When I was 13 I knew exactly what I was going to do when I grew up … become a newspaper journalist. At that ridiculously awkward time in my life (overly large glasses, braces and an untamed mop of curly hair), I was so self-conscious and shy that just thinking about talking to those so-called “popular” kids would cause me to break out in a cold sweat.
So how in the world would I pull off that career? It’s laughable to think about the previous dichotomy between my passion and personality.
Despite all the unfortunate characteristics I possessed in those formative years, I was not lacking in the stubborn department. Lord knows I was determined to be a reporter at a major metropolitan newspaper.
There was just something magnetizing about the written word and sharing stories with others. I’d like to believe it was my timid demeanor that helped me take refuge in my writing, perfecting my voice and style.
I’d like to believe it gave me the confidence to achieve my dreams, ultimately earning me accolades as an award-winning reporter with The Detroit News before switching gears into corporate communications and public relations.
You’re probably wondering what this has to do with you: accomplished and aspiring Michigan children’s book authors. Believe it or not, it does.
Like so many of you, I’ve dreamed of writing a book my entire life. Even though I’ve always been a writer, I just wasn’t sure I had the skills to springboard to that next level. How could I compare to Deborah Diesen, Sherri Duskey Rinker or Kathy-jo Wargin?
That dream always felt unreachable.
Besides, as a mother of two active littles with a loving husband and successful professional career, who had the time to chase grand dreams?
That’s the excuse I’d been telling myself for years. That is, until I took the plunge earlier this year and finished my first children’s picture book manuscript. Inspired by my children, it’s a humorous story that I hope to one day physically hold in my hands and share with others.
I haven’t received any offers … yet. But, I feel very accomplished because I finished my first manuscript. It’s half the battle, right? And now that I’ve done that, I feel like I’ve opened a creative floodgate to see ideas at every turn.
Patience isn’t one of my strong suits, but I can truly say that this process is fun and educational. I may not be as awkward as I once was, but I am certainly still stubborn (just ask my husband!) and willing to do what it takes to see this dream to fruition.
Realistically, fear was the biggest reason I hadn’t put the effort in before.
Fear I didn’t have the time. My schedule is already stretched thin, but whose isn’t? Timing will never be perfect. So, I vowed to make the time, because I deserve this for myself. I’m proud that I’ve taken the time to reach for that next goal.
Fear of the boring idea. I never thought that I was truly special, but I do have a lot to say. I regularly jot down family memories or child-rearing issues we’ve overcome to kick-start the creative writing process.
Fear of rejection. I’ve started pitching my first manuscript, and received a handful of pleasantly-worded “thanks, but no thanks” rejections. I know this is to be expected, but it’s still disappointing. My very supportive husband kindly reminds me that I only need one “yes.” It’s exactly what I need to hear.
Fear of the mommy guilt. This is the big one. As a mother who works full-time outside of our home, I love my family time because they are the other half that makes me whole. It’s not easy to divide my time with work let alone make time for myself to write. I feel selfish and guilty. I want to spend what little time I have with them while they still think I’m the coolest person on the planet. I find time while they’re napping or after bedtime. I don’t need to carve out a huge chunk; I feel satisfied when I can touch a project a few times a week. Deep down I know I shouldn’t feel guilty because doing this for me shows them it’s OK – dare I say it, even healthy – to do things for yourself every now and then.
I can’t say that my fears are fully cured. But, I now have a healthy understanding of them and a manageable way to move forward. I’m relieved that my dream of becoming a children’s book author has nagged me over the years.
Here’s to a great journey!
Christina Fecher is a former reporter at The Detroit News, who now handles corporate communications and public relations in West Michigan where she lives with her husband and their two children. She’s a new member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Thanks, Christina! Coming up on the Mitten blog: Patti Richards is busy preparing another Member Spotlight. Who will it be? Please join us next Friday.