Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sage Advice from a Master

Saturday, February 14th, better known as Valentine's Day to some, is also known as Kids-heart-Authors Day. All over New England, authors flocked to independent booksellers to show their love and support to these last safe harbors of informed discussion related to the children's book industry. I don't mean
to demean the efforts of the big chains, but my heart still clamors for those small places in our world where children and books can be celebrated for their own sake...and under one small roof. Because, after all, I am still a kid. 
On Saturday, I went off to my favorite independent bookstore  in 
Fairfield, Connecticut: The Dinosaur's Paw, Jimmy Giff's store, where I am regularly delighted with the presence of my mentor,
the Newbury Honor Medalist, Patricia Reilly Giff. Pat's class is a treasured part of my writing life. I'm a regular there...and so are my 
good friends, many of whom have become recently published! But none of that matters when we're there. What matters is Pat. Her soft voice, her gift of story, and her keen sense of the market are all that 
matters. She's amazing! Just hearing the words I've written in that New York accent of hers is a treat. It gives me a real sense of possibility...of hope.

I spoke to Pat during the break this week about an idea she had for my work. It was, as always, just the right thing to do. I spent this week deconstructing and then reconstructing parts of the book and now I see the characters in new they relate to one another. It works! 

But then Pat asked me, in a very quiet voice, "Why did you stop [writing]?" She'd never asked me that before. I've been with her for many years, but I went AWOL for about five years. I had no reason good I just told her I was a dope, that's all.  She smiled then. "It'll probably make for good story in the long run. Nothing ever gets wasted, you know."

We had a good laugh about the stupid things that take us away from ourselves. But as always, she got me thinking. Why did I stop? Well, I didn't stop writing, I just stopped pushing toward the finish line. I went to my critique group monthly and I did go to SCBWI conferences; Whispering Pines, New Hampshire. I spent a few sessions with Anita Riggio and learned to add depth to my work. (I-heart-Anita too!) But I stopped working toward the outside realm...with a real audience in mind and publication. I stopped understanding the buzz of the business. And worst of all, I stopped this terrific connection with Pat. My husband's illness, raising my kids, managing my teaching career. Sure, I was busy. But none of that is a good enough excuse. You have to write toward the finish line, no matter what. And that's what I get from Pat. She's right. There's nothing more satisfying in the world than the writing itself.
So...I, the kid, heart all you authors out there--published or otherwise! I no longer have that need to distinguish, although I'm in awe of all those that do make it over the finish line. They do it one idea, one word, a string of sentences...and with a butt in the chair, every day and always. 

And of course, I *heart* Patricia Reilly Giff, what a master she is!


Jame said...

Not a dope, never a dope. (And look at that sexy profile pic!) Can I just tell you how many years I *talked about* writing. And wrote whiny little journal entries. And wished I could call myself a writer...ugh...why couldn't I have a journey that was a straight shot? No, meandering. But then when it clicked into place, crystallized, galvanized, everything seemed like it happened for a reason. Oh, I hate when people say that, but you know what I mean, everything happens in its own perfect time. And right now, it's GAEL TIME!!

gael lynch said...

You are the best, Jame! Just when I need a lift, there you are! Sometimes it feels like a mountain, but it's only a hill with you by my side. What a good friend you are!

Smileyblueyes said...

You are anything but a dope. Don't say that. How about "all things for a reason"? Maybe you needed to experience, and feel a little 'more' life before coloring the pages of a story about life?
I have no interest in writing to be published. But I do have a lot of stories I would like to write down just so I don't lose them. I also find writing/and story telling so cathartic emotionally. Once I share a story, I see the picture/experience in a whole new light - and hopefully grow from that. I tell many stories in my classroom, too. What a wonderful audience they are, my students! As you have found out, too.
I would love to know more about these workshops/groups that are guiding you. I am not clear of what they are/how they work.
When I lived in Omaha, I worked closely with the "children's authors and illustrators"...something or other. I was setting up a publishing curriculum in a catholic school where my children attended school. This group was so wonderful (not competitive) in sharing things about their processes that helped me, and in turn, they would come to our classrooms and read their proof books, stories at different stages of publication. I loved it. They were good people.
What do you do, have someone read your writing, and coach you? Fill me in.

gael lynch said...

Thanks, Diane! You are such a great storyteller...I'd love to see you put all that stuff down on paper. Check out the SCBWI website for more on children's writing. You may find critique groups in your area through there. Of course they'll be children's writers, but you can find adult writing groups too. This group that I'm in with Pat consists of 20 of us. We write constantly, then we submit a few chapters each week. Pat reads our work and comments and then selects three pieces to read aloud for us to comment on. Get those stories down though! Check out 'The Artist's Way.' Great book! Full of inspiration. I'll blog about my writer's workshop on my other blog...Teach Spot, and fill you in on how all this transfers into my classroom. It's so much fun! :)

Smileyblueyes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Smileyblueyes said...

--sorry, I forgot to spell ck before publishing ;)---
Interesting you should comment on the Artist's Way. I bought the original version quite a # of yrs back, then gave it to a friend, in 2005. I saw that it has has been updated, and frankly, I wish I still had my copy. Maybe I'll pick the new one up and hold on to it this time.
I'll look forward to reading your comments on "Teach Spot". Although I really have no interest in publishing. I love making/telling stories with photos also. That seems to be where I put a lot of my time. I am almost ready to take a photography course. I do regular, and digital scrap booking and love that medium. My kids make fun of me when I title pages, but I don't care.
I think as I write more on my page, you will see why....

gael lynch said...

It's all good, Diane! Love that right brain at work. Gives us all complete satisfaction in life.