Last week I did a school visit where we discussed “show don’t tell”. To keep things fun, I asked a few brave 5th graders to sample random Jelly Belly flavors. (Red could be strawberry flavor! But it could be centipede…) As they chewed, the rest of us watched and recorded body expressions, so we could describe the nervous shuffling that preceded the taste, the raised eyebrows that accompanied the first tentative bite, the un-crinkled nose and relaxed shoulders when–phew!–it was strawberry! Of course, this led us to wonder whose job it was to create the centipede Jelly Belly… and does that mean they have to munch bugs to make sure it’s a flavor match? Our vote was unanimous: that is not a job we’d want.
It may not involve swishing lawn clippings in our mouths, but a writer’s life is not for everyone either.
There is something about that blink, blink, blink cursor on an empty page that could drive a person to the brink of insanity. There is rejection at every step. There are days when notes from a CP (critique partner) appear in the inbox and suck the wind from our sails. There is the lure of six seasons stacked up on Netflix and closets that need organizing and a million other ways to procrastinate a writing session away. There is rejection. (Did I mention that already?)
BUT… this month is Thanksgiving, so instead I’d like to talk about everything that makes me grateful to be a writer.
That blink, blink, blinking cursor. It is possibility. It is imagination unleashed. It’s a playground with an extra twisty slide and a zip line. It is sheer fun and limitless possibilities. I am most grateful for this. (Well, and also for this recent line in an email from my YA editor at HarperCollins: “This edit letter is about to get weird, but I’d love more making out scenes.”)
I am grateful for tough notes from critique partners, beta readers, my agent, and my editor. The time they put into those notes means they believe in my story and in making it better. It means they are invested right alongside me.
Alas, there’s no way to sugarcoat rejection. Or is there? Helpful rejections make you stronger, make your focus tighter, show you ways to improve, make your stories better. Sometimes something might look like a rejection, but is really a redirection and a door opening elsewhere. I am grateful for those.
I am grateful for the kidlit community we all share. I may spend lots of days in pajamas (forget what I said earlier–I am definitely most grateful for THIS!) staring at a monitor, but I love venturing out of the house if it means meeting up with kidlit types. This year I loved seeing and making friends at the NE-SCBWI conference, BEA, the Boston Book Festival, my book launch, and my writer groups. Knowing this community is out there, sharing in our successes and hugging out those rejections, warms my heart more than pumpkin pie and hot cocoa.
I hope you’ll take a few minutes this month to thank your muse, your critique partners, your agent, your readers, or your fellow bloggers and to revel in the fact that we’re pretty darn lucky.
At the very least, it beats beta-testing vomit-flavored jelly beans!!
The Odd World of Writing for Children by Paul Czajak
Building a Writers’ Community by Heather Kelly
Declaring My Love for Writing by Carol Ekster
Thankful for Critique Groups by Stacy McAnulty