Why Write?

why-do-you-do-what-you-do-2

My favorite place to be is in my head.

As a young girl, I soaked in the bathtub with the boom box blaring, dreaming up dance routines and doodled across my paper bag book cover until graphite designs swallowed the cardboard colored wrapping.

But it never occurred to me to try my hand at creative writing; I didn’t like to read and the physical act of writing only ever led to a callus on my middle finger.

Then one of my teachers assigned our class the task of writing an original story, forcing me to apply my healthy imagination elsewhere.

Inspiration didn’t take long.  On the bus ride home from school the same day, I was struck by images for an opening scene so fabulous in my ten year old brain that I immediately took pencil to paper and composed what I believed to be the start of a master piece.

This rush of innovation convinced me I was the next Judy Blume.  I labored over my story, submitted the completed manuscript with the exuberance of A Christmas Story’s Ralphie, and waited for my Ms. Shields to award me with accolades and an A+.

My young author fantasy collapsed within a week.  As I read through Ms. Shield’s blanket of edits, I could hear the red ink cackling, “You’re not good enough, kid.”  Already a perfectionist, I cast my new ambition aside.

Sort of.

In high school I dabbled in poetry, in business school took fiction writing and literature courses, and as an elementary school teacher, loved to teach the craft.  Each time, self doubt swallowed the artistic undercurrent.

Then I became a mommy with young children desperate for a hobby that fulfilled me in a way diapers, laundry, and sleep training never could.  I sampled dance classes but lost interest when I couldn’t remember the routine from week to week and researched community art classes but concluded my drawing skills were best left in the margin.

Nothing stuck until one snowy morning on route to preschool drop off, words stepped forward.

My youthful, creative energy plunked down in the passenger’s seat beside me.  “You don’t need fancy degrees, a library spilling with classics or outside approval to write,” she explained.  “You have heart, experience, and curiosity.  It’s time.”

Here I am, six years later writing picture books for children and essays for the grown-ups in their lives.  Why?

I write to share my truth after 25 years of secret keeping.

I write to honor the child; to validate their place in this world, capture their joy, experiences and feelings and to preserve the innocent spirit I lost too soon.

I write so Bubbe and Skootch have access to a growing collection of their mother’s thoughts and beliefs so they may learn who I am in addition to being Mom

I write to model for them what it looks like to pursue a passion.

Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of why I do what I do.

So whenever my ego swells, I become consumed with clicks, views and audience expectations, the idea pipeline shrivels, deadlines approach, rejections mount, a critique breaks my spirit or life just gets in the way, I take a breath…

relax into my favorite place,
hone in on my heart,
open the flood gates
and write.

Birthdays & Back to School

Today Red said what? turns two.  Mamalode is helping me celebrate the blog’s birthday by featuring this Back to School version of “A Mother’s Mantra.”

Mamalode Mothers Mantra Picture

http://mamalode.com/story/detail/a-mothers-mantra

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement.  If you didn’t take the time to read my essays, this blog couldn’t exist.

Do I have a new piece prepared for September?  Yes.  It’s waiting in the wings…

Since you asked…The Inspiring Bloggers Award

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Two of my writer friends, Leslie and Katey were kind enough to nominate Red said what? for an Inspiring Bloggers Award.  As such, I am taking a break from the personal essay circuit this month to happily accept their nomination.

Bloggers typically nominate each other for awards to show support and generate interest.  To accept this nomination I am required to:

  1. Display the award badge on my blog…check
  2. Link back to the people who nominated me…check
  3. List 15 blogs that inspire me…check
  4. Share 7 snippets about myself.  Thank you in advance for the indulgence.

In an effort to respect the “award free” policy of some of the below sites, I am sharing them with the hope that someone might also enjoy the content.  To the writers, by all means consider yourself nominated for an Inspiring Blogger Award if you would like to participate.

Blog Inspiration by category…

Health, Fitness, and “Strength”

Catalyst Athletics        Words with Lisbeth

Education, Relationships, & General Good Stuff

A.PROMPTreply        Diane Ravitch

Donna Gwinnell Lambo-Weidner’s Life is an Adventure

life in a flash              Safekeeping Stories        Stacey Wilk

Reading, Writing, & Illustrating

Amalia Hoffman

Gold From The Dust: Bringing Stories to Life

Raising Readers       The Jersey Farm Scribe

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)         Writing & Illustrating

Z is for Zampetti, L is for Librarian & W is for Writer

7 Snippets…

1.  As a high school senior, I won a $50 prize sponsored by Shop Rite for “Most Personality and Common Sense.”

I think the hairdo gave me an edge...
I think the hairdo gave me an edge..

2.  During college, I worked in the library’s periodical department.

3.  With the exception of Rhythm Nation, I have seen Janet Jackson on tour every other time.

4.  Margarita.  Straight up.  No salt.

5.  Play the “right song,” and I will bust out the dance moves; anywhere, anytime.

6.  Favorite CrossFit movement?  The overhead squat.

Unfortunately, not me.

Unfortunately, not me.

7.  I know how to fire a musket.

Still not me, but it could be.

Still not me, but could be.

Please contribute to the pool of inspiration.  Take a minute to comment and share:

1 personal snippet (I figured 7 would be over kill)

and/or

1 blog, website, article or book that inspires you.

C’mon… indulge.

Thank you Lisa and Katey.  And thank you Red said what? readers for inspiring me to write what feels right.

8 Steps to Taking Rejection

Four years ago I was a part-time teaching, newbie mother of two ready for more; more from the “real” me and ready to embrace a creative energy suffocated by Urb-Burb expectations, thirty-something responsibility, and motherhood.

One December morning while ushering Bubbe down the driveway en route to my work gig and his Fours class at our local preschool, an original story title dropped into my head.  The words sounded like something straight out of a child’s picture book.

I have been writing ever since.

I get great joy from piecing together a picture book story.  However, as a Fours mommy, yoga buddy, and KidLit publishing veteran kindly forewarned me at the outset, “Next to poetry, the most difficult thing to get published is the picture book.”

Translation?  Learn to take rejection.

Aah, yes.  Experiencing rejection from literary agents and editors when one is attempting to traditionally publish one’s work comes with the territory, and I have traversed that land more times than I care to count.

Regardless of how many I know who have paid it a visit; Rejection seems perpetually barren when I’m there.  It is a lonely place that stings the creative spirit, erodes an already exposed ego, and paralyzes dreams.

When all roads lead to Rejection, I am tempted to curl up and quit; but I don’t.  Instead, I take 8 steps and continue the journey.

Step 1:  Throw a pity party. 

Traces of the endorphin rush filled with hope and possibility that flooded my system upon hitting “Send” disintegrate, replaced by artistic misery when, after investing effort into a project, crafting a thoughtful query, and researching where to place it, the answer comes back

“No.”

Given the circumstances, wallowing in self pity is natural.  So I cry over cookies and cocktails.  When the party winds down, I take a deep breath and walk away; the mess can wait.

Step 2:  Find a shoulder or seek solitude.

After the party, I reach out to two people; my Dad and Mac.  They consistently tell me what I need to hear, “Just keep going.  You’ll be alright.”  There are days when I don’t feel like talking to anyone.  Then I find strength in silence.

Step 3:  Say “Thank you.”

From there, I send a professional note of thanks and well wishes to the agent or editor who sent the rejection even if the response is a form letter or the answer took a

very

long

time.

In my discouraged state, I try to remember that most people don’t relish in the failure of others and that relationship building and reputation are just as important as a polished, marketable, and unique manuscript.  Rejection becomes more tolerable of a place when I build bridges to cross.

Step 4:  Make a move. 

When the pain dwindles, I know it’s time; time to pull myself up by the bra straps, step into a pair of gritty calloused footie pajamas, zip them up to my chin, and get back to work.

Step 5:  Reflect.

Upon giving birth to a picture book manuscript, the last thing I want to do with my precious story is examine its flaws and make changes.  Reflecting on rejection is however, a catalyst for growth.  It is also a balancing act between an open mind and following one’s gut.

If specific comments accompany a rejection, I comb through them to see what makes sense, face my chronic weakness; submitting before a project is ready and ask myself,

What does this story still need? 

Then I write a bit or at least think about writing, and go on to the next step.

Step 6:  Get Feedback. 

Sometimes I’m more productive when I step out of my head and investigate outside the bubble.

I find it helpful to reach out to writing partners for additional guidance, sign up for professional feedback at conferences, seek out critique opportunities from valued resources, and listen to what the children have to say.

Step 7:  Embrace the nuggets. 

Through it all, I embrace the positives.

Rejection is laced with signs of life.  The first time I graduated from a form to a personalized rejection letter, I viewed it as cause for celebration because it meant I was growing as a writer.  Whenever an agent pays a compliment, a contest recognizes a story, or an editor publishes an essay, I am reminded that although my path to picture book publication has yet to be a straight line, it is moving in the right direction.

Step 8:  Try again.

To a catch a dream, one must cast a net.  Eventually, I submit my work to another agent or editor.  And while I wait for that response, I keep a writing schedule, form connections, enter contests, submit blog essays, apply for grants, and build a platform.  I continue to put myself out there because in the end, I make my own luck.

Marty McFly moments happen.  Just when I think I can’t take that kind of rejection, I do; because I love to write.

Wherever your passion lies, here’s to collecting nuggets, casting nets, and pulling in your 2015 dreams.

Happy New Year!