Sunday, October 21, 2012

Many Interests


     This past weekend, I attended SCBWI's Mid-Atlantic Fall Conference. Asides from learning a great deal about the importance of research when writing non-fiction and catching up with market trends, I realized that my search for a niche has only just begun. As usual, just when I begin to think I am beginning to sort of get this writing thing, somebody shows me there is much more to go.
     It all really started with a manuscript review. A talented author took a sincere look at a picture book manuscript I submitted. While she praised its humor and affirmed some of my writing abilities, she made a suggestion I had not expected: "You may want to consider expanding this into a chapter book." This is supposed to be a picture book. What's a chapter book?
     I have some idea of what a chapter book is, but not really. I barely understand what a picture book is despite having spent the past couple of years really studying this craft. I knew chapter books existed, but I figured I should focus on mastering one thing. The only chapter book I could think of is Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and I think that is more middle-grade fiction than chapter book. I have not even read it.
     Sure, I see where my manuscript's criticism comes from. It is a little violent, which will work against a commercial publisher taking it on as a picture book for six-year-olds. Plus, it seems the humor is geared for slightly older boys, and older children are apparently reading chapter books as early as first grade. Still, I am committed to this story being a picture book and would rather tweak it, but this idea of chapter books has latched on to me.
     I will probably spend the next couple of months purchasing and reading contemporary chapter books to become familiar with the genre. I think I might like it. That is the problem. I like picture books. I like nonfiction books for children. I still enjoy writing poetry and short stories. Perhaps, someday, I will feel confident enough to write that novel I have had on my mind for so long.
     Then, there are all the other crazy decisions I have to make regarding my interests. What higher degree will I pursue: education? science? creative writing? What about my love for playing music? There is not enough time in my life to do it all. Or maybe there is, but how long will it take to see the fruit of their mastery.
     I do not want to complain too much. It is nice to enjoy and be able to participate in all these things. But because my time is spread more thinly across my interests, it may take a little longer than I would like to really master any one of them--at least one! This makes me quite impatient.
     Is there a solution? Persist. I cannot accept any other option. Soon enough it will pay off, I hope. It is much like musicians practicing. Sometimes they practice scales, sometimes they study theory, sometimes they work on reading, sometimes they obsess over the metronome, and sometimes they just groove. The improvement occurs in small increments across various parts of their playing. Years later, the practice will pay off.
     In the meantime, I need to keep distracting myself. That should not be too difficult.

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