By Carol Ekster
When I taught elementary school, Valentine’s Day meant envelopes overflowing with cards, a party complete with treats and games, and very excited children. Now, Valentine’s Day is mellow, quiet, and lovely. I’ve decided to declare my love for writing on this blog on this Valentine’s day.
While teaching was my passion for 35 years and is a hard act to follow career-wise, I’m finding that writing is the sweetest of second acts. And I’ll tell you why I love it so. First of all, I can do it on my own schedule. No bells to direct me when it’s time to start or finish, no roomful of others demanding my attention. It’s all between me and my keyboard…day or night whenever the mood strikes me. I’m LOVING the solitude and the freedom. And then when I long to connect with others in my field, while I might not have a teachers’ room down the hall, I have my critique group members and SCBWI people with whom I can discuss the industry and my work. I try to go to any and all get-togethers with writerly or literary types when the opportunity arises in addition to being in four critique groups.
Another reason I love writing is the ability to touch lives. I was able to influence many a student when I taught fourth grade. I have beautiful letters from former students and their families and still keep in touch with quite a few. But in my many years of teaching with crowded classrooms, I still had fewer than one thousand students. I have already sold many more books than that. And then there are the groups of children I’ve read to at libraries or bookstores, as well as classrooms I’ve visited to get children excited about writing and books. I never would have thought I could reach so many, but I can and I am. I feel so blessed to be able to continue communicating with young people. I’m LOVING that. And of course, the ability to touch lives after I’ve done a yoga and zumba class makes me love it even more. The fact that these books can help children deal with something difficult in their lives, or bring joy as they read and ponder the pictures, or increase their vocabulary and understanding about the world is an added bonus. In addition, a book is something that can be passed on to others and can last for years and years. That’s just plain cool.
The power of the written word is a third reason to love writing. I get to play with words, to rearrange a sentence to listen to the flow and sound of those words and see how the meaning changes. Words are powerful! “Change your words. Change the world.” I believe it. Watch this video. You’ll see what I’m getting at.
And yet another reason to love writing is that feeling of hope …after each submission is made ready, even after rejections. When my books were contracted for publication, I felt the hope of what that book would become. And when I recently learned from Pauline Books & Media that the illustrator for my third book, Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You, would be Mary Rojas, I felt that expectancy and excitement, imagining the product that will be born into the world with the merging of our art.
So on this Valentine’s Day I ask you to ponder what you love about writing, illustrating, or anything else in the world of publishing and put it in the comments section below. Happy Valentine’s Day…to writing, to books, and to you!