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Are We Having Fun Yet?
Anna Grossnickle Hines
Published in Penn&Ink, Newsletter of Eastern Pennsylvania SCBWI, Summer 1998
     Last month I went to Virginia for the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI Conference. It was a nice gathering, I felt good about my presentations, enjoyed the ones I got to sit in on, as well as the opportunity to spend time with old friends and make new ones. But as the conference came to a close I found myself feeling a bit melancholy. While the bulk of the presentations focused on craft, by far the most popular were those with the editors and agent, focusing on selling. Also, many of the conversations I found myself engaged in centered around the business side of things, marketing, reviews, promotion and so on. Not that I blame anyone for hanging onto every word the editors spoke, looking for clues to that elusive first (or fiftieth) sale. And I know very well that we all have to think about marketing and promotion, but gee! That’s not the fun part!

 Of all the things I heard over that week-end, the comment I remember best was one from Elizabeth Law. After attempting to give clues about what she is looking for as Senior Editor at Viking, she raised her hands in the air and said, “Every book we publish, we do because we like it; it strikes a chord with us.”

     We like it. That’s what it all comes down to in the end. The editor is going to have to read that story over a few dozen times. If she doesn’t like it, even love it, that’s not going to be fun. It’s going to be boring at best, agony at worst.

     I think for an editor to love a story, for it to strike that cord, connect with the heart of the editor, it has to come from the heart of the writer. First the author has to love it. Even if it is a tragic tale of woe, even if finding the perfect words was a frustrating agonizing, struggle, the author has to love it—fully embrace it, no holds barred. Susan Hirschman, editor and publisher of Greenwillow books, once said to an SCBWI audience, “I want the book only you can write.”

     That, to me, is where the fun is. Finding that story that is inside me, agonizing over every word, feeling the joy of getting it right, shaping it so it will strike that chord with the editor and make her love it enough to be willing to read it over the several dozen times it will take to make it into a book. And then hopefully to the young readers and listeners who will love it enough to want it read again and again, and to the parents, teachers and librarians who won’t mind reading it a few dozen.... or even a few hundred times.

     Yes, we do have to think about selling and promoting, but if we aren’t writing stories we love, if we aren’t having fun, well, we might as well be making seat cushions.

     Hold onto the fun!

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