I know SCBWI members haven’t wondered what happened to me after my first essay appeared twenty years ago in their bulletin (Read my previous post.). For those who are thinking about giving up on writing, it might be worth knowing, however, that I finally got published. So, yes, it’s possible.
Money and awards don’t roll in. Editors and agents don’t call. Hollywood hasn’t offered a movie deal.
Well, what was the point, then, you might ask. I wondered that myself for a while.
Shortly after I wrote that 1992 essay, I found a new editor in the bulletin’s “Publisher’s Corner” and began sending her picture book manuscripts. She asked to see more, finally found one she loved, and called. I was thrilled, but after many, many, many months, it was clear the project would never happen for complicated reasons. She wrote me a beautiful letter, urging me not to stop writing despite the disappointment.
But I stopped. I was heartbroken. I couldn’t see the point anymore. Also, my life had dramatically and gloriously changed because we’d adopted a baby girl from China. It was easy to shift my focus to her.
Then when she was in kindergarten, she asked, “Mama, did you ever want to be anything?”
She caught me. I thought I’d been successfully hiding behind play dates and bake sales, but she’d been wondering about me. I explained I’d wanted to be a writer once and actually read her that almost-published story. “It’s good,” she said. “Write another one.” She believed so completely in me that I started again. I had, in fact, been wondering about her, too, and the mystery that brought us together. I began writing a fanciful journey for her. My picture book, Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2010.
When I sat in the Random House lobby after meeting my editor, I understood success had nothing to do with my fame or fortune or mahogany paneling or a crisp white blouse–the details I’d envisioned in 1992. My success was about showing my daughter how a person collects the pieces of a broken dream and tries again. That was the point.
At a bookstore signing, a little girl said I was the only famous person she’d met. She told me she wanted to be an author and asked me what writing was like. I told her it was like doing laundry, only you sort and fold words daily. She smiled and agreed. She said she wrote stories about her friends all the time. That was the point.
When I read my book at a school assembly, an adopted Chinese girl announced, “I’m the real sweet moon baby.” She had found a metaphor to hold in her heart. That was the point.
A mother bought my book to support local authors but was puzzled when her young son, who was not adopted or Chinese, repeatedly wanted her to read it at bedtime. She asked him why and he explained, “I like how all the animals help the baby get home. I would help her, too.” That was the point.
Now I understand why books for children matter. I understand why I write them and that the point is far greater than my own success.
I just keep doing it.
It’s that easy.
It’s that hard.
Whether I ever get a second book published or not.
I mean until I get a second book published.