Friday, February 28, 2014

Who Couldn't Love That Face?

Getting pregnant is easy.

Imagine you have a beautiful baby, one that you love with all of your heart, and everyone you show your baby to finds him less than perfect, even if it is just a vague reference. "I prefer girl babies." "Shouldn't he be walking by now?" "I think he is only supposed to have two eyes." It wears on you, and at some point, even the most loving mother becomes reluctant to show baby pictures. Not because she doesn't love that child, but because she is tired of defending his perfection to those that don't see it.

Of course, no-one else HAS to love your child, unless your goal for that child is to one day share his gifts with the world. That's when things get tough. And if that baby is actually a book, that's when the tough are quickly humbled.

I'm certain those that have never pursued this path have no idea how hard it is to get a publishing contract for a book, and I won't even go into the process, because it's enough to make the average, sane, person say, 'why would you do that?' For me, writing the book was easy; it's the 'what comes next' that is difficult. Why? There are no real 'rules' for this part of the game and for most, it does involve a lot of rejections.  Almost everyone has to deal with them---J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, the list goes on of the hundreds of rejections that many famous authors received before they actually sold a book. As writers, we use these examples to keep us going, but it doesn't really make it any easier.
That brings me to my book, They Call Me Crazy. I love the little three-eyed devil, and he'll walk when he's damn well ready. But at some point, someone needs to love him like I do or he'll never move out of the house.

My sweet little boy has made it through rounds of acquisition editors, only to be killed in committee like a bad Schoolhouse Rock video. He's been called a few bad names, but usually just a reference to 'somethin' ain't quite right about that kid'. My favorite rejection, ever, being the editor that said, "I will buy the book when you get it published, but we don't have room for it on our list."

Patience. Rejections. More patience. More rejections.

So what do we do? Keep showing the baby pictures, keep entering our little guys in baby contests and never lose sight of the fact that our babies are the most wonderful creatures they can be.  And one day, someone will say, "My, what a unique little guy he is!"

And it only takes one.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Write Good Words

The assignment in my English Composition course last week was to write a personal essay discussing something you had read that changed the way you viewed life. It could be anything, a book, a poem, a news article and 'the change' could be something life altering or something as simple as 'brushing my teeth every day'. The purpose of the assignment was twofold: to focus on construction of a personal essay and to realize how powerful words are.

Hats off to my students, who wrote about everything from children's books to epic poems, on subjects ranging from child abuse to better financial management of their own lives.  To learn their interests and what is important to them was fascinating. But as a writer, I realized something very important.

Our written words matter.

All of them.

Of course, there are obvious articles and books that are intended to raise awareness of subjects, but it seems that it was the subtle references in unexpected works that my students picked up on and were really struck by. It is the comparisons to their own lives, similarities and differences, that forced them to look at their worlds differently.  And as one student put it, "Although I've read other things on this subject, this particular author seemed to speak my own thoughts on {the subject}, and I knew I wasn't alone."

That's powerful.

To think that a horror story can make someone understand that we all have a potential monster inside of us, that a poem can make you call your mother every week just to say hello, that a fantasy novel can help you understand the value of imagination, that a news article can help you see the importance of questioning and not taking everything, or everyone at their word, or that a biography can teach you to appreciate the small things in your life, is something we should all consider. Every genre and every medium has the ability to affect someone's life in unexpected ways.

So as writers, what do we do?

We write good words, we tell good stories, we take care in our craft.  Because someone will read our work. And it may make a huge difference in how they view the world around them.

So, in teaching my students that the words they read can be very powerful, I also realized that the power comes from those of us that write those words.

Let's do it well.