Before my book was picked up by Abrams, I dreamed of the varied benefits of being a published author. For one, I wouldn’t have to feel that gnawing sensation in my stomach when someone asked, “So, what do you do?” To which I’d roll back my shoulders, suck in my gut, and try to answer with pseudo-confidence, “I’m a writer.” But even if I pulled it off, the question coming next would be a painful one. “Wow, that’s awesome. So what books do you have out there?” Gulp. “Um, none. Well, not yet. But I’m working on one….”
It’s my impression that people outside the writing world don’t take you as seriously if you don’t yet have a book coming out. They don’t get how long it takes from buying your first ream of paper to signing a ream of paper-sized contract. Now that I’ve reached that next step, new opportunities are opening up around me. I am embarking on the next benefit to being published, starting today at ten. I will be in charge of the How-to-Write-a-Book Camp, which is being sponsored by Fast Forward, a fantastic magazine written by kids of all ages and distributed to many schools in the Bay Area. The editor is taking a chance on me, which I deeply appreciate. After all, being a writing teacher for kids has ranked high on my dream list since forever.
But now that it’s actually upon me, I have to admit, I am kind of Freaked to the Max. Exactly how do you plan a four-hour-a-day, week-long camp?
There are ten girls attending, many of them of high-school age. Will I be able to keep their attention? Will I find the delicate balance between informative and fun? And what if I speed through all my topic cards by Tuesday at noon? Teaching, it now dawns on me, is a totally different animal than writing. I know I will love it; I am the type of person who can’t even open my mouth without trying to teach people things (it’s very annoying, I know.)
But I won’t know for sure that I‘ll be good at it until the end of the week. That’s rather terrifying.
The planning stage of teaching this camp has taught me a lot, though. For example, I have everything I want to cover on topic cards. They mostly fall into these categories:
• Settings and descriptions
• General Writing exercises (voice, POV, tenses, dialogue, wording choices.)
Just figuring out what comes first in writing a book—plot or characters—has led me to think about my own strengths and weaknesses and assumptions.
I am teaching things that I don’t do but should, like making my protagonist take a Character Questionairre so I can get to know her better. This camp could end up helping me as much as my students. Here’s a good old Latin proverb–By learning you will teach; by teaching you will understand.
I am the same person I was a year ago, pre-contract. But today there are more tangential opportunities, and I am grateful. I can’t wait to explore them. For now, though, please wish me luck this week. As for those of you in the same position I was in a year ago, never stop inching toward your dream. It can come true.