Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sympathy from a Five-Year Old

Today I visited a teacher supply shop with my children.  We weren't there very long, but it reminded me of long hours spent in these stores with my mom when I was young.  My mom, like all good teachers, spent much of her own time and money on preparing her classroom.  If you totaled up how much she spent on bulletin board supplies alone, it would probably be enough to pull a third-world country out of poverty.

Anyway, I shared this recollection with my children on the way home.  Here's how my conversation played out with my five-year old daughter.

After driving away from the store, I said, "My mom was so good with children.  I wish you could have known her."

"Is your mom already dead?" Maggie asked.

"Yes," I replied.  "My mom died about seven years ago."  Tears started pooling.  I didn't realize the memory would be sentimental.

"Well," Maggie said.  "That's sad that your mom died.  But it's good that you don't have to go to those stores anymore."

My tears immediately morphed into laughter.  My daughter has always been very matter-of-fact when death is the subject.  In fact, her sincere response encapsulates one of the main reasons I am drawn to writing for children.  Children see the world so clearly.  Their interactions with each other and with adults aren't veiled by years of social formation.  A child can voice in one sentence what a grown-up has been trying to convey his/her whole life.  What a gift.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What You Need is a Little Focus

So I've committed myself to being a serious writer (at least until the next period of deep depression).  But here's my problem now: how do you choose what to work on?  There is the obvious...a contest to enter over here, a mentorship application over there.  But what do I send in?  I have numerous manuscripts at this point (all of which could be perfected even they ever come to completion?), not to mention the scores of what I call "half-baked ideas" in my computer, all vying for my undying attention and devotion.

I think that kills my writing time more than any other thing right now.  Focus.  What to work on.  I sit at the computer and look at the intimidating list of files and my brain starts swirling with all sorts of thoughts...gee, my character in that story really needs fleshing out, or the ending in that story is really weak, or does that story fit this publisher...maybe I should reread it for the thousandth time to see....Agggghh!

I'll be hunting for some professional advice on this topic, and any and all comments would be appreciated.  Now back to staring at that list....

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Good News (and a Kick in the Pants)

The summer is hard for a stay-at-home mom/writer.  Writing has taken a back seat to family vacations and days at the swimming pool. 

But even harder on the novice writer is the growing pile of rejections and worse, hearing nothing at all.  The phrase, "no-news-is-good-news," doesn't stick in the writing world.  Rather, it means your writing has been heaved unceremoniously into a mile-high stack of paper destined for the recycle bin.  Many publishers and agents put this fact out in front.  And to put it in the language of the street, I'm down with that.  But when you attend a conference and make a personal contact, you hope to get more than a deafening silence broken only by the lonesome cricket melody.  You expect at least a form notice of rejection, if not a short personal note.

So earlier in the year when I received no word from a conference contact, the wind dropped from my sails, and my boat floated stagnant in the water.  I needed distance from my writing.  I needed to reassess my priorities...then...

Out of the blue, I get a letter of acceptance from Highlights magazine.  Holy cow!  Just when I had begun to think the writing gig was a pipedream, I get a contract offer for my story, "Wobblejohn."  And my next thought went something like this: "Man, I better get back to writing."

So let that be a lesson to you, Kristen Hilty.  Don't go wasting time on daydreams and pool tans.  Get back to work.  Write, write, and write some more.  Because in the middle of all the silence, someone, somewhere, might be reading your stuff and actually liking it!