BLUE COLLAR WRITER
When I wrote my latest book, Someone Builds the Dream, the idea began while I tiled the shower in my bathroom. I struggled horribly with the task. I began to think of the people who do this work on a daily basis. Yes, I had a vision for how I wanted the shower to look, but making that vision come to life was daunting.
Then, it occurred to me that we all have dreams. Dreams of building, creating, making, inventing and writing. But a dream is only the beginning of any process.
WRITING IS YOUR JOB
When I wanted to be a published children’s author, I thought the dream might only be that–a dream. But I was raised by blue collar parents who believed in hard work , and so, like the people I come from, I dug in.
If you, too, have that dream, I’m not going to make you crazy promises. Writing isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. I do, however, guarantee that if you put the work into it, you’ll be rewarded in more ways than a publishing contract.
TRADESCHOOLS and APPRENTICESHIPS
I don’t have a college degree. For years, this embarrassed me, so I didn’t send my work into the world. But I eventually realized, I’d been educating myself all along.
By making trips to the library and bookstore each week, studying every picture book I could get my hands on, I began earning my picture book degree.
If you long to write picture books, go to the library and educate yourself. This is a fun way to learn. Count the pages. Count the words.
Look at the word choices and ask yourself why the author chose them.
Type out your favorite picture books. This will allow you to see what the manuscript may have looked like when an editor acquired it.
Do author studies by checking out every book you can find from authors you admire.
Consider the art in the book. Does it go hand-in-hand with the text or does it go beyond the words?
This is your apprenticeship! You will learn so much by absorbing the work of authors and illustrators who came before you.
Read books about writing for children. Your librarian can point you toward the right resources.
You can also search the internet and find loads of information. (Just be wary of charlatans who prey on new writers!)
Look for night classes. I attended one at a local high school. I also found a local poetry group to meet with twice a month. The poets truly helped me strengthen my rhyme.
You can also learn a lot about the business of writing by joining groups like The Author’s Guild and The Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators. (SCBWI) Through them, I found out things I didn’t know I needed to know!
I also found a critique group. Which leads me to. . .
Skilled tradesmen and women often work with a crew. In the world of children’s books, this could be your critique group or even a support group of likeminded trying-to-get-published souls. These wonderful people will look at your work with a keen discerning eye. The best crews won’t let you get away with being a slacker. Everyone pulls their weight when you’re a blue collar writer.
You’ve got education, skills and a great crew. Now, it’s up to you.
SHOW UP FOR WORK
Those manuscripts aren’t going to write themselves! Yes, you’re afraid. Writing can be scary. But it’s also fun. Let yourself go. If you don’t like what you’ve built, you can always go back and start again. The beauty of building with words is that no cement is involved!
When I’m afraid, I think of my parent’s and grandparent’s journey, and I recall all of the struggles of those who came before me.
Then, I get to work.
I’m proud to come from a blue collar family. Writing is my job!
Lisa Wheeler is the award-winning author of over 50 books for children. Her titles include People Share With People, A Hug is for Holding Me, Even Monsters Go to School as well as the popular Dino-Sport series. The Christmas Boot was the 2017 SCBWI Golden Kite Award winner for picture book text, Jazz Baby won the 2008 Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor, and Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum is the recipient of four different state awards. Lisa Shares her home with some terrific characters : one husband, one dog and an assortment of anthropomorphic animals.
Check out her website at: www.LisaWheelerBooks.com
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