January 16th, 2019
Blog post by Lemley Mullett, Program Assistant
Marc Harshman, the poet laureate of West Virginia since 2012 and an author from Marshall County, donated his life’s work collection to the WVRHC’s Distinguished West Virginians project. His collection reflects his dedication to both his craft and to Appalachia: not only do we have many of his rustic poem collections such as Believe What You Can, and Green-Silver and Silent, but many letters to and from publishers about his children’s books also are part of the collection–plus many manuscript drafts enclosed therein.
Publishing writing has always meant facing a lot of rejections. Marc Harshman is no exception, as evidenced by the dozens of rejection letters kept in his correspondence folders. His children’s book All The Way To Morning, published in 1999, went through many rejections and revisions from different publishing houses for nearly ten years beforehand, and its journey can be tracked through the archived correspondence. Under All The Way To Morning’s original title, Falling Asleep, the piece was rejected in 1990 by Clarion Books and in 1991 by Hyperion with little fanfare. However, the publisher Simon & Schuster saw promise in the tale, even if they could not immediately accept it, and worked with Harshman over the course of two years to fine-tune it. Here is one example from 1993:
But ultimately it was rejected from that company as well due to employee changes (and a very regretful letter from the editor who had been so enthusiastic in the first place).
Harshman continued to send the edited story around, only to face more rejections. Hyperion Books again rejected it in 1997, this time with slightly more detail but no less pickiness:
So many years of rejections could get disheartening for anyone! But on his website, Marc writes about All The Way To Morning‘s journey briefly, which finally brings us to its successful end:
Like ONLY ONE I believe this book, too, came as a gift, although I actually do not recall its inception. Unlike the earlier book, however, this one was not immediately accepted by my editor. But I always liked the idea, worked it through some significant revisions, and just kept sending it around. Then Judith Whipple at Cavendish read it and loved it at first sight.
So had I.
Harshman clearly had a vision for this work, and saw it through to the end.
The Marc Harshman papers, once processed, will be available as part of the Distinguished West Virginians collection.