Writing Success Formula: Thick Skin, Eight Texans and Seven Anitas

I love making writer friends online. I have pen pals all over the world. Recently I met Jodi. I can’t remember where we met–if it was on Twitter or FB or LinkedIn. I noticed her sense of humor right away and went to her blog to read a little about her writing life. I left her a comment about how much I enjoyed her blog. Since then we’ve been friends.

This week Jodi is launching a children’s chapter book. I’m so excited for her. Please welcome her as our guest today and read about her publishing journey.

Ingredients for Writing Success:

6 Layers of Thick Skin, 5 to 8 Texans, and 7 Anitas

The internet can be a terrific place to make connections, especially if you are a writer. Especially if you’re a “lonely, typing-on-her wobbly-desk-in-a-dark-corner-of-her basement, friends and family shunned so that last paragraph, sentence or word can be tweaked just right,” sort of writer.

Yes, I’ve found the Information Super Highway to be a direct road to other crazy people writers, such as myself.

Six years ago, with the help of the internet, I officially began my writing career. Back then I was more of a storyteller than a writer – creating outrageous bedtime stories for my two daughters. My mom kept pestering me to write them down so they wouldn’t be forgotten.

“Would if I could Mom, but I have no time,” became by automatic response. I was up to my eyeballs in diapers, baby bottles, and laundry – a shower was a luxury in those days. How was I to find spare time to write books? Mothers, I grumbled.

My mom, thankfully, is doggedly determined and enrolled me in my first online writing course. She paid for the class and babysat my girls to give me writing time. I believe she said something about, “eliminating all excuses.” She’s been my strongest supporter and has encouraged me to write since I was a teen. And my mom was right, of course. I found “me” in that class.

I quickly became hooked on writing and needed to find out if I was a “real writer,” or just a wannabe hack. The next year I flew down to LA to attend the annual Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators conference. Within minutes of checking into the hotel, I met a group of Texans, who welcomed me into their chapter. I laughed every moment I was in their presence, feeling as if I’d known them for years. They are still my Facebook friends, and I cheer for them on all their achievements, as they do mine.

At that conference my picture book manuscript was nominated for The Sue Alexander Award for Most Promising New Author. I was thrilled. Inspired. Confident that in no time I would be published. What can I say, I was a newbie.

The next year when I attended the SCBWI conference, my critiquing experience was less than thrilling. I got slaughtered. It was an all hands down disaster and a defining moment in my writing life. But, I had my Texas writers to comfort me. They kept in contact with me once I got home, with numerous encouraging emails. For a year I could hardly write. Every time I sat in front of my computer, I would hear that editor’s scathing words in my head.

However, I learned something very important. My writing voice lay in older children’s literature. And I needed to grow several layers of thick skin if I was going to follow my dreams of becoming a published author.

It was a year after my “Disaster in LA,” when a little boy named Connor woke me up and began telling me his story.

Wait, I need to clarify.

This was not a real little boy. This was an imaginary boy – Connor was speaking in my mind. A real little boy waking me up would’ve scared the wits out of me and this blog post would take a walk down the dark side right about now.

So, where was I? Oh yes – I raced down the stairs and typed feverishly, until 6 pages later, he was done speaking. It took me close to a year to turn “Connor’s Rant” into a full length children’s chapter book called; Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food and Other Life Lessons. As I wrote Spaghetti, I knew there was something uniquely special about Connor. Something more than being a spirited child – more than being an ADHDer, even.

I knew that Connor had Asperger’s Syndrome. To ensure his character traits were a true reflection of a child with AS, I researched the disorder and had two child psychologists read the manuscript for accuracy.

Soon after, I took a writing workshop run by a Winnipeg editor and middle grade and young adult author – Anita Daher. In this class, I met the most incredible group of children’s writers and their positive feedback helped restore my self-confidence. Too soon the workshop ended, and my fellow workshop writers and I decided we had to continue as a writing group, naming ourselves after our teacher and mentor, Anita Daher. The Anita Factor writing group has now been meeting every second Thursday for the past 2 years at McNally’s bookstore.

Without the Anitas, getting Spaghetti published would still only be a dream, until last January. I was at a low point, ready to give up writing and find a better paying job – okay any job that paid actual cash, when one of my fellow Anitas suggested I submit my book to Little Pickle Press.

When I read LPP’s mission statement, I knew they would be respectful of Connor’s story and treat him with dignity. So I crossed my fingers, toes, hands – really all flexible digits and limbs – and resembling the karma sutra, I emailed Little Pickle Press my manuscript. And what do you know? They said, “Yes!”

Oh, and one final and most important ingredient to achieve writing success; 1 supportive family. Without their patience and support, I’d still be in that dank basement talking to my imaginary friends important literary characters.

Happy writing!

Blurb/Bio:

Jodi Carmichael’s first book, Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food and Other Life Lessons, is launching TODAY, December 3rd, 2012. It is a chapter book written for children aged 6 to 9. She is a strong advocate for Asperger’s Syndrome which led to Connor and his adventures. It is her belief that understanding brings tolerance, acceptance, and compassion for others.

Jodi lives in a big yellow house in the heart of Winnipeg. There she can often be found dancing in the living room with her two wildly imaginative daughters, her patient and supportive husband, and a scruffy Border Terrier named Zoe.

Click HERE to read Jodi’s blog. To follow Jodi on Twitter click HERE.  (@Jodi_Carmichael)

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Oh, I loved meeting Jodi and predict she will become an overnight success…you know the overnights that are actually many years long, but everyone else thinks is only 10 hours. She has such a great voice.

    • Thanks Patricia! What wonderful words to hear first thing in the morning. You have put a smile on my face that will last the entire day.
      Cheers to you!
      Jodi

  2. I wish I had met Jodi–but will in future. Love the Spaghetti title and focus. I’ll forward this to a writing friend who has a son w/ Asperger’s. You for real live in Winnipeg? I’m a dual citizen by marriage, live in greater Minneapolis now plus have a farm 49 miles nearer to you. I do visit friends in Bathgate, N.D. once a year, very near Winnipeg.
    Keep up the great work and hurray for your mother getting you going!

  3. My God Parents are down in Rochester. The whole state is just beautiful. Our countries are more similar than dissimilar and our concerns for our children are identically, don’t you think?

    Take care,
    Jodi

  4. Jodi, Thank you for that most enlightening post. You are a blessingg to many fledging writers who seem to get under the bed covers when confronted with seemingly difficult obstacles. Thank you for opening my eyes.

    I have a few short stories tucked away, crying out to me, “Get us published, for crying outloud”. Well, I am going to give these characters one more chance, especially, my children’s story. Continue on your journey, and may God continue to bless you as you bring much needed joy, to hurting children, through your stories.
    Blessings.

    • Hi Johnny!
      It’s nice to hear from you and know you’re not giving up! Keep writing. Submit those short stories to contests for feedback.
      We hope you’re having a blessed December.
      Best,
      Michelle

  5. Thank you Dr. Velazquez!

    One of our many Carmichael Family mottos is, “Never Say Never!” It keeps your mind and heart open to all possibilities. So never give up on your writing dreams and listen to those stories. In my experience they know what they’re talking about. 🙂

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