Monday, September 28, 2015

Pay, as in PAYoff$!

Carmela’s Friday post not only announced our Book Giveaway of the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market 2016 (Writer’s Digest), the details of which follow today’s post.  It also highlighted her CWIM 2016 article “Make a Living as a Writer,” thus beginning our TeachingAuthors conversation about how we writers earn our keep doing what we love.

Money.  That taboo $ubject we’re not $uppo$$ed to talk about.

Just Saturday, in a Small Session talk at the Chicago Writers Conference, I suggested writers keep their day jobs, especially if the job offers health insurance, and definitely if that health insurance includes dental coverage.
“There are all sorts of currencies in this world,” I tell my school visit questioners who always feel comfortable asking my income.  I tap my heart and smile.  “Money isn’t the only thing that keeps a person going.”

Which is not to say, I don’t get it – literally and figuratively! J

Like so many of my fellow children’s book creators, schools and libraries pay me to visit and speak.
Fortunately, though, my additional tools - I hold a B.S. in Elementary Education, ½ a Masters Degree in Curriculum Instruction and an Illinois Teaching Certificate, plus my additional experiences as both a classroom teacher and professional journalist have also paid off.   
Take, for example, the year 2000.
The two picture books I’d recently sold had respective publishing dates of 2002 and 2005.
What’s a children’s book writer to do - besides write and do school and library visits?
I, for one, said “YES!” to any opportunity that came my way.

·         I critiqued children’s book manuscripts, sharing everything I’d learned and offering everything I’d needed when learning my craft.

·         I wrote my first alphabet book ever – I IS FOR ILLINOIS, as well as the accompanying workbook – ILLINOIS FUN FACTS AND GAMES (GHB Publishing).

·         I used my research from previous books and stories, sold and unsold, to write critical reading test paragraphs and accompanying questions for Quarasan’s educational text book clients.

·         I put my story-telling to use creating formulaic generic under-400-word stories for children to personalize and reproduce when visiting the Sears Family Portrait website.   

·         I reviewed children’s books for the new monthly, dads magazine.

·         I served as an editorial consultant for Childcraft’s HOW AND WHY LIBRARY's STORIES TO SHARE, working on themed stories about Heroes.

·         I sold my middle grade novel THE CONFE$$ION$ AND $ECRET$ OF HOWARD J. FINGERHUT to Holiday House!

To my surprise, while each of the above efforts paid me, they also paid off in $urpri$ing ways.

    Early critique clients showed me the need to create original teaching documents I use with the writers I coach.  One client in particular recommended me to the Newberry Library, another to the University of Chicago’s Writer’s Studio - two institutions where I still teach today.

·             Assessing the successful workings of themed fiction and nonfiction so they could work together as a whole sharpened my editorial eye.

·             Reviewing opportunities showed me ways to keep my finger on the pulse of consumers and my Children’s Book World marketplace.

·             Educational writing kept my readers, their abilities and interests on my radar.

·             I automatically return to one almost-impossible-to-write mini-story – “A Dino-mite Dinosaur Time” – every time I think I can’t do something.  (The assignment had been “dinosaurs camping out!”)

·            Writing LITTLE ILLINOIS and S IS FOR STORY for Sleeping Bear Press was like going home again.

And each of the above efforts continues to pay off, not only for me the writer, the teacher, the presenter, the TeachingAuthor, but for my readers, my students and the writers I coach and care for.

One of my Heroines, Marian Dane Bauer, speaks of writers cobbling together a living – from writing, teaching, lecturing, whatever.   

IMHO: that requisite cobbling often leads to unexpected riche$.

Speaking of which, don’t forget to enter our Book Giveaway to win a copy of The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market 2016!

Here’s to happy cobbling!

Esther Hershenhorn


Carmela Martino said...

Esther, thanks so much for sharing the many ways you've found to cobble together a living as a writer!

JoAnn Early Macken said...

I love hearing about how other writers manage to manage so many different kinds of work. Hooray for you!

Rosi said...

Thanks for this post. I always find it interesting to hear of successful writers' journeys.

Bobbi Miller said...

What a grand discussion on "cobbling!" Very inspiring and insightful!

Linda said...

Thank you for this excellent post. I enjoy learning about the many ways writers earn their income.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thanks to all for taking the time to comment on my post.
I hope sharing opportunities I said YES! to spark po$$ibilitie$ for all of you!

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

You are amazing, Esther. What an encouragement you have always been to me.