When I was in second grade, I won the “future author” award.
I was that kid. A total bookworm. The kind of kid who has read everything three times and starts stealing her mother’s novels. The kind of kid whose mother has to rip out certain pages because she knew I was stealing her books and write, “and they did it” in place of the pages torn out. The kind of kid who can’t wait to get home with her new library books. My escape.
I think deep down in my heart of hearts, I have always wanted to write the words that make children laugh and families smile, that bring people together. But I also dreamed of being a teacher. So I became one. I taught 4th and 2nd grade and I LOVED it. I loved my students. I loved finding the right book for each child and turning everyone into a reader. I even wrote picture books for my class and made each child a character. But when I became pregnant, I chose to stop teaching and stay home for a bit. That bit turned into three babies and eleven years. And I would not change it for the world. I will always cherish the days I spent singing, playing and reading with my girls. I am so lucky that I was able to get to do it. For that, I will be forever grateful. But I did miss school and reading and writing. When my youngest was ready to enter Kindergarten, I was set to go back as well. I had worked hard on completing my re-certification and I was only a few tests short of being finished.
I went back to teaching as a substitute teacher and loved it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an easy job. It is frustrating to have to start over every day with a new set of kids in a space that’s not yours, following someone else’s plan. But, I was teaching again. And even better, I was out of the house! I loved walking to school every day with my girls and walking home again. We had some great talks on those walks. And lots of laughter.And then…yup, you guessed it…COVID. My dreams of going back to teaching were put on hold. Now, not only was I back home, but so were all three of my children. This was definitely not the year we had planned on! But we made the best of it.Now, over the years, I’d kept on reading and writing, but I’d never had the nerve to send anything out to an agent or publisher. I wrote for me, and for my girls.
I was active in my local and national writers and illustrators groups, even becoming a board member and helping to coordinate the Rochester Children’s Book Festival every year. I attended dozens of lectures from authors, editors and agents, but still something was stopping me from sending anything out. I have met so many of my favorite kidlit authors, it’s bananas! Our bookshelves are full of signed picture books.
And still not sending anything out.
Life was always too busy, our days were too chaotic, juggling three kids and all of their activities. Then everything suddenly came to a screeching halt in 2020. I was devastated when I lost my stepfather in February to bone cancer. Covid-19 hit America soon after we lost him, and the list of friends and family who lost loved ones just kept growing and growing. Then, a man named George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in broad daylight in my sister’s neighborhood and the world seemed to be upside down.
Something shifted in me and the idea that tomorrow is not promised really hit me.
I gave myself permission to follow my dreams.
I am a writer. I have always been a writer. So I gave myself permission to write.
Every. Single. Day.
Yes, I still feel guilty every time, but I made myself a promise. Every single day, I get the kids settled with a quiet activity and I go upstairs and hang up my “Do Not Disturb: Writer At Work” sign on the door. I set the clock for one hour and I just write. No distractions. No phone calls. No chores. No shopping lists. No responsibilities. Just time for me to write. My husband even built me an app that tracks my daily word count and has places for all my WIPs, chapters, characters and ideas.
My New Year’s Resolution was to send something out. So in January 2021, I finally sent out queries to a handful of agents. As those rejections come in, I will continue to send out more. Because I made a promise to myself. I am a writer. And writers actually write. And they actually send out their stuff. What a concept!
Be honest. What is your dream? No limits. Close your eyes and picture it.
You are so worthy of achieving that dream.
I look forward to my journey, wherever it may take me. What will you do today to take the next step in yours?