Confessions of a Children's Author

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Feeling Peevish

Maybe it's because I'm still ticked about seeing "King Kong" on Sunday (I'm so annoyed that part of me wants to write a letter to Peter Jackson, not just demanding back my $9.50, but also the three hours of my life that I wasted while watching his dreck of a movie), but today I thought I'd air out some of my writer's pet peeves.

1. Just because I don't get a regular paycheck for my work-in-progress, it doesn't mean my writing is not "real" work.

Case in point: Sister-in-law A (I have several of them) once asked me, "So, are you still at home writing, or did you get a job yet?" Inferred subtext: "when are you going to get off your butt and earn a paycheck like the rest of us working slobs instead of sitting around eating bon bons?" Huh. I don't even like bon bons, anyway--I prefer Junior Mints.

2. Writing is not as easy as some people think.

I'm not saying I'm hammering out a plan for world peace or doing rocket science, but apparently some people think that "writing" is just a matter of sitting down with a pen and paper (or computer) and that everyone can do it. Truth is, NOT everyone can do it. I'm not even saying I can do it that well sometimes, but it is a craft, and I am working on it, and I like to think that I have some idea of what I'm doing. Case in point: Sister-in-law B has a friend who asked me what I do. "I'm a childeren's writer," I replied. Sister-in-law B then pipes up, "Yeah, we have more than one writer in the family--Sister C has written stories, too." Inferred subtext: "hey, what you do isn't so hard--even my sister, who has stories stashed in her closet somewhere, can call herself a 'writer'." Well, at the risk of sounding like a snob, I would say there's a difference betweeen someone who has written something for their own enjoyment and someone who is honing their craft and striving toward it being a full-time career. And I am the latter.

3. Just because I don't have anything published yet doesn't make me less of a writer.

Whenever someone asks me what I do, I'm always a bit hesitant to say "children's author" or "children's book writer", because the next question is invariably "Do you have anything published?" More often than not, after I say "Not yet," the person's eyes glaze over and they say "Oh." Inferred subtext: "if you don't have anything published, then you can't really call yourself a writer." Well, yes I can--I write, I'm trying to get published, and I believe in myself enough to think I will at some point...which leads me to the next peeve:

4. For most people, it doesn't take five minutes to sell your manuscript.

Yes, there have been stories of people being plucked out of the slush pile, or they have their first manuscript end up in a bidding war and sell for six figures, but more often than not, I've heard of people sending their manuscripts out for years, rejection letters piling up, or their third manuscript selling before their first. Did you know that the movie "E.T." got turned down by multiple studios before Universal decided to make it (and we know how that worked out for them)? Sometimes it just takes getting your project into the hands of someone who has an appreciation and a passion for it. So, to all those well-meaning friends and family who constantly ask me such questions as "Did you sell your book yet?" no, I haven't, but that doesn't mean it's not good, and it doesn't mean I'm not really a writer (see peeves 1-3). And just because I sell it doesn't mean it will be on the shelves of the local Barnes and Noble right away, either--I've heard of novels being released almost 4 (four!) years after the manuscript was purchased--and it can take even longer for picture books. All I can say is, someday...

There, that wasn't too bad, was it? My peeves didn't even take up one hand (in fact, you don't even have to use your thumb). Now, off to be a writer...


  • At 10:48 PM, Anonymous Speedy said…

    Those pesky sister-in-laws! You stick to your guns!


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