Writing for Children: not for those who want glory, fame, or big bucks

Last week’s Hamodia/Inyan Magazine had an article by one of my favorite columnists, Rabbi Fishel Schachter entitled “Guided by Tale Winds.” While today Rabbi Schachter is well-known in the Torah world for essays and presentations for adults about the weekly Torah portion, parenting, and other subjects, he first gained popularity as a rebbi and storyteller to students in Jewish day schools.

Rabbi Schachter explains in the article that one of the adults in his audience told him many years ago that he had to choose between teaching grown-ups or kids — and he indicated that the natural choice for a man of Rabbi Schachter’s talent and intelligence was to teach adults.

Turning to his own rebbi for guidance, Rabbi Schachter asked if teaching kids was really beneath him? Were all the silly voices and so on undermining his stature?

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Coping with rejection, again.

Okay, so I’ve written about rejection a lot of times. Like, a whole lotta times. But since the story I revised and returned to my wonderful editor is still deemed insufficiently engaging by her, I’m coping with rejection again. (Honestly, she gave me the option of cutting half its length, but I have officially washed my hands of the whole situation.) If I have to cope with it, I might as well post about it. Continue reading

Considering my last year of literary pursuit

Since there are just two weeks left of the Jewish year of 5773, I’ve been looking back at the last year and evaluating my life on every level: spiritual, physical, and even professional. And one goal still stands out at unfulfilled:

I STILL HAVEN’T PUBLISHED BOOK #2.

This issue depressed me a couple weeks ago, as I sat in front of my journal on Rosh Chodesh Elul (exactly one month before Rosh Hashanah), scribbling about the past year. I’d submitted a few picture books and two novels to multiple publishers and had zilch to show for it.

But then I counted how many times I appeared in print in the last year for pay: over two dozen times (bli ayin hara).

And then, I counted how many words I’d written. Essentially, it was the length of a novel. Wow.

I realized at that point how many more readers — potentially thousands more people — read my work in magazines this year than in my entire previous professional life.

That’s when I felt blessed.

Okay, I still have a major unfulfilled goal. It will be top of my professional goals again for this 5774. But if success is measured in progress, I made a lot of progress last year. And I could only do it with G-d’s help, which makes the year feel very sweet indeed.

How are you feeling about your last year, professionally? What is your top goal for 5774?

Almost (but only almost!)


(photo by Ian Britton)

Well, my goal for the summer was to finish my first solo effort at a novel and…I didn’t quite finish.

Ugh.

I’m probably just 3,000 words shy of a complete first draft. After ditching my original draft of “Part 3,” I had a good think and outlined a new path for the rest of the book. However, I’m having problems bringing myself to sit down and finish.

What’s my excuse? Instead of spending quality time with my keyboard, I’ve been spending quality time with humans (my husband and kids, now back in school), and I’ve been actively looking for more freelance work.  I finished a writing project last week and submitted something else. It’s not like I’ve been wasting time doing nothing. On the other hand, I have wasted a lot of time blogging, reading weird science news (justifying it as research), and listening to music that’s too noisy for effectively focusing on a computer screen.

It’s time for a completely non-professional attempt at psychoanalyzing myself. I definitely need to figure out why I don’t just sit down for a couple nights and crank out the rest so I can get over it.

1) I used to write for fun. It was relaxing, and even escapist. I still love writing. I’m still very enthusiastic about this project. However, writing has been reclassified in my brain over the last 9 months as a professional exercise and not a hobby. It’s actually work.

2) I think I’m a little freaked out about finishing the first draft because I know it will be…a first draft. Like, not perfect. Like, potentially terrible. I guess I have to just accept that it will start out that way, but trust that it’ll eventually improve.

“How do you do it?” How to write while you’re a stay at home mother

People often ask me this question: How do you find time to write? Other moms work outside the home, sometimes full-time, yet my extremely-part-time and mostly at home writing puzzles them. Life as a FT mom is so wild and wacky, my head buzzes with ideas that could make great kids’ books. Doesn’t yours? This is how to get the ideas out and coherently on paper:

First of all, I have a giant notebook. Inside, I write lots of lists. Some titles you’ll find in my notebook: funny things kids do; annoying things kids do; what kids fight about; excuses they give; sweet things kids do. Don’t just email your girlfriend or tell Mom or Hubby about the craziness you endured during the day–write it down, even just in shorthand.
Also, after a workshop by Sarah Shapiro, I’ve learned to listen and practice writing dialogue. She says to do it daily, but I’m not that good about it. Just copy down a short conversation every week or so, and you’ll get practice.
Read LOTS…then respond in a book club, blog, or by writing a review online. If the book gave you an idea, extend it as far as you can.
No T.V. means more time and more productive time is available in this house.
After you write, revise. Test out on friends by sending your story to them or by joining a writing group. Then revise more according to what they suggest, then re-read to them. Is it improved?
Figure out who publishes similar pieces to yours, get the submission guidelines, then send the manuscript in! You’ll never know if you might have succeeded if you never try.
And remember, rejection letters are good for your middos.