Ever since my first SCBWI conference I have touted the importance of attending these functions to every writer who asks me how to get published. I tell them the workshops are fantastic but it’s the connections I make that keep me going back. Recently I was reminded of this again when I received an email from Tara Luebbe, a fellow author I met at one of the NESCBWI conferences. When we first met, Tara was a pre-published picture book author going to as many conferences as she could to learn the craft of writing. Now, as she explained in the email, her first book SHARK-NATE-O will be released spring of 2018 and none of it would have happened if it weren’t for me.
I’m kidding. I had nothing to do with Tara getting published, I just like to make things all about me. 🙂
Actually she explained that her mentor had a huge part in shaping her writing. Now that she was published, Tara wanted to return the favor to other aspiring writers. She created a contest called WRITING WITH THE STARS and wondered If I would like to be a part of it by being a mentor. The idea of the contest is that selected applicants will be paired up with published authors and/or illustrators for a three-month mentorship. During that time, mentors will help mentees further develop their craft as well as share advice and insight into the publishing world. I told her I thought this was a fantastic idea and would love to participate.
Now, even though I have always thought of myself as a star, mainly because my mom told me so and no one argues with my mom, I wondered what I could truly offer another writer. It’s not like publishers are beating down my door to buy my next manuscript, in fact it’s the other way around. I am continually trying to beat their doors down. Many days it feels more like I’m banging my head against those doors, yet I continue to write and submit. That’s when I realized maybe that’s something I can offer. Perseverance.
When I was living in Massachusetts I belonged to a dojo where I studied karate. Before I left and moved to New Jersey my teacher had me stand in front of the class where he commended me for having a true “Karate Spirit.” He mentioned that I was a model for going after and achieving a goal. He of course was talking about me being published. I accepted their praise, thanked everyone, and went home with a head so swollen from feeling good about myself that it could barely fit through the door. Weeks past, then months, which turned into a year, and the rejections were piling up; I mean a LOT of rejections. Rejection was something I was not used to. You see, I was published fairly quickly when I started writing and I initially didn’t see many rejections, especially since MONSTER & ME is a series. But now, many of my non-monster stories kept getting rejected. I started questioning myself and at times felt like giving up. I thought, maybe I suck at writing, I don’t think I do, at least my mom tells me I’m good (and like I said before, no one argues with HER). But all jokes aside, why keep writing? I’ve been published, so why subject myself to all these rejections?
The reason is simple: because I love writing.
I enjoy going to schools and talking to kids about writing. It’s fun!
Then I concluded that my teacher at the dojo was wrong. I was not portraying true “karate spirit” before. True Karate Spirit is the pursuit of a goal when met with resistance. But it’s easy to pursue a goal when it garners success so quickly. I never felt the pain of the constant no, no, no. Right at the start I heard yes, yes, yes. Why wouldn’t I pursue something I was successful in?
Now that’s changed, but I still write. I love to write, and I am going to keep on writing even if the rejections keep coming. That is the thing I hope to pass on to the mentee I work with. Yes, I will help them with rhythm and rhyme and story arc. But honestly, you can learn a lot of that stuff in workshops and online. When I started, I wish I’d had an author sit me down and say, “When and If you get published, be proud of the accomplishment, but never forget to love the thing you do, because the rejections never stop.”
Your ultimate goal should not be publication. It should be writing a story that you love. That’s what’s going to keep you in the chair writing the next one and the next one and then the next one. If you think getting published is the summit to the mountain, then when you reach the top, you’re only going to realize you’re climbing the wrong mountain.
Winners of the 2017 Writing with the Stars contest are announced today at the BeckyTaraBooks blog. Winners with work with their mentors over the next three months. Check back at Tara’s blog in December for information about next year’s Writing with the Stars.