Can’t believe the last post I wrote was on that rejection I received.

Man, that feels like SO long ago!

To say that I’ve gained a bit of perspective would be an understatement.

First of all my family was blessed with another grandchild. Alhamdu lillah, a healthy little boy, so that makes ten! Even steven, five girls and five boys.

That will definitely put things in perspective.

And then sometime after that I came across two different incidents that made me look at stuff differently.

One was a Facebook post where a bunch of authors came clean on how unsuccessful they really are.

I guess I’m gullible that way.

I had assumed that these people really were as successful as they were portraying themselves.

I know…duh on me.

And here it was like one of those movie scenes, where the first guy in the bar says he’s nothing but a phoney, and then everyone else antes up and confesses too.

I stayed silent because I think I’ve always worn my failures on my sleeve.

Hmm, maybe that’s not such a smart thing, but I suspect I’m too old to change.

When I started this blog, I decided I was going to be honest. Honest about the ups and honest about the downs, in the hopes that I could learn something from this form of navel gazing.

Plus, and let’s be totally honest, you look less like a braggity jerk, bragging about the ups, if you also share the downs.

And then the other incident, just a few days ago, I communicated with a friend I’ve known for years through facebook and found out how very much she was struggling.

Another person who I assumed was doing well!

These are tough times.

People have lost their jobs and they’re struggling!

And it made me look back at my silly little post on rejection with a lot of chagrin.

I really have no business complaining.

Alhamdu lillah, things are really really good!

I didn’t mention this before, but I guess it’s as good a time as any to mention it, but I actually received a grant I applied for. It’s to be Artist in Library at the Fairview Library in North York.

I’ll be resident artist for three months, from September 2nd to Dec. 1st, and I’m really looking forward to it. It isn’t an acceptance but it’s good money alhamdu lillah.

And with all this perspective I’ve acquired, I was thinking, “What would I want to know if I was starting out in the writing biz today?”

So I made a list of five things I would need to know to make it in the arts:

1. Use social media wisely!

That means don’t waste your time! The most important social media is your website! Keep it simple and keep it up to date. Create really good content! Include things that you’d like to know if you were a teacher or educator or even consumer of your art!

Don’t waste time schmoozing on facebook. People, including authors, go to facebook, to chill, to unwind and socialize, not primarily to promote themselves. Anyone who’s too promoting, gets really boring.

And I’ve seen people who are pretty much groupies to other authors, think that if they ingratiate themselves enough, then those same authors will turn around and promote them. Nuh uh. Authors can barely promote themselves!

I’m friends with other authors because I like them as people and artists, definitely not because I expect to get any where with them.

2. Treat people nicely! Everyone! Especially those who disagree with you! You never know how that person can affect your career.

I know this is going to sound completely contradictory to the first point, but it’s true.

When I was just getting started this well established and well respected author met me at some library convention and was really nice to me when she honestly didn’t have to be. And I met this other author who I really respected at another event and while he was nice enough, he didn’t go out of his way to be nice to me.

Years and years later, I was on an award committee where both of them were up for the same award. Both were well deserving, I would have been happier if either had won, but when push came to shove, it was 5 for the lady who’d been extra nice to me and 4 for the other guy.

And personally there have been people I have passionately disagreed with, who I was furious with, who I later calmed down and realized were people working within their own paradigms and who were as sincere in their beliefs as I am in mine. And weird, but now I’m working with some of these people. Because I never burned my bridges with the person I am actually able to be of influence, I can add my voice to a larger dialogue.

3. Kill the Green-Eyed Monster!

There really is no reason to be jealous of anyone. Every person works for the success they get, in their own way. Just because you might only see the finished product, doesn’t mean they didn’t work and wish and expend sufficient effort. And sometimes, yeah, they just naturally have what people are looking for.

When someone gets something you’ve got a hankering for, think, “Good for them.” And then you can say, “I hope that comes to me some day too.”

When I stumbled into storytelling, I heard some of the more experienced tellers say to me, ‘You’re a natural’.

But then at a recent event, some of those same experienced tellers exuded quite a bit of hostility towards me because I was being honored for some of my accomplishments.

And I thought, ‘wow’. Don’t they realize how hard I worked for this? Don’t they realize that they just didn’t put their hat in the ring? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I think the most irrational form of jealousy to me is when a person hasn’t even attempted what you did, and they’re still jealous because you did attempt it and it worked. I hope that makes sense.

4. Spend Your Money Wisely!

When I was first starting out, I met this author who had a bit of success and decided she was going to do a ‘grass-roots’ marketing campaign/tour thing, where her and her husband were going to drive out through the mid-west, set up gigs all the way to L.A. and promote her books.

I just looked at her aghast.

And it wasn’t until I watched that biography of Loretta Lynn that I thought maybe, that’s where they got the idea from.

Grass roots marketing is not usually the way that children’s books get promoted. For one thing it’s too hard!

Yes, there’s word of mouth. But listen, a lot of word of mouth success is completely unpredictable. You have to write the exact right book at the right time that taps into the right mindset or hits the right nerve.

I also spoke recently to a woman who was going to spend about $2000 of her own money to fly to Singapore and attend the Asian Festival of Children’s Content.

Now there was a time when I would have spent my own money to attend a conference like that, but that was in the early days. I probably spent close to $2000 attending the Children’s Literature New England Conference in 1996, and the Canadian Storytellers Conference in Halifax, but that was way early! And we turned it into a family vacation.

Very soon I decided they would have to pay my way to attend next time.

Which brings me to the next point. If you improve your writing eventually they will pay you to come!

5. Write your way up!

Yeah, see, all that time and energy you might expend in social media schmoozing and chasing after author celebrities…use it better to IMPROVE YOUR WRITING!

I can’t remember which famous author was invited to some fancy conference to speak and he finally said yes. Well the auditorium was packed and he got to the podium and looked out at the throngs who’d gathered to hear him and he said something like, “You wanna write?”

And they all said, “yes”.

And he said, “So what are you doing here? Go home and write!”

And he left the podium!

That anecdote always makes me laugh.

Because it’s true. Writing is a very solitary profession. You get good at it when you go deep, within yourself. And that takes quiet. Not crowds!

Basically I was pulled from the slush pile. When I started I wrote HORRIBLY! Makes me gag to read my early stuff.

I wrote my way up.

I wrote stories that eventually got published but not noticed, and then I wrote more, and I wrote differently, and this is a field of endurance. Stick around long enough and most likely they’ll HAVE to notice you!

But don’t be surprised if you write your heart out, and nobody  notices.

I am making a living at doing what I love! But think income streams, not one big chunk. When I first began it was mostly presentations. Lots and lots of presentations and the storytelling that I was such a ‘natural’ at, REALLY REALLY came in handy!

So the money came from storytelling presentations and a little bit came from books, from advances and royalties. Now it comes from many different sources.

Then I noticed that Robert Munsch used storytelling to promote his books. (Robert Munsch is the most successful children’s author in Canada)

I really couldn’t copy his style of writing, and  yes, I’m embarrassed to admit that in the beginning I did try.

Instead I copied his tactic.

There’s nothing wrong with that!

And I switched my storytelling so I created presentations that promoted the books. That was how I was able to keep The Roses in My Carpets in print for so long! (Sixteen years and counting!)

In the beginning I paid to attend every writing workshop and conference I could, but as time passed and I found the sessions repeating themselves, in that they were telling me things I already knew, I focused instead on APPLYING what I knew. Writing and writing, till something clicked in the story! And writing passionately about things that I was learning and dealing with.

And twenty-five years later, VOILA! Success. Sort of!

Basically for me, it’s been about creating a track record. And alhamdu lillah, it’s getting better.

And rejection! Pah! It really is part of the process!