Guest Post by Donna L Martin
(Thanks, Natasha, for allowing me to stop by your blog today and share a little bit of writerly wisdom with your readers.)
I’ve been writing for over forty years but only began to write professionally until four years ago. I didn’t take my writing seriously until I stumbled upon Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo challenge in November of 2011. The challenge was to write down 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. By the time the challenge was over I had written down 45 ideas in my little notebook but I had one big problem.
What was I going to do with all these ideas?
I had no clue until I heard about Julie Hedlund’s 12 X 12 challenge in January of 2012 to take those ideas and turn them into one picture book a month for the next twelve months which I did.
A whole year goes by and I’m growing so much as a writer I decide to join the 12 X 12 challenge again in 2013 but this time we are allowed to submit our stories directly to agents and editors Julie has lined up for us. I get a request from an agent to submit more stories and wait while she considers offering representation.
Fast forward to December of 2013 and I hear about #Pitmad on Twitter where I pitch one of my picture book stories and the end result is an offer from an editor to publish my first picture book!
The reason why I’ve told this story is to hopefully inspire other newbie writers into realizing if I can do it, anyone can. But don’t forget it’s a wonderful, little fishie meet big fishie world out there. All us new little fishies need to remember three things if we don’t want to get eaten:
1. Pay attention when the bigger fishies talk.
Why do you think a Granddaddy Catfish lives in the pond so long? Because he took the lessons of other catfish before him and paid attention to what they had to say. I needed to do my own research, seeking out the wisdom of those who swam before me. Gather those like-minded fishies around me so we all might encourage each other in this big old writing pond we are all swimming in.
2. Practice your shark roar daily.
Don Knotts once played a cartoon fish character in the movie, The Incredible Mr. Limpett. I LOVE that movie. Don Knotts’ character falls into the water and the humans think he drowned. But he magically turns into this cartoon fish who has grand adventures despite his timid nature. Surrounded by sharks, torpedoes, and bigger fish, he has to learn to have confidence in his ability to survive in his new environment. One day he surprises himself, and everyone else, by emitting a huge ROAR that eventually helps the Navy win a battle. As a new little fishie in this big writing pond, I need to practice my own “shark roar” daily. A roar of confidence to remind me that I CAN do this, that I CAN be a successful children’s book author as long as I continue to practice my writing skills daily.
3. Just keep swimming.
Dory from Finding Nemo had it right. No matter what, just keep swimming. That poor, little fishie had many obstacles placed in front of her but she never gave up. At my TKD school where I teach, we call that perseverance. Old cowboys would call it true grit. Whatever you want to call it, we all know what it feels like to keep running into those walls…rejection letters, harsh critiques, writer’s block…what ever it may be…and that’s when life culls the tetras from the sharks. Dory never listened to anyone who wanted to bring her down by telling her she wasn’t good enough. Dory didn’t stop believing when she was told she didn’t know how to speak “whale”. Despite all the obstacles set before her, Dory knew just what she had to do and she simply did it…she kept on swimming until she was successful…until her personal goal was reached and Nemo was found.
What else could be asked of us but to not give up on ourselves? I might be a new, little fishie now in a great big pond, but if I pay attention to the other fishies when they talk, practice daily my own shark roar, and just keep swimming, then one day I’ll be able to look over my shoulder at other little fishies looking up at ME with the same look of wonder as I have now and there is one thing I will be sure to tell them…
Just keep swimming…just keep swimming…
About Donna L. Martin
I’ve been writing since I was eight years old but only decided to start writing professionally in 2010.
A series of dreams gave me the idea to try my hand at writing picture books and in 2013 I landed my first picture book contract with Anaiah Press. Come join the fun as I write picture books, chapter books, young adult novels, essays, and anything else that interest me.
I’m also the host of the WRITERLY WISDOM series where authors and agents give tips on the writing process. I’m also the host of my weekly BOOK NOOK REVIEWS and the FREE AUTHORS promotion event held every May during my city’s Children’s Festival of Reading which supports Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
If you would like to connect, send me an email or visit one of the sites listed below.