The following is an essay I wrote back in 2003. It was published in Once Upon A Time, Spring 2004 issue. I just finished reading Kristin Kimball's, The Dirty Life, an excellent read, and was rummaging through my book shelf for another book to read when I discovered an old "clippings" folder of mine. This essay was in that file and I decided to share it here at BookOrBust. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
When will I be a writer? I mean a real writer.
Must I write a book; have an ISBN number, an agent, a publisher before I can say those four magic words?
Not long ago I wrote an essay and mailed it to my local newspaper. I followed the guidelines, edited, revised, enclosed an SASE, a cover letter, and sent it off. Five months later, Mr. Editor called. He liked it! He really liked it!
It was in THE JOURNAL NEWS, Life & Style Section. The title was printed in uppercase, oversized, bold-faced letters; my by-line was underneath, along with my picture. It looked published. I read it out loud. It sounded published. I sniffed the paper, licked it twice. It smelled and tasted published.
Later that month, I met another children's writer at a critique group I wanted to join. I was excited about my essay. I felt like a real writer. And I said so. "I am a writer!" I said. "I'm published!" The other children's writer disagreed. She said, "Newspapers don't count. Anybody can do that."
I felt as if I had just been slimed. I didn't answer that other children's writer. I didn't know what to say. Instead, I did what every writer does. I wrote about it. I wrote about it in my brain as tears streaked down my face and my beige Corolla headed home to Hartsdale on a dark and stormy night. I wrote about it in my journal as I sat up in my green iron canopy bed and honked my runny nose into a Kleenex tissue. I wrote about it in an email to a Yahoo group of other children's writers I met on the internet. As my nimble digits tippy-tapped across a plastic keyboard attached to my Dell Desktop computer, I overcame my inner critic, and pushed the send button.
My question generated a flurry of emails that crisscrossed my screen for weeks. In a matter of minutes, with the click of one button, a lonely room at the end of a dark hallway where I sit and write, day after day, night after night, crowded with a bevy of unexpected and concerned children's writers and illustrators from all over the world. My simple query sparked an e-match and my screen was aglow with Ethernet chatter.
"You're a writer!"
"Pay no attention to that other children's writer!"
Encouraged, complimented, applauded, my spirits were buoyed. I am indebted to all those other children's writers and illustrators who came to this wannabee children's writer's aid.
I have since moved on to another writing class, another writing project, another essay. My passion to write is renewed; my courage to pick up a pen restored. I am grateful to those busy writers and illustrators who took time out of their hectic schedules and welcomed me with open arms into the fold. They have taught me that as a writer, I am not alone; I have only to e-connect and touch someone for inspiraton and motivation. Through their actions, I have learned that in order to write from the heart, one must first have a heart. It is a lesson I value and will not forget. Perhaps, if I'm lucky, I will one day be able to pass this same message along to another aspiring children's writer. Someday, I may even write about it. Why not? I am a writer!