Daily Devotionals for the Patience-Impaired:
“Patience. n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.” Ambrose Bierce.
“Patience is passion tamed.” Lyman Abbott
“Hope is patience with the lamp lit.” Tertullian
“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Saint Augustine.
“Patience is the art of hoping.” Luc de Clapiers
“A watched pot never boils.” My mother-in-law
Whatever! Patience is for sissies! All these lovely words are another way to say, cool your jets, dude! For a debut author awaiting the release of her book, patience is about choosing a softer gag, hiding the wine, and distracting yourself with shiny objects. And maybe some chocolate. But mostly, shiny objects.
My debut, STEP RIGHT UP: THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL JIM KEY has been delayed. It is now set to release in fall, 2015. I’ll admit to having a tiny little tantrum when I learned I’d have to wait an entire season. Hey, it’s my book party and I can cry if I want to. I tell myself I don’t have time to dwell on it. It is what it is. Delays are pretty typical in the hurry-up-and-wait publishing biz. Especially with picture books. I’ve heard of delays that lasted years, so I can’t complain about a few months. Nurturing this story from seed to book has already been an eight-year process. Along the way, to make myself appear really patient and wise and nonchalant about things I have no control over, I’ve busied myself with those shiny objects called projects. Like most writers, I have terrific peripheral vision and am prone to distraction. I’m apt to race the cat for that laser light on the wall, or assume the point position and yell SQUIRREL when something interesting catches my eye! It’s how most of our new ideas come to us, isn’t it? (humor me here, folks, as I lump you all into my neurosis.) Fortunately, I’ve chased some pretty good distractions over the past few years. But, let’s not stray too far from the subject of patience and time just yet.
As a parent, I instinctively measure the passage of time by my children. You know what I mean, right? Someone will mention a past event, and I immediately recall what my kids were involved in at that age: Who their teachers were, which sport and video game they were engrossed in, what funny shenanigans they pulled. This cosmic parental tether binds family memories to time. For writers, those time/memory tethers connect to our book babies, too. For more than a decade, my children have shared their lives and my attention with my writing projects, as if there were invisible paper children at the family table. STEP RIGHT UP will be the first (sort of) book baby to grow up and leave the nest. Like my humanoid kids, I easily recall time in terms of this book’s stages. I would post an image of the editorial timetable thus far, but I fear someone out there would ditch their writing and run to the nearest truck driver school. So, I’ll measure STEP RIGHT UP’s progress like this:
In 2007, when the idea took root, my youngest kiddo was in First Grade. He wore pint-sized tennis shoes with velcro straps and he drove a cute little toy jeep. He liked flag football, piggy-back rides, and Chutes and Ladders.
Look at those cute little feet.
In 2011, when the offer and contract arrived for STEP RIGHT UP, Kiddo was deep into baseball and Minecraft and fishing. He had a girl crush. Now, in 2014, a year before publication of his book sibling, Kiddo is a six-foot tall, eighth-grade athlete who wears these!
HInt: One pair shown belongs to me. The other pair is a size 15!
By next fall, when the book releases, he and STEP RIGHT UP will each be a freshmen; one in high school and one on book shelves. Story and boy have grown up together. Maybe I should relate publication time in terms of shoe sizes.
Kiddo’s growth between book contract in 2011 and Aug. 2014.
I ran into a non-writing friend recently who summed up the publishing process in a more perfect way. So, it’s like planting a fruit tree, she said. You plant the seed and then wait years and years for any fruit. I rushed home and Googled trees because, as I mentioned, I am easily distracted. Sure enough, it can take 5 years for a baby apple tree to produce fruit; up to 6 years for pear trees; up to 7 years for cherry trees. I’m guessing nobody is hovering over those trees with cobbler ingredients in hand. Nope. While those baby trees grow, new trees are being planted to guarantee fruit for the future. Yes, this would have been a tidier way to explain the process, but I’m prone to taking more challenging paths to logic, even in blog posts.
Like everyone else, I’m figuring it all out as I go along. What I have learned is that hovering over the calendar, waiting for a response from an editor, or an impending book release, can be maddening. Forget patience! Just stay busy! As writers, we need to always be nurturing new book babies. They are the equivalent of fruit trees that will guarantee cobbler. No, wait…I mean, a fruitful career.
I cringe at the sort of self-promotion coming, so forgive me. There’s simply no better way to explain my own method of dealing with impatience and it’s my end-all advice to all of you who are on your own journey. Between revisions and editorial notes, I’ve written a bunch of other manuscripts. Some of them will never see the light of day. One of them, EN GARDE! ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S DUELING WORDS, sold and will be released in spring, 2016. Two more manuscripts have caught an editor’s eye and we’re waiting for news. I’ve also written four books on assignment for an education publisher. All this, while my debut picture book has been in process. Technically speaking, STEP RIGHT UP will be my fifth book to be released. But, writing on assignment isn’t quite the same as birthing one’s own book baby. While you have no control over time, follow shiny distractions until you meet your own next book baby. If you assume the point position and yell, SQUIRREL!, you’ll know you’re onto something.
“We must use time as a tool, not as a couch” John F. Kennedy
“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh.
Donna Janell Bowman (Bratton) is a covertly impatient author anticipating the fall, 2015 release of STEP RIGHT UP: THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL JIM KEY (Lee and Low,) and the spring, 2016 release of EN GARDE! THE DUELING WORDS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN (Peachtree.) She fills her time with words, chocolate, and a sudden craving for fruit cobbler.