially when Amizero first arrived at the sanctuary, so I contacted a photographer friend who supplied many of those crucial images.

What’s the current status? The photo-illustrated manuscript is still making the rounds at the publishing house. The editor is sharing it with colleagues and will be back in touch with comments. Three weeks have passed—I’ll wait until early June before I check in with him again (if I haven’t heard back). I am hopeful that this will result in a book contract, but if it’s not quite right for this publisher, I hope—no, I know—it will be perfect for another!

San Diego native Georgeanne Irvine has devoted more than three decades of her career to raising awareness about animals and wildlife conservation. By day, she is associate director of development communications for the San Diego Zoo, where she has worked for 33 years. George is also the author of more than 20 children’s books plus numerous magazine, newspaper, and Web articles. George’s most recent work is the coffee table book, The Katrina Dolphins: One-Way Ticket to Paradise, which is a true story about 8 dolphins from an oceanarium who were washed out to sea during Hurricane Katrina and dramatically rescued.


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