By Miranda Paul
Happy Earth Day!
Spring is finally here!
No more waiting!
A while back, I wrote a post about all the waiting that writers do. (I also wrote about how long Wisconsinites wait for spring.) We have to be patient; things happen slowly. In writing, here are long stretches in between hearing from agents or editors.
But then, when it rains, it pours.
As rain continues to saturate my muddy lawn, requests continue to saturate my inbox. This happens to writers, especially when you have multiple books releasing in the same year from different publishers. All in a day, you might open your email to find unexpected first-peek illustration spreads for a book, back matter notes from an editor, a request for an author bio on a different book, and a response from a new submission. More often than not, this will happen on a holiday weekend or the first day of a vacation. And while you're in the middle of a work-for-hire job. Because, well, that's life.
And, let's be honest, it's an exciting life.
I've learned to "roll with it." Whatever the weather (figurative or literal), one of the best things you can do is train yourself to be flexible. Anticipate and plan for what you know is coming, but have some resources available should you receive an unexpected downpour of tasks. (Hint: These resources might include emergency babysitters, to-do list notepads, coffee, several short bios of yourself written in third-person, a professional headshot, and phone numbers of your mentors and gurus who have "been there" and can offer quick advice).
The most important thing to remember is that April showers bring May flowers. Total cliché, I know. But this April, my "showers" are producing next spring's books. Now, back to work!
Miranda Paul has learned the art of flexibility through traveling, mothering, and teaching. She is the author of One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of The Gambia (Millbrook, 2015), Water is Water (Neal Porter Books, 2015), and Helping Hands (Millbrook, 2016). In addition to being an instructor for the Children's Book Academy’s course on grammar, she is the founder and administrator of RateYourStory.org, an online service dedicated to helping writers prepare their manuscripts for submission. Follow her on Twitter (@Miranda_Paul) or visit her website at www.MirandaPaul.com.
I recently took up bird watching. It’s been fascinating to walk around with my camera and capture fleeting images of birds I’d regularly overlooked until now. They’re there for an instant . . .
. . . then they’re gone.
I recently realized that bird watching is a lot like writing. When I began writing, I slowly started paying attention to my thoughts, just as I later began noticing and capturing the image of birds with my camera. As we go about our day, all of us experience an endless stream of thoughts. We think about where we are going and what we are doing. We form instantaneous opinions about all sorts of things that happen around us.
Before I began writing, these opinions or conclusions zipped through my brain and I forgot them just as quickly. When I began writing, however, I realized certain thoughts were the inklings of stories. For example, many years ago I noticed a four-year-old child starting to wail in the “Sunbeam” class at church. As I stood in the back of the room, what instantly flashed in my mind was, Boy, he doesn’t want to be a Sunbeam, does he? Instead of letting it go, however, I realized this was the essence of a story. I wrote “Petey Didn’t Want to be a Sunbeam” and was delighted when it sold.
When my daughter was young, she used to love dogs. Whenever we encountered a dog, she wanted to pet it. One day, when she was asking to pet yet another passerby’s dog, the thought occurred to me that I wouldn’t be the type of mother she would pick. If she could, my daughter would pick a mother that loved dogs and had lots of dogs. This idea became the basis for a personal essay that I sold to the The Sacramento Bee.
When I checked out a library book about French scientist Léon Foucault and read that he invited his scientific peers to “come see the earth turn,” I instantly saw that as a spread in a picture book.
Here’s to capturing those fleeting thoughts--and pictures of a few birds too!
Lori Mortensen is an award-winning children’s book author of more than three dozen fiction and nonfiction books. A writing instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature for eight years, Lori is a frequent speaker at schools and SCBWI conferences and is represented by Eden Street Literary in New York. Recent picture book titles include Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg (Clarion), named one of Amazon's Best Picture Books of the Year, Cindy Moo (HarperCollins, 2012), Come See the Earth Turn – The Story of Léon Foucault (Random House, 2010), and In the Trees, Honey Bees! (Dawn, 2009). Learn more about Lori and her books at www.lorimortensen.com.
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