That’s Cool

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…


Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anti-Advice, Celebrations, craft~writing, Happiness, Helpful or Otherwise, Satisfaction, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing and Life

25 responses to “That’s Cool

  1. Oh this post made me laugh out loud, so funny! They do, indeed, walk among us. I try and give them grace, assuming there have been times in my life when I’ve walked into someone else’s “world” (like my world of writing) and said something equally stupid. In fact I’m positive it’s happened with my kids. Congratulations for finishing your first draft, it is absolutely something to celebrate and so nice we have a community here that will raise a glass and know just what it’s like to make it this far.


  2. Oh my god, it’s amazing how so many people are so limited in their thinking that they don’t even consider the possibility your husband saying that it was your book meant that you wrote it. So sorry that happened to you, but she’ll be absolutely stunned the next time she goes to a bookstore and sees your name and picture on a book!


  3. This was a fantastic post! It gave me a great laugh! Thank you 🙂


  4. Parker Peevyhouse



  5. This made me laugh, too!
    This line made me hoot!
    “Did I look like someone who needed a celebratory dinner for reading a whole book by myself??”

    Great post, Rebecca!


  6. kevanjatt

    Yep! Me too – guffawed audibly! Great post, Rebecca!


  7. Penny, that’s the exact line that made me laugh too. And your clarification of the proper amount of celebration for finishing a draft. So funny, Rebecca!


  8. Joshua McCune

    LMAO… Hey, good for that waitress though… she sees merit in celebrating everything. That’s a good quality.


  9. Alexa Kaufhold

    Aaaagh! So funny.


  10. This. Is. Hilarious. Can’t stop laughing!!


  11. I am so glad I wasn’t drinking something while I read this post, I would have spit/laughed and probably drenched the commuter. Great story.


  12. Perfectly timed, Rebecca! I totally needed this today, as I struggle over revisions to my not-even-100-word picture book. I’ve been struggling over one sentence–ONE SENTENCE–all morning. Thanks for both understanding my current situation so well and for making me laugh out loud while still in the middle of it! Major congratulations on finishing the novel, and remember… perhaps, to that particular waitress, reading a whole novel IS a major accomplishment. 😉


    • Rebecca Van Slyke

      You’re in good company: “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” ~Oscar Wilde


  13. Love it! 😀

    Have you ever run into someone who says, “Oh yeah, I’m gonna write a children’s book. I mean, how hard can it be?”


  14. Oh man. You are so funny. But I thought this was going to turn into a greek tragedy since novels inevitably have to be revised.


  15. Ashley Leath


    You know who I’m always floored by (in addition to those who proclaim they, too, could write a novel as if it was nothing)? The people who flip to the back of the book and read the ending first. WHY? It’s a travesty, I tell you.


  16. I am SO quoting you (with credit of course) in my newsletter tomorrow under “Words of Wisdom”! “There are actually people who believe that writing a book, especially a children’s book, is easy to do. And THEY WALK AMONG US!!” LOVE it!!!!!


  17. Pingback: Fling, Flang, Flung | EMU's Debuts

  18. *snort* llllllol
    Is there a more disgusting word in the English language than “cute” when it is not associated with kittens?


  19. Hilarious. Especially loved this: “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.” Bwahaha.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.