Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Author Appreciation Week - Karen English
I wouldn't even have a writing career if it weren't for the kindness of one of my favorite authors - Karen English.
If you're not familiar with her work, you should be. She has written some of my kid's favorite books including NADIA'S HANDS, HOT DAY ON ABBOT AVENUE the MG novel FRANCIE.
Back in 2004, I decided that I wanted to write a children's book. I typed up a couple of stories and joined SCBWI. One of their publications listed local authors, and not having a clue about critique groups, I emailed some of the authors on the list. Karen was the only one who wrote me back.
Despite being very well published and a busy teacher, she agreed to meet little old me at a coffee shop in Oakland. I brought her my typed-up stories and she was extremely kind and gracious to a new writer who frankly did everything wrong. As she looked at my work, she pointed out what was good and gently pointed me toward what could be better. After (and the highlight of my day) we went to a nearby bookstore and spent an hour looking at kid's books.
Karen did this several times over the next couple of years. Every time I thought I had something viable, we would meet and she would go over it with me. Then we would go to a bookstore. She showed me what was popular and how the business worked. When I finally had a story that wasn't completely cringe-worthy, she suggested I send it to her editor at Clarion. That editor ended up buying that story, which became my first picture book WHEN IT'S SIX O'CLOCK in SAN FRANCISCO.
All along the way, she kept telling me that I was going to succeed. In my copy of her heartbreakingly wonderful book SPEAK TO ME, she wrote to my kids: Thank you for liking my books and thanks for having an extremely talented mother who will one day be a famous writer. Well, I don't know about famous, but I can call myself a writer. And it's all due to Karen. She was embarrassed when I included her in the acknowledgments page of DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS, and I don't think to this day she realizes the impact a little time and kindness had on this writer.
I'd like to think that I'd act the same way. That in my busy life, if a new writer approached me I'd take time out of my day to meet and encourage them. If Karen taught me anything, it is that our obligation as human beings is to pay it forward.
On this date: In 1958, Tequila was the number one song.