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?