Writer Doubts & Inspiration

Last week I enjoyed Pat Zietlow Miller’s January 15 post celebrating her 22nd book sale. Congrats Pat!

The feelings of fear she experienced while attending her first SCBWI conference really resonated with me. As an engineer who didn’t take a single writing class in college and who struggled with writing in high school, I had many doubts and fears as I began my writing journey.

Yet, like Pat, I REALLY wanted to write children’s books. And also like Pat, I am a Dori Chaconas fan. Dori was an inspiring speaker at the first SCBWI conference I attended years ago in Wisconsin too. (Pat, were we at the same conference?!)

Anyway, at that WI conference I had a one-on-one critique with another writing hero, Marion Dane Bauer. When it came my turn to meet with her, I was extremely nervous.

Marion Dane Bauer

Marion was gracious, but she also did her critique job well and noted several serious flaws in my story. I was grateful for her time and expertise, yet disappointed. But as I carefully pondered her suggestions in the weeks that followed, I gleaned a great deal from her honest comments which helped push my writing forward.

I also learned a lot by studying Marion’s wonderful picture books.

In the coming years I signed up for writing classes at a local community college, attended more SCBWI conferences, and joined critique groups. I read stacks of picture books. And no matter how many rejections letters piled up, I kept writing.

Around year 6 of my writing quest, doubts crept back in. I began to think my idea of becoming an author was a huge mistake. I mean, who was I kidding? I’d studied calculus, physics, and computer programming. I had no business trying to write children’s books (even though I loved every minute of it.)

About that time another writer/mentor, Mary Dunn, came to the rescue and encouraged me to not give up. Mary had taught the first writing class I took, so I kept writing and revising.

In time, I received a few encouraging “almost there” letters from editors. Most important, I kept learning about the craft of writing picture books. And after 8 years of solid rejections, my first contract arrived!

So as we kick off 2021, let’s celebrate the authors who generously give back to newbie writers, like Dori Chaconas, Marion Dane Bauer, Mary Dunn, and others. Do you remember the kind writer(s) who helped you on your writing journey?

And let’s also celebrate writers who keep pursuing their passion for story (you!) and keep learning more about crafting tales for young readers.

Our world needs inspiring stories now more than ever!

Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than 100 books. A mechanical engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about science topics and fascinating historical figures. Recent books include: SWISH! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, The Daring Dozen, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Astronaut Annie, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, Dangerous Jane, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, The Inventor’s Secret, and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Coming soon -- MARS IS, JUNE ALMEIDA VIRUS DETECTIVE! THE WOMAN WHO DISCOVERED THE FIRST HUMAN CORONAVIRUS, THE UNIVERSE AND YOU, and TBA titles from Calkins Creek, Peachtree, and Random House. Learn more about Suzanne and her books at: www.suzanneslade.com

20 Comments:

  1. Thanks for that boost of confidence. Still plugging away and hoping to one day look back at these early times in writing and think I never gave up. I draw from all the writers I meet.

  2. Thank you, Suzanne! Your writing journey really inspires me. No giving up over here; onward I go!

  3. My heart is filled with gratitude to so many writers and artists who were especially kind and encouraging to newbie writer me. Iza Trapani, for one, and Simone Kaplan for another. I persevered through low moments because of their welcoming and helpful spirits.

  4. Avatar
    Sheri Delgado-Preston

    Thank you for the inspiration Suzanne!! Congrats on all your success:) Yay for us writers! We rock!!

  5. Thanks for the positive words, Suzanne! There are several writers who come to mind that have helped, encouraged and championed my writing along the way. One of them is a part of the PPB team! They hold special places in my heart and I rely on their words often when self-doubt tries to tell me to quit.

  6. I’m about six years into my writing journey and hearing that you had doubts too made me feel better. I have had encouragement along the way. Thank you for sharing your journey

  7. Jacqueline Davies!! She was such an inspiring mentor and I learned so much from her!

  8. Beautifully stated. Thank you for the words of encouragement, Suzanne.

  9. Thanks for sharing your dream and persistence. This is a keeper for overcast days.

  10. What a lovely post, Suzanne. Your journey is so inspiring. I was a lab rat for 15 yrs before I picked up a pen to write and I’ve had so many wonderful teachers. Peggy King Anderson was my first and I’ll be forever grateful to her for helping me forge this path.

  11. Love the mentor gratitude! For all of mine,
    ❤️ 📚 💕!

  12. Yes, I’m so glad you pressed on, despite the challenges to perfect your craft! I, too, am a former engineer, and have worked hard to find my place in the children’s book world. Your post in inspiring. Thank you!

  13. I felt similar feelings–very insecure–taking my first Highlights workshop at Chautauqua years ago.

  14. I don’t write PB. I write novels. I set a goal: if I am not published by the time my youngest son begins first grade, I will quit. I went to workshops , classes, and conferences. I received encouragement from many people, but I was not offered a contract. My son went to first grade. He went to high school. He joined the USMC. I couldn’t quit because loved writing. It took 39 years of submitting to get my first contract. I have 3 published novels now.

  15. I am that “newbie” today — the aspiring writer who did not take creative writing in college, but who has had voices in her head for years and years. I had a similar opportunity with Dianne White who has been INCREDIBLY GENEROUS in helping point the way for me and offering the kindest, but honest feedback on my work. The writing community is amazing in their give-backs. I hope I will have the opportunity someday to pay it forward!

  16. Such an inspirational post, Suzanne. And congratulations on all your wonderful books. You’ve achieved so much.

  17. I believe I was at that conference in Wisconsin, too! Dori is a talented and generous soul who has helped many along their writing paths, including me. An amazing thing about the kidlit community is how we all help each other and truly want everyone to succeed. That generosity of spirt is unparalleled! Thank you for this inspiring post, Suzanne.

  18. Thank you, this is such an inspiring post. I keep on discovering how friendly and supportive the writing community is.

  19. Suzanne, I’m so glad to have our generous and supportive writing community. And that you for all that you to do inspire, teach and connect us.

  20. I’ve never met Marion, but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE her work. Congratulations on your success story, Suzanne!

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