Thursday, July 31, 2008

Forever Indebted

Dear Richard Scarry,

I owe you a very special THANK YOU! After being inspired by the one sneaker wearing worm last week, I have completed one short children's bedtime story and have another in the works. Even though I have only written two, Lowly has inspired so many ideas that my computer (err... notebook and pretty red pen) will hardly have time to rest in the coming weeks and months. Because of this wonderful little book, Mr. Scarry, I am forever indebted.



My first children's book is COMPLETE! I shared it with a parent today and she loved it! It's short and sweet... and will hopefully be a best selling little board book when it's published! (I'm naming it and claiming it!) A second story is written, but it just isn't flowing well for me. A little re-working of the sentence structure and a little rearranging here and there, and voila! It's amazing how exhausting writing something so short can be!

I believe it's because I pour all of my creative energy into everything I write, regardless of length. But isn't that what makes writing such a beautiful experience to start with? I have to say that I have gained a new respect for those of you who can write anything longer than ten pages! ;)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Name It and Claim It!

I love the way Prill Boyle describes doubt in her blog post Dealing With Doubt. Prill Boyle writes,

I'm struggling with doubt. The trick, I suspect, is to turn away before it grabs you by the throat. My personal demon sits on my shoulder wearing a gray business suit and a fedora and whispers in my ear that I'd better keep my day job. 'You're not a writer,' it taunts me. When I shared this with my mom, she remarked, 'That little devil sounds just like your dad!' I still struggle with doubt. (Who doesn't?) But these days I no longer ignore my fedora-wearing demon; I talk back to it!

The Bible says, "Life and death are in the power of the tongue."

Think back to the first time you truly fell in love. Every molecule of your being was consumed with a deep, passionate love for that person. You felt it raging inside of you like water boiling, the tiny bubbles of air racing to the surface trying desperately to escape. Do you remember how your feelings (and your relationship) changed when you spoke the words "I love you!" for the very first time? It made that abstract feeling real, tangible. Speaking those words changed the way his lips felt on yours, the way his arms felt wrapped around you, holding you close.

I believe in the power of spoken (and written) words. Speaking/writing what's in our hearts, our souls, and our spirits for the world to hear/read transforms our thoughts and feelings into living entities that can change and grow.

Face your fears and doubts and talk back to them! Shout to them that you refuse to let them control your life or prevent you from making THIS dream happen!

Name it and claim it!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Preparation... and not H!

I was in my daughter's room two days ago and we came across a little book that was given to me as a high school graduation gift by my best friend. It's a cute little board book about two inches by two inches. It's called Lowly Worm Word Book by Richard Scarry. I know, I know. You're wondering, "Why did you get THAT for your graduation? Did you go to a special school?" I assure you I went to a normal high school- as normal as it gets way out in the Mississippi sticks. But back in high school, my friends, my sister and I thought things like this little book were funny and we spent hours laughing and making fun of them.

My daughter and I read the book and then decided that it should be kept on my desk instead of thrown in a drawer in her room. Yesterday morning I sat at the computer staring at the blank screen trying to figure out what I should write. After about an hour of wasted time, I decided to read through some of my favorite websites and blogs instead. When I got to my "Writer's Guidelines" link, I clicked on one children's magazine that has been on my "I can and should do this" list for the past month. But this time, it was different. The site hadn't changed, but with Lowly Worm looking at me with his goofy little hat and one sneaker (that I've always wondered how he managed to tie), the gears in my mind started reeling! I couldn't slow the ideas down long enough to even remember most of them!

I picked up my mini book and headed into the other room with a notebook and pen in hand! (Sometimes, I find that I work better 'old school.') I wasn't writing a Richard Scarry or Lowly Worm related book, but my hand could hardly keep up with all the ideas for poems and short stories for children that Lowly had inspired. After an hour sitting at my dining room table, I had written about four book ideas and compiled four pages of lists. The lists were of rhyming word groups (to speed up the writing process).

Children... I love! They've been my life and my job for fifteen years. Children's literature... I know! I have an extensive collection in my home and I'm always finding new favorites to read/buy. And children's books... I can definitely write!

Now that I'm prepared, motivated, and overflowing with ideas, it's time to write!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

To Cross Train Or Not?

As I search through the thousands of writing jobs (freelance and staff positions), I see again and again that a huge percentage of the jobs require desktop publishing, web site design, or photography experience in addition to being able to produce quality content. The benefits and job opportunities for a good writer with skills in any/all of these areas seems endless.

But wouldn't studying all of these fields make me a "jack of all trades and master of none?"

I hardly have enough time now for writing. Should I push myself harder and train in these other areas or stay focused on writing content thus limiting the jobs I'm qualified for in today's changing market?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fear, Self Doubt and Frustration

While I created this blog to chronicle my journey to become a published writer, there are some thoughts and feelings that are incredibly personal and difficult to share. We all experience some fear and self doubt. Is my work really good enough to be published? Absolutely, but maybe a particular piece needs a major rewrite before it will be accepted. We all experience some frustrations with the length of the process. How long should I continue trying if I get rejection after rejection, month after month? As long as it takes to make your dream happen!! (With the last sentence typed, I'm reminded of Natalie's post about Word correcting her writing even when she typed it incorrectly on purpose.)

Because writing isn't my only job right now, I find it difficult to have enough quiet, uninterrupted time to clear my mind and focus on composing a witty, fun, or informative post. It's even more difficult to find enough time to research and write an article for submission. Blog posts are easy enough to edit if I find an error after the fact, but an error found after submitting work to an editor/publisher can mean sudden death for that piece.

I am somewhat frustrated and even irritated right now. I've wanted to do this for so long. I would love more than just about anything to be able to turn my current business over to someone else so I can dedicate 8-10 hours a day to writing. The bill collectors would not like that very much. For now, I will have to work harder to find a balance between my life as a single mother of three, running a business from home, and pursuing the third love of my life- writing. (In case you're wondering, God ranks #1 and my children are #2- second only because without God I would not have been blessed with the three most amazing children in the world!)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Query About Queries

Wow! There is quite a mountain of information about this topic on the web! Unfortunately, most of it is repetitive, generic and overall not useful. While I'm not looking to steal your business, I am looking to start one.

A few questions for the published writers out there:

Have you discovered specific tips through your experiences that make your query letters more effective? Have you found the editors and publishers respond more to specific elements or certain formats? What is a reliable resource of current editors names and publishing company contact information?

Your experience and knowledge are invaluable and I welcome your input!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First Submission Jitters

As I prepared to submit my first article for publication, I realized that I was not at all nervous as I expected I would be. Nor was I giddy with excitement! This set in motion a series of thoughts that led to a series of questions. The first was "What's wrong with me?!?"

How can I, finally deciding my skin is tough enough to handle rejection of work I've poured my heart and soul into, NOT feel excited or nervous submitting my work for the FIRST time? Where are the first time jitters?

After delving into the recesses of my psyche, I have discovered the reason. Faith. Not faith that this particular article will get picked up for publication. Not faith that I won't ever fail or be rejected. But I realized that I have faith in me. I know how hard I work at producing quality material and that I pour my heart and soul into everything I write. So I have faith that my work will someday be recognized, respected, and PUBLISHED!

A Dream Began

When I was ten years old, I participated in a gifted program in Dallas, Texas. In this one day per week program, we (me and all the other nerdy types living within an hour of the host school) were given the opportunity to explore subjects outside the normal 'ABCs and 123s.'

Basic computer animation was fun, but back in the early eighties (yes, I'm dating myself a bit here), it was more like coloring in squares on graph paper and moving them across the screen. Our color selection was limited as well. Try creating the awe of the Sistene Chapel ceiling with the standard box of eight crayons! In the end, our giant, squarish brown gorilla snatched a pefectly t-shaped black airplane out of the plain blue sky while standing on a fantastic white rectangular building outlined in black.

We also learned how to take photos from magazines and turn them into transparent slides to be used in the new and high-tech slide projectors. Each slide needed a 2-3 sentence description to be read during the 'big show' at the end of the year. Woohoo! It was quite a party, let me tell you!

Making kites was ok, but not as much fun as the picnic in the park where the kite flying contest was held. A trip to a historic cemetery to take rubbings of grave markers made prior to 1900 was very dark and dreary and right up my alley! Typing class was not very exciting, but I was proud to be the fastest typer in the class! I could type 60wpm before my 11th birthday!

A life changing moment came for me when the poetry and short story writing class began the second semester. We were told that each year, the city published a book and selected only 100 poems and stories written by children 1st through 12th grades. None of this really mattered to me because there were more than 10,000 entries submitted from over 75 schools the previous year. I wrote the poems and stories required for the class and after two months, our teachers selected what they believed were the best and submitted them to the contest. None of us knew which ones were sent in. Our teachers didn't want us to feel rejected if we didn't win. We would only be notified that our poem/story was submitted IF we won.

After another four weeks of waiting, the complimentary copies of the books arrived and the children flipped through them wildly searching to see whose work, if any, had been selected. Then I saw it... right there... on the table of contents... in black and white... MY NAME! My poem had been published! A dream began. I have been writing ever since.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In the beginning...

And so it begins.