Friday, March 17, 2006

looking back, looking forward

"You really ought to get this stuff published."

I've been hearing that for years now, starting with the Tiny Baby updates. Those were the immediate fruits of the conversation with my mother in which I became urgently aware that twenty years was far too long to wait to see the humor in the mess and noise of life with a highly verbal toddler. I was struck with a merciless case of morning sickness during my pregnancy with Peter ("morning" meaning "from just before waking until just after falling asleep" and "sickness" being defined as "it would make you nauseous if I told you"). During those four months I read a lot, rested a lot, and wrote a lot. The updates began as a weekly e-mail to five members of my immediate family, and were little more than a progress report on the unborn baby's development and a short, usually humorous anecdote about Mary. By the time Tiny Baby made his grand entrance (proving to be misnamed by at least two pounds), the mailing list had grown to over forty friends and family members.

I had intended to continue writing the updates every week, and then life intervened. It turned out that my sense of humor was somewhat compromised on four hours of sleep a night, so the Mary anecdotes were much shorter on giggles. Also, the reports on Peter's growth would made less than gripping reading: "He ate, he pooped, he ate again, he slept. He ate, he pooped, he ate again, he slept." They drifted to monthly reports, then bimonthly, and I think they're on a centennial schedule now.

I quit writing for a while, and then got involved with an online parenting group. Many forums of this nature involve short posts, a revolving door of members, and frequent nasty arguments about aspects of conception, birth, and childrearing that I hadn't even known existed before I discovered the Internet. (Ahh, the wonders of modern technology. You can argue about ovaries with people you don't even know!) At first ours was no exception, and then after a series of changes to our forum, we moved en masse to a new, closed site that allowed for more open conversation. The discussions grew more serious (and the humor more riotous), the posts got longer, and some of mine veered closer and closer to essays. We started a journal page within our forum, and while I was only an occasional contributor, the enthusiastic response of my online friends planted a seed in my mind. We hadn't met in person, but they still liked it, so maybe someone else would too? Interesting thought.

Not long after, our church began a newsletter. Our pastor takes the delightful position with new ministries that if we don't have it and you think we should, maybe you're the one to start it. It has been a good policy, and when a retired journalism professor thought we needed a newsletter, he gave her the freedom to nurture her idea and let it grow. She asked me for something about my kids, and "Elephants" (see the January archives of this blog) was the result.

I kept writing essays, and finally I summoned up the nerve to e-mail one of the few that was not about my children to a former college professor and current friend for his professional opinion. He read it, gave me some polite suggestions for making it more interesting and less rhapsodic, and diplomatically reminded me of one of the key rules of the craft: "Write what you know." The next one I sent him was "Somebody Else's Kid", and the highlight of his succinct response was this: "It knocked me out of my shoes." This was high praise indeed, and the idea of seeing it in print took on new life -- this one might actually make a difference to another mother who was walking my path, thinking (like so many of us) that she was alone.

By now, the idea of getting an essay published had progressed beyond a silly idea, something someone would only say as a means of complimenting my work. But the actual process of it escaped me. After a few brain-picking sessions with a friend who has more work published than I have actually written in the first place, I decided that it was time to get moving. It was nice to imagine that the editors of Parent magazine would happen across my blog and send me large sums of money to tempt me to submit my work to them, but it really wasn't very likely.

So next week it begins. Editing, printing out, putting in envelopes, and waiting for rejection letters. That's not being pessimistic, either, as it turns out -- my goal is to get something published before I've had 100 rejection letters, and that may actually be on the optimistic side of reality.

I'll let you know!


At 3/17/2006, Blogger El Pastór said...

Good luck B, I look forward to hearing how the publishing journey goes! Your stuff is great, and either an old journeyman (do I have to say journeyperson in this day and age) will solidify their wisdom by being the one to say "yes" or some new kid on the block will replace a blue hair who let it slip by! Either way, I'm confident you'll find yourself in print soon!

At 3/18/2006, Blogger XSRocks said...

Gets my vote, Brenda.

My daughter, mother of two high energy girls (4 & 2 years), was pointed to your blog by moi. So I say to you, why not get paid for writing? Yes, I think it's that good.


At 3/19/2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I can't tell you how many times I've thought to myself, "This is some funny stuff! She HAS to get this out there." I am wishing you luck. You've got the goods, it's just a matter of finding your niche!



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