Friday, March 28, 2008

Talk About “Learning as You Go”….

I came home from New Orleans to a busy schedule, a messy house, and a scale that registered an extra five pounds. One part about being an author/artist that I find difficult is fitting in everything in one day. Is it possible to cook a healthy dinner, workout at the gym, keep in touch with my mom, and still have time to write and paint?

Some things get lost in the cracks, such as opening my mail. I had registered for the Northern Illinois 28th Annual Children’s Literature Conference on line, including the “Local Author’s” night, so I did not bother to open the envelop that arrived from them until it was too late to have Anderson’s Books order Truck Stuck for the conference book sale. Anderson’s told me to bring out as many copies as I had (five), and I could put them in the sale. Next year….

Next time I’ll know to get my books ordered. I’ll know that merely signing up as a local author does not automatically see to it that my book(s) get ordered.

Next time I’ll have promotional materials to had out to one and all. I had sent all the postcards that I had ordered from to the Illinois Reading Council luncheon in Springfield, where SCBWI-Illinois would have a booth promoting everyone’s published books. Why hadn’t I saved some cards for the Local Author’s night at the NIU Conference?

Next year I'll have a brochure that lists my school presentations on it so that teachers and librarians can keep a copy of what I have to offer. I’ll print it out just as soon as I write it up.

But the conference was a really great experience anyway. I love listening to authors and illustrators talk about their work—they are so generous in sharing what they have learned through experience, and their passion for their work is contagious. The topic of this conference was “Male Call: Boys and Books.” Truck Stuck seemed like a good fit, plus I had raised two boys myself.

I brought my five copies of Truck Stuck for Anderson’s, my one personal copy that has a botched inscription in it, three of my many trucks, and some art postcards that list my studio information. I scribbled my email address and Truck Stuck on the back of the cards and handed them out to everyone who stopped to look at Truck Stuck. The five copies sold out quickly. I wish I’d had more.

These are the kinds of mistakes that in the past might have made me say forget it. I’m not ready so I’m not going. But I am learning as I go. I will never have everything in perfect order—not if I’m actively working on a new manuscript at the same time I’m trying to promote the published book.

It took me by surprise this fall when I realized that an author’s life has 3 very separate roles to it—writing the next book; revising the current book; and promoting the published book. You have to be working at all of these all the time—you can’t say I’ll finish one and then turn to the next. Add to this that I’m also an artist and art works in much the same way—creating new work; submitting finished work; and delivering or picking up or hanging or installing work that has been accepted. I’m not a disorganized person by nature, but the nature of my life makes staying organized a challenge. And you want dinner, you say?

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