Thursday, June 18, 2009

FAQs: Has your life changed since becoming an author?

Today another writer asked me, "Has your life changed since becoming a published author?"

My answer: Oh, yes.

I go to bookstores and libraries about as often as I used to (once a week or so), but now I usually look for my book on the shelf.
If they have it I offer to sign it.
If they don't, I show them my copy and give them the elevator pitch: explain how it's often compared to Diary of a Wimpy Kid (a book almost everyone knows), and how it appeals to both reluctant and avid readers, boys and girls alike. Usually they say they'll check it out online.

I travel more now -- visited 23 schools in March alone. I have stayed in very nice hotels I couldn't have otherwise managed. Hunted for Petoskey stones, learned more about the Underground Railroad, flew my family to Manhattan. I love mixing travel, art, books and kids. There's nothing better.

I used to wonder if I'd ever find where I fit into the big publishing world.
Now I have a better idea of my strengths and weaknesses.

I used to wonder when I will be financially solvent, when I will pay my bills without worry, when I will be able to buy whatever I want, within reason.
Now I know... it'll be a while.

I used to wonder what it would be like to do author presentations in big, fancy libraries with famous names on them, to compare books with famous authors and illustrators, to walk into a bookstore unnoticed and spy on a person buying my book off the shelf.
Now I know. It's fabulous. It's amazingly wonderful. It's better than I thought it would be.

I used to marvel at how Real Authors put together word after word, sentence after sentence, metaphor after brainstorm, on and on, to a completed book and a sequel and a series. I thought they were brilliant -- that they had a magic muse that spoke into their pens and typewriters.
Now I know:
It's with thoughtfulness, hard work, B.I.C. (body in chair, I tell kids at my school events), writing when your brain won't produce anything great, pushing yourself through rejection, through fallow times, through melancholy and depression, through anxiety and panic, through uncreative lulls.
It's with faith that when it's finished, the book will be worth reading, even though there are many times before then that it seems impossible.

I used to think that when I got published my insecurities would end.
Now I know they merely shifted. I still worry about whether the next book will sell. I still write down every idea for a new book, scrabbling to get it down before it escapes me, and I wonder if it'll ever see real, typeset words on real paper between real paper-over-board covers.

Once in exasperation my agent said, in a crowd, "Yes, Ruth, you're my favorite." I felt mortified -- flashback to my childhood: were the others going to beat me up for garnering probably-temporary favor? -- and I felt embarrassed -- of course she was being facetious, wasn't I perceptive enough to pick up on that? -- and I felt exhilarated -- maybe she really meant it, just a little!
I guess I haven't grown much since I pushed my brothers and sisters out of the way so I could have alone time (alone nanoseconds) with Mom.

I used to think learning was a curve, starting low, climbing, then falling, with a finite end. Now I see that it never ends -- and in fact the amount of stuff to learn is an ever-growing mountain.
The more I know about writing and illustration and books, the more I want to know about writing and illustration and books -- and the more I realize I don't know.

My editor said a few years ago that we want Ellie McDoodle to steadily climb the charts, not to shoot to the top right away.
I didn't understand why, then.
Now I do.
Each stage of this publishing life has meant an adjustment for me. I don't know how I would have handled it if it had happened big and quick.
I'd sure like to find out how I will handle it, when Ellie gets to the top. :)
(meaning, I hope it gets there!)
I love where it's at right now, too.

Are you a writer? Keep at it. B.I.C. It's worth the effort and the pain.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Kids Read Comics Convention! Free!

Coming up soon! This weekend!
Friday/Saturday, June 12-13: The Kids Read Comics Convention in Chelsea, Michigan at the Chelsea District Library (and some at the River Gallery and Chelsea Depot). It's FREE! Every bit of it is FREE! And there's a zillion things to do there. Tell everyone you know. Bring the kids. Register in advance for some of the events. All the programming is listed here and it's very impressive.
Masquerade ball and auction, Arts Jam, lots of informative and fun sessions.
Ever want to write or draw comics or comic strips or find out more about how it's done? This is the place for you!
Got kids who love to write or draw? They will adore this convention.

I'll be doing some drawing and doodling at it, and I'll be checking out some of the other presenters, too. I'm so excited to be a part of this -- read all about it on the Kids Read Comics Con website.

Wish I could be there for the whole thing!
But I'm in New York City this week, flying into Detroit just in time for the Saturday part of the convention -- I'm visiting Columbus Elementary School in New Rochelle, and then speaking with a book discussion group at the New York Public Library -- the big building with the lions out front, at Fifth and 42nd.
I'll also sign a few books at the wonderful Books of Wonder store and meet with the brilliant people who help put together the Ellie McDoodle books, the staff at Bloomsbury. (I loooove Bloomsbury. I have the best Editor. And the best Publicist. And the best School-Library expert. And the best Art Director. And the best support staff in the world. I'm lucky to be working with them on the next two books. :)
AND -- the icing on the cake -- I'm meeting up with two dear artist friends, one is flying in from Moose Jaw, Canada (and originally from South Africa) and the other is ferrying in from Staten Island. It's our first time all together in the same place. I can't wait.
So of course I am bringing a sketchbook to fill! (and a spare, just in case there's a lot to draw)

If you want to see earlier sketches of New York City, go to my website and click on sketches at the bottom of the first page. It'll take you to a page with lots of sketchbooks, 3 from SCBWI conferences in NYC.