As a newbie writer, there are several billion things that are just waiting to crush your spirit and self esteem as you go about your daily life. There is the blank page; the pages you’ve written that make no sense once you read them over; libraries and bookstores full of wonderful writing; the new books that come out every day. And now, to add additional insult, there is the book-turned-movie.
I was sitting in my living room. Perfectly happy, not thinking about writing at all, or even the gargantuan amount of things I still have to learn about this craft, when a commercial for The Tale of Despereaux came on. This adorable Newbery-winning mouse busts into my living room and attempts to charm me with his humongous ears and beckoning eyes. I read the book. I know he’s the real deal. But still. I was eating a cookie, man. I didn’t need that. Plus I hadn’t written in eons. Do I need to be reminded that I’m not the writer I’d like to be? That I still have so far to go? That there are more and better where I came from and that I might be better off not setting a toe out from under my covers in the morning?
Damn that Kate DiCamillo. Damn that freakishly cute mouse. Damn that John Newbery for awarding excellence in children’s literature. Is it professional jealousy? You betcha. It could be that I will never be anything but a midlist author. It’s extremely likely that I will never have one of my books made into a movie. It’s most probable that the majority of readers will never know my name. But to have that startling reality come smack you upside the head while sitting on your own couch with oatmeal raisin crumbs falling on your t-shirt is just not right. It’s not right, man.
So I’m allowing myself a few self-pitying moments and then I’m going to get back to work because my stories are waiting for me. And I may not be a DiCamillo, but she’s no Baptiste.
(By the way, my friend Harold Underdown, editor extraordinaire and webmaster of The Purple Crayon Web site at Underdown.org informs me that the Newbery is awarded to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” If you want to know anything at all about the children’s lit publishing industry, Harold’s the one to ask.)