Sunday, January 24, 2016

On 20 Years as a Children's Author

I just realized the other day that my first book, PUTTING THE WORLD TO SLEEP, came out in November of 1995. Wow. 20 years ago.

Feeling a little old here.

But with age comes wisdom, right? So I decided to reflect on what I have learned about being a writer and being an author (because they are not always one in the same).

1. Writing life ebbs and flows. There are times when I am on fire with new ideas--I can't write them down fast enough. And then there are times when I slog through a piece of writing, questioning where it is going, wondering if it is even worth it because it is so sloggy.

And then there are times when it is hard to even write at all. :(. I hate when that happens, but the truth is that is does indeed happen. I have learned to trust the process. I have made my peace with the cyclic nature of my muse. Hopefully, when she decides to appear, she will find me sitting at the desk, ready.

2. Author life ebbs and flows, but not in the same way.
This is even harder to accept. But just like your mom always said, you can't be the best at everything all the time. (Okay, maybe your mom didn't say that to you, but it is a pretty good lesson.) There are times as an author when I am a hot commodity. There are times when I cannot visit all of the schools that ask because I am too busy visiting other places. There are times when my twitter pings with congratulations, private messages, and all sorts of authorly banter. There are times when I am in talks with my agent and various editors constantly about author stuff. There are days when the mail brings something wonderful and cool almost every day.

And then there are times when it is quiet. So very quiet. So quiet it is hard not to feel like chopped liver. However, it is difficult for me to create when there is too much bustling about, thus the quiet times, when not a lot is going on for me as an author, are the very best times for me as a writer. Those are the times when I feel like I have nothing to lose--because there is nothing really "happening". And when I can let myself write with that sort of freedom, I am always more pleased with what I produce.

3. There are books that I tried to get published but did not--and I am glad they did not get published.
I don't quite know what else to say about this except that some books stand the test of time, and some do not. There are a couple of manuscripts I have written that, well, upon reading later about the best thing I can say is "meh". I don't want to publish books that make me go "meh." This forces me to make my peace with the fact that not everything I write, not everything I spend a lot of time on, is "good." (However, each piece makes me grow somehow, so there is that.)

4. There are books that I have written that I adore and did not get published.
Who knows? Maybe they will someday. I still love them every time I read them and can't seem to let them go.  Ahead of their time, maybe.  But again, the reality hits that not everybody sees things the same way I do, which brings me to----

5. Not everyone sees things the same way I do.
There are books out there that everyone loves and I just kind of like. And there are books out there that everyone loves and I really do not care for at all. And there are books out there that no one else seems to notice that have changed my life tremendously.

6. Writing does not seem to get easier.
Each book makes me feel like I am starting over again--because I am. Perhaps that is what I love about writing so much--the fresh start with each blank page. The hope that come from the seed of a story as it plants itself in your heart and you don't even know quite what it is yet, but you can feel it start to unfold and take root in your soul. However, just like in real life, a person doesn't really get to go back to high school with the knowledge of a 40 year old and the body of a 17 year old. Every time I face the blank page, it is new. And new is not the same thing as easy.

I'll probably reflect more on this's quite something to have survived this industry for 20 years and still be standing.