Lesson No. 1: You’ve gotta’ love it!
For those who aspire to become writers, to share stories, to transport audiences into worlds unknown, passion, perseverance and dedication trump talent every time.
When I was 12, I took my first family trip across country. We drove all day and all night from Michigan to Mississippi to visit my father’s family. More than three decades later, I can still remember that feeling of being suspended in time, as though my uncle’s car was some sort of urban-cool time machine and we were traveling into my father’s childhood past.
I can also remember the family forming a receiving line in front of the old-fashioned, shotgun-style house. Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents stood on a carpet of bright clay mud and one-by-one tugged us tight into each and every bosom. We were family.
During the trip, my aunts and uncles, all of whom had or were earning advanced degrees, wanted to know what I was going to do when I grew up. Without hesitation, I told them the only thing I’d ever wanted to be — a writer and illustrator. I wanted to write books and illustrate them.
My assuredness made them froth with laughter. “You do, huh?” said one aunt. Another chortled, “Honey, you’ll change your mind a thousand times between now and then. Don’t worry. You’ve got time.”
It was like being slapped. They thought I was telling them some childish dream rather than my life plan. They mistook my passion for youthful hubris. They were wrong. I would show them.
I didn’t know whether I had the talent. In fact, I often questioned my skill level. Even so, I knew I wanted it more than anything and no matter what, I’d do whatever I could to reveal the story people populated my inner-world.
Now, decades after that fateful trip, I’ve put to bed a career as a journalist that spanned more than 20 years, and embarked on the passion that always gave my life a sense of purpose — writing books for children. I’ve been a journalist, a mom, a volunteer and a bunch of other stuff. Through it all, though, I’ve been a writer. How did I go from being a single mom nursing the tendrils of a childhood dream to a child-at-heart with her very own agent in New York and well-known publisher? And can I help other writers-at-heart to turn their lifelong dream into wishes-come-true?
Stay tuned. Next week we will explore the very beginning of beginnings, getting started and staring down the blank page. Moms, writers, lend me your ears! Or your pens. You know what, I’ll bring the ideas, you bring the questions and enthusiasm. See you right here in a week!