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By Lisa Rowe Fraustino

A few years ago at one of those literary festivals where admiring throngs line up to get autographs from the Very Famous, a couple of us throngless, not-very-famous authors got into a conversation. I noted how some people publish so much, they seem to compete with themselves.

A friend’s comment surprised me. She said, “You don’t know how lucky you are.”

I hardly felt lucky. I couldn’t afford to quit my day job and write full time. I spent more hours writing on student papers than writing my own fiction, and I had to devote some of my creative time to scholarly essays.

Besides that, I had increasing difficulty getting manuscripts published because my stuff wasn’t commercial enough. By then, I’d collected so many glowing rejections, I could get the Nobel Prize in Unpublished Literature.

“Why am I so lucky, exactly?” I asked my friend.

I thought she might say it’s really fun to teach children’s and adolescent literature to college students (which it is), or that it’s flippin’ awesome to get paid for thinking deeply about your favorite books and ideas (definitely true), or that nothing helps a writer understand craft better than teaching creative writing workshops (possibly true).

No. She said, “You have health insurance. You know you can pay your mortgage every month. You don’t sit down to write every day knowing that you must sell your work. You can do whatever projects you want. If they don’t get published, at least you pleased yourself. Some of us have to keep producing whatever books we can that will keep the advances coming.”

“Oh…,” I said. “Thanks!”

Suddenly I had a new perspective on my life as a teaching writer.

The Hole in the Wall (Milkweed, 2010)(excerpt) may never have been published if I had to depend on selling it to buy health insurance.

I began jotting the early ideas in graduate school, and for twenty years, I have returned to the story off and on, always getting back to it between other projects because I cared about my characters and themes too much to let them go.

As I worked with editor Ben Barnhart on several more revisions, I didn’t realize that Milkweed had The Hole in the Wall in mind for their prize—they only told me after the final draft. What a fabulous reward at the end of all that writing and waiting!

Nowadays I remind myself how lucky I am whenever I get frustrated about not having enough time to write and keep up with the social networks…or when I get another rejection.

I don’t write just for myself; I do want to reach readers. Yet in those precious hours devoted to writing, it is indeed a gift to be able to work on stories just because I believe in them.

Cynsational Notes

Visit Lisa’s web page to read “10 Tips on Making Time to Write When You Have Another Career.” Other class sessions can be found at http://lisarowefraustino.com/?page_id=249

“Seb Daniels is growing up in a despoiled landscape going haywire in a specifically twenty-first-century way. Lisa Rowe Fraustino is masterful in this tale of surreal survival.”

Richard Peck, Newbery Medal-winning author of A Year Down Yonder, on The Hole in the Wall


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 9th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
Cyn, thanks for always sharing the spotlight with other authors and keeping us informed about the children's lit world and upcoming books! I'm SO thrilled to see that Lisa has a new book! She was the very first author to crit my work a decade ago - and gave me great advice and suggestions, as well as boosted my ego! Hooray for Lisa Rowe Fraustino!
Nov. 9th, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC)
My pleasure! And hooray indeed! I'm so glad that Lisa helped put you on the path to publication! Two great writer women, working together! Sounds like a terrific memory!
Nov. 9th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
Cyn, thanks for sharing space with me today. What a terrific resource your blog provides for anyone interested in writing, publishing, reading, living & breathing children's books. And being your guest has brought a couple of old friends back into contact with me...a nice bonus!

So let's make that three great writer women.

Nov. 10th, 2010 10:19 am (UTC)
Thank YOU, Lisa! This is a terrific post, and it's an honor to feature you and your fine work.
Nov. 9th, 2010 10:52 pm (UTC)
Hi, Debbi!
I just got back from my day job (which is also a night job some days) and found your wonderful message. I remember you well and it's gratifying to know you're thriving.

Nov. 9th, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC)
Lisa! What a delight to stumble across you on this blog. And how wonderful to see you have a new book coming out.
Nov. 10th, 2010 10:20 am (UTC)
Thanks for chiming in, David!
Nov. 10th, 2010 10:37 am (UTC)
Ah, David! Good to see you after all these years, my old friend...but your hair has changed color and did you have some work done on your eyes? And one more question: Why were you stumbling?

Nov. 9th, 2010 11:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks Lisa for the inspiring post. I have to work full time and squeeze writing in. I try to remind myself of the benefits of supporting my family with a job and good health insurance though I do wish I had more time to write. It always inspires me to continue when I see other successful writers who have had to do it while working. And you're right, the time we find to write is a gift.
Nov. 10th, 2010 10:20 am (UTC)
We're cheering you on!
Nov. 10th, 2010 10:49 am (UTC)
Natalie, thank you for reading and responding. I'll send you lucky thoughts the next time I pick up a prescription.
Nov. 10th, 2010 09:06 am (UTC)
I like having a teaching job and my writing at the same time. Nothing breaks me out of my ocassional funk than a class going well. And I'm not broke. And I enjoy talking with people, so class discussion for me is a lot of fun, and the students are a reality check. If I didn't have a job, I'd be in serious danger of becoming a paranoid hermit.
Nov. 10th, 2010 10:21 am (UTC)
Your students and readers are lucky to have you!
Nov. 10th, 2010 10:57 am (UTC)
Oh, that last bit's funny. Where/what do you teach, Paul?

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

about me & cynsations

Cynthia is a New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of fiction for young readers. Graphic novelist. Fond of cats, comics, and cocoa.

Cynsations is a source for conversations, publishing information, literacy and free speech advocacy, writer resources, inspiration, news in children's and teen literature, and author outreach.

Note: via various means and mirror sites, Cynsations has about 6,000 regular subscribers and averages 80,000 page views a month.

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