What is Your Writing Dream?

I had the chance to sit down with an aspiring high school writer yesterday and “talk shop.” This young lady was visiting her aunt, who happens to be a dear friend of mine. My friend asked if they could have a hour or so of my time so her neice could ask me questions about what it was like to be a writer for children and what it takes to be successful. Since I love young people and I love talking about what I do, it was a treat for me- not to mention there was really good ice cream involved!

We started in right away talking about what she was working on. I could see she was a little shy, and I wanted to quickly get below the surface so we could make the most of our hour together. So after she talked a bit about her book, I asked her, “What is your dream?” She looked a little bit stunned, so I asked the question again but more specifically, “What is your writing dream?”

And her answer was simply, “I want to be a writer.” We went on to talk about what that looked like, and I shared a little of my journey, about getting into a critique group, joining SCBWI and building an on-line presence. Things that are the essential building blocks to getting started in this business. A gave her a few books I don’t really use anymore to help her get started, and I sent her on her way- hopefully with some perspective about what it means to “be a writer.”

On my way home and throughout the evening, I thought about the very question I’d asked her, “What is your writing dream?” and I realized I hadn’t asked myself that same question in a long time. I could have answered it easily 25 years ago, and it probably would have sounded something like what my young friend said.

“Throes of Creation,” by Leonid Pasternak

But what about the dream? The spark that makes me passionate about what I do and keeps me sitting down for hours every day crafting new stories and working on revisions between other writing jobs. Is the dream anything close to what I envisioned all those years ago?

I think it’s important to get back to dreaming as writers. It’s so easy to get caught up in the social media-writer-challenge/educational-and-marketing-opportunity life that is the world of writing these days. We forget that it’s the desire to tell a good story and give something of beauty and value to the world- that God-spark if you will- that got us started in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong! Writing is a business. And like any other business, it needs feeding in order to flourish. But getting too far away from your original, starry-eyed dream of writing may begin to diminish your creativity.

So, what is your writing dream and what are you doing to keep that dream alive? Slowing down and answering that question honestly may be just what you need to add some joy to the journey!

Sensibility- Writers are dreamers. Let your mind wander this week to where your writing dream was born.

Sense Find balance between the business and creative side of writing to keep story ideas fresh and flowing.

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”

― C.S. Lewis


How has your writing dream evolved over the years?


I Graduated! A Salute to Angie Karcher, and Balancing Writing Challenges

This past month I participated in Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo! Since April is National Poetry Month, it was a great way to celebrate and learn with other like-minded children’s writers. It’s a tough literary world out there for us rhyming folk, and it was so nice having a month and a program dedicated to those of us who think and even sometimes dream in verse. I loved learning that I’m not a rhyming writer swimming all alone in a sea of prose. So hats off to you Angie! It was a huge undertaking and I thank you so very much!

But it was just that, a huge undertaking! Angie provided us with so much amazing information and opportunities that by the middle of the second week I was beginning to feel overwhelmed. But the beautiful thing about the way she organized the program is that you could fully participate or pick and choose the things and timing that worked for you. Now I have a file of wonderful blog posts to read at my leisure so I can soak up all of the great information between writing gigs and working on my own manuscripts.

You may have noticed there are lots of opportunities like Angie’s popping up all over the writing world. What started as just NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has turned into a nearly-full, year-long calendar of writing challenges, blogging blitzes and twitter-pitch mania. It’s enough to make any writer’s head spin, especially since we all know that each new opportunity could be the “game-changer” we’ve all been waiting for. So here’s some advice for those of you thinking about signing up for these kind of opportunities:

  • Balance your time. If you sign up for a writer challenge or learning opportunity, unless you can quit your job and send your kids to their grandparents for a month, you must find a balance that works for you.
  • Don’t let writing challenges and learning opportunities take the place of writing. Writing is hard work. You can’t get around that. And as fun as these challenges are, they won’t take the place of the work you need to do to be successful.
  • Participate in only those challenges that apply to the type of writing you do. It’s hard for writers not to jump into every opportunity that seems like it might help them move their pawn a little further down the writing road. You must become an expert at what you do, so try and find things that best meet your writing needs at this time.
  • Build your own online platform. While doing challenges and twitter pitches and contests are great, don’t neglect the need to build your own online writer platform so you’re ready when opportunity comes your way.

I’m giving you a standing ovation Angie Karcher! You’ve done an amazing job and this rhyming-writer appreciates it more than you’ll ever know!

Sensibility– Taking advantage of writer challenges provides encouragement, networking opportunities and much-needed food for your writing soul.

Sense- Commit to the hard work it takes to be a writer and don’t get sidetracked by things that may or may not be helping you learn your craft.

What writing challenges have you participated in and why? Did you find them helpful?


Building a Fan Base: The Bane and Blessing of Social Media

I had the privilege of participating in this year’s March Madness Poetry Contest hosted by poet Ed DeCaria on his Think.Kid.Think! blog. I was both honored and overwhelmed at the thought of being chosen as an authlete for the competition. It was especially daunting thinking about writing a poem in 36 hours out of a word I was assigned and being up against such heavy hitters as Jane Yolen and fellow Michigan SCBWI authors Shutta Crum, Buffy Silverman, Elizabeth McBride and others. But when the time came to submit and begin voting, a strange thing happened…the playing field became eerily leveled due to one overwhelming factor- the public vote. And where did the public vote come from for the most part you ask? Social media. I tweeted, Facebooked, Linked In and Google+’d my little fingers off to scare up as many votes as I could for my brave little poem. And even though at the end of the day I didn’t make it past the first round, I had a decent showing. The contest is in its final stages, so if you haven’t gotten a chance to read some of the great poetry showcased and vote, I highly recommend it.

So, not only did this contest help me dust off my love of writing in rhyme (I tend to think in rhyme-weird I know), but it reminded me of how important it is to build a fan base, or following, long before a first book comes out. Building a following is pretty easy these days since the social-media tools are essentially free and just waiting to be used. But if you never get the tools out of the toolbox, they are basically useless. I know what you’re thinking. “But I don’t have time to use social media!” “Exposing myself to the public makes me uncomfortable!” “What if someone steals my idea or my personal information?” “I need to spend my time WRITING, not posting on Facebook!” Believe me, all of these things are true to some extent. But never before in history have we authors had so many vehicles available to get the word out about our books and what we do. To put it plainly, if you’re not taking advantage of social media as an author, in many ways, you’re being left behind. Waiting until you sign that first book deal or agent contract is too late to start thinking about building a social media platform. Many houses and agencies want to see that you’ve already done your homework in this area before ever taking you on.

I know trying new things can be scary, but we’re authors, and that’s what we do. While you’re waiting for that next great book idea, are in the middle of revisions, or are putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard for the first time, take time to develop your online presence. Who knows, it could make the difference between making it to the “final four” and getting left in the dust!

Sensibility– Getting on board with social media does not have to take time away from the creative process. Use the stories of others to inspire and encourage you in your writing journey.

Sense– Balance is necessary in every new adventure. Use social media as a tool, but don’t let it take over your writing life.