PANTS OR SWEAT PANTS?
my biggest dilemma these days. But about four years ago, the
bigger question was "what the hell am I going to do?" This
was after a personal tragedy and a hurried move from Seattle
to Las Vegas to escape it.
Driving through the desert at sunrise with
two cars, two cats, a two year old kid and desert scenery
tugging at my heavy heart, I was quite humbled. I'm not a
big fan of the desert, but it was truly beautiful at an unexpected
Sitting in my new apartment office, shades
drawn against the 120 degree temperature and neighbors partying
in the pool outside, those words were now shouting in my brain.
This time they were "What the hell are you doing?"
I had to admit I wasn't sure. So I warmed
up my computer and plugged in those magic words that I'd secretly
held deep in my heart: "writing and illustrating for children."
It felt good, odd and scary all at the same time.
The very first thing to pop up was a link
to the Write 4 Kids web site. The next was a link to Verla
Kay's site. I felt the first flutter in my stomach. These
two sites were to become my magic door, and eventually my
second home. I unpacked my heavy baggage, and settled in.
One night in one of Verla's online workshops,
an agent named Steven Malk graciously answered question after
question about everything from what he likes to read, to why
someone might need an agent. I hadn't even thought about agents,
I had not even written a story yet. But something was happening
to me. My flutters were growing into big lumpy monsters.
After the workshop, and a little research,
I decided that my finding Steve was more than a coincidence.
It was fate.
It's not that I had never written before,
it's just that I was always busy, or realistically, lazy about
putting it down on paper. Fate opened a door and I walked
My first few attempts at stories were awful,
hideous, (remind me later to burn them before they fall into
the wrong hands!) and embarrassing.
I came home one day, and settled in with
an ice cold beer. After a huge belch, literally, I joked around,
mentioning how funny it would be if a frog burped. Would you
be able to tell the difference? Now maybe it was the beer
talking, but I thought the idea was hilarious. The next day
I sat down and wrote an interview
with the frog and he told me the WHOLE story in one sitting.
My stomach was now a full blown rolling mess.
many months and hundreds of revisions, I was ready to make
my first dummy. I did my research, and despite the contrary,
I wasn't going to let anyone tell me I couldn't illustrate
my own book. I'm an artist after all! The first sketches were
awkward, but soon Frog took on a life of his own. He grew
fatter and fatter till he looked like a plump raisin. Now
he was ready too.
I spent a lot, okay, all of those hours,
imagining worst-case and best-case scenarios. I could clearly
hear the conversation, or read that rejection/acceptance letter.
I also wasn't going to let anyone tell me
I could never get Steve as an agent. In fact I told no one
what my plans were, except my mom and husband of course, so
no one could put those awful statistics in my head. I didn't
even have a back up plan if I was rejected. Maybe it was foretelling,
or maybe just plain ignorance.
put my package in the mail, sealed with a kiss from my daughter,
and just let it go. It was in the hands of fate now.
I got the call four days later. I was so
nervous, I still don't remember what Steve said exactly, but
I do know it was eerily similar to the best-case scenario
I had played in my head.
Steve referred me to three of his authors
who were willing to look at my manuscript, and they helped
me tighten my story. It was sent out to four publishers, and
the rest of the story plays out like a dream.
After a lot of work with my new awesome
editor and fantastic art director at a fairly large publisher,
I now sit here grinning, with my first book under my belt,
and a contract for two more. And somehow I've become the maven
of manners. Life is funny.
My stomach problems still come and go.
But now they've become a gauge to my good fortune. The more
it hurts, the better I'm doing.
So now: pajama pants or sweat pants?
And do you wear the ones you've slept in or do you put on
fresh ones? It all depends on your mood. But the answer is,
really, whatever you want to be seen in when the Fed Ex or
UPS truck comes to your house.
a Simon & Schuster Book for Young Readers is her first