By Paul Czajak
A few weeks ago I was invited to my first book signing for my Halloween-themed picture book, Monster Needs a Costume, at a book fair at St. Rose of Lima School in Freehold, New Jersey. Now technically it is my second signing, if you count my book launch party. But that’s like giving yourself your own nickname. It just doesn’t count! The St. Rose event was fantastic! It was a lot of fun and a little strange at the same time. Strange in a good way, people actually wanted pictures of me and not because I was making a scene.
Several kids and parents came up to me to talk, purchase books (and a few T-shirts!) and snap a few photos. I got a range of questions from where I got the idea to advice on getting published. One conversation I had was with a particular woman who said she always wanted to get published and has had an idea for a story in her head for the “longest time.” She asked about the process of getting published and what I did that helped me through that process. I told her about SCBWI and how much information is available and the number of doors that are opened when you join. I told her about the conferences, how much you learn, and the contacts you make. I told her about how essential a critique group is for getting another pair of eyes on your work. She thanked me for all the information and then said something I think many pre-published writers struggle with. She said, “Now only if I can find the time.”
To this I say, anathema! I had a teacher in college say that when he didn’t like something, it kind of stuck. If you don’t know what it means look it up. It’s a great word!
Anyway, what she said, I feel is a cop-out. Not because conferences are difficult to go to, or finding the time to go to a critique group is hard. Believe me, I understand the sacrifices. It’s a cop-out because she hasn’t written the story yet. Don’t let obstacles get in your way before you even take your first step. So my biggest and best piece of advice I can give to this person and anyone else out there thinking of writing, is to write your story! You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket. Write your story and see where it takes you. There are no excuses until that point. Imagine the loss to literature if Hans Christian Anderson said “I’ve got this great idea for a story about a little mermaid but I’ve got that bloodletting at 3:00 and then it’s off to watch the horseless carriage race. Oh poppycock I just can’t seem to find the time!” I’m paraphrasing of course. The important thing to remember is that this world is filled with examples of people who have gotten published who never thought they could. But there has never been an example of an unwritten story ever being published. So go take 15 – 20 minutes a day and start writing your story. Who knows what may happen? Maybe you too will be burdened with the question, “How am I going to find the time to go to all those book signings?” Which, when you think about it, is not a bad question to be burdened with.