This really happened yesterday –– book launch for “The Craziest Fishing Tale on the Bayou” –– and a big THANK YOU to everyone who came out. I’m blown away by the support of #kidlit and #fishingstory with Octavia Books and illustrator Sarah Gramelspacher (that’s her in the bottom left picture with me). Remember her name, Sarah Gramelspacher. You will see it again in print, and soon.
Family, friends, kids, writers, people off the street … it was a day I’ll never forget. March 3, 2018. Okay, one more time. March 3, 2018. The inner kid in me is still reveling OR it might just be from the sugar overload of that book cake and a bag of gummy worms.
It seems like not too long ago when I first jotted a rough chapter outline in a scrappy journal about a boy and his grampa’s journey into the bayou. And now, it’s a published book and my very small contribution to children’s literature and the US Library of Congress. How cool is that!
Dr. Seuss, A. A. Milne, Judy Blume, Beatrix Potter, Jim Henson … they all had to start with something. Although I was fortunate enough to have two short stories published in Laura Roach Dragon’s “The Bayou Bogeyman Presents Hoodoo and Voodoo.” I almost think this happened for a reason: to get ready.
But honestly, I’ve been getting ready since I was 12 years old. I was one of those kids who never paid attention in class. School was just a means to hang out with my friends. To me, it was pointless. So one english class, instead of writing a biography about an influential person in the world, I wrote about a Super Egg that saved the day from a treacherous overlord cavity creep (anyone remember those commercials)?
What happened next was maybe the start of it all for me: the teacher made me read it aloud in class. Giggles. Laughter. My story broke the boredom of the day, and for a change, english class didn’t seem so bad.
No, I did not get an ‘A’ on the assignment. However, it did renew my interest in writing. From then on, probably anything I touched infused some pop culture reference in it. And I’m sure you’ll find a handful of pop culture references sprinkled in “The Craziest Fishing Tale on the Bayou.” Oompa Loompa ref, for sure.
So I guess my point is, if you have it in you to pen a kids’ story, more than anything #KeepWriting. To me, it’s like anything in life. Practice, practice, practice. If you want anything, you have to put in your time. If you want to be an author, then write anything: poetry, comics, plays, screenplays, commercials, articles, scientific white papers, legal documents, press releases, diaries, journals … you name it … they all help you gain confidence in the words and choices you make in the magical world of storytelling.
Learn the rules of writing. Then break them. Like the movies, people get tired of formulaic ideas. Well, that’s my opinion anyway. Remember who you are writing for––those kids who want to see themselves in your pages.
Get comfortable writing. Get comfortable revising. Don’t be afraid of the delete button. You’ll learn that not everything you write is worth keeping (although do save the file, just in case). Believe me, I’ve written a ton of bad stories and ideas. I penned my first screenplay when I was only 12. When I was 13, I threw it away. That’s how bad I thought it was, critical me.
But a bad idea on paper is still better than a great idea in your head.
After my Super Egg short-lived life, I toyed with screenplays––no official training might I add. I was only 12, right? Then I wrote comics. Then short stories. Back to screenplays. I tried my hand at co-authoring a theatrical play. I tried writing for public access TV. I wrote funnies. I wrote creepies. I wrote mostly about whatever crazy dream I had recently. Spent a year world-building about dragons. Another year writing about my post-college and I-can’t-find-a-job life. Children’s books never occurred to me. I rarely let anyone read what I had been writing. Because of rejection, of course, which is rather odd because my day job all these past years was as a marketer and advertising copywriter. If you know anything about advertising and clients, rejection comes with the job––daily. But someone I let in to my bizarre tales read something and suggested I try my writing for kids.
And thirty-something years after that first Super Egg tale … Ta-dah!
So now that I’m a published author, what now?
It feels like that moment when you open a new Word doc and your fingers hit the Qwerty board:
The journey begins …