Archive for February, 2012

The Writing Life, Chapter 22: The Power of Patience

If you’re not a patient person, then writing is not for you. Even under the best of circumstances, it takes a couple of years for an accepted book to get published (at least through traditional outlets). Magazine articles come out months after being written, and newspaper articles may take a couple of weeks, except for breaking news.

Currently, I’m waiting for two magazine articles and one newspaper piece to appear. One way I cope with the waiting time is by busying myself with the next round of projects. Right now I’m working on a newspaper article, a couple of magazine pieces, and an editing project, in addition to my part-time consulting work with the Association of Educational Publishers.

I’m also showing patience in regard to my collection of beach poems for children. I first drafted these poems more than a decade ago while I was in the midst of preparing Daddy Poems and Mommy Poems for Boyds Mills Press, but this collection did not get accepted for publication. Every few years I would pull it out, thinking I wanted to finish it, but there never seemed to be enough time.

After I left my job at the International Reading Association last spring, I suddenly found myself with time to pursue the project again—this time as a self-published book. I also came up with the idea of pairing my poems with some wonderful beach photographs taken by my friend Lisa Goodman, a professional photographer. Lisa was excited about the collaboration, and we spent the rest of the year matching poems and photos. Overall, we were really pleased with the results.

We found, however, that we were missing about three or four photos that we really wanted to include. Lisa tried to stage them in the “off season,” but the weather gods conspired against us. When she had child models available, the weather was crummy. When the weather was good, the models were unavailable.

We thought the book would benefit from a spring release, and we grew stressed at the thought of trying to finish it within that time frame. Finally, we decided that what we needed was a little more patience. We are shelving the project until the weather improves and Lisa can take some more beach photos. In the meantime, I’ll give the collection one more edit to ensure the text is as good as I can make it. While the book now won’t be out for this summer season, we feel confident that we will be REALLY pleased with the finished product and that we will be glad we waited.

The power of patience!

Random Writing Thought: After waiting patiently for my work to appear, I’m always glad to see it in print, but I rarely read it. Over the years, I have found that I don’t like most of the possible outcomes that spring from reading the printed piece: 1) I might find an error I made (bad). 2) I might find an error the editing process introduced (even worse). 3) I might find things I wish I’d phrased differently (bad). 4) I might not like the accompanying artwork (a matter of taste, but still bad). 5) I might still think the piece reads well and also enjoy the artwork (the only pleasant outcome of the bunch). With that in mind, I generally skim the piece, clip a couple of copies for my files, and move on to the next project.

The Writing Life, Chapter 21: New Experiences

One of the things I love about writing is having the opportunity to experience new activities and learn new things—some of which I never even would have found out about on my own. In the past 10 days, I have attended a theatre organ concert, written about a penguin who received a specially made shoe to help him walk, and viewed a partially assembled exhibit of Ghanaian kente.

How many of you knew that one of the world’s finest theatre organs resides at Dickinson High School? Or that the concerts organized by the Dickinson Theatre Organ Society (DTOS) feature internationally known organists and draw audiences of 800 or more? Or that a theatre organ may have as many as 5,000 pipes ranging from the size of a pencil to the size of a tree trunk.

On January 28, I attended an organ concert by Lance Luce, who played music ranging from show tunes to hymns. On February 2, I interviewed the president of the DTOS and got a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of the organ chambers. I learned a lot and have a new appreciation for organ music.

If you’re into heartwarming animal stories, Google “Lucky the penguin” and watch the YouTube video. Lucky is just one of the “Amazing Animals” I’m writing about for National Geographic Kids magazine.

On January 31, I visited Cab Calloway School of the Arts to learn about the Wrapped in Pride exhibit of Ghanaian kente that was being prepared to open on February 3. I got to see the partially assembled exhibit and learn about the history of kente and the growing international popularity of the brightly colored, geometrically patterned cloth.

Sandwiched around all that was my part-time consulting project, which involves helping the Association of Educational Publishers in Wilmington with its annual awards program. Part of that job involves processing and prescreening the entries to ensure that the judges will be able to easily access all the information they need. I have seen some remarkable materials, ranging from long-established magazines to professional development book/CD combinations to innovative websites.

I feel truly blessed to have a profession that allows me to explore and learn about fascinating topics and then to share the information I have gained with others.

Random Writing Thought: This week I found myself juggling my consulting job and various stages of five different freelance projects. I was drafting articles early in the morning and editing material late in the evening—and feeling exhilarated rather than exhausted in the process. I find it keeps me mentally fresh to be working on a variety of projects all at once.