Sunday, October 19, 2008
What It's About...
First, a big shout out to Linda Bozzo, who generously opened her home to me this weekend and to Lisa Mullarkey and all the blue boarders for a fabulous party!
As I return from a tremendous Rutgers One-on-One experience, I'm a bit introspective about how I got started on this road.
I've been at this for 7 years—writing, attending conferences and workshops, honing my skills, submitting manuscripts—and the evolution of my perception of things has been unexpected and surprisingly sneaky.
Let's start with the big question, "What am I all about?" I'm not sure anyone can answer that in the space of a blog, at least not one anyone would read, but I'll narrow it down. First and foremost, I'm a lover of books. But connected to that is my desire to teach, to share my own violent passion for stories with teenagers. And as a high school teacher, I stoked the fires everyday, and even, I think, made a difference in at least few lives. But truth be told, they fed my soul as much as I led them to the feast.
Always in the back of my mind were my own stories that must be told. So I finally began to give them their voice in 2001. I started with a few picture books, not because I thought those were easier—I was never that naive—but because that was the sort of story I had brewing in my brain. I even submitted a few for publication. It didn't take long to figure out that PBs are not my gig. I was far too sentimental. So what to do? Of course! Go back to that piece of my soul that I had shared for so many years and the people I shared it with—teenagers.
Ah, these were the stories that really screamed to be told. I'm still a little too sentimental, and I tend to use far too many adverbs, but the stories are authentic. And my perspective on my own writing continues to sharpen as I speak to editors, agents, and other writers. Yes, I want to get published, to share something with young adults, to give them another voice, to imagine.
So often the keynote message at conferences is the same—persistence and good writing. Well, I've got that, right? I'll say yes to the persistence part, but the writing is still in process and as far as I'm concerned, it always will be.
However, I've also learned that just because one editor, or even ten, doesn't like your work, it doesn't mean that you suck. And you should want more than instant editorial approval. You also have to be willing to be guided, inspired. It's easy to presume that you know what your doing and everybody else just has to be convinced that you're right. I'm not saying you should abandon your own opinion, but if twenty editors tell you that your first two sentences just don't work, perhaps you should consider trying a different approach.
I have a least one editor who has inspired me to keep at it until I get it right, even if she's a little slow in the response on my final manuscript. And this weekend, a wonderful agent took real time with me to talk about my ideas and my approach to the story. Some of it she likes, some of it she would do differently. Again, it's an opinion, an educated, thoughtful opinion, and my thanks go to the Rutgers Council for such a good match. I'm looking forward to talking to her more.
When it's all said and done, my new perspective is as much about me as it is about my writing. I value my craft more than I used to. It's not just the desire to get a story out there, but to craft it well. But even more, I value myself as a writer, (not as a wannabe) and walk in with a little more confidence, however hard-won it has been. I've accepted that I'm on a journey, one of my own choosing. And every student I ever taught, every text I've written or read—published or otherwise—is part of what I am all about.