Saturday, 21 January 2023

Motivation, by Anne Booth

I had my first book published in 2014, and now it is 2023, and between 2014 and now I have written a LOT. Instead of being proud, however, recently  I have just been aware of tiredness and worry and a sense that all this work is so hard and isolated, and  I have felt dragged down by money insecurity and the awareness that the marketplace is VERY crowded, and wondered how long I could carry on. I couldn't commit to Folly Farm because I just didn't have the money at this time, and it all felt like such a relentless slog.


Yesterday I had coffee with and talked to two academics about writing for children, and in explaining to them about how important children's books were, and talking about my AND other people's books, and about children and their need for stories, I remembered again how much I passionately love children's books, whether I am writing them or not. I had put lots of books, by myself and others, into a shopping trolley, and I took them out and piled them on the table where we were having coffee, and showed them to the academics, and read out bits, and pointed out gorgeous illustrations, and generally had a wonderful time.  The marketplace may be crowded, but at least that includes crowds of gorgeous books.  And I am glad to say that my passion was communicated and they agreed more people needed to understand about how important writing for children is, and I have now been asked to come and talk at their University one day in the summer. So I would like to remind the Children's Writers here - we are doing a VERY IMPORTANT job. It can be so discouraging when we see so little coverage of our books in the media, and we face insecurity and rejection so much,  but honestly,  our work really does change lives, and children really really matter and deserve stories, and it is brilliant we are writing them and getting any published AT ALL.

Today I was asked to come to talk to my local village WI group about being a writer. This time I piled my own books into a shopping trolley and trundled along to the village hall and put all the books out on a table. And one of the ladies said 'Gosh - have you written all of those?' and I suddenly realised (I know that sounds funny, but I hope that you understand!)  that I had, and how lucky I was!  She didn't ask me about advances, or prizes, or reviews, or even sales,  she just reminded me by her question that, even if a couple I love have gone out of print, and none of them have sold huge amounts in the way books by celebrity authors sell, the fact that they exist at all counts for something. So again - don't forget to be proud of any achievements. I am really going to try and not give myself negative reviews this year, and to remember what I have done.

In my talk to the WI I explained about why I wrote each book or series, and where I got my ideas from, and I remembered again why I wanted to write them, and how interesting it was to research them, and how hard they could be to write, but how satisfying it was to have an end product. I also told them about what children had said to me about them too - and in doing that, I also realised why I keep writing them. I didn't know how many were sold of each title, all I remembered were the reactions of individual children to different stories, and I realised that that was beyond price. I would still like to have more financial security,  and of course I would love more success, but really, if I have told a story which comforted one child, or made one look at the world in a new way, or entertained them and distracted them from stressful things, gosh, that IS success, and without bragging, I do know that more than one child has read my books! And I also talked about the illustrators and publishers I have worked with, and realised how lucky I have been to work with such talented people, and how interesting it has been, and how much I have learnt these last years. 

So I know that each of us in The Scattered Authors Society  will have written something that was appreciated by a child, and more than just  one child - even, greatest honour of all, loved, by more than one child. We have moved them, entertained them, interested them, made them laugh, made them cry, maybe sent them off to sleep, (hopefully not bored them to sleep!)  and really, even if we stopped tomorrow, we should still raise a cup of tea or milk or hot chocolate, or  a glass of something bubbly, and just take a moment away from worrying, and even whilst we can legitimately hope and campaign for more financial security and for more reviews and coverage of Children's books in the media, we can still let ourselves, right now,  be proud of ourselves and of each other, and believe in the ultimate value of our work.


Joan Lennon said...

Thanks for this, Anne!

Sue Purkiss said...

A lovely positive post, Anne - thank you!

Sheena Wilkinson said...

Such a lovely post, Anne, and a real reminder of how hard we can all be on ourselves, and how important it is to celebrate what we have achieved.

Nick Garlick said...

I second Sheena's comment. We *have* achieved something.