July 12, 2009

WRITING ADVICE: The Last of LIN OLIVER: Keep a Success Chart

(This is the last bit of advice I gleaned from the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Fall 2008 Conference – well, not the LAST bit of advice, but it was the last point Lin Oliver brought up in her talk. Next time, with permission, I'll start another author’s advice list – and how it applies to me…and maybe you.)

I confess this is one that I stopped doing some time ago.

It simply got too depressing.

I do run a sort of “chart” alongside this column. You can see many of my major publications. It looks nice – until you know the details which follow:

Stories For Children Magazine (http://storiesforchildrenmagazine.org/default.aspx ) is a non-paying market. Don’t get me wrong – the people that run SFCM are wonderful people. The magazine is professional looking and full of great writing and art. But it doesn’t pay anything. The Anthology DID pay and the activities book I just finished for them also paid. But…but…but…

I have not heard from the editors of TURTLE MAGAZINE for several months and the fact is that the editor said they were holding it for POSSIBLE publication. No contract signed there – and no word yet, either.

FUN FOR KIDS buys their manuscripts way, way ahead of time. Look and see when I might expect payment and publication. Also reflect on the economy.

AOIFE’S KISS and DRAGONS, KNIGHTS AND ANGELS (DKA has since been rolled into a different online magazine) both paid at the “token” level…$5 apiece. They are publication credits but hardly anything to write home about and just enough to make me want more.

THE WRITER, while it was indeed The Writer that published the article, they did so online. It paid, absolutely. It was fun. But there’s no paper trail and it vanished into the flowing electrons of cyberspace and never had a chance to be pinned on someone’s bulletin board.

So, the last time I had something published that provided both a substantial paycheck and created a lasting impression was ANALOG in ________ (fill in the blank).

And there you go – my “success” chart leaves me feeling depressed.

Oh, I know some of you will come raging back at me to say, “At least you GOT published!” and I have to nod and say, “That’s true.”


This is the one bit of advice given by Lin Oliver that I am sorely tempted to disregard. The only problem is that I can’t help looking back at my stuff and reflecting on it, worrying at it like a puppy at an old slipper; like a dog returning to its…well, you know. So another question pops up: How can I NOT keep going back to my “success chart” and wondering exactly what the 5 years since my last substantial paycheck means? How can I NOT keep poking at the thin scab that has formed over the gaping wound of my ego?

I CANNOT not keep a “success chart”. I am not, I think, using it the way Lin intended us to use it. I am not using it to inspire myself to greater and greater success.

I am using it to remind myself how long it’s been since I wrote something saleable.

And that, I think is a misuse of Lin Oliver’s advice.

Gotta work on that…

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