Janet Sumner Johnson
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The Learning Curve of Publishing

Oct

26, 2015 |

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It’s no secret that I’ve been on this ride of wanting to be
published for a long time. And the longer you are in something, the more you
learn about it. Bit by bit you gather information and before long you are no
longer a newbie.

By the time I found my agent, I was quite expert at drafting
query letters. I knew the best places to track the query letters I sent to
agents (querytracker.net in case anyone was wondering). I knew what writing conferences
I liked best. I knew what to expect timing wise, and I was the one answering
questions for those newbies who had just joined the fray.

Now that I’m on the next step of the publishing journey, I
am horrified to discover that I have to start over as a newbie. Only this time,
the learning curve is much, MUCH steeper since there is an actual deadline for
things (oh the forgotten joy of not having a deadline!).

My head is spinning as
I try to figure out marketing, and how to get my name out there and get on
panels and accepted as a presenter at conferences. And let’s not forget school
visits, and swag, and websites. Writing tag lines. Writing author bios. Writing discussion questions. Figuring out author pictures and poses. And of course navigating the world of
communicating with my publisher and editor and all the people involved there
(who are fortunately very lovely people!).

 
The things is, I’d read so many blog posts from debut
authors as they navigated the publishing world, and I’d learned so much about school
visits and marketing, etc. And I had notes from conference presentations on
such topics. I felt so prepared. I was SO ready for the next step! I just knew
I would make it through with ease.

So I’m left scratching my head about what went wrong.
 
And the only thing I can come up with is that having a book
published is a bit like becoming a parent for the first time. You can read all
kinds of books to prepare yourself. People will tell you all kinds of truths
and horror stories about “what it’s really like.” But it doesn’t matter.
The only thing that really helps you understand what it’s like to be a parent
is to actually BE A PARENT. And then suddenly you get it!
 
Not that it’s suddenly easy or that you suddenly know everything.
But you get it. You get how hard and
complicated and unpredictable it all is. And all you can do is your best. You
keep trying every day, and you learn new things. Sometimes it feels like you’ll never be as
good as those other parents you see at PTA meetings and stuff, and sometimes it
feels like you’re failing miserably.
 
But you aren’t.
 
Because HEY! You’re doing
it! And none of that other stuff matters. What matters is that you’re trying.
 
Because despite what Yoda says, there really is such a
thing.
 
(And yes, this is absolutely what I tell myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed by it all . . . which is at least once a month . . . okay, weekly . . . fine! I meant daily. DAILY. Okay?? Satisfied?!) 😉

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Cicada Killer Wasps and a Trip to the Library

Jul

31, 2009 |

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It was just a trip to the library:

30 minutes to get out of the house,
10 minutes there,
Then I was planning a leisurely 30 minutes to an hour choosing some books and movies, maybe reading one of them to the kids,
Then another 10 minute return trip.

Sounds so pleasant, doesn’t it?

Bad sign #1: Rain drops start falling the second we step out the door. I should have taken the hint, but no . . . we’re driving, I have an umbrella in the car . . . why should I let a little rain stop me?

So the kids jump in. Pop the car seat in, London buckles himself, but Brandt is our free spirit.

Me: Brandt, hurry and get in your car seat so we can get to the library.
Brandt: I don’t want to sit in that seat!

It starts to rain harder.

Me: You have to sit in that seat or we can’t go anywhere.
Brandt: I don’t want to sit in that seat!

It starts to pour.

Me: Please sit in that seat! Mama’s getting soaked!
Brandt: I don’t want to sit in that seat!
Me: AAAAAH! GET IN THAT SEAT NOW BEFORE ALL YOUR TRAINS GO TO TIME-OUT!

I’m soaked, Brandt’s crying, but the car is moving.

At the library, it’s raining pretty hard, so I pull out the umbrella, make London pinkie promise to share the umbrella with his brother and to wait right there while I get the stroller out.

Seriously, I looked the other way two seconds.

A quick search and I see them: the boys are having a total blast strolling through the parking lot, heads buried in the umbrella. After all, there are puddles to look down at. My heart stops, and I thank the heavens there are no cars or Child Services workers around.

Me: LONDON JOHNSON, GET BACK HERE THIS INSTANT OR YOU WILL NOT GET TO CHOOSE A MOVIE!

sigh
The stroller’s out, I’m putting Khyah in. My two-year old tackles me.

Brandt: An ant! An ant! Mommy, save me!
Me: Silly boy, an ant can’t hurt . . .

Then I saw it. Not an ant. This was a Cicada Killer Wasp. Ever seen one? As long as my pointer finger. Striped like a bee. And they can apparently sting like one too. Eew!

London: [whimpering and holding the umbrella in front of him for protection] There’s two!

I noticed one crawl into a golf-ball-sized hole in the ground. Then I noticed all the other holes. There’s more than two! I wisely chose not to mention this to the kids.

Me: [struggling to keep my voice calm] Let’s hurry, boys!

I get Khyah in the stroller (sleeping sound as a rock), and usher the kids towards the entrance.

Brandt stops dead in his tracks behind the van.

Brandt: I need MY stroller.
Me: You’ll have to walk this time.
Brandt: I need my stroller!
Me: I’m sorry. I can only push one at a time.
Brandt: [at the top of his lungs] I NEED MY STROLLER!
Me: Let’s hurry before the bugs get us!

I know, low blow. I don’t usually like scare tactics, but eew! You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it didn’t work anyway.

I start to walk and Brandt grabs onto the stroller, pulling back with all his might, screaming at the top of his lungs. Fortunately I am still stronger than my 2-year old, so I kept moving, dragging him along, and pointedly ignoring all the stares of the other patrons. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of entering before he had stopped screaming. Tile entry. No second door. Very loud.

Brandt throws himself on the ground in a temper tantrum.

sigh
I’m starting to have second thoughts about this trip.

Me: Brandt! [in the most furious whisper I could muster] If you don’t stop screaming this instant we won’t choose any movies!

Amazingly, he stood up and stopped crying, but Murphy was not done yet: Khyah started crying. I still wonder how babies can cry so loudly.

Me: Let’s just return the books and go!

We rush to the book return, dump them in, and before I can make it out, London heads to the movies with Brandt in tow

I really should have insisted. But with the stroller moving, Khyah had stopped crying, and I thought, “Surely the worst is behind us. And we’re here . . .”

The library has a plethora of Thomas movies, and London is glibly looking at every one. Knowing Khyah won’t last long, I suggested one, which Brandt gladly took.

London: I wanted that one!
Brandt: [pulling the DVD in tight] Me have that one!
Me: Brandt already has it, so choose a different one.
London: But I want that one!
Me: If Brandt chooses it, you’ll get to see it too.
London: But I want to carry that one!

His voice is getting dangerously loud.

Me: Oh! Look at that! “The Best of Gordon”!
Brandt: Okay, London can have this.

He tosses the movie at London and snatches up Gordon.

Grab a few books on the way to the check-out, and we’re almost home free. London goes running toward the door . . . right through the unchecked-out-books alarm.

I held my breath, waiting for the alarm. . . . It didn’t go off. Finally! Something goes my way.

Just as the books are all checked out, Khyah starts to cry. I turn the stroller around, and Brandt pushed me out of the way.

Brandt: I want to push the stroller!

Khyah is quite loud by now, so I scootched Brandt to the side and hurried to leave.

Brandt: [throwing himself on the ground. Again.] I WANT TO PUSH THE STROLLER!
Me: Brandt, hurry! Let’s go home and watch the movie!

I push the stroller through the exit

Brandt: I WANT TO PUSH THE STROLLER!
Me: Hurry kiddo! Let’s go.
Khyah: Waaaaah!
Alarm: WEEOH! WEEOH! WEEHO!
Librarian: Excuse me ma’am, could you back away from the exit?
Me: sigh
Librarian: [slightly annoyed] Did you check out your books?
Other librarian (who checked me out): [also slightly annoyed] Yes!

After a quick check of my bag, the librarian sighs.

Librarian: I guess it’s not you [sounding disappointed]. The alarm must be broken. It will go off, just keep going.

Believe me I did.

Ten minutes later, we arrive home. I struggle up the stairs with the car seat, diaper bag, purse, and bag of books (all while London complains about how heavy the movie he checked out is). Stumble inside, set everything down, and notice there’s a message.

We never get messages. No one calls us since we’re so new here. Yay!

Message: This is the Library calling. Do your children own a copy of Polar Express? We believe you returned it to us with your library books. Would you like to come and get it?

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