Confessions of a Children's Author

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Back in the Saddle Again...

When I came to my blog homepage today, I felt like I'd just arrived back home after a long vacation. Everything seems familiar yet vaguely not, and it takes a bit to readjust and make it feel like home again. I hesitate to quote Barry Manilow, but I've spent the past few months "Tryin' to Get the Feeling Again" and I finally did. I just finished at the SCBWI national conference, and though every year I come home from it raring to go and write/revise/submit, after a few weeks I settle into the familiar pattern of "I'll do it tomorrow." Not this year--I had a fantastic manuscript consultation from an extremely friendly/encouraging/helpful editor, and I can't wait to submit to her. Jane Yolen gave a keynote speech that brought tears to my eyes with her refrain of "Write the damn book," and I realized I must do just that. I want to do just that, more than I ever have before. I thought I knew that all I wanted to do for my career was write children's books, but now I know it. And what will motivate me won't be the fact that my mother wanted me to do this, that she believed in me, it won't be the fact that if I get something published it will finally "prove" to all the naysayers who keep asking me "Did you get a job yet, or are you still writing?" (because I realized that it probably still wouldn't "prove" anything to them--they will probably never understand my need to be an author, published or not), and it certainly won't be the money (J.K. Rowling notwithstanding, if anyone goes into children's publishing solely for the money then they're in the wrong profession)--it will be because I now know that I have something to give to children out there. My book won't necessarily win awards or sell thousands of copies, but if there is even one child who writes me a letter to tell me they loved it or how they could relate to it, then I will know that I did my job. I have passion, I have ability--but more importantly, I have patience and an open mind to helpful suggestions and I am willing to work on my craft ("craft" being a word that was repeated throughout this conference).

Even in the two days since the conference ended, I've already made lists of things I need to do to revise my novel-in-progress: plot questions that need to be addressed, characters that need a little more background info before I write about them so their motivations are clearer (at least to me, so they can be more real), and some structure changes that need to happen. I feel I'm finally at an intersection of preparedness and desire to write a viable book, a place where I thought I'd been already a few times, but realized it's only now that I've reached that spot. I am READY!!!!!
That's the good--now, here's some bad. Not bad, actually, but annoying. There were two pet peeves that grew when I was at the SCBWI conference, and I want to get them off my chest. Before that, though, I want to give a shout-out to the tireless staff of SCBWI--you ROCK!!! The assemblage of talent--and helpful talent--that they round up each year always amazes me. No, this isn't a complaint about the conference itself--it is a complaint about some fellow attendees. 1) After one editor's workshop, I did something I rarely do (because I'm always a big chicken) and decided to approach him. As always, there were about 15-20 people with the same idea. That's fine, I can share, and I of course expect that. What I didn't expect, however, was "adults" (I use this term lightly, since they sure didn't act adult) jockeying for position by elbowing me (yes, it really happened), stepping on my foot without any apology or acknowledgement (yes, that happened too), and interrupting me as I started to speak (and more loudly than me, too) when I was most definitely there before them. I won't say the words I'm thinking right now, but suffice it to say that the words I'm thinking of to describe this behavior are not G-rated. I can't say for sure, but it seems that this is fairly specifically aimed at people who are newer to this conference and don't understand or know that the faculty at this conference are unbelievably giving and generous with both their time and advice. There is no need to elbow and shout like they're reporters trying to get an exclusive with a press-shy celebrity. I won't stoop to that level, either--I will exact my revenge by getting my book published without having to resort to assinine behavior to make sure an editor notices me at a conference...I'll stand out with my well-written manuscript! 2) At the Autograph Session/Book Signing Party (always a somewhat scary prospect, as I always hope that meeting the author or illustrator will live up to my high esteem of their work), I waited in the longer lines first, then I went to another table where there was no one in line, and I began a very nice conversation with the author about various things. The next thing I know, there's a woman squatting next to me (all the better to be at the author's eye level) who jumped into the conversation--and managed to steer it totally onto herself and a book she was working on!!! I guess I'm nice to a fault, because I let this woman go on (while I glared daggers at her, which went unnoticed), even though my husband said later that I should have told her to wait her turn and that I'd just be another minute (there was no one else in line behind us). The author got totally distracted, to the point where her pen was poised above the page, but she hadn't written anything yet. She finally got back to her task at hand, I tried to pick up my conversation from where it had been interrupted, and this idiot woman started talking AGAIN about herself!!! I fault the author a bit, but I know it's probably distracting and exciting and hard to say "can you wait your turn?", but mostly I want to strangle people like the woman who couldn't wait her turn. Note to people like that woman: you will get your moment in the sun when you get to the front of the line, but stay the hell out of my moment when I'm in the middle of a conversation! (And a minor note to people signing books: even though you probably don't mean to, you sure make the person getting their book signed feel like you think they're so uninteresting that you'd rather talk to the person behind--or next to--them. Doesn't feel good.)

And here's the ugly: off-topic from writing and conferences and such, I am experiencing some nastniness with my aunt due to a financial situation stemming from my mother's inheritance. Not like a will contestation or anything like that, just some paperwork that has to be signed by my brother and me. I'll skip the gory details, but suffice it to say that my brother and I are both livid at the way she spoke to us (like we were 12-year olds), and I responded with a very lengthy but well thought-out email. This is an aunt that I thought I was very close to (my mother's younger sister), so it is especially hurtful. My brother is planning to send a not-so-lengthy and not-so-well-thought-out email (he says his would be more to the point: shut up and get out of my life). This, coupled with the fact that I believe my father has become almost completely uncommunicative and I believe is doing something with some of my mother's belongings that he's not telling us about, and that all the friends that told me they'd be around if I needed them have gone totally AWOL, is making me want to consume copious amounts of alcohol or chocolate (but since I don't want to be drunk or fat, I guess I have to find another outlet). About a month ago, I made a several phone calls to people, only to have one phone call returned within two weeks. I know life gets in the way sometimes, but I'd rather have had no one tell me they'd be there for me than to have so many tell me they'd be there only to have higher priorities than me when I reach out (which is rare for me to do to begin with).

Life sucks...and then you write.


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