Friday, January 06, 2006

Why I Write -- Jay

In junior high, I wanted to be a comic strip artist. I loved creating characters and dropping them into embarrassing situations to see what words came out of their mouths two panels later. But I kept hearing how hard it was to sell new strips so I thought I’d try something else. What a mistake!

In high school, I dabbled in many genres of writing except children’s books and poetry--children’s books because it never occurred to me, and poetry because I hated it. The first piece I wrote that was published (in a high school anthology) was for a creative writing assignment giving animal qualities to a person. Mrs. Feeb resembled a cow, from the way she chewed in circles to her stocky body and hip-hugging muumuu.

In a college English class, we were asked to write about an event in our childhood that seemed magical. I wrote an essay called The Magic Jacket. The professor told me it was one of the two best pieces he’d read that semester. Of course, writing for children still didn’t occur to me as a creative outlet.

Then I took a class called Children’s Lit. Appreciation (because my mom had taken it and told me it was an easy A). When the required reading list landed on my desk, I was so excited. Bridge to Terabithia!--my favorite book as a child and the only Newbery book that kept me awake. I was so happy to be required to read it again, as if anything had stopped me before. For our final assignment, we had to do something…anything…involving children’s literature. I wrote two picture books and got my easy A. Plus, I found what I loved to write. I sent one of those manuscripts, The Chalkboard Drawings, to Houghton Mifflin and got a request for changes back. I made those changes and got a request for more changes. I made those changes and got a form rejection letter.

Over the years, my hopes have been raised many times. To see them not realized just as many times can be crushing. But I’ve learned so much over those years. Most noticeable is that I’m addicted to pain. And I guess that’s what this blog is about.

I shoulda stuck with the comics.

- Jay


Anonymous said...

Jay, thanks for the laugh about Mrs. Feeb and her memorable muumuu.

I know how crushing it is to get so close and then, well, the form arrives in the mail. You don't mention anything about the accolades you've been awarded though! Pain is unfortunately part of the process, but think about what a great story you'll have to tell at your first book launch.


Disco Mermaids said...

Thanks, Jessica.

- The idea behind Mrs. Feeb transformed over the years into my first mid-grade manuscript (which later won SCBWI's Sue Alexander Award). I love watching ideas morph over time.

- The “accolades” will definitely be a topic of upcoming blog posts. While it’s great to win awards, I’d give them all back to be published. But they have opened a lot of doors, so you never know.

- That’s what I keep telling myself--“this will be a great story when I finally sell a book.”

- Jay

Courtney said...

Jay, Thanks for the comment on my blog. One day you'll give a speech at an scbwi conference about how winning two costume contests led the way (a few rejectons later) to getting your first three books published. After that, it will be butta.

The LA conference sounds like a lot more fun, maybe I'll have to save up air fare.