Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Rx for Moving Forward (Upright and Satisfied) in 2011

I am especially qualified to address our blog’s New Year’s topic of what keeps a writer going-going-going.
I happen to be (proudly) “The Susan Lucci of Children’s Books.”
In case you’ve forgotten, Ms. Lucci, the Queen of Soap Operas, was nominated 19 times (!) for a Day Time Leading Actress Emmy for her role as Erica Kane on All My Children before the Academy finally and officially “crowned” her in 1999.

I too was out-and-about 19 years (!) on my particular (writer’s) plotline before receiving a contract in 1996 for my first-ever trade picture book, There Goes Lowell’s Party! (Holiday House, ‘98).
It’s no coincidence my picture book character Lowell Piggott and I shared Susan Lucci’s heart.
Despite May’s Ozark pourdowns, mudslides and twisters (in Lowell’s case) and writer detours, roadblocks, dead-ends and collisions (in my case), Lowell and I knew: folks would make it to our Party.

“But how?” you ask. “How did you know?!”

Well, lucky me. I’m a December baby. My sign is Sagittarius. I was born Hopeful.
I cheer on the Cubs. (Next year’s the one!)
In other words, my innate Positive Mental Attitude helped. A lot.
But certainly not always.
Or for long periods of times.

So, I established a few Tricks of the Trade – i.e. positive concrete behaviors that enable me, the PMA Poster Girl, to realign my body parts, cushion my Spirit and continue moving forward the next time I – once again - metaphorically “crash.”

• I send myself encouraging greetings, via snail mail or email.
Currently queue-ed on my desktop is a Huntington Library-purchased postcard. It pictures a billboard boasting Charles Bukowksi’s words – “what matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”

• Well-worn copies (both paperback and hardback) of William Steig’s Brave Irene rest on my windowsill, page-pinched to cheer me on.

• John Phillip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever lies atop my CD stack, ever-ready to re-constitute and fortify.
(I wrote recently how The March King created this most-optimistic-piece of music after contemplating suicide on a return trip from a failed European concert tour. I study Famous (Seeming) Failures the way some folks eat Chicago's World Famous Garrett’s Popcorn – i.e. addictively.)

• A small but empty 4 x 6 crystal picture frame adorns my bookshelf, inviting all sorts of creatively-visualized Authorial Kodak Moments. (Think The Oprah Show, a starred Booklist review, a name-your-award speech/medal, a smiling surprised recipient of a book’s dedication.)

• My “Journal” continues to prove a Dumping Ground for negative thoughts, storing each and every disappointment, doubt, rejection and fear I come to know on a sometimes-daily basis. Giving words to my heart’s pain eases its intensity. Before too long I’m moving forward, significantly lighter and unencumbered. An added bonus? When relevant or necessary, I can transfer angst-filled feelings to my waiting characters. Who knew venting could improve characterization?

• The Best Trick of All, though, I’ve saved for last: I intentionally STOP, in my writer’s tracks. Next I turn myself around to view the distance I’ve traveled.
In a month.
In a season.
In a year.
Or a decade even! (19 years = almost 2)

I take in all I’ve accomplished, all I’ve experienced – intentionally, but also unexpectedly.
Then I embrace and celebrate all I've become.

You can do the same.
Perhaps you wrote and submitted not 1 but 3 picture books,      
- attended a local class (even though you remained nametag-less),
- (finally!) joined a Writer’s Group,
- volunteered for your local SCBWI Chapter,
- traveled to a weekend far-from-home conference,
- applied for a grant,
- entered a contest,
- queried an agent (or ten),
- explored an MFA program
- corresponded with Your Favorite Living Author,
- tried a new genre,
- experimented with a new format,
- researched a picture book subject,
- retreated to write,
- created your website,
- blogged,
- even tweeted,
- uploaded your trailer to YouTube,
- joined a Listserv,
- proposed a conference program,
- mass-marketed your brochure,
- (Fill-in-the-blanks!)_______

Look at where you’ve been, the people you’ve met and what you’ve already done in one given time period.
Smile (wide).
Sigh (loudly).
Jump up and down.
Next congratulate yourself!
Then turn yourself around ’til you’re facing forward.
Take a deep breath.
Take a second, just in case.
Now continue on your Writer’s Journey, upright and satisfied.
Go! Go! Go!
I’m cheering you on.

Esther Hershenhorn


Brenda said...

And this is why I love you, Esther! :-)

Carmela Martino said...

Just reading this makes me smile, Esther. :-)
For the Cubs, I hope THIS is the year!

Christina said...

I can't count the number of times your positive words and attitude have kept me moving forward, Esther.

Thanks for this!


Megan K. Bickel said...

You are just in my head (or I'm in yours)! I recently re-christened my blog as a place for "inspiration, motivation and encouragement" because I think more is needed in the world. Then I come here and get my own fantastic dose of it! Thank you!!


jdsanc said...

Almost two decades? SO wonderful that you are there already grounding yourself and going forward, or around in a circle, but moving. Thanks for the moving words.

Megan K. Bickel said...

I linked this post from my blog. Sharing the love! : )

Esther Hershenhorn said...

it gladdens my heart to learn my honest telling of my oh, so long Writer's Journey touched fellow writers.
Thank you to all who emailed privated, tweeted, blogged, FaceBook-ed and commented.
While out-and-about, we're seldom privy to what I've come to call The Bigger Plan.
I now see I was MEANT to struggle, so once I published, I could go forth to keep OTHER writers upright and moving forward on THEIR Writer's Plotlines - via coaching, teaching, blogging, RA-ing, or just hanging out.
Go! Go! Go!
I'm cheering you on.

Donna said...

You're such a wonderful motivator, Esther. And your words are so timely for all of us still slogging through the marshes and climbing the mountains on our own author's journeys. Thank you for the inspiration:)

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great advice Susan-I mean Esther!

BookBlogFun said...

We are all doing great work and it's nice to relate to people who are motivated by reading and books.

The home page of my blog states this goal for 2011:
Let’s make things happen this year. We have the power to encourage social reading and help our children find books that they enjoy. We have the power to
read books with our kids and talk about our favorite parts. We have the power to read with each other no matter where we live and share books on our blog. We have the power to recommend books to each other and socialize through
reading. We have the power to show our children that reading is part of our lives. We have the power to share with our friends the books we love to read.

The books on your site look great. I will look for them and hope to review some.

~Lauri Chandler

Debbie Best said...


Thank you for 'all' you've done for me... This journey that you and I have found ourselves on has been very encouraging, not to mention educating. You inspire me to 'not' give up when things look bleak and dark. I have certainly found my creative voice with your help. Happy 2011!

Amy Schimler-Safford said...

Wonderful advice!! You helped me become a story teller this year - what a huge accomplishment which I will always be grateful for whether or not an actual product comes to fruition. Thanks for the cheers.