Featured Author Anna Forrester September 2017

LOVE WRITING

September is a great—if bittersweet—month: kids head back to school, garden plants fade and droop, and days fold in on themselves. And, we rediscover chunks of time for work. (Or if we teach, we begin a new juggle!)

I love getting back to my desk, because I love words and language and stories, and I love writing. Which is good, because the publishing side of this business is a more complicated beast.

That my debut picture book reached publication was exciting and, in retrospect, a little nuts: it was the first picture book I completed as a newly-committed writer (I’d yet to even discover 12 x 12), I didn’t know a thing about the market (the manuscript was 1400 words long) and I didn’t have an agent. I submitted the story to a few people, realized it wasn’t a good fit for the current market, so shelved it and moved on.

Then I read a call from Arbordale Publishing for science and math themed picture books. It occurred to me that my story might fill some gaps in the education market: none of the bat books in circulation addressed white nose syndrome’s decimation of North American bat populations, and while a few non-fiction books introduce children to the practice of citizen science, no fiction offered a similar window. And, the story offered hope in the face of mass extinctions and species decline. I cut and revised, and pitched the book around these ideas. Arbordale bought Bat Count and this February it was released.

Sharing the book with kids and talking with them about writing and publishing and bats is a joy, and I’m getting a crash course in promotion. But in the two years between selling and publishing Bat Count, I have made little other visible progress: I have no more books en route to publication and I remain un-agented. I sub work to a handful of agents and my rejection pile inches ever higher.

This summer an agent I really respect asked me to submit a piece she’d read and loved at a regional SCBWI conference (I did), then asked me to submit more work (I did that too: six more manuscripts plus notes on others). Now, I wait (two months and counting). I’ve stopped holding my breath. And I keep writing.

Bat Count by Anna ForresterMy non-writing friends look at me cross-eyed and marvel at both the slog and my willingness to persist. I might have shriveled up like a spent balloon, gathering dog hair under some overstuffed armchair, but as I keep at it I also keep discovering new ways that writing adds to my life and new ways to love it.

At some point after I committed to writing, I began a daily practice that combines what Ann Cameron recommends in The Artist’s Way  and Natalie Goldberg describes in Writing Down the Bones. I start my writing day with 30 minutes of what I call ‘flow writing’. It is hard to sit and focus 30 straight minutes, and many days I interrupt myself 50 times. Some days I meander across the page and stew in my own juices. But other days I tap into reservoirs I didn’t know were there. The forgotten and unexpected bubble up. Impressions and memories materialize and congeal and become new.

When vacations hit, I am always so excited for days hanging out with my kids and for messing around outdoors, and I let my flow writing lapse. After a few days, anxious energy creeps in. I get short-tempered and cranky. I lose my center.

Without my daily dose of flow writing, I turn into a hag from some dark fairy tale. Writing, it seems, has become an anchor.

My friend Susan Barr-Toman came back from Elizabeth Strout’s visit to the Free Library of Philadelphia a few months ago with this quote that gets at another way that writing affects me:

“It came to me a number of years ago that one of the things I love about writing is that when I go to the page I suspend judgment. In real life, I’m probably as judgmental as the next person, because that’s how we maneuver through the world. We just become judgmental, which is tiresome. We do and we are and yet, when I go to the page, I just don’t care. I just have an open heart for my characters and so it’s a wonderful thing. It’s very freeing and it allows me to just report on what people are doing. Because you know that’s my job—to show what we’re all up to or what some of us are up to.”

Strout’s words resonate, I think, because I harbor this quiet fear that I may actually be more judgmental than the next person. But when I work to let a character loose to make her own way, I find I open up and am more compassionate towards her and the real people she draws from, and towards myself too.

Writing makes me a better person—or at least makes me act like a better person. Which is another thing I’ve come to love about writing.

There’s one more thing—I’m still trying to get a good grip on this one.

I shifted my focus to writing after working for years in education and landscape architecture, and I always feel like I got to the party late. To make up for lost time, maybe, I pressure myself to write and produce, and I often forget to leave time to do the other things I love.

But when I do allow myself to play—to explore a new place or read a book about some random curiosity or try my hand at something I’ve been wanting to make—I am reminded that these things all feed my work. They both refresh and provide fodder.

I love that writing—when I let it—encourages me to play.

Self-promoting, branding, pitching, querying and marketing—I keep at these tasks, and maybe one day will come to enjoy them more too. Meanwhile, I write. 12 x 12 and my other, smaller writing communities provide so much needed support—we are lucky to have found each other and this space. (Thank you, Julie!)

If you have ways you’ve discovered that you love writing and that it adds to your life, please do share—it would be great to hear other people’s experiences. Meanwhile, have a great September!

 

Anna Forrester loves nothing better than to stumble onto a funny idea or a great question, then hold on tight as it leads her through books, her imagination, and unexpected nooks and crannies of the world. Many of her adventures find their way into the books she writes for children. Anna’s debut picture book, BAT COUNT (Arbordale, February 2017), is a fic-informational story of bats, citizen science, and hope. Anna has taught kindergarten and second grade, and in her other life she makes landscapes for play; she lives in Philadelphia with her husband, dog, and two daughters, and spends lots of time in the wilds of central Pennsylvania. Find Anna at www.annaforrester.com or @annaforr on Twitter.

This Post Has 210 Comments

    1. Kathleen- I read “preserving” instead of “persevering” in your comment — which made me think about canning, and apple sauce (?!). I am definitely feeling VERY September… have a great month, and thanks!

  1. So much of your post resonated with me, but especially this line. “To make up for lost time, maybe, I pressure myself to write and produce, and I often forget to leave time to do the other things I love.” I started writing later in life too, and I sometimes feel pressure to produce or “catch up”. Because I love writing so much, it’s easy for me to get lost in that and forget about all the other things I also enjoy doing. Thanks for reminding me to take time for other things. Doing so will not only enrich my writing, but also my life.

    1. Becky- I suppose there are worse things to feel pressured by than something you love, right? But yes, I think it can be really helpful to name the pressure so that it is easier to push it aside when it becomes a negative thing.
      Good luck with everything!

  2. I so resonate with your post. I’ve been writing a long time and have a nice resume of published work, but it seems time is running out to publish a children’s book. I don’t think I will ever be one of those authors with book after book. But, that’s okay. You seem secure in your own ability and your book sounds lovely and meaningful. Thank you for your heart-felt words.

    1. Thanks for reading Sherri! “Time is running out” made me feel a little wistful… it is a hard way to feel. I hope you’re still finding lots of ways to love the process too!
      Best of luck,
      Anna

  3. This is such a great post. Congratulations Anna on your Bat book. You really showed how to find gaps and go forward. Fantastic. I can certainly relate to how non-writers marvel at the time and effort we put into our work. And also your comment about writing being an anchor. It sure is. I get very grumpy if I don’t do some writing every day.

    1. Kaye – It’s funny: I wrote the story totally from a heart-place — then when I saw Arbordale’s call I thought of a way to pitch it that identified some holes in the market. I don’t know whether I could’ve done it the other way (figuring out the holes and then writing something to full them) — or that I would;ve ended up with the same story.
      In any case thanks, and good luck!

  4. Thank you for your inspiring post. I have also had other careers prior to full-time writing. When I spend so much time with writing, I feel selfish because it IS something I enjoy so much. And, yes, I think others think I’m crazy. Congratulations on your book publication – can’t wait to read it!

  5. Anna, I am also late to the writing party and push myself to play catch up. Thank you for reminding me that I need to leave time for other things that I love in life. Congrats and best wishes!

  6. Thank you Anna! I, too, feel like I have “come late to the party,” but I find such joy in writing and the writing community. It definitely inspires me to persevere–like you have. Congratulation on Bat Count; I am very eager to read it.

    1. Thanks Elizabeth!
      The back and forth between the solo aspects of writing and the community you mention, which we find in spots like 12×12, is pretty amazing. It can sometimes be hard to balance — the draw of semi-anonymous social engagement on line, especially — but I also wonder how many of us would’ve thrown in the towel by now if not for this great community!

  7. Thank you for sharing what writing has brought to your life. I’m a late-to-the-party writer too, but success stories like yours and other 12 x 12’ers are inspiring. Congrats on BAT COUNT!

  8. Thank you for sharing your story, with all its ups and downs! It’s nice to hear something so relatable (and about fic-informational stories, no less– just about my favorite genre, as my critique group will attest!)

    1. Kate: It’s a genre with a very particular set of challenges, for sure, but a great one for the ways it can enable kids to connect with content. Exploring it more, I’ve found one of the biggest challenges to be finding the balance between the ‘informational’ and the ‘fic’…
      Thanks for reading!

  9. I nodded when I read, “… I harbor this quiet fear that I may actually be more judgmental than the next person.” I appreciate your comments about how writing helps you be more compassionate. Thank you.

  10. Thanks for sharing this, Anna. I have been fascinated with bats ever since reading Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel. I will definitely be checking out Bat Count.

    1. They are amazing little creatures, Trine, and there are around 1000 different kinds! The ones in this part of the world help us by eating insects that can bite and that impact crops, and some of the equatorial species do the big job of spreading the seeds of rainforest plants, which is also pretty cool.

  11. Thank you For sharing your experiences with us Anna! 12×12 featured author stories are so inspiring. I too get antsy if I’m away from my writing too long, but sometimes long for the respite. So happy for your success and Bat Count will be used in my classroom!

  12. I totally appreciate the reality of your slog combined with persistence reality — and how perfectly that can be balanced with the sense of play we must let ourselves enjoy as writers. In my own life, writing allows a sense of exploration, as I discover unknown bits of history and transform them into story. Thanks, Anna!

  13. I can identify with so much of this. Especially with the sentiment that you came to this late. I feel this way all the time. I’m so behind! I don’t have enough time. And like you, I skip other things in my efforts to write and produce. However, I completely agree, that when I can get past that, the time I take to play, relax, be with family, I do so much better. I pay more attention. I’m more appreciative. I love more. And all of this began when I FINALLY found my passion in writing. Thank you for the wonderful post!

  14. “Writing, it seems, has become an anchor.” Anna, you described me with this line. Finding a place that keeps me focused and growing happened when I began my journey in writing. I may not write everyday, but I research and read the books that have inspired generations. Thank you for sharing your journey and how it drives you forward with something you love-writing.

  15. I could relate with Anne when she wrote she changed her focus from teaching to writing. And I could relate ever more with her on the waiting and waiting for manuscripts to be accepted. All this makes for knowing one is not alone in this process. Thank you and I’m looking forward to reading BAT COUNT!

  16. I’ll be looking for BAT COUNT! I resonated with the other things in life that we can’t forget about and not forgetting to play. It all feeds our writing! Being a retired educator of 25 years, my rhythm is still to gear up in the fall. I love the new start! Thanks for your encouragement.

  17. Thanks for your inspiring post, Anna. I’ve read Bat Count and I love that it is engaging and informative, plus has an environmental message that isn’t didactic. I hope you publish more books using the (familiar!) ways you described to get ideas. I try to be involved in the writing process in some way every day even when life gets busy or I’m feeling mentally blocked (like checking and responding to this blog post on the Saturday night of a holiday weekend!). Someday I hope my random ideas (and those of my fellow 12x12ers) turn into books too, as I slog through submission and rejection.

  18. Thanks for sharing Anna! “Writing makes me a better person—or at least makes me act like a better person. Which is another thing I’ve come to love about writing.” My wife says the same thing about me when I write, and when I come back form a run/ walk 🙂

  19. I see that the “time is running out” part struck a chord with several, here, including me. I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993, earned my MFA in 2004 (6 months after my son was born), then started writing picture books when my son was eight. He’s now 13. Time’s a wastin’ as they say. Thank you for writing a thoughtful piece that’s more about spirit than craft. I appreciate that immensely. Good luck in your journey!

  20. Anna,
    I too can relate to many aspects of your post! Firstly, *great* idea to write about citizen science – it’s something I adore and mostly know about through butterflies and birding. Your text about making time for other things than writing struck a chord with me, I have been writing every spare minute for 3 years and it too, is my anchor, but it is at the expense of other things that are part of a healthy lifestyle. As with many, I continue to strive to find the balance that works best for me. Thank you for your post.

  21. A lovely post! I enjoyed reading about your perspective on writing. I too get a bit cranky when I haven’t had a little mental space for the calming, anchoring activity of writing. As I start a new, busier teaching job, I’m going to try to be sure to carve out a little of that writing time every day, and to also make space for the other things I enjoy. I find that if I write every day, I generate more ideas and stay more connected to my writing work.

  22. Anna, your post resonated with me in so many ways. Not long ago, I thought maybe I was falling out of love with writing. But I realize that I do still love writing, it’s the other things I dislike, the waiting, the rejection, the marketing, the pitching, the querying, etc. Does my love for writing outweigh my dislike for the rest? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. It’s a struggle. But I haven’t given up yet! Thanks for sharing your story. P.S. I love the cover of your book!

    1. Thanks Lauri!
      I love the cover too — Susan Detwiler did a beautiful job with a story that doesn’t have a lot of bold action!
      I think it is a-typical to have a character looking into the book, away from the reader, and I sometimes wonder whether it might feel sad to some people, but I really like the mystery of it too!

  23. I, too, can relate in the focus in life change. I taught and turned to writing afterward. I love getting out with my family, but I do get anxious to catch up with my writing ideas. I feel sometimes like I am losing time. I was very touched by the idea of writing with the idea of reporting on what your character is doing. I like that.

  24. Anna, thank you so much for sharing this beautiful post. So much of it resonated with me! I also feel such an urgency to recover my “lost time,” and also the part on suspending judgement, though I had never thought about it in those terms before 🙂 I have started doing flow writing in the morning too. I have a question for you–do you just write whatever comes to you, or do you write stories? I have been doing stream-of-consciousness writing, but I always wonder if I should use this time for more productive writing. But–I have noticed it too, I am so much more patient and able to do what I need to do when I take the time to write in the morning. I don’t know what it is, but it works!

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and encouragement, and good luck in all your projects 🙂
    Ledys

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Ledys. I think an important aspect of that sort of daily writing is that you let go of the pressure to ‘produce in way that moves you towards publication’. So writing whatever comes to you is a good way to approach it.
      It is partly a mental thing and partly a physical thing — the idea is to keep your hand/s moving (in theory you are supposed to write by hand, though my hand starts to hurt and I also can’t read my handwriting when I’m done, so I just type on the computer, but fold the screen down so I can’t see what I’ve typed and resist the urge to edit).
      That said: sometimes I’ll be in the space of something I’m working on so I’ll end up having a (written) conversation with myself *about* some aspect of a project. The type of writing I end up doing for that 30 minutes really does run the gamut.

  25. Anna, I love this. (And thanks for the mention!) The writing life, the publishing life, can be difficult at times, but the writing community – a group of thoughtful, interested, and supportive people – is wonderful and the best perk of being a writer.

  26. Thanks Anna. I see from your post and the comments there are a few of us who have come to the party later in life. I had to set writing for children aside and have only recently been able to devote more time to it. I am enjoying the freedom I feel when I write for children. Many years of academic writing had all but kicked the stuffing out of a love I have had since childhood when I was allowed to write on a wall in my bedroom. Returning to my love of writing for children has rekindled my passion, while appreciating the difficulty of the art form.

  27. Anna, thank you for saying that play feeds your work! I don’t know why oh why we always need more permission to play, but I’m grateful you offered it. And that it’s true!

  28. Thanks for a peek inside your writing process and reasons for writing. I also feel that not writing is not an option for me.

  29. It is great that you watched for the right fit for your bat story. I laughed about your non-writing friends not getting what you put yourself through by being dedicated to writing. Thanks for your fun story.

  30. Anna,
    Appreciate your words about play and writing. Balancing both worlds while retaining your passion for writing.
    Your words inspire. Best wishes on Bat Count. Thanks for sharing your story!

  31. Anna, thanks for such a wide-ranging post. I found that journaling (I did it at night) was enormously beneficial, not least because I began to write and think very quickly. You’ve prompted me to reread (and act upon) Julia Cameron’s books.

  32. Anna, I appreciate your story. It encourages me to realize I can love writing and somehow find a balance for it in the double life I already live between the one with my husband and the one caring for my dad. There are stories hidden in there, somewhere.
    BAT COUNT is a fabulous book, which I reviewed on my blog in June. I really miss little brown bats flying around my yard in the evenings, and I’m very hopeful for their resurgence. Thank you for writing a book to bring to children an awareness of their plight.
    I wish you continued success with getting your stories out there.

  33. Congratulations on Bat Count! The bat count in my neck of the woods (Lake Wisconsin) has gone to zero…and now we have swarms of mosquitos. Ugh. It’s a very important topic to me and I wish I knew how to bring the bats back. Thank you for this post on persevering and balance. Best of luck to you!!

  34. I really enjoyed your perspective in this post. I’ve also discovered that I’m more content and patient with my family when I’ve spent time writing. I think when we are created to write, then not writing causes a disruption in our equilibrium that is difficult, if not impossible, to shake off with any other endeavor. I have many writing credits in other genres and publications, but the holy grail of publishing a picture book still eludes me. Even though I also feel my time is getting shorter, I also believe that I will ultimately be successful in the area I love most–just like Grandma Moses did. Thanks so much for your inspiration!

  35. Thank you for your honest and inspiring post. Your thoughts about allowing yourself to play and the ways in which play feeds your work really resonated with me. “Permission to play” is so important! I wish you well on your writing journey!

  36. Congratulations on Bat Count! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. It is a bit of a slog some days, but it sounds like you’ve found the joy in writing, too. You’ve got me thinking about how we suspend making judgements when we write our characters…Good post!

  37. Thank you, Anna, for sharing the story of your journey to publication. And what a neat subject for your first book! Congratulations! I’m looking forward to reading it.

  38. Me too! I get cranky when life “interferes” with my writing time – even on vacation. I’ve learned to take my notebook with me so I can jot something down if I feel the need. Or a book on writing craft to read. Thanks for sharing. I like your Flow Writing. I do something similar while commuting to/from work on the train. Totally judgment free writing happens then. All the best for Bat Count. I enjoyed it .

  39. Thanks Anna, I identify so closely with your struggle and the writing daily advice. I write in spurts of weeks where I write everyday and then weeks where I think about story arcs, heart, character charts, platforms, and illustrations and getting together a webpage and then I stop writing in fear. Then I forget that and start writing from a new idea from my idea file. Revisions are in my future. Thanks for your story.

  40. I too feel an innate need to write. If i haven’t sat down to focus on it at least once during the week I’m looking for times to do it. Thanks for your reminder though to enjoy other things in life especially family and to be present with them.

  41. Hi Anna,

    Congrats on BAT COUNT! I’m so happy for you.

    I’ve had three months of silent creativity and I couldn’t figure out why. I finally realized I was letting negativity rob me of my writing joy! I finally listened to every backhanded comment, negative critique, etc. and completely lost the energy to write, blog, query, etc. I let the outside world win. It took those three long months to come to terms with my problem. As soon as I could define it, so had a handle on it and some of my desire to press forward slowly began to come back. I’m not completely recovered yet, but the fact that I’m back in the swing of 12×12 is a good sign that I’m not hopelessly lost.

    One of the biggest things I had to realize early on was that writing and the business of writing is a 24 hr/7 day job. That used to bother me, too, because I always felt like I had to make a choice between writing or —— (fill in the blank). Now I realize that I don’t have to choose. I can do both. If my hubby wants to trout fish, I can take s notepad and chair and go, too. Going to the water park? Take a notepad and people-watch. Wanna play with the dogs? Go outside and write while they chase each other around the yard.

    That would be my biggest and best advice to someone struggling with time management: don’t feel like you have to choose writing over all other things. Find that way (like your 30 min. or my time outside with the dogs) to combine your interests.

    Thanks for a great blog.

  42. Thank you Anna – wonderful post! So many words hit home for me (coming late, pushing to produce, judgement etc.) This is not an easy business, but it’s so encouraging to hear stories like yours. Ultimately, we all need to just keep on keeping on! 🙂

  43. “To make up for lost time, maybe, I pressure myself to write and produce, and I often forget to leave time to do the other things I love.”
    This line resonated so much it made the hair on my arms stand up. I came to the game late, too. But I’m finally realizing it is doing the other things I love that give me the ideas. Took me long enough, but it feels wonderful to find that balance.

  44. I love your story! I bought it before I read your blog post this month because I love using pictures books in my science class.

  45. Coming late to the party… well I tried to get there early, and seems my timing has always been off, not right for the market right now, and so on. I also taught for many years, for me it was a way to support my children on my own first and foremost, but boy did I learn so much about other kids and their lives in that time. Yes, finding time for what makes us feel good is oh so important. It is a fine balance to also remember to check in deeply to feel what is the real situation each moment. Am I simply too frustrated to do the work, and the deadline is simply a mean monster ganging up to taunt me? Or am I ready to get to it, and feel the glow of meeting or beating that deadline? I say all this, with a stack of books all pre-published, and only this past year subbing to agents. I used to sub back when their were no pb agents, and it all went to editors or art directors.
    Then I finally stopped a few years completely, and only came back to it when stories jumped out and grabbed me almost by the throat. Since finding 12 x 12, I’ve kept every deadline given, and used the time to improve – sometimes subtly, sometimes in bold leaps, but the process still feels slow. I appreciate knowing both that you got your book published – YAY! and also that a community now exists, so we do not have to work entirely in a void of isolation any longer.
    Bats are pretty interesting creatures – though if I wrote about one it might be how babies were in the kitchen in my last place, or the way a flock ? of them flew into our yard one dusk as we ate outside.

    I love that science books can inspire kids to be intrigued instead of scared. I was so scared as a child. Animals are always a great place to start learning how we all interrelate. Thanks for being the only person who could write this exact book. Looking forward to reading it!

  46. Thanks for reminding us there is no magic pill. Life is a journey and there is a lot of satisfaction in learning something new every day but we have to show up. No one is going to do the work for us and no one will be able to accomplish it in the same way. I’m so happy your thoughtful persistence paid off with Bat Count!

  47. What a great post! So much of what you say resonates with me Anna. I feel I came to the party late myself since I only began a couple of years ago after retiring from education. People ask me what I’m doing now that I’m retired and if I love having all that “extra” time. I very seldom tell them that I am still working, only now I am a writer. When you haven’t yet had an income from the writing it feels a little fraudulent to say that. For a long time I procrastinated and read books on the craft of writing but I stopped doing the actual writing because I felt intimidated or limited by all the considerations of plot, story arc, character development, voice and on and on that were swirling in my brain. I finally decided to just write, like the flowing writing you speak of. I just finished Arree Chung’s free mini course on writing picture books. Two things he said have been so helpful. One is morning journal where you just write whatever flows from you for three pages. The other was the creativity walk. That one was especially helpful to me. I love being outside in nature filled settings. There are a couple of favorites near me. When I go for my walks I gradually begin a freeing of my mind and the ideas flow. Some are good and some I just laugh at knowing they would never make it. And now, I find myself eager to begin writing every day. Writing can be a lonely world but it’s so great that we have these wonderful groups like 12 x 12 and SCBWI to keep us connected with each other and share this path. Thanks for your post. I ‘m looking forward to reading “Bat Count”.

    1. Mary-
      The ‘creativity walk’ idea was new to me in that webinar — and totally resonated too. (Though I suppose my walks might feel more relaxing and freeing if they weren’t so often with my dogs…)
      The business of not feeling legit b/c of not earning an income off of writing (and so not telling people that you write) is one I can relate to too… there is no end to the numbers we can do on ourselves! 🙂
      As much as it is important to read about craft I sometimes find that all the “shoulds” — around plot, arc, etc. — can become overbearing, and I think that is part of why JUST WRITING feels so good: the ideas that we discover for ourselves or conclusions we reach on our own have so much more power and meaning that the things that are handed or told to us.
      Thanks for reading — and good luck with everything!

  48. Thanks so much for your honest and encouraging post. I love hearing about others’ writing journeys. I agree that writing helps me to play. Many of ideas come from conversations with my first grader. Writing also allows me to dream, I guess–about silly, make-believe things and about what I might be able to accomplish some day. Congratulations on your book! I look forward to sharing it with my daughter.

  49. I identify with much of what you wrote. Thank you for sharing your journey thus far. Writing picture books certainly adds to my life. I think primarily it gives me a creative outlet. I do writing for other things when I’m not attempting to right a PB and I enjoy that too but it’s not the same. I like the chance to use my imagination and dream a little.

  50. I loved reading this–what an encouragement! The wait for an agent/for a book deal/for actual publication/etc. can be so long, and the fact that you just keep going, Anna, is a great inspiration to me. Thanks for your authenticity and for speaking from the heart.

    1. Natalie- Before I got into the groove of it, I sort of expected ‘first thing in the morning’ to matter because of it’s proximity to some sort of sleep/dream state — and that may in fact be a part of it. But more than that, fir me, I think it is about my mind not yet being cluttered with the details and goings-on of the day, and so being a lot more game and available to whatever comes up. (I find that when I put it off until later in the day for one reason or another, I end up gripe-writing a lot. oh well…)

  51. As so many of us have used September as a time to re-center and revive our writing, following months of “getting in the writing when we can” and enjoying family vacation time, I think this post is very timely. It’s important to recognize the value in enjoying the other things that feed and fuel us. The first 5 months of this year were a complete frenzy of voracious research and writing for me, and I’m so thankful for that work. It was amazing. But I’m also thankful for the time spent on other things, this summer, and for the stolen nights I used to write, to keep pace with my 12×12 goals. Balance in all things, eh? It’s all valuable.

  52. Anna,
    Love your comment that writing makes you a better person- I agree that when I write I tend to be less judgemental and open-hearted. Thanks for sharing!

  53. Anna, thanks for an inspiring post! I’m excited to read your book and share it with my kids, who have a passion for citizen science. I appreciate your story of success, challenges, and perseverance. I often feel like I’ve arrived too late to accomplish anything, and identify with the pressure of taking time away from other things, but find that it’s not quite a zero-sum game, and writing regularly enriches other parts of my life. Good luck with the rest of your journey!

  54. Thank you for this, Anna. I certainly understand your statement about feeling as if you’re late to the party. After raising kids and finally having some time to pursue this dream, there’s so much to learn. I’m going to be pretty “mature” by the time I’m on top of it all — the craft, the business, the culture. But, it keeps us young – right? Best of luck to you. I enjoy reading your words.

  55. Thank you, Anna for this post. I can relate to so many things you’ve stated. Writing does nourish me, and I have learned that I definitely need to leave time for the other things I love as well. It does indeed feed my writing. Congratulations on the book!

  56. Thank you for your transparency in this post. I identify in so many ways with where you are right now. Congratulations on your picture book! I can’t wait to read it! My hometown is home to the largest bat colony in North America. 🙂

  57. What a wonderful & encouraging post! I really needed to see this today. Thank you! Congratulations on BAT COUNT, it’s wonderfully written.

  58. Thank you for your insightful and inspiring post and congratulations on your first pb publication, Bat Count. I can certainly relate to being grumpy when not being able to write.

  59. I’m late to the party too but love it. I always wanted to write but took “the safer route”. I wish I’d followed my dream sooner.

    I was happy to see your book come out because we are a bat friendly family here. One year, when my daughter was around 7, we had the opportunity to go to presentation with a lady who works with bats. She had some with her. My daughter fell in love with bats and has even organized fundraising events for them. She still loves them but is focusing on bumble bees.

    Thanks for sharing your journey. Good luck with your submission to the agent.

  60. Yours seems like a very real writing life. I enjoyed reading the honest account of how writing enriches you. Congrats on your book!

  61. Thanks particularly for the Elizabeth Strout quote. I appreciate the interplay between writing and personal, spiritual growth–whatever one wants to call it. Writing does open up a space where one can suspend habitual prejudices and automatic judgments to act more freely, and work out feelings that may not have consciously emerged. So much value, quite apart from publication-oriented outcomes. The hunt for those is a spiritual journey too! Congratulations on yours, present and future.

  62. Thanks for sharing, Anna … about your book, writing habits, and your journey. I can fully appreciate when you quit holding your breath. I just signed with an agent this week, and I will forever remember my “magic number” of rejections (though I’m sure I missed some in my submissions spreadsheet): 222.

  63. Anna, thanks for your inspirational words! You are the ant that WILL move the rubber tree plant!!
    I also love my early morning writing time! Going to try more ” flow” writing!!
    Thank you!

  64. I could so relate to a lot of what you wrote…no published book yet, but the rest. : )

    Thank you for putting out there that even after a publication, you may be waiting all over again. I wish you the best with the agent who still needs to get back to you.

  65. I could so relate to a lot of what you wrote…no published book yet, but the rest. : )

    Thank you for putting out there that even after a publication, you may be waiting all over again. I wish you the best with the agent who still needs to get back to you.

    I keep getting an error message when I try to post this comment….

  66. Thank you for writing this story for children to learn about this amazing and beneficial creature, Anna. I enjoyed reading about your writing journey and wish you the best of luck.

  67. Thank you for sharing your writing journey Anna. I love that you start your day with 30 minutes of flow writing. That sounds like a good habit to acquire. I look forward to reading Bat Count. Good luck with your current projects.

  68. Thanks for your inspiring story, Anna. I have come back to writing after many years away and I’m gently feeling my way forward. Your story is very encouraging. Thanks! I love the cover of your book. It really draws you in, encouraging you to open the book to find out what it is all about!

  69. Geez, I started a comment on here at the beginning of the month and must have never posted it! Thank you for sharing your story– I am always interested to hear the backstory of published authors. I love the idea of flow writing. Something I have learned just recently after joining 12×12 in January is that sometimes I need that pen-to-paper, no expectations kind of writing. Somehow it doesn’t work the same for me with my laptop (but boy does the laptop work better for revisions!). I love that your story is about Bats–my little six year old and I have been reading a lot of bat stories–looking forward to this one!

  70. You are not that late to writing Anna! In my writing group one of the ladies is having her first picture book published at age 70. I am in my 50’s and although have had a few short stories published I am unagented and have no books published- and yet if you told me I would never have my own book published I would still would want (no – need) to write. Writing is escapism and like you said it make me a better person by accessing my most empathetic self. Thanks for the post I can relate to so many things you say.

  71. Great post. Thank you for sharing how writing impacts your life. I can’t wait to read your book about Bats! Good luck with your other stories. I’m sure some of them will find a home someday, just like the Bat book did.

  72. Glad to see a book on white-nose syndrome! I had never heard of it until a few years back when I worked on some interpretive panels about it. Bats get a bad rap so I’m glad your book will be in the hands of kiddos. Congrats on your hard work!

  73. Thanks for your inspiring story. Your picture book sounds great, as I’m a big fan of “bats” and I’m glad you’re educating our youth about their declining populations. Don’t ever give up on writing.

  74. Thanks for sharing your story Anna love hearing how your persistence paid off and hearing about how writing adds to your life (which is so true!).

  75. Congratulations on having your debut
    book published! That is something many
    of us dream about! I admire your perseverance during the time after your first success. I suspect many of us don’t keep up the “flow writing” but it really seems to work for you.
    I’ve been writing for about eight years and have been a member of 12×12 for four years but I don’t have an agent yet. So we have perseverance in common! I would love to win your bat book but could use the critique more at this point in time. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

  76. It is scary sometimes to think if I can ever persist like you and others did. There is something to say about the positive vibes your post gives back.
    Hope to march on and march on! Congrats for coming ahead in your path! Thank you for sharing story!

  77. Congratulations on your hard work and getting your book published! I am inspired by your journey to success as a debut author. I shall persist! I’ll keep writing and creating because it fills my heart!

  78. Hey Anna, your post encouraged me to have yet another go at Morning Pages – forcing myself to do them when there are so many other things to do at that time of the day is tricky. Maybe getting up earlier is the solution? Good luck for your future submissions 🙂

  79. Great post Anna! Thank you for giving us a behind the scene peek at your writing journey. I am also “late” to this writing life and am constantly pushing myself to catch up. Thank you for reminding us that we need to leave time for other things that we love in life.

    I love your idea of folding down the screen when “free writing” so you can’t see what you’ve just typed, and begin to edit.

    Congratulation on Bat Count, can’t wait to read it!

  80. Anna, I’m late to this party, but I’m glad I finally made it. As I read your post, I kept thinking, me too, me too! So much of what you said resonated with me. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can’t wait to read BAT COUNT.
    Congratulations and best of luck to you!

  81. Loved your post! Writing is truly my anchor as well. Your post reminded me about the pitfalls along this journey. We have to be tenacious, yet kind to our writer selves and never give up-there’s so much to learn along the way!

  82. I love the idea of flow writing. I wish I were better at it. I’m a planner. If I just start writing, things get messy. I find it’s always interesting that even the most confident person I meet has inner demons and they self doubt. I guess that’s what makes us human. Thank you for your honest thoughts. I wish you luck on your next books and look forward to reading about your bats.

  83. I, too get cranky when I don’t write. I’ve just started a journal again to improve my focus. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  84. Congrats to you for your first published book. Thank you for sharing your journey. I never heard of citizen science until reading your post. But I do those three pages of writing in the morning and if I miss a day I feel I have to make up the work and double or triple the number of pages. There are days I wish I could produce three quality pages for a manuscript in the same way I capture random thoughts on three pages in the morning.

  85. I thought I commented on this but having looked back it would seem I haven’t and this kind of reflects what September has been like for me… Our family have repatriated back to the UK after 3 years so my efforts have been resettling the children, unpacking and adjusting to a new life myself. Sadly, its meant little time for writing. It’s therefore a breath of fresh air to read your post, Anna and I agree with what you’ve said… that when things happen in your life outside of writing it ‘feeds your work and gives you fodder’. I’m hoping now things have somewhat settled… I can get back to my anchor as I totally agree that our writing ‘centres us’. Hopefully our recent changes will inspire with some fresh new ideas!! Thanks for the insight. You’ve put some of my internal panic at bay. Congrats on your book, I look forward to reading it. All the best : )

  86. Congratulations Anna on your first published book. I can’t wait to add it to my home library to read to my grandsons. I’m fascinated by bats.

  87. Thank you so much for this post! Your honest words have given me much to think about. I had never thought about my judgment of others lessening when I write, but I think it does.

  88. Wow. this was such an honest post, simply about loving to write! Not, per se, about stressing about getting published, just… (hey don’t forget it!) loving the experience of writing. Thank you. I needed that.

  89. Thanks for sharing your journey, Anna, and congratulations on your debut success! I can so relate to your process and the ups and downs of this crazy writing journey. Keep on keeping on!

  90. Thank you for sharing your story. Congratulations on your success. I loved that your write the free flow at the beginning of the day for 30 minutes (and your interruptions which sound like me. But I’ll forge ahead.

  91. Thank you Anna and congratulations on your book! I’m excited to read it. I feel very similar about the writing process and have certainly suffered from crankiness when I drift away from my writing and drawing practices. In fact, my husband now knows when I start to get short-tempered to direct me toward my drawing desk. It’s amazing the difference 30 minutes of sketching a character or writing on a chapter will make in my whole life outlook. Thank you for sharing your experience and the words of others that keep encouraging us to create and play. Happy writing to you!

  92. Thank you Anna for your post! I am excited to share Bat Count with my kids – love the idea behind it! We are planning a few bat-related Halloween projects. 🙂 Congratulations and thanks for the words of inspiration!

  93. Thank you for telling us about your journey. And I hadn’t thought about writing feeling good because we’re less judgmental about characters than about ourselves or other people, but that felt very true.

  94. Thank you for sharing your journey. I love how you “free write” for 30 minutes a day. And thank you for reminding me that when I’m on vacation seeing new things and doing new activities, that it can potentially feed back into a picture book manuscript.

  95. Anna thanks so much for these honest and personal thoughts. I’m also relatively new at writing, after prior careers, and one thing I’ve learned is the importance of writing from the heart . . . which can sometimes be difficult when you’re task-oriented and interested in nonfiction writing. Can’t wait to read your book!

  96. What a great start to your writing journey! A book deal! Thanks for sharing how you write, interrupting yourself 50 times sounds exactly like me. Congratulations on your hard work. Joan

  97. Thank you for sharing, Anna. Your heartfelt and honest post was inspiring and encouraging. It’s the writers’ open secret. We’ve all, at some point, felt the joy, fear, doubt, breath-holding and take your breath away moments. Congratulations, on your debut PB, Bat Count. Such an important topic

  98. Thanks for your insight on your process and on your commitment. I so get finding a was to enjoy the “self-promoting, branding, pitching, querying and marketing” more. Does anyone truly love that stuff? Anyway, congrats on Bat Count, and keep writing!

  99. I love that you have the discipline to write daily–my husband is good about that too whereas I’m a procrastinator.
    Bat Count sounds like a great combo of Science and ‘citizenship’. 😀 I’ll be sure to check it out with my kids!

  100. Thanks for your post. I can certainly relate to your experience. I don’t flow write every day, but when I’m stuck I give it a try. It usually works to get the ideas flowing again.

  101. The quote and your comment about being judgemental hit home. But when I write, I want to love and understand my characters, even the not so nice ones, so it does bring out a better me that I didn’t know was in there. And I agree with the importance of play. I get my ideas during walks, or when weeding the garden, or doing other things that aren’t “work”.
    Thank you for sharing your struggle, as I too got a late start and am trying to make up for lost time

  102. We call September-Starvetember at my house. Though I love teaching, the once a month check at the end of the month is hardest in September after being off all summer. I do love getting back into the classroom though. I also, love our before school weaving club. Thank you for sharing.

  103. Anna thank you for sharing your journey. I loved hearing about which writers inspired you and the practicalities of your daily practice.

  104. Loved your post. I’ve been a fan of Arbordale since it was Sylvan Dell Books. Congrats and thanks for the inspirational debut author without an agent success story!

  105. Glad to hear that I’m not the only one who gets cranky (or “haggy” 🙂 ) when I’m not writing, or faced with a plot problem!

  106. Anna– Thank you for sharing your story.. I think we all have had our share of the stall and slog that comes with publishing. I love the idea behind this book and citizen science stories. Keep it up! I love that writing allows you to pull your ideas out of your head and put them into the real world.

  107. Anna,
    Writing should be enjoyment for us writers and you nailed it with this…’I love that writing—when I let it—encourages me to play.’ When my writing seems like a task, I take a step back and do something else creative, just for fun. when my mind is right again, I go back to the writing.
    Thank you for being real with us about this journey. Best of luck to you and keep doing what you’re doing as you are fantastic!

  108. Congrats on your book Bat Count! I looked at the pictures and text on amazon. It looks amazing, and informative, something kids will love. Good luck on your writing journey.

  109. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s encouraging. You shine a light on the process and the patience that you’ve developed along the way. All the while keeping focus on the good stuff…writing!

  110. Hi Anna, I too feel late to the party. I always read the featured author at the beginning of the month and then again when we check in. So I may have already commented but I will be getting Bat Count to share with my second grade classes. They will love it! Thanks!

  111. Hi Anna, I too feel late to the party. I always read the featured author at the beginning of the month and then again when we check in. So I may have already commented but I will be getting Bat Count to share with my second grade classes. They will love it! Thanks!

  112. Playing totally resonates with me. I have found when I get out and adventure. Explore. Learn or experience something new, my mind generates more ideas. Creativity flourishes.
    I love writing. Have come to it later in life as well. And have settled into a rhythm the last six months. I keep moving forward. But don’t have an expectation as far as when I will be published. Mind you, I still would love to be published. To interact with readers. But I’m enjoying the process.
    Thanks so much for sharing your experience!! And congrats on your book 🙂

  113. Anna: Even though September is my favorite month, just yesterday I was questioning why I continue to write. I too feel I’m late to the party. I started writing in my 30’s, until real life got in the way. When I finally retired, I went back to it, but lately feel not just a little, but a lot behind the ball – even with meeting the deadlines each month in 12×12. I finally decided yesterday that even if I never publish, I should continues anyway. Your article reinforces my decision. Knowing how many writers feel they’ve come to the party late is comforting. Thank you. And best of luck with your PB, I’m anxious to read it.

  114. I just ordered Bat Count — I can’t wait to read it to my grandgirls!

    Several of my friends have sold to Arbordale and I’ve met Donna German (editor) before at a SCBWI conference and was very impressed with her. That’s a publisher I’d like to sell to one day.

    Thank you for this great post and I wish you continued success in your writing career!

  115. I just ordered Bat Count — I can’t wait to read it to my grandgirls!

    Several of my friends have sold to Arbordale and I’ve met Donna German (editor) before at a SCBWI conference and was very impressed with her. That’s a publisher I’d like to sell to one day.

    Thank you for this great post and I wish you continued success in your writing career!

  116. Anna – thanks for an excellent post. I love your idea of 30 minutes of free-flowing writing per day. You never know what will come from sessions like these. I try to do the same and it has been so helpful and enjoyable. I look forward to reading Bat Count!

  117. Anna,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I can identify with much of what you talked about. I have access to an elementary school and seek feedback and advice from kids often. The quality is undeniable and practical. One of the things that keeps me going is the moment I discover something else I find exciting and purposeful in the writing process. Lastly, although I am not professing to have the discipline to write daily, I know that a day I miss might just be the day that a muse shows up and I missed it.
    Thanks again.
    Mark

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