Start a new career after 32 years of teaching? Sure, why not? What could possibly be so hard about writing for kids? After all, I taught elementary music and then fourth, fifth, and sixth grade regular classroom. It seemed like a natural progression to me.
What I didn't realize is that writing for kids is HARD! The only writing I had done in school was the usual stories and papers in AP English and a two-year stint on the newspaper staff. I originally thought I would use my music composition skills to create picture books about each of the stuffed animals I'd picked up during my travels, and pair the story with an original song. Brilliant, right? Wrong.
I soon found out that writing for kids is totally different from anything I had ever done before. So basically, I had to start from scratch. I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and attended every workshop and conference I could. I became the Webinar Queen and soon amassed a huge amount of notes. I was a human sponge, soaking up as much information as I could. I started a critique group with writers half my age, becoming the "Grandma" of the group. I was also known as the "Slasher" for the amount of edits I made in each manuscript. Grading papers all those years was good training for critiquing, as well as revising my own work.
I learned about character development, plot arc, voice, conflict and stakes. All of this in a children's book? You betcha. My picture book turned into a chapter book, because brevity was never my strong point. And because six to nine-year-olds like to read more than one book with the same characters, my chapter book became a series. And so Mortimer and Me was born.
I tried going the traditional route first - submitting to agents and editors I'd met at conferences. In fact, it was a publisher who recommended that I change my picture book about a moose named Mortimer to a chapter book that also included a boy character. It wasn't enough to land a contract, however. So for nine years it sat on the back burner as I worked on some other projects. Finally last year, I brushed it off, did some more revisions, found an illustrator, and decided to publish it myself. And so, a new career was born.
As I'm writing this, schools are closed due to the pandemic, but before that all happened, I was having great success with school visits. It felt good to be back in the classroom, talking to kids, answering their questions, listening to their suggestions for sequels in the series. Yes, you can start another career after retirement. Do I have the same amount of energy as when I was teaching? Not even close. But I've learned to recognize my limitations and schedule accordingly.
There's still so much to learn, including marketing and social media, but I've always been a life-long learner. One advantage to being older than most of my peers is that I have more experiences to draw on. I'm not afraid to ask questions, or worry about putting my work out there, even at the risk of rejection. Life is too short to worry about the little things, or as one wise person told me, "Don't sweat the small stuff."
That's what this blog will be about. Learning as much as you can, to be the best that you can, and not worrying about the small stuff. As I learn and grow, so will you. And together, we won't sweat the small stuff.
Because, after all - it's ALL small stuff!!