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Early Writing "Success"

Sometime during my fourth grade year, my class got to spend a few hours with an honest-to-goodness writer. He lead the class, getting our young minds motivated with metaphors and similes. We learned all about poetry; sometimes it rhymes, sometimes it doesn't. He encouraged us to be silly, to be brave, to write beautifully, or to write badly. It was all part of the process.
I already liked to write. That same year, I wrote a short story that won a prize in my class. The year before, I wrote short stories and knock-knock jokes, and was given a chance to laminate them and have them available for my classmates to check out at the school library.

The day the writer-in-residence came to visit our school, I wrote six or more poems. I remember one in particular I was quite proud of. I thought it painted a picture with words, just like the writer told us to do. Those words have since left my memory, although I feel nostalgia for rainbows, sherbet, and blooming flowers when I think of that missing poem.

Months later, I found out that some of the poems written by the students that day were going to be published in a book. I was very excited to find out that a poem of mine would be included.

Even more time passed, an eternity to me at the time, and the book was finally available. I flipped to the index and found my name among the five students from my school who had poems in the book.

"Tina Haapala, 30"

I flipped to page 30, eager to see which of my poems the writers deemed worthy of publication in an honest to goodness BOOK. My heart flipped a little as I started to read the words. But my excitement faded, and suddenly I felt a little embarrassed. THIS was the poem that was chosen? They read all of my poems, including the lyrical landscape of the rainbow sherbet poem, and THIS is what they chose?!

I hardly remember writing it. I can only assume it was written when we were given the direction to "be silly".
Always the good student, I followed directions. I was silly. And then, reading those words months later, I felt like I had just slipped on a banana peel.
I hid my disappointment; I didn't want anyone to think I was ungrateful. Doesn't every writer want to be published?

For now, I can just laugh at the nine year old responsible for the following poem, originally published in "Sun, Snow, Rain, You Name it" by the Wyoming Council on the Arts in 1983:

He had a name which was the same as yours
He never had famine;that's what I heard.
He had to remember, but he had a naked finger!
No string to remember, for Pete's sake.
He licked a lollipop and forgot--
He had to remember, but he had a naked finger.
No string to remember, for Pete's sake.
He couldn't eat sugar!!
So he died and in his will
he gave a nickel to everyone on Mars!

So, that was my first, and only, published poem (sigh).

To be a little easier on myself, I think if a fourth grader showed me this poem now, I would say it was pretty good. When a child hands you his art project, you praise him for his use of color and imagination, even if you don't know if it's supposed to be a horse or a house. But even back then, I was my worst critic. Some things don't change.

Getting published as an adult, a whole quarter century later, was a better experience. I was excited to see my name in print, my story on the pages. But, there's still a little part of me that thinks-- oh, maybe I should've said it this way, maybe I should've left out that. I guess it's just part of the process. I look forward to regretting more word choices, once I see them in print.



Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Experience

The popularity of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books is beyond extraordinary. What started out as a multi- rejected book idea has turned into a multi-million dollar book empire. More than 110 million Chicken Soup for the Soul books have been sold. Many of the books have been translated to 40 different languages. I'm proud that my personal essays have been included in some of these books, and I hope to continue being a Chicken Soup contributor.
My Story
I thought I would share a bit about being published in these collections. I'm very happy with my Chicken Soup experiences, and part of that may be that I went into it with little expectations at first. I started with them because I had a few stories that seemed to fit what they were looking for, and I thought I had nothing to lose. Unlike some of the other markets and contests I was looking at, submitting to Chicken Soup could be done at no cost to me, and I didn't even need to worry about a postage stamp, because they had a…

All the Right Ingredients to Writing Advice

Last time, I talked about people in our lives that are pretty sure they know how to be successful writers, because they spent much of their time reading. Sometimes their advice can be a blessing, sometimes just the opposite. It is the same with the plethora of advice available from other writers. Have you checked out almost every book about the writing process from your local library at one time or another? Are your shelves lined with your own copies of "the-perfect-writing-advice-that-will-get-me-published-once-and-for-all"? Are you a member of multiple online writing communities? Do you hold your breath just a little bit when waiting from the critique from that "certain someone" in your writing group?

Yeah. Me too. And I don't think that gaining knowledge is a bad thing. We just have to be careful.

Don't Let Too Many Cooks Create a Recipe for Disaster
I love great food, I savor the tastes and textures of all kinds of cuisine; but unless I have specific, de…

Why Ghostwriting? Guest Post by Kelly James-Enger

Is it Time to Disappear?  Why I Became a Ghost--and Why you Should, Too
I never intended to become a ghostwriter. After all, why would I spend months of my life toiling away on someone else’s book? No thanks. I only wanted to write my own books, and that’s what I did.
I soon found, however, that the life of a book author wasn’t quite what I’d envisioned. I was working long hours, yet making less money than I had before, when I wrote only articles. The reason was simple—the time I spent promoting my books left me less time to write articles and other books, which cut into my income.
            Fortunately for me, I was approached by a nutrition expert about coauthoring her book. I found I enjoyed collaborating with her, but the real payoff came when we finished the manuscript. As the author, she now had to start promoting it—but I was all done!
That was enough for me. I decided to pursue coauthoring and ghostwriting, and “my” next book was ghostwritten for a client. (Typically a “coau…