Writing, Pies and Balance
by Teresa MI Schaefer
I began writing when I was eight. But being a bit of a late-bloomer, I have only recently pursued it with any great intent. Two years ago, I sought out a close friend who happens to be a published author and told her, “I want to pursue publishing books.”
“That’s exciting,” she said. “What do you want to write?”
My reply, “Picture books for children – the ones the adults also like to read and re-read and keep forever to read to their grandchildren; the ones they recommend to friends and give as gifts – that’s what I want to write.”
Our conversation went on for about an hour and after many encouraging words she said, “You know, it’s a bunny eat bunny world – the picture book world.”
I have since heard that quote several times. But, rub on my lucky rabbit’s foot – no, not really, I don’t have one. I saw one when I was eight and touched it, but I don’t have one. So, knock on wood, this has NOT been my experience.
Instead, it’s been much more like being at a pie smorgasbord.
Forgive me, I’m on a diet.
That’s not to suggest that I believe writing for children is as ‘easy as pie’. Nope, writing for children is definitely NOT as easy as pie. In my working hard to write publishable PBs life, I think Mem Fox nailed it: “Writing a picture book is like writing ‘War and Peace’ in Haiku.”
Writing for children is a craft, an art-form, a community, a business. And, while the business world of writing is competitive, there is a community of writers, authors, agents, editors, and publishers who make the bunny saying – well, balderdash.
The 12×12 community hosted by Julie Hedlund with her amazing elves is one of these communities. There are many more: PiBoIdMo, ReviMo, Summer Sparks, RYS, and these are just a few samplings at the pie smorgasbord. There are books on the craft, blogs galore, classes from beginner to advanced, conferences, societies, chapters, digests, whipped cream, ice cream, coconut cream….
WOOT! So many ‘pies,’ yet so little time.
As I bellied up to the 12×12 smorgasbord, I was mesmerized. Instantly, I knew why Laurie Halse Anderson said, “Pie makes everybody happy.” — The Impossible Knife of Memory. I earned badges and points. I pushed send and submitted my First 250. I read about pitches and practiced pitching. I read query letters and tried writing a couple. I’ve read many great First 250s and wanted to finish the story. I’ve written a draft a month and revised many more. I’ve been inspired and tried to inspire. I participated in show vs. tell. I’ve offered critiques and joined a critique group. I’ve made many friends and stayed up late chatting.
I dove in and became so pie-eyed that I had to push back from the table and take a breath. I was full to the gills and like a wobbling washer with a heavy, wet rug in its belly, I was out of balance. I had overindulged in the 12×12 smorgasbord. Important aspects of my life and writing had been left idle; but life requires its own sustenance.
And, keeping all those pies in the air requires lots of balance.
So, I made a pie chart (of course).
I divided my time into slices: one for 12×12, one for family, one for work, one for chores, a slice for sleep, a slice for leisure, one for platform building; and, lest I forget why I showed up to the smorgasbord in the first place –
a slice for writing –
I want to write picture books for children – the ones the adults also like to read and re-read and keep forever to read to their grandchildren; the ones they recommend to friends and give as gifts – that’s what I want to eat write.