MY WRITING WAY

By Stephanie Jacob Gordon

It didn’t take me long to discover that by becoming a writer I was choosing a lonely life.  After all, how many “normal” people can you communicate with when you are rarely in their “real world”?  And how many non-writers really want to be in the “mind world” that you are creating inside your head?  It seems to me that “real world” people are very afraid of “writer” conversations.

If you are just beginning your writer’s journey you probably have a few friends left that think what you are doing is wonderful.  Writing books for children is a laudable endeavor.  It’s so cute.  They grin at you, tell you children are our future, and verbally pat you on the head.  All the while they are thinking, since books for children are so short, with a simpleton’s vocabulary—picture books being a prime example of simplicity—how long could it take you to write nine or ten and be ready to go to lunch tomorrow?  You can read…you can write…how hard could it be to turn out a book for a child?  It’s only a child’s book, for pete’s sake!

You know different….  There are rules for writing for children.  Lots of rules.  And, you need to learn them before you can break them.  What is an SASE?  Do I need an agent?  What is proper manuscript form?    What is an SASE?  I have this friend who likes to draw…?  You no longer have time to chit-chat on the phone; clean your house, to do all the things you did before you were a WRITER.  “Can’t anyone in this house get their own snack?!”

And if you sell something, you not only need more time to write, but you need time to worry…can I do it again?  Instantly successful or not, you must accept that your BIC (butt in chair) life will be a singularly lonely one when it comes to the usual adult interaction.  It is your fingers on the keyboard, your brain searching for inspiration, your talent doing the creating.  You-you-you.  You are a writer, you are alone, and nobody gets you!  Or do they?

Of course WE do.  Your fellows, we writers who persevere without time to go to the bathroom, without applause, without sales, without species to show for our single-minded and devoted endurance, we get you.  We speak your language.  We forget to eat lunch.  We are just like you.  And, we are not really hiding.  But where are we?

We are in SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and illustrators) classes, workshops, conferences, picnics, and schmoozes.  We are volunteers for these SCBWI events.  We are in writer’s programs and classes at colleges and universities.  We are in critique groups formed from and for learning the art of writing for children.  We are lurking at bookstores and libraries reading your books, other writers’ books, our own books, to ourselves or to dozens of children for story time.  We are writing in coffee houses, we are writing any place that has WIFI, we are writing on the internet, and sometimes we are lost in our heads while we walk to the park with the dog, but we are out there.  Look carefully.  Come find us and join us.  We are waiting for you.

By now you know that I have a writing partner, Judith Ross Enderle (Judy to everyone).  We met at UCLA extension in Eve Bunting’s Writing for Middle Grades class.  Lucky us for two reasons: we MET in EVE’S class.  We had both taken Sue Alexander’s Writing the Picture Book class, but not at the same time.  Both of Sue’s and Eve’s classes were amazing.  These two wonderful writers were so giving of help and so sharing. And they gave us the best foundations; taught unselfishly, and made sure we had a clear understanding of the “rules” we needed to know for writing for young people.  They taught us to love the process.   I had just begun my journey and I already had three dear and lifelong writing friends; Judy, Sue, and Eve.  I miss Sue.

I am not exaggerating when I say I have hundreds of writing friends, some I love and a few I call sister.  And if I don’t already know you…  “Hi there, it’s really nice to meet you!”

Now I will tell you something about myself that few people will believe.  I am shy.  Quit laughing!  I am!  I don’t like to talk to people who I believe have authority.  I do not do conflict.  It is hard for me to go up to someone and introduce myself.  I even hate having to call to handle business, or to talk to a doctor, and calling a restaurant to make reservations…I have nightmares about it.  Yes I know they couldn’t care less that I am calling.  Yes I know they will never know who I am.  I didn’t say it made sense.  Especially since I always end up talking to strangers when I stand in line at the market.  But then, they are strangers from the “real world” and I don’t care what they think… do I?

You know where this has never bothered me?  When I am at a writer’s of books for children gathering.  When I say hi to a fellow writer, they smile.  When I introduce myself or meet someone new, they smile.  And when I have to call a children’s writer I don’t know, I can hear them smiling over the phone.  I am sure you have heard somewhere that our business isn’t dog eat dog; our children’s book world is bunny nibble bunny.  I can deal with nibbling.

We writers are a great bunch of people.  You should get to know us.  If you want to belong—WELCOME!

NEXT YEAR!

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