Confessions of a Children's Author

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Wanting to Be A Writer

I did promise, in my first blog entry, that I would eventually explain more about my children's book aspirations, so here I am, finally explaining. I can't remember when I first started writing anything that resembled a story, but it was probably somewhere around 3rd grade. I had a fabulous teacher, Jane Brown (who, at the time, was Jane Steiner), who was one of the several fabulous teachers at the Montclair Cooperative School (among them Loretta Freeman and Lora Cooper, to name only a few--okay, a special shout-out to TEACHERS, who are underpaid and often underappreciated--but that's all for another post someday...). I remember writing so many things in her classroom, and being so excited when she praised my work.

I wrote some in middle school, and I wrote in high school, and in college I was an English Lit major, but I didn't really think of writing as something I wanted to do as a career. A few years later, I thought about writing as something I'd maybe do someday when I was on maternity leave or something (yeah, right--now that I've spoken to some working writers with children, I know how naive THAT thinking was). Flash forward a few years, to the evening of July 4th, 2000, when my boyfriend and I had just returned from his meeting my parents, and we were hungry. Know what restaurants are open on July 4th? Pretty much NONE--until we found a local Chinese restaurant open (hooray!) (What does all this have to do with writing for children, you ask? Keep reading and you will find out...) The whole time I was eating dinner, I kept staring over my boyfriend's shoulder at the woman at the next table, who looked very familiar. Suddenly, I realized why: she and her husband had lived in my hometown in New Jersey, and I used to babysit for their sons when I was in high school. After we got over the shock of finding each other (and my further shock at realizing that her strapping male dinner companion was the older son I had babysat), she told me that she was teaching writing workshops for women. To cut a long story short, I attended some workshops, and the things that I wrote about most often were childhood memories and events. After some time, the woman (whose name is Jackie Parker, by the way, and is an extremely talented writer in her own right) asked me if I'd ever thought about writing young adult books. I hadn't before, but suddenly everything began to click. I joined SCBWI (one of the best/most important things I've ever done), and started writing exclusively with a teen voice.

Suffice it to say that I cannot imagine writing in any other genre. I LOOOOOOOOVE childrens' books. I still own many of my own from childhood. One of the darkest days of my adulthood was when my parents moved from the house I grew up in and somehow "lost" most of the childrens' books I'd still had there. Every year at the SCBWI conference I come home excited, ready to work, and energized by the talent and passion that abounds in children's literature. And these writers, editors, agents and others are willing to help, willing to share. At the beginning of every writing day now, I read the blogs of writers such as Meg Cabot, Laurie Halse Anderson, Lisa Yee, Libba Bray, Sarah Dessen and Jane Yolen (someday very soon I'll figure out how to add links to this page...), and feel so fortunate to be a member of that community, even though I'm not published (yet!). Reading these blogs makes me that much more motivated to polish my writing, to keep working at my craft, to GET published, not just for the sake of being in print, but to be able to count myself among the wonderful authors that write for children. I don't know if some kid will someday have my books on their shelves as adults, as I still have my Judy Blume and Norma Klein and Paul Zindel, but I can hope...


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