There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
— Ernest Hemingway
You know it, and I know it, but not everybody you come across knows how wonderfully magical a thing it is to write a book. To create characters that are as real as members of your own family. To dream up events that keep readers awake late into the night promising themselves, “Just one more chapter.” To speak truths into the minds and hearts of others that you will never meet.
Not everyone knows what it is like to work for hours, agonizing over the subtleties of word choice. (Is it a secret meeting? A clandestine meeting? Does a stealthy meeting make sense?) How do you describe what it feels like to walk into a new school when you’re in third grade? Does this dialogue sound authentic? And then what happens?
There are actually people who believe that writing a book, especially a children’s book, is easy to do. And THEY WALK AMONG US!!
As a children’s book writer, I have had more people than I’d care to remember say things like, “You write for children? How cute!” “I’ve always wanted to write a picture book!” and “Oh, I should write a children’s book, too!”
I’m normally a picture book writer, but several years ago I decided to try my hand at a middle grade novel. (Okay, I was dared to write a middle grade novel.) I worked for two years on it, on and off. Finally, I got tired of the “and off” method and decided to give myself a writer’s retreat. I blocked off a week in August to go to our family’s cabin and finally, finally finish the first draft.
I took the dog, left my husband and daughter at home, and retreated. I worked solidly for a week, knowing that they would be coming to join me on the weekend.
I finished on Friday afternoon. In fact, I was typing, “The end” as they came up the driveway. My husband, Rollo, opened the door, calling, “How’d it go?”
“I’M FINISHED WITH THE FIRST DRAFT!” I told him.
He made the proper amount of commotion about this announcement. (Definition or Proper Amount of Commotion: Not so little I had to wonder if he was impressed. Not so much that he made me think he was astonished I could actually finish a novel.) “Tomorrow I’m taking you out to dinner. We’ll go to Visconti’s. We’ll order a really good bottle of champagne. We’ll splurge and order dessert!”
The next evening we drove into town. We had champagne with our appetizers. We had a really good bottle of red wine with dinner.
“Looks like you’re celebrating something special,” our perky young waitress said as she brought out dessert.
“My wife just finished her book,” Rollo said.
I tried to look suitably humble.
“Oh, that’s cool,” the waitress said. She set our desserts down in front of us and turned to me. “What did you read?”
The humble look fell from my face, ninja-kicked off, I am sure, by an expression of outrage. Did I look like someone who needed a celebratory dinner for reading a whole book by myself??
“No,” Rollo told her, enunciating clearly. “She wrote a book.”
“Oh,” the waitress said, refilling our water glasses. “That’s cool, too.”
They walk among us…