(In)frequently Asked Questions… about being a writer.

Are you RICH now that you’ve published a book?!?

See this story contest I won in 3rd grade?

I won $25!
AMAZING, RIGHT?

Once I got out of school, though, I didn’t make a CENT from writing…
until I was forty. And even then, it wasn’t enough to live on.

Sorry, kids.

The main riches I’ve found from writing are the chance to:

  • do something I love
  • give something to people I care about (you!)
  • and make the best friends of my life.

Actually, that’s better than getting rich.

Did you always know you were going to be a writer?

As a kid, I don’t think I even knew you could be a writer. But I always loved stories: hearing them, watching them, playing them, and reading and writing them myself.

In grade school, I bubbled over with stories about everything from magical rainbows to bunnies flying space ships. People started asking me if Language Arts was my favorite class. I wasn’t sure (spelling was pretty hard), but I knew I loved stories.

And I loved how sharing stories brings people closer—whether through lively debate about your favorite characters on the playground, or curling up for a bedtime story. Sharing stories is probably my favorite thing in the world. Maybe that’s why I hung this picture of Grandma Annabel in my office. It reminds me of her. And how stories bring us together.

(Is it any surprise that I grew into someone who still loves sharing stories with others?)

Were you always a great writer?

As you can see from this first draft of a story from fifth grade, I was big on cross-outs and arrows, and my penmanship was superb. (That’s sarcasm.) Now examine this first draft of what would become my first published book, roughly thirty years later.

Not so different.

I guess I’ve always been a messy writer.

But maybe that isn’t as important as what you have to say and how you end up saying it. Some parts of writing have always come easily for me (ideas, descriptive words), but I almost never get it right the first time. And many aspects of writing are very difficult—even terrifying (essays for school—ah!).

In fact, I was a very late reader and writer. And when I finally started writing, it quickly became clear that my spelling is atrocious (REALLY BAD). It’s still not great. When I was in second grade, I used to get frustrated that my clumsy fingers couldn’t keep up with the stories racing through my imagination. Sometimes, I would use a tape recorder so they wouldn’t slip away. Or I would tell them to an adult, who could write much faster.

With years of practice, I’ve learned a lot about writing. I’m still a bad speller. I’m still slower at reading and typing than most adults. And everything I’ve ever written has started out messy. Some stories never do work. But every day that I write, I’m learning. I’m practicing. I’m becoming a stronger writer. Scratch that. A better reviser.

So, was I EVER a great writer? I don’t know.

The important thing is: I’m a persistent reviser.

Is your desk always clean?

 

No.

But cookies help!

Do you sit at your desk all day, every day?

I write most days at my desk, at least a little. (I can’t help it.)
But I also love to work with friends, sing, and get outside…

…and take pictures of what amazes me in nature.

Half of writing is living your life…

and paying attention.

You never know when your next idea will appear.

So how do you know if you’re a writer?

If people keep finding you like this:

…chances are, you’re a writer.

And if you’re writing that much, eventually…

But no matter what, your life will be full of this:

Sharing stories with people you care about.
Which is better than great.

It’s AMAZING.