08 October 2008

I'm Gonna Go For It!

When I was young, I had two big dreams for myself. I wanted to be a mother, and I wanted to be a famous author. I've always been pretty good with children, and my own mother was such an amazing woman that I just wanted to be a mom like her. She was the original "Supermom" - she sewed clothes for us, she cooked amazing meals (from scratch - she didn't even use a mix to make birthday cakes when I was a little girl!), she volunteered at the school, at church and in the community, and she did it all on virtually no sleep, because she would also stay up half the night cleaning the house so that everything would always look perfect. Well, I have been accused of being "supermom" from time to time, but I'm just not as good at it as my mom was! (No matter how late I stay up or how early I'm out of bed in the morning, my house just never seems to sparkle...) Still, I have 4 amazing children, and they love me and tell me that I am the best mom ever, so I must be doing something right. I always thought that I would have at least 8 kids, like my parents did (I even made a set of 12 matching Christmas stockings so that I would have plenty ready for each child that came along), but I'm beginning to accept that 4 might just be enough. Our family feels complete, and I think I'm okay with my "small" family. So I have accomplished one of my major life goals. Obviously, I can't just check it off of my "to do" list and forget about it, because this is a job that takes work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - no time off for sick days or holidays. But I have great satisfaction in knowing that I am what I want to be when I grow up.

Except.... I also really want to be a "famous" author. Okay, so maybe I don't really care about fame. I just love to write, and it would be more than amazing to me to see my work on the bookstore shelf someday. When I was growing up, I told everyone that I was going to have something published before I graduated from high school. (I did actually accomplish that goal, kind of. One of my poems was published in an anthology during my senior year of high school, but I wasn't actually paid for it.) I used to enter the state young authors' competition on a regular basis, and I even won 1st place a few times. Teachers, friends, even my siblings used to tell me that I should seriously consider writing as my career, and I would always tell them that I already had chosen that path. I was so certain about my future success that I even presented a few of my friends with my "autograph" and told them to hang onto it as proof that they did, in fact, know me before I was famous. Even in college, my professors would return my papers to me with notations that told me I should continue writing and make it my career. I always just smiled and said, "Of course." There was no doubt that I was going to publish my first book before long.

I don't know exactly where I got sidetracked, but somewhere along the road to my major goal of being a great mother, I neglected my writing goal. I started telling myself that my stories were fine for personal fulfillment and for entertaining my family, but really they weren't good enough for the general public. Slowly but surely, I talked myself out of the goal and told myself that it was enough to be a great mother. I don't ever need to have any of my work published to fulfill my potential. Besides, I wouldn't even know where to begin. And I didn't want to be a "working mom." I enjoy the time I have each and every day with my children (and when would I fit a regular job into our busy schedule??)

This is all true. I don't need to be published. I am happy with who and where I am in life. I enjoy writing and telling my stories just for the enjoyment of it. Still, I've started to think about it a lot lately, and I really think that I am good enough at this to make a career out of it - without sacrificing the time I have to be a mom. In fact, most of the stories that I write are written with my children in mind. They absolutely love it when I come up with new stories to tell - especially when the story is a true story from when I was young.

So, I still don't know how to get started. I have no clue about the whole publishing process. How do you go about submitting your work anyway? (My poem in high school, I think, was submitted through the Young Author's competition and simply selected for the anthology.) I don't know. That is something I guess I will just have to find out about. But I am not going to make excuses for myself any more. I am just going to go for it!!

I have one children's book that I wrote when Ben was 3 years old, and my kids absolutely love this story. I've told the story to some of their friends too, and every child who has ever heard this story has loved it. I think I will start there. (Anyone know how you would go about getting a children's picture book published? Do I have to have the story illustrated before I submit it, or would the publisher find an illustrator to pair me up with? Where would I find a publisher in the first place? What is the process for submission? These are all questions that I need to answer...)

I'm not going to settle for just that, though. For the past couple of weeks, as I have been reading through my old journals and letters, I have come to realize that my life is pretty interesting. (Not trying to sound conceited - just observing.) My children and their friends are always asking me for new stories about things that happened to me - mostly the embarrassing jr. high and high school years. Even my own friends often end up laughing pretty hard when I start telling stories. More than that, there are some gems of wisdom to be discovered among some of the things that I have experienced (or helped friends through). I have been toying with the idea of writing a novel (or two or three) based on the experiences, thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams, wishes and devastations that I have recorded on these many spiral notebooks. I have been wondering whether or not it would be interesting to anyone but me, whether this could be my great accomplishment.

Well, a couple of nights ago, I wound up chatting online with one of my best friends from high school. We haven't been great about keeping in touch over the years, so we had a lot of catching up to do. We started reminiscing about the old days, and I was laughing right out loud as I remembered myself through someone else's eyes. I started again to think about maybe turning all of this old "high school drama" into my great American novel. Then, as we talked about the direction our lives had taken us, and admitted that neither of us would trade what we have now for what we thought we wanted back in the day, he told me that I really should write a book based on my old diaries. Then, of course, he proceeded to tell me exactly how he should be portrayed in my new book. We'll have to see about that, but I am going to write it.

Of course (here's the disclaimer), this will be a work of FICTION!! Everyone in the story (including "me") will be a composite character. I couldn't work everyone into one story if I tried, so I will combine qualities that I remember from 4 or 5 people at a time into each character. (Those of you who knew me back in the day may see yourself or someone you know, but some of my friends' qualities are divided between 2 or 3 different characters in my story. Didn't want to make anyone too familiar!!) And I reserve the right to give myself whatever qualities I choose, or even to become a minor character in the background of the story if it goes in that direction, by the way. There will be events in this story that actually happened, events that are representative of a combination of actual events, events that I wished would actually happen, events that I was afraid would happen and even some events that only ever occurred in my dreams/nightmares!! Hopefully, it will become something that will be a fun story to read as just a pure work of fiction, a hilarious trip down memory lane for those of you who walked the path with me on this part of the journey, a reminder that we are more than we believe ourselves to be and a recognition that each person who enters our lives blesses us with a little part of who we become, even if the encounter is a painful one. Just don't assume too much. This isn't an expose. When (notice, I said when not if) this book is published, you can read it with confidence, knowing that even though it might be based on real events, most of the things that happen in my story didn't actually happen that way in real life. (I reserve the right to throw in one or two events as they actually occurred - just to keep everyone guessing!!)

So wish me luck! Pray for me! Any encouragement you wish to offer will be greatly appreciated, as I know I will go through valleys where I doubt the wisdom of this endeavor. Any stories that you remember (about me or not) from those jr. high/high school years would be appreciated too. Who knows? Your stories might also make it into my book!

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