When I call myself a writer

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I guess now that I’ve sold a picture book I’ve penned, I can call myself a writer. Not that I haven’t written other things, I have. Greeting cards by the score, ad copy, menu copy, marketing programs. Even an instructional script for a short animation about how to make the perfect Cosmopolitan. (The research was exhausting.) But I’ve been angling towards this – picture book writing and illustrating – from really, as early as I can remember. I have a file full of picture book ideas and manuscripts I’ve written in various stages of completion and share-ability. Some are certainly salvageable and others need to age another 10 or 20 years and hope they don’t become corked. And, yes, I know that was an incomplete metaphor. Or simile. Or whatever. The thing is, I’ve always felt uncomfortable calling myself a writer without a book sold. Now that I have not one but two sold, I am okay with the moniker, writer. Which is important to me on a number of levels, but mostly because it makes me feel successful in an industry I adore and has been coyly teasing me for years. As an illustrator I was half way there. I’ve had my successes illustrating books for other writers. I don’t want to suggest I am not hugely grateful for those opportunities. I am. Some went on to win national awards. Some won local awards. Some have sold in numbers well into the 6 figures. But in the end, they were always the “author’s books” and I just illustrated them. I know that is silly. I know it is a collaboration and that my contribution as an illustrator is just as important as the author’s, but somehow, someway, I’ve never felt real ownership of those books. Making the effort to promote “my” new book always seemed presumptive. Promoting it as “our” new book seemed curious unless the author was standing there with me. And promoting the book as Author X’s new book that I drew the pictures for is just daft. This may all just be illustrator anxiety, writer insecurity. Or just plain angst. I know plenty of other creatives with the same or similar self-validation issues. But now, with the sale of BUNNIES! and it’s yet to be written sequel, I can truly – and proudly – say, I’m a writer. An author! Even if it’s only 48 words long, right? Right?

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24 Comments

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24 responses to “When I call myself a writer

  1. Just the illustratrator?????? That IS somewhat silly. But everyone has a blind spot.

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  2. Great post, and a revelation because when people compliment MY books, I often am dismissive and assume it’s really the illustrations they like. Sample conversation: “I love your book!” “Oh, I’m so glad; I was very lucky to have such a talented illustrator.” I had no idea illustrators felt the same way!

    But congratulations on making the leap to author/illustrator; now you’ll KNOW people love your work. 🙂

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  3. Joshua McCune

    What Kristin said. So glad you’re here, Kevan!

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  4. We’ve been trying unsuccessfully to convince Kevan for years that the “just the illustrator” thing doesn’t hold water, but he is a talented writer as well, and I’m thrilled to see that being recognized and so, so glad he’s here with us now. Welcome aboard, Kevan!

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  5. I am with Deborah. My book is nothing without my illustrator, and the cover is the first thing to catch peoples’ eyes! I didn’t think illustrators felt like second banana! They’re top banana in my book (especially if it’s a monkey book).

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  6. Nice to hear your perspective, Kevan! I’m looking forward to meeting you!

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  7. Mike Jung

    Ah, writing-induced self-perception-of-creative-identity neurosis, my old foe. Good to see you here, Author-Illustrator Kevan.

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  8. Right! Thanks for sharing this, Kevan. I’m so happy for you!

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  9. Welcome, Kevan & BUNNIES! 🙂

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  10. I love bunnies, written OR illustrated. (And you know what they said about the children’s book business: “It’s a bunny-eat-bunny world.”) So CONGRATS, Kevan, on hopping onto writing as well drawing from that incredibly creative noggin of yours! (You are an inspiration to me, still just a wannabe writer.)

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  11. Welcome to the author fold, Kevan. You can call yourself author/illustrator (or author-illustrator if you don’t like the backslash). Then ask people to bow down as you pass and throw flowers.

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  12. Congratulations, Kevan! Now I understand your bunny ears–wear them proudly! I’m looking forward to meeting you this weekend. 🙂

    Cindy

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  13. I completely get it. With one book out as the writer and illustrator I still refer to myself as an illustrator first, writer (maybe) second. Maybe things will change with the next book. 😉

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  14. Pingback: They Just Don’t Get It–The Dunning-Kruger Effect | EMU's Debuts

  15. this is wonderful, but… where do we find the book? is it for sale? 😉

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  16. Mark Atteberry

    Congrats Kevan! I can’t wait to see it!…errrr read it!…. errr.. I mean both!

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