Friday, December 23, 2005

You're a Real Writer When...

"So are you published yet?"

The question is bound to come up at least once over the holiday weekend. It's inevitable after someone learns what I do, especially when that someone doesn't appreciate the real reason writers write.

Real writers aren't in the business for fame and glory, and they're not in it for money. A fact most friends and family members don't understand.

I used to feel obligated to justify my career choice at parties and family gatherings. Not anymore. Not since Vermont College gave me the confidence to pursue my craft. No matter what.

The fact is, though a host of celebrities think otherwise, writing for children isn't easy. The best picture books are works of art, requiring an economy of language that takes months to achieve, and months more to refine to an editor's satisfaction. What's more, today's award-winning novels demand authentic characters and prose that sings.

When you think about it, the question "are you published yet?" begs a question. Why is publishing the only sign of a real writer? Baseball players aren't required to win the World Series before they're paid beaucoup bucks. Lawyers don't have to argue before the Supreme Court before they can hang out a shingle. Why should writers be held to a higher standard?

Our first party of the weekend is tonight. When the inevitable question comes, I'll be ready.

"Not yet," I'll say when asked if I've sold my book yet.

I'll sip my wine, savor it, wait. If experience holds, the small talk will shift to another subject. Inwardly, I'll be grinning, grateful for the patience and perseverance I learned while pursuing my MFA.


Carol said...

It is amazing how tough it is to be published. I have seen many talented people just in the blog world that are waiting. It really is about persevering.

Stephen said...

I agree, particularly with your point about celebrities writing children's books. I've read a few celebrity children's books. (I wish I hadn't). I've been writing a lot just for the sake of writing lately, and the experience has shown me how difficult (and rewarding) it can be.