Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What's a "Real" Writer?

So, the question came up on the blue boards about what is a "real" writer. I have often stumbled over the words when someone asks me what I do now. "Well, I used to teach high school and some college courses. Now I am raising two kids. Oh, yeah, and I write a little on the side." But how do I say, "Well,...I'm a children's writer." You all know that look, the scoff at a would-be novelist who has too much time on his hands, right? I found I didn't feel legitimate, at least not in the company of non-writers, unless I had a published credit to my name. Well, I am on the verge of such a credit with my recent acceptance to Cricket, but does that make me any more a writer than I was before? Was I really any less of a writer then? Someone made an excellent comparison: If an athlete hasn't won any medals, does that make him not an athlete? Of course not!

So, I am in the midst of building a syllabus for a college course I will be teaching next semester: "Writing Children's Literature". When I was offered the job, I jumped at it, but that little bug in the back of my brain whispered, "psst! but you haven't even published anything yet. How much can you know?" I finally answered myself, "PLENTY!" I have a nice pile of rejection letters, some encouraging notes with them; a stack of manuscripts; a ton of reading experience; and a good bit of teaching experience as well. And writing experience? Only 25 or more years worth! Not all of that goes towards writing for kids, but I AM A WRITER. Would I die if I couldn't do it? No. But I'd be a lot less cheerful, probably more neurotic than I already am, and a lot less interesting.

So...what do you all think? What is a "real" writer?


  1. Someone who
    I don't earn much, and I drive myself and my family to distraction with my writing, but I've been writing since I could hold a pen, and if I'm not writing in my WIP I'm writing on other people's blogs, and even if I weren't published I'd be a writer, because I write. It's a Sartre thing. I'm a writer because I write.

  2. You know, the other day I was at the bookstore and I picked up the Canadian Writer's Market (I'm not positive that's the exact name of it) and I flipped to the first page. I couldnt' believe what their first line was. I was so angry I slammed the book back onto the shelf and swore I would never buy the book. Now, I wasn't planning on quoting anywhere or I would have written it down, but ...

    To paraphrase, it said you are not considered a real writer until you have a publishing credit.

    It was meant to draw me into the book, to make me want to pour over their lists, trying to find the right publisher to sub to. It didn't work.

    So I'd say you're a writer if that line in the book was enough to piss you off. If it doesn't make you angry, you're not there yet.


Thanks to spammers, this blog is moderated, so don't be alarmed if your comment doesn't appear right away. Thanks for stopping by!