Do you remember the times you wanted something badly (e.g. that 'A' in English Literature, or making the basketball team, or getting that dream job, or aiming for the moon) but knew you weren't quite good enough to achieve those goals yet? More importantly, do you remember going for them and staying in the game nevertheless?
I want to share a small but significant milestone with you, and in exchange, I hope you'll let me celebrate yours. Any milestone that means something to you.
Okay, here goes the world's shortest trilogy:
The Nine-Years-Ago then Two-Weeks-Ago Story
Nine years ago, I signed up for a course with the Institute of Children's Literature (ICL) after passing their aptitude test. In all the course assignments, my mentor would ask that I list down specific children's magazines for each piece.
Always, I'd pick Cricket. I've always been smitten by its adventurous and sophisticated stories and art. It is, to me, the Time Magazine of our field. That was my moon.
After graduating from the ICL, I submitted a few stories to my dream publication.
And in every writer's backstory -- rejections. These are normal. No need to fall and weep. Not the right stories? Perhaps. Not the right standard of writing? The editorial team at Cricket never said this, of course. Then again, they didn't have to. Deep down, I knew. Like Ira Glass said, there was a gap between our taste/aim and our current level of skills. If we keep working on our skills, we can narrow that gap. (I know I have a gap, and I also know I'm in charge of narrowing it every day. Truth? It has narrowed since nine years ago. Another truth? It's still wide from my taste. But again, I'm working on narrowing it.)
My moon got farther when my focus shifted to picture books and novels. I stopped submitting to Cricket. Till last Christmas. I'd heard about their invitation to submit stories for a theme -- Monsters.
Hey, I do have a monster story in my drawer. In fact, it was from an ICL assignment. In fact, I'd submitted it to Cricket years ago. In fact, I'd even received a polite rejection from them! Goodness, what were the odds?
I took the story out. Read it. Cringed. For the Nth time, revised it. For the second time, sent it out to Cricket.
Two weeks ago, the editor contacted me to say they're accepting it.
The Now (or Thereabout) Story
I was happy. Very happy. Felt as if a baby pigeon storyteller I'd released out into the world had returned safely. Mission accomplished.
Did the ground soften into cake beneath me? No. Did the clouds part and music from beyond ring? Lol, no. Did I feel I've "made it" as a writer? Yes and no.
C'mon, Claudine. What the hell? We're trying to celebrate here!
It's a personal dream fulfilled. A significant milestone. Something in my heart feels full, warm and safe. At the same time, I know I'm a writer with or without the acceptance (I'm just now one who's happier -- can't deny it), who's "making it" every day.
I'm glad. Really glad. My baby pigeon storyteller flew out to the bloody moon and came back!
Which reminds me of what I'd read in this book last month:
Because this is how it feels to lead the faithful creative life: You try and try and try, and nothing works. But you keep trying, and you keep seeking, and then sometimes, in the least expected place and time, it finally happens. You make the connection. Out of nowhere, it all comes together. Making art does sometimes feel like you're holding a séance, or like you're calling out in the night for a wild animal on the prowl. What you're doing seems impossible and even silly, but then you hear the thunder of hooves, and some beautiful beast comes rushing into the glade, searching for you just as urgently as you have been searching for it.
The What's-Next Story
Writing, of course. I want more. More stories written and illustrated. Stories I self-publish, submit or ghostwrite. I'm proud of my efforts in all of them.
That's my good news recently. I hope you'll let me celebrate yours. Any milestone that means something to you, I'd love to hear about it. Let our conversation roll in the comments below. You're all very much welcome to join in any time!