Tag Archives: Books

We’re All Crazy Busy, So I Kept This Short.

394 words, to be precise. Here goes:

We are each pulled in a million different directions. Someone or something is always clamoring for our devotion, our time, our finite energy. How are we to balance our responsibilities, our commitments, and our creative needs? How are we to lay claim to the time and space required for writing?

There is only one hope and it’s not easy—core strength.

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Balance, after all, isn’t the product of stasis. It’s born of movement, moment-to-moment adjustments that maintain equilibrium. The muscles required for physical balance are deep within our bodies, particularly our core. They don’t get truly strong unless we make them strong.

It’s the same with our creative energies. The qualities—determination and commitment come to mind— essential to finding the balance between our busy lives and our creative work are found deep within. They are at our core, and they won’t get strong unless we make them strong.

How? You already know the answer. Practice.

When the world wants us to do literally anything other than write, we need to dig deeply into our core, to what we know matters. We need to assert that creative work is essential for ourselves and, incidentally, the continued progress of humanity. We are the purveyors of story, after all, the Pied Pipers of literacy. Our work is a source— a bubbling, life-giving spring—of connection and challenge, hope and healing. The more that we affirm creative work’s importance to ourselves and others, the stronger it will grow.

But don’t try to force balance, hanging on for dear life until you tip over and chip a tooth. It won’t work. It never works. We have to constantly find and re-find balance. Don’t fear the unexpected shifts. Expect to wobble and make necessary moment-to-moment adjustments.

Go to your creative work when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it. Treat it like a treadmill, set yourself a laughably manageable goal, say 5 minutes of focused activity, and see what happens. You may find that 5 turns into 20. You may find that you begin to take this prioritized time seriously, and if you do, others will.

So deliberately engage. Choose the deep muscles of purpose and passion and use them with intention. If this is hard, good! You’re getting stronger.

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Enjoy the day,

Hayley


About Hayley Barrett

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

 

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How Being a Debut Author Turned Me Into a Book-Buyer

In a recent newsletter from the Nelson Literary Agency, agent Sara Megibow said “Last year I spent $2,000 on books and $40 on clothes.”

As someone who hates clothes-shopping but loves books, this sounded about right to me!

The book that started it all.

The book that started it all for me.

I didn’t used to be a book-buyer, though. Eight years ago (eep!), when I lived in New York and was just starting to kick around the idea of trying to write a children’s novel, I owned the Harry Potter series and…that’s about it. And I won’t pretend that I went to the library much, either. Mostly I mooched books off friends who were big book-buyers and were generous enough to lend me whatever I wanted to borrow. I probably purchased two or three new books a year—if an author I loved did an event in town and I could get the book signed, or if something called out to me from a bargain bin.

Forgive me, fellow authors. Back then, I had only the vaguest ideas about how royalties worked, about how sales numbers affected authors’ abilities to keep getting deals for new books. I was much more immersed in the theater world, more attuned to the economic realities of trying to mount a profitable (or even break-even) off-off-Broadway show. So I had no problem forking over $18 a couple of times a week to support the production of a playwright or actor or director I knew. But when it came to spending that much money on a new book, I balked.

Nowadays, the situation is almost perfectly switched—I probably go to the theater three or four times a year, but I’m in my local bookstore every month, hauling home a new pile of books. What led to this change?’

Well, leaving New York probably helped; there’s just not as much must-see theater where I live now. And reading the fine print on my own book contract didn’t hurt either. Now I know exactly how many copies I’ll need to sell of my book to break even on my advance and, hopefully, one day start earning royalties.

But honestly, the biggest contributor to my change in book-buying habits is that I actually know a bunch of authors now.

I mean, as much as I liked to pretend that going to David Sedaris and Michael Chabon signings back in the day made us BFFs…we weren’t. But two years ago, when I was just starting to query agents, a mutual friend introduced me to a kidlit writer who had already an agent and a book deal. His advice and support during my own agent search was invaluable, and I remember the day, a few months later, when his first novel came out. I found it on the YA shelf at my local Barnes & Noble, and my heart leapt. My brain let out a string of excited (though thankfully internal) expletives. Holy #$%&! It’s my friend’s book! And, of course I had to own it. (This book, by the way, is the fabulous Fair Coin by E.C. Myers, which went on to win the Andre Norton award.)

Nowadays, I’m lucky to have that experience almost every time I walk into a bookstore. Thanks to my agency, OneFour Kidlit, Facebook, and Twitter, I’ve connected with a slew of published and soon-to-be-published kidlit authors whose work I’m excited to see out there.  It’s been one of the most unexpected but completely rewarding side effects of signing with an agent and selling a book.

The shelf-of-books-by-folks-I-know (minus several currently lent out to friends and students. Yes, I'm the book-lender now!)

The current shelf-of-books-by-folks-I-know (minus several currently lent out to friends and students. Yes, I’m the book-lender now!)

Now, I certainly don’t purchase every book I read—I couldn’t afford that. I make much more use of my local library now than I ever did in New York. But I try to at least buy new releases by authors I know personally (especially debut authors). And my borrowed books often lead to purchases these days, too; when I read a book I love that doesn’t quite seem to have achieved the bestseller status I think it deserves, I often go buy a copy or two to give kids I know as gifts or use for blog giveaways.

If someone had told me a few years ago that I’d one day have an entire shelf at home dedicated to books by authors I knew, I would have told them to get out of town. But I do, and I get warm fuzzies every time I look at it. 🙂

***

Speaking of buying books for giveaways, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and offer one commenter a free copy of the book that started this whole book-buying frenzy for me: Fair Coin by E.C. Myers! You can choose a hardcover, e-book, or the just-released audiobook version.

To enter, please leave a comment sharing how you choose which books to buy and which ones to borrow. We’ll announce a winner one week from today (on Monday, November 18).

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Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Starsher debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, will be published in 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com.

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