Ah, spring...such a wonderful time of year. Buds appear, birds return and the air is filled with the promise of fresh beginnings. Such is my outlook on becoming published. Although I've been a writer at heart for many years, it's been just over two that I began writing seriously for children. At that time my expectations were--as many budding authors--a bit unrealistic. I had written my first manuscript, edited it several times, submitted and was certain it would be only a matter of weeks before I'd receive opportunity for publication. Little did I know!
Weeks passed, then months. Rejections letters cluttered my cabinet. More submissions. More rejections. I stayed optimistic and wrote a second story, then a third. So far, those have met the same fate as the first. It may have bothered me if it weren’t for the promise I made to myself--to withstand 100 rejections before becoming discouraged. I was at 17. I pushed forward.
In the meantime, I joined my local chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Attending their annual conference and participating in a group critique with an editor from Clarion fostered enthusiasm. And over the next year, I wrote three more manuscripts, attended another conference and joined a critique group. The rejection letters were still coming, however, some were now personal and very encouraging. I felt I was on a roll. Then it happened…I lost my muse. Just like that, I was in a slump. The harder I tried, the less I wrote. It was if I’d chased a cat up a tree. Nothing could coax it down. Nothing but time.
Three months later, it was back. That was an important lesson. It led me to the realization that writing is a long-term learning process. Sure there are those talented few that make it overnight, that’s the exception. But for most of us the craft improves with practice, and a lot of it. We learn to weed out words that don’t belong. We enrich our creativity by attending workshops and conferences. And we acquire nourishment from fellow writers through critiques and support. Eventually, the seeds we sow blossom into stories. Some thrive, some die. But as in any garden, it takes time.