Archive for December, 2011

The Writing Life, Chapter 19: Looking Back, Looking Forward

It seems hard to believe that at this time last year I was entering my 33rd year working as an editor for the International Reading Association. A lot has changed! On March 31 I took a company buyout to pursue a career as a full-time freelancer writer/editor and children’s book author.

My first nine months in my new career have been exciting, exhilarating, and sometimes a bit scary. I’ve had the opportunity to make progress on a couple of children’s books, write articles for National Geographic Kids, Teaching Tolerance magazine, and the News Journal. I’ve had the opportunity to interview 99-year-old cartoonist Martin Filchock, actress and Delaware native Aubrey Plaza, and a number of other interesting people. I’ve written educational white papers for the Association of Educational Publishers and CELT Corporation, a brochure for the Highlights Foundation, and news releases for the nonprofit organization Read to Them. In short, life has rarely been boring.

The year ahead looks exciting, too, with new assignments from Delaware Today, National Geographic Kids, and the News Journal already underway, along with some other intriguing projects under development. In addition, I hope to come out with two self-published books in 2012. I’ll write more about several of these projects in future posts as more details are available.

I had the opportunity to speak about poetry at three state reading association conferences in 2011 and to make an author visit to an elementary school in Tennessee. I am currently in the process of planning author visits to several schools in the spring and fall. I truly enjoy conducting writing workshops with students, and I hope more of these school visit opportunities present themselves in the year ahead.

Do I sometimes worry about making ends meet with my new freelance career? Sure I do. Am I excited and pleased about the prospects ahead? Sure I am. Do I regret leaving the safety of a job I largely loved for the unknown of my next “dream career”? Not one bit.

Best wishes to all of you for a happy, healthy, and prosperous year in 2012. I hope I’ll have interesting and positive news to share throughout the year.

Random Writing Thought of the Week: As someone who has interviewed literally hundreds of people over the years, I must admit that I still find asking questions of strangers to be a bit intimidating. Yet, once I actually get into the process, I find myself totally engrossed, and I feel truly blessed to get to talk with so many interesting people and hear so many interesting stories as a part of my work.

The Writing Life, Chapter 18: Tennessee Trek

I just returned from a hectic, but pleasant, weeklong trip to Tennessee, where I spoke at the Tennessee Reading Association conference in Murfreesboro and then did a two-day author visit to an elementary school.

It’s always fun to visit a state IRA conference and see old friends. In Tennessee, I had the chance to finally meet in person two contributors to Reading Today—Jacquie McTaggart and Madeleine Kuderick—with whom I had corresponded frequently over the years while I worked at IRA. It was a real treat to sit down and share “war stories” about life as a writer and public speaker. My breakout session on using “The Power of Poetry” with students in classrooms was well received. I enjoy talking with teachers and sharing ideas about how poetry can be integrated throughout the curriculum.

After the conference, I spent two days at Bradley Academy in Murfreesboro. With the younger students, I shared poems and discussed how a book gets put together. With the older students, I conducted writing workshops, and I was amazed at some of the creative poems the students wrote. I love watching groups of young people get excited about writing—especially students who initially enter the room looking suspicious about the prospect of “writing poetry.” After school one day I took some time to drive up to Nashville and visit the Country Music Hall of Fame.

As I worked my way back across Tennessee, I had dinner with my friend David Dotson of the Dollywood Foundation and then conducted an interview with 99-year-old cartoonist Martin Filchock (more about that in my next post). On my way home, I stopped in Blacksburg, Virginia, to visit longtime friend Judy Davis and her son, Ian. I visited Ian’s eighth-grade language arts class the next day to discuss the revision process with the students. I thank Judy and Ian for their hospitality in hosting me on both ends of my journey.

If this is a taste of life as a traveling speaker/author, I think I will enjoy it, even though I felt a bit drained after covering 1,700 miles in seven days. After nine months as a full-time freelancer, I feel extremely fortunate to be able to pursue this “dream career.” Many blessings to all of you this holiday season!

Random Writing Thought of the Week: Students are often amazed when I talk about how long the process of creating a book takes. I was a bit amazed myself when I realized last week that the book of beach poems I’m currently finalizing has been more than a decade in the making. I first drafted some of the poems back in 1999!