Writing

My Writing Journey Part I

Writing and finishing the novel True Mercy was a major achievement in my life. I wrote about issues that I care deeply about and I always love a thriller, a story that I cannot put down. So I decided to use this blog to write about how that journey began. Every writer has a story about their personal writing journey and all are unique in how they reached the point of writing a book.

When I was younger, I never thought I could make a living writing, so I pursued other careers. When I wrote papers for college, people remarked I was a good writer, but I never thought it would lead anywhere.

I didn’t try to actually write a book and get published until my twin sons were born. I would read them children’s picture books every day when they were still babies because educators told me this will help them develop a love of reading. We read children’s classics like Where the Wild Things Are, Berenstain Bears, and my childhood favorite, Hats for Sale. Reading to them was our special time as they would sit on my lap, stare at the pictures, and listen to my voice. What ended up happening was the more I read to them, I more convinced I became that I could write a children’s book myself.

Once I made this decision, I checked out books from the local public library on how to write children’s books and get them published. One resource I remember very well is the Writer’s Digest Children’s Book and Illustrator’s Market. I also subscribed to Writer’s Digest magazine and poured over it every month. I learned that the children’s market is very competitive, it is important to carefully read the requirements of each publisher, and I needed to become familiar with the word length for each age group.

While visiting the public library one day, I met a librarian who was a retired kindergarten teacher. She told me about her interest in writing children’s books, particularly the story she always dreamed of writing: when she was still teaching, a student once came up to her and asked, “What would you do with me if you were my mother?” So she and I began collaborating on this picture book for young children. Naturally, both of us had different ideas, but we were able to coalesce our versions together to write a story. We researched the Children’s Book and Illustrator’s Market and began sending it out.

We received many rejections.

Undeterred, we kept on writing children’s stories. We composed three stories about a character named Petey that we believed had potential.

But again, more rejections.

A few years later, although I moved to a different town, I still continued to edit and send out the Petey stories. I would inform my writing collaborator what I was doing and we remained hopeful. Unfortunately, she passed away, but I still tried to get the book published. I figured her name would appear on the cover posthumously and her four children would be paid half the profits.

It was only when I went to a Writer’s Digest Fiction Writing Conference in New York City that editors and agents informed me they didn’t see these stories getting published. And when I read them to one of my writers’ groups, they didn’t appear impressed and hearing myself read it, I knew it still needed some work.

More years went by. My twins grew up and I lost interest in writing children’s books. I even gave up trying to get published—I compared the odds of getting published to winning the lottery. But despite all the discouragement, I continued writing. My writing goals shifted; I became interested in writing an adult novel. After many fits and starts, I finally completed one. And that will be the subject for my next post of My Writing Journey. But I will end on the positive with a quote from Confucius:

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

Idelle Kursman is the author of the thriller novel True Mercy.

Notice to readers who are also writers: I would be interested in learning how you began your writing journey.

Share this:

Interview with a Poet Friend

For this week’s blog, I interviewed my friend and fellow writer Sue Rutan Donald. Sue is a contributor to the Mighty.com, writes poems for friends and family, and has her own blog, Some of Sue’s Thoughts.

First is a sampling of Sue’s poems and my interview follows.

SUNNY SIDE
Even in the rain and gloom,

I love how still the flowers bloom,

They stored up sun from other days,

To continue sharing in their own way,

The hummingbirds still flit and sip

The nectar there as around they flit,

Let us then be flower-like,

Presenting, still, our sunny side.

 

HEART OF SUMMER

Here in the heart of the summer,

Some of us think it’s a bummer,

We have frizzy hair,

Due to air you can wear,

Less humidity sure would be funner!

 

BE BRAVE

The sun comes up,

The moon retreats,

Time for stars to go to sleep,

Our eyes open,

Alarm clocks ding,

In the shower,

Some folks sing,

Hot brew’s ready,

Juice is cold,

Off we go now–

Be brave! Be bold!

 

WELCOME SUMMER

Welcome Summer,

 You are hot!

Some of us like that a lot,

Some prefer dear Autumn’s ways,

With cooler air and shorter days,

But Summer now that you are here,

You’ll go too fast is what I fear,

I love your sunny, longer days,

And in the twilight how fireflies play,

I will enjoy the parts I like,

But Humidity can take a hike!

 

FRIDAY RAIN

Friday morning rain

Makes things a little hard

Drivers do not like it

But it is good for the yard.

 

1.) Q: Sue, when did you start getting interested in writing?

 A: For as long as I can remember I have written little rhymes and kept a journal.  I always loved writing stories in elementary school and used to submit poems to the school newsletter.  I began writing stories for myself in high school.

2.) Q: What inspires you to write your poems?

 A: The poems that I post on Facebook are inspired by my desire to find common ground with everyone.  There is so much negativity and things that divide us, especially lately, and I wanted to add something positive that is relevant to daily life. Many of my poems celebrate the mundane, such as looking forward to coffee in the morning, feeling unready for the workweek on Monday, and complaining or expressing pleasure with the weather.  The poems that I keep for myself are more emotional in nature and are inspired by what is happening in my life; both the good and the bad.

3.) Q: Which poets have influenced your own poetry?

 A: I’d have to say that Robert Frost influenced my poetry and also Dr. Seuss! Robert Frost seems to be the poet for the common man and woman, and I love the sing-song rhyming and made up words that you find in Dr. Seuss books.  Both of them get their point across in a pleasurable manner.   

4.) Q: What time of the day do you usually write?

 A: I don’t really have a set time of day that I write, it’s usually just whenever the opportunity presents itself in between work, my family, and household responsibilities. The little Facebook rhymes are usually written in the morning and many of my blog posts are written early Sunday morning on my old iPod touch, believe it or not.  Other writing, such as an article for The Mighty or some writing exercises are typically done in the afternoon between getting home from work and my daughter coming home from her day program.

5.) Q: You have a blog “Some of Sue’s Thoughts.” How did you decide to begin this blog?

 A: I started my blog because I had all these stories written and no place to keep them, plus I wondered if I was able to get my point across to others with my writing. The blog seemed like a good place to share them.

6.) Q: What do you write about on your blog?

 A: My blog isn’t about one specific thing, as the title implies, it’s simply whatever I feel like writing about at the time.  It contains stories about everything from my life with my daughter with special needs, my other daughter, my husband, memories from my childhood, to poison ivy, poetry, spiders, and technology.  The most read post on my blog is “I’m Not Always Gracious” which is short, but is about my feelings when my youngest daughter graduated from middle school.  The least read is the very first post “Broken Shells” which is about both my daughters and is also my favorite.

7.) Q: We are both members of the same writers group. How does this group help you with your writing?

 A: The writers group keeps me motivated to keep writing when I get into a funk and I think that everything I write is garbled nonsense. It also has helped me learn some writing techniques and gives me feedback about whether or not I’m successfully getting my point across to the reader.

8.) Q: Do you have specific writing goals for this year? If so, what are they?

 A: My writing goals for this year are to submit and (hopefully) publish four articles on The Mighty and also to find one other publication that will use my stories occasionally.  I also am trying to be more consistent about posting on my blog once a week.

9.) Q; What is your favorite part about writing?

 A: I like focusing my thoughts on something and then exploring different aspects of it when I write an article or a story.  With the poems, I like that I am connecting with people and am not above a rhyming challenge.  I love to play with words and their order and try to say something in a way that has some rhythm and rhyme. 

10.) Q: I know a German company saw one of your articles in the Mighty.com and used it for a promotion. Can you tell us about that?

 A: I wrote a story for The Mighty about the ways that my youngest daughter, who has multiple disabilities, is the same as neurotypical people of all ages.  A few weeks after being published I received a message in the comments section of my blog from a representative of a German based production company.  They wanted to know if I would give them permission to use some of the points of my article and the pictures of my daughter and me that were with it to make a short video to raise awareness of disability issues and specifically the ways in which we are all the same.  After doing some research on the company I gave my permission and they sent me a link to the finished product.  It was in German and was about 30 seconds long, but they did a nice job and credited both me and The Mighty as sources.  It was a surprise when it happened.

11.) Q: Would you like to conclude the interview with some of your thoughts?

 A: I’d like to thank you for interviewing me, and for sharing your publishing journey with me and the members of our writers group.  Writing is a good way to exercise the mind, and I think it’s fun to do.  The way some people feel about buying shoes is how I feel about notebooks and pens–that is, every pretty or unique one I see I want to have.  Nothing is more pleasurable than opening a brand new notebook or journal and writing in it with a brand new pen.

Keep writing, Sue! You brighten your readers’ day with you wit, keen observations, and rhymes.

Share this: