Monday, November 17, 2008

Writing Advice

A few weeks back, Shay's teacher asked me to come in and talk to her class about writing. The kids are working on personal essays, which is kind of my thing, so I read them a story I had published about Shay, then talked about where I get my ideas.

The kids were so wide-eyed and fascinated - it made me feel like a real writer. In fact, they sent me a thank you card afterwards, and one of them wrote "you are the best writer I have ever met." Cue warm fuzzy feeling.

Today an actual real writer arrived at the school. Eric Kimmel has published zillions of children's books, and the PTA arranged to have him fly in for a visit. He is doing workshops with all of the elementary grade levels. He met with the kindergarteners today, and Aidan was just thrilled to meet him – they’d been reading his stories for weeks in preparation for the visit. Mr. Kimmel also did a seminar for parents, during which he dispensed some advice for aspiring writers. Gutsy Writer asked me for some advice awhile back, but I wasn’t sure what advice I might have. Mr. Kimmel suggested reading a lot, writing every day and starting out by pitching magazines. Check, check and check. He also pointed out that people living this overseas lifestyle have lots to offer, as we have experiences and stories that no one else out there has. True enough.

Of course, as he pointed out, you can’t be afraid of rejection. The rejection letters used to bother me, but I grew accustomed to them rather more quickly than I’d expected. Now? Eh, whatever. I’ve written plenty of stories that were rejected numerous times before finding a home. So I don’t take it very personally when I get a rejection. And I love when I get personal rejection letters, from editors who took the time to read what I sent them and offered up encouraging words. Once, when I was first starting out submitting, I wrote a story and sent it off to a little publication. The editor wrote me a personal note telling me she loved my story, and while it was wildly inappropriate for her publication, she actually sent me a list of other pubs I should query. I was floored by her kind words and graciousness to this very green writer. And the story did eventually find a home, in the Washington Post.

So – nothing new in Eric Kimmel’s advice to aspiring writers. Read. Write. Submit. Repeat. But it was good to be reminded of the work that’s involved in trying to make a living off of one’s words. I guess I’ll just keep plugging away at it and wait for fame and fortune to find me. If only I didn’t move every few years, perhaps fame and fortune could find me more easily.

4 comments:

Candid Carrie said... [Reply]

Great post, I usually lurk and read you through my google reader but this was a tremendous amount of information packed into a bite size post. I am fortunate enough to write about six hours a day and unfortunate enough to have been gifted that procrastination gene from my mother's side of the family ;)

So, off I go ... thanks to you, blazing the trail to the first of my rejections.

Seriously, this was the infomration I needed today.

Simple Answer said... [Reply]

I think it most impressive that the rejection letters don't bother you. Rejection is not easy.

Jessica said... [Reply]

I don't think I'd ever seen that story about Nona. What a beautiful piece.

When Liam and I had been married for about a year my grandmother passed away. She and I were tremendously close and I felt this huge hole in my life. Even though I was living in Kazakhstan, I felt her absence. When I was about 12 she taught me how to knit. Recently I've picked it back up again and it amazes me how the simple act of picking up needles and yarn makes me feel like she is here. With every knit and every purl.

Neil said... [Reply]

Hey Donna -- I really enjoyed your post!

Please. Write your own stuff.