If Only… Musings on regrets, no regrets and my role as a parent

If Only…

Yesterday was a milestone for me. I received the proof for the paperback edition of my novel, WHEELS. The journey to its publication has often felt unbearably long. And, it has been long—12 years long! Back in January of 2000, when I first began writing, I knew almost from the outset, I wanted to write a science fiction novel… I just didn’t know how to go about it.

Or maybe I did?

You see, before I was a writer, I was a mother. Becoming a parent brings into often painful focus, things like past mistakes, missed opportunities, and the wasted hours of our youth. The acknowledgment that we could have been so much more “If only…” is the reason most parents encourage their children to study harder and be persistent, among other things.

While this sounds like a bad thing—and certainly, at this point, some parents do give up and transfer the burden of success to their children—it can also be a good thing. A wake up call! A chance to apply all the advice we heard from our parents, the same advice that now springs forth from our own mouths… a chance to see what we can do with the rest our lives if we just give it our all!

For me, the wake up call came the day my child began piano lessons. I knew it wouldn’t be long before she realized her dream of performing an endless repertoire of Disney songs for her friends was going to take far longer than she’d expected. The most frustrating thing about studying piano is that in order to get from point A, learning the notes on the keyboard, to point B, playing your favorite songs with ease, usually take years and many hours of practice. Suddenly, the goal you once thought was only a few lessons away, looks so far off it’s almost impossible to see. That’s why most people quit taking piano lessons. That’s why I quickly stepped in and managed my child’s expectations. I gave her a simple goal, one with results she could see.

Practice twenty minutes a day, five days a week. Keep this up for one year, and you’ll be amazed at how much progress you’ve made. Note, I didn’t promise she’d be a concert pianist. I only promised that she’d see progress.

So, now back to me. 12 years ago, I decided to follow a life long dream and pursue writing. Specifically, writing fiction stories for publication. Like a novice piano student, I began with few skills and unrealistic expectations. Luckily, when reality hit, I had my own advice to fall back on. I knew if I gave up, 10 years from now I’d be in exactly the same place, looking back and thinking, “If only…” except that I’d be ten years older and feel that much worse about it. On the other hand, I could forge ahead, and at the very worst, never see publication, but at least have written stories I could share with my children and grandchildren.

So, that’s what I did. And today, beside me, sits a completed science fiction novel with my name on it. But honestly, that’s not even the best part. The best part of this 12-year journey, are all the things I didn’t expect. Though my ultimate goal was my novel, along the way, I wrote a picture book, which Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of the Penguin Group, published. Then, during what I consider a slump period, where I was close to giving up, a friend convinced me to try writing nonfiction, educational books-for-hire. Never in my wildest dreams had I ever considered writing nonfiction books. Yet, now I have 21 books in print and six more due out in January of 2013. In addition, one of my rejected picture book manuscripts became the lyrics for a children’s song due out in 2013. And about that sci-fi novel… its route to publication was also unexpected.

Twelve years ago—even as little as a year and a half ago—I would never have considered self-publishing. However, the publishing industry has changed. There are fewer large publishing houses and many more eBooks. Given that, even when I was traditionally published, I ended up building my own website, creating my own blog, promoting and scheduling my own school visits, and setting up my own appearances at places like Printers Row Book Fair in Chicago, I decided this time around, I might as self-publish. More importantly, I knew that WHEELS was ready for publication. It’s a lot of work, and I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve never felt better about my writing.

I have a new goal now: a new novel. With twelve years of writing experience behind me, it shouldn’t take me as long to complete this one. We’ll see! Butt in chair; write every day—that, my friends, is how you write a novel. Until then… set your own simple goal and stick with it. Check back with me in a year, we’ll compare progress. Happy Writing!



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