I’ve found there’s an alarmingly close correlation between the topsy-turvy emotions of a high school crush and a writer’s feelings during the process of submitting a manuscript to publishers.
As the writer waiting for an answer from The Perfect Publisher, you go through the same hopeful highs and “why doesn’t anyone love me?” lows. The manuscript that just last week looked pretty darn good has somehow overnight developed a hideous zit. Rejections begin arriving, and you drive your family crazy with your obsessive speculation about whether The One will ever call.
For the past few years I’ve been working on a manuscript that’s a whole new kind of writing for me, and more recently I’ve been living all of these emotions throughout the submission process. One night in a restaurant, I actually found myself wailing to my good and patient friends, “All I want is for somebody to ask me to the prom!”
Guess what? The limo’s arrived! I had plenty of time to buy the right dress, but in Fall 2013 the limo appeared to take me and my middle grade mystery novel to the Big Dance.
Getting published is great; there’s no way I’ll pretend to you it isn’t. I’ve had a whole week of flowers and cupcakes, and this isn’t even my first dance! But the pursuit of getting published can also be tougher and more humbling than new writers imagine. So when kids approach me with that hopeful gleam in their eye and ask, “How do I get my story published?” I always feel a little ping of protective worry for them.
Then I work hard to instill in them a love of writing for the sake of writing, not just for the joy of seeing their name on the cover of a book.
And then I remember that having an audience for my work matters to me, too, and I come up with ways for students to share their writing. After all, part of the urge to see one’s name on a book cover is the fact that on the other side of the writing seesaw, there’s a reader who will find you—and your words—remarkable.
I’ll be describing the importance of giving students a chance to share their work out loud in an upcoming post titled “Driven to Write Better.” But there are also practical ways to allow students to “publish” their work. You can find affordable blank books in educational supply stores and online. You can have students choose for themselves the role of either “writer” or “illustrator,” and then pair them off to create their own picture books together. One school I visited arranged for older students to pair off with first-graders, and then the older kids interviewed the younger students about their personal preferences and created a book designed especially for them.
When the hard work of writing is done, everybody’s ready to dance!