Junk in the trunk – Cindy Callaghan

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By Cindy Callaghan

Ever heard of a trunk novel? You probably thought that being locked in a trunk for years would be a terrible thing. (Sounds like a great beginning for a Stephen King novel, huh?)♥

The term “trunk novel” isn’t in the Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. Regardless, it’s a term used to describe a novel that seemingly won’t ever escape the inside of a trunk, because it stands little chance of being published. This is often because it’s a piece of work written solely for the writer’s own gratification.

My trunk novels are different – they are treasures dying to be published.

With drafts dating back as far as 2008, Sydney Mackenzie Knocks ‘Em Dead was one of these gems. As her story goes, circa 2010, Sydney was submitted to publishers as my “sophomore novel.” Alas, it didn’t sell. I was surely affected by a common writer’s curse when her first masterpiece cannot be matched by her second work. (Can you see how I called Just Add Magic a masterpiece?) Anyway, back to the story: Sydney was “trunked.” Over the next few years, Sydney would be joined by other manuscripts near and dear to my heart. Sometimes I’d dust her off and polish scenes, characters, edit down, or fatten up.

Once I escaped the Sophomore Curse with Lost in London, I began sharing a newly edited Sydney with my new literary agent, requesting that it be considered again for submission to publishers. However, with a backstory of not being sold, the manuscript was disregarded and once again tossed “trunked.”

On school visits I often get the question, “What’s you favorite book that you’ve written?” I reply, that like a parent, we can’t choose a favorite child, but there’s one that no one knows about. And I tell them about Sydney, and that she is so special to me because it’s a story that deserves to be heard.

I am nothing short of persistent, so I resubmitted Sydney to my agent several more times, and many moons later she read it. Guess what? She loved it and submitted it to publishers. That’s when my trunk baby was finally snatched up for publication.

Any time an author hears that her work will be published, it’s exciting, but when I learned that Sydney Mackenzie Knocks ‘Em Dead would at long last be published, I was back-flipping.

Of course, I love all my book babes, and I would never want any one of them to suffer through years percolating in a trunk, but I believe the book benefited greatly from extensive polishing, editing and re-editing. It is these years of improvement that made Sydney what I think it is – my best book yet!

So, my advice to all writers is NEVER to toss anything in the circular file (aka trash). Instead, fill your trunk proudly! You never know, you just may love the junk in your trunk too!

Cindy Callaghan is the author of the middle grade novels Just Add Magic, Lost in London, Lucky Me, Lost in Paris, Lost in Rome and Lost in Ireland, all with Simon & Schuster. Just Add Magic is now a hit Amazon Original series in its second season. She lives in Wilmington, Delaware with her husband and three children. Her newest novel Sydney Mackenzie Knocks ‘Em Dead hit shelves on March 7, 2017.



  1. Ann Hemingway

    March 12, 2017 at 12:59 am

    Love love love! I shared with E and she was shocked that you have a trunk 🙂 and that sometimes things take time and that editing is t a bad thing! So excited for you and Sydney!
    -Ann & Ellie

  2. Pingback: Got Junk in Your Trunk? - Cindy Callaghan

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