The Magician's Box (1991) Post 266
|The Magician's Box by Sally Odgers|
Jessica loves animals, and gets involved with a molasses-loving calf. At the agricultural show, she wins a chemistry set at a sideshow which is being minded by Dominic Grant, a boy who also appears in two theatre books called Another Good Friend and All the Sea Between. Anna Dove also appears in those two books, playing a role in the school musical. The chemistry set is fun, and Jessica concocts some sludge that smells just like molasses. The calf, naturally, eats some, and shrinks to mouse-size. Jessica is horrified as her father won't have any non-productive animal.
The story was accepted, but the editor wanted me to make Mr Dove shorter tempered, and up the hints that Jessica has some future knowledge. Oh, and change the title. I rewrote the story as directed, at which point the editor left. The incoming editor asked me to rewrite to make Mr Dove nicer and to cut the hints that Jessica has some future knowledge. Oh, and could the calf change colour instead of shrinking? And do change the title. I rewrote, but explained tactfully that a calf that happened to be green would be perfectly productive, so the size change was allowed to remain. One of the editors, (I forget which) asked me to change Arabella's speech to make her more intelligible. Her speech was the same as my daughter's at the same age (I'd taken notes) but I made the changes.
At this stage, that editor left and a third one came in. This one wanted me to make Mr Dove more impatient, and to change Jessica's foreknowledge hints... and to change the title.
I set to work on a third rewrite for a third editor. I must remind you that this was pre-computer, so a rewrite meant a total retyping from the ground up. I did ask the editor if s/he was likely to leave in the near future. I did it politely. This editor stayed, and the book was published in 1991. There is a Bandinangi Books tie-in as the magician's box (that was what I had to change the chemistry set into) belonged initially to someone from that town.
These weren't the end of the peculiarities in this book. I got in touch with someone from the sideshow guild to ask where the prizes came from so as to work out the provenance of the box. This person wrote back (a physical letter) and passed me on to someone else with a telephone number. I called this person and asked my questions and got my head bitten off. Evidently it was a trade secret. I'm not sure who hung up on whom.
Altogether, it was a most peculiar experience. So--voila! The Magician's Box. It got good reviews and came out later in a paperback edition. There are still some copies floating about.
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