As you might notice in my profile picture, or know from playdates and parties, my house is simply full of bookshelves. And my bookshelves, unlike those gracefully-styled shelves in glossy decorating magazines or the packed-with-pop-culture shelves of hip urban sitcom characters, are bursting with books. Books slide from my shelves and onto the floor. They are gathered in a basket next to my coffee table. There is, at this very moment, a book in the stepstool in my powder room and one jammed between my mattress and bedframe. The pile on my bedside table teeters.
This is just as I like it.
With 3 young children in the house – and the prolific library of a mother-in-law who has retired from a teaching career – hundreds of these books are for children. I have read them all over and over again. Cuddled up in a chair with a warm girl in my lap, painstakingly sounding out compound words with an early reader, trying to keep peace in the backseat on long car rides. I love nothing so much as a good book, unless it’s sharing that love with my children.
So despite, AND because of, this blessed abundance of books in my home, I’ve decided at last to take my dreams seriously. I’m going to write some books of my own to add to the growing piles.
I’ve imagined myself a writer so long, it’s surprising to me that I have no real idea how to go about becoming one. Can I just put “author” down as my occupation and start counting endless hours of staring into space as work time? Are all those cups of coffee and bookstore bargains now business expenses? And exactly how guilty should I feel when I get caught up in a chapter and don’t sweep the kitchen floor or fold the laundry? (I already know how guilty to feel when I’m late for school pick-up…the kids taught me that one pretty quickly).
Thankfully, I am also blessed with a husband who is nothing short of an organizational marvel. The planning spreadsheets he created for our wedding are the stuff of legend. He dreams in Excel and has to-do lists for his to-do lists. And he appreciates my dreams. (It’s okay to be jelaous, he really is a catch!) It is only with his help and support that I am doing this today.
And what is this? It’s the beginning of me not just writing. Not just writing for me, or my kids, or my closest friends. Not just scribbles in the journal at my bedside (one in a series of bedside journals that stretches back almost 30 years). Not just a witty aside or anecdote on Facebook that everyone “likes” and re-posts and repeats. Writing as a (dare I say it?) career, even if it doesn’t pay the bills. Turns out that takes more than just words and paper. It takes contacts. Social media presence. Tweeting and posting and working and networking.
Today I got a blog (clearly) and a twitter account (I can’t quite believe that yet). I made myself a work email address. I bookmarked half a dozen author’s blogs and liked as many author’s facebook pages. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and signed up for a writer’s contest. I wrote a poem. I started a list of magazines I could submit short stories and poetry to, just to get my work out there and to get used to being rejected. I pored over agent listings and started to figure out what all the different industry definitions mean: middle grade, young adult, and so on. I left the novel I’m half-way-done writing to simmer on the back burner of my brain another day or two. Because what I’m discovering is that being a writer in this day and age is about so much more than just what you write.