Saturday, March 08, 2014

Lucky Serendipity: A Newspaper Ad

Hi, folks! I'm continuing my series for the month of March. In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, I'm calling this series: Lucky Serendipity. I have tripped across many moments in life that really direct the whole of my future. I call these moments: lucky serendipity. So here is the story of one of those moments.

When I started out as a writer, I didn't really have any idea what I should write except for journals and "little stories" that only children would read (said my college creative writing teacher). I certainly had no clue how to become published. I had a Children's Literature teacher also tell me that I should write for children.

I wish I could say I took everyone's advice and dove right into children's writing, but that is not my story. Instead, I went for unassertiveness, gullibility, dissatisfaction with the world as we know it, naivety, and a desire for spiritual meaning. I know, rut-ro, and it was bad. But fear not, readers! An ad was placed in the newspaper, and it changed my life. It was a very smallish ad about a meeting for children's writers, a club called the SCBW.

This was perhaps the most spiritual thing that has ever happened to me, except for meeting the love my life.

At this point in history, I had three children, ages 0 to 2. Yes, I had been busy. I decided to go to this mysterious meeting. It was at the College Station Conference Center. The ad mentioned you should bring some pages to share, so off I went to my mother's day out, pages clutched in hand. A group of about twelve sat in a friendly circle. A smallish woman with bright blue eyes and blond hair cut in a bob led the group. Her first picture book was about to be published, and she chatted about the experience.

I listened in wide-eyed wonder. I had never been with a published writer as a colleague before. I read my bit and she had such great things to say: like rhyme needs to really rhyme and it's hard, like stare out the window a while each day before writing, like think about how the words roll around in your mouth --advice I have never forgotten.

I went home and re-budgeted the food so I could pay the fee to join the group. For months, I never missed a meeting. The SCBW leader was so kind to me. She sent me a note, thanking me for voluteering, and she added that a day would come that she would say: she knew me when.  She challenged me: Write every day. Voice is all about the words. Write your best work and send it in.

I sent in my first story to a publisher during this time and received a signed rejection! 1995, baby. She told me it would take ten years to really get things going. (My first publication would land in 2006.)

A day came that I learned that I was moving to some place called Kirkland, Washington, this leader encouraged me to get involved with SCBWI (there was a name change).  She told me to look up Peggy King Anderson and take every class she offered. She had it on good authority that Peggy was a great teacher. (Peggy is beyond great.)

This wonderful leader kept in touch over the years and would always remember me and my writing every time we happened to meet. She still invites me over for writerly shindigs now that I'm back in College Station after my almost fifteen year jaunt. 

So who was this paragon leader, and who placed the life-changing ad? Kathi Appelt.

I know I'm just one of hundreds that have a story just like this. Lucky serendipity had struck. Lucky me. I will be back next week with more lucky serendipity.

This week's doodle: this is a sketch from a project I worked on in those early days -- The Wild Jamboree. I hated that black background but loved the hippos and the bush babies.

Here is a quote from the wonderful Kathi.

They say that lightning never strikes in the same place twice, but the same is not true for courage. As it turns out, when courage strikes, it almost always begets more courage.  Kathi Appelt, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp


Vijaya said...

Love this story! Taking Peggy's class and meeting you was lucky serendipity for me! My kids grew up on Kathi's books!!! I'd love to meet her someday.

MollyMom103 said...

Yes, that was a wonderful class. Just the best. Totally lucky serendipity! She is wonderful and wise.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I always know to walk through the doors the lord opens and don't worry about the ones that stay closed. Sounds like they are swinging open for you!

MollyMom103 said...

Hi Elizabeth, thank you for dropping by. I am always grateful fo r open doors.