Hello, Friends. I’ve just returned from Humboldt County’s Children’s Author Festival in California. It’s a glamorous life, this writing life. Or at least that’s what a lot of my non-writer friends think. We writers travel hither and yon. We’re pampered and fed. We’re chauffeured to and fro. But here’s what it’s really like.
Most of us rise in the wee hours of the morn to catch those early (and sometimes cheaper) flights to our destinations (Who needs a private Lear, right?), so that by the time we arrive for the evening wine-and-cheese reception with the public we’re running on Starbucks coffee or tea (sometimes it’s Peet’s), M&M’s, and adrenaline. We engage in small-talk, which for introverts (i.e., most of us) is demanding. We catch a few hours sleep, rising early to meet with our readers–in this case, children in schools, where we manage to muster enough strength to chase down all the equipment we’ll need (because nobody has thought to do a sound-check before our arrival to make sure everything is in place and in working order) and then we give three to five high-energy, engaging presentations. We also respond to poignant and deeply-thought-out questions such as, Do you have a dog? or How old are you? or I like your glasses (which, of course, isn’t a question at all). Our chauffeur–usually a retired teacher or librarian–shuttles us in the limousine–often an SUV or Prius or sometimes a battered, malodorous pickup truck–back to our hotel where we crash for a couple of hours before dashing off to that evening’s dinner. If we’re lucky, we get to sit with at least a few fellow authors so we can catch up because most of us don’t see each other that often, but sometimes we’re assigned to the little chairs and little tables and the knee-huggers because, after all, we write for children. Sometimes the chauffeur is a parent volunteer, which necessitates the removal of trace elements of childhood before we authors can manage a perch in the interior of the vehicle. And at some point, we have to speak before fellow adults. Most of us would rather face a hairy herd of charging tarantulas or a firing squad than speak to other grown-ups. Young people are our audience! But with half a Valium or a small dose of Lorazepam we manage to come off as cool, calm, and collected (if somewhat giddy)–as if public speaking comes to us as naturally as solitude and writing. And there you have it, the secret world of children’s authors.
(Larry presenting, I guess)
Seriously and with apologies for the exaggerations (sort of) and compilations (Yeah, there’s a little bit of Texas, Iowa, and points remembered but unknown thrown in there), I wouldn’t trade any of the above for the 9-to-5, 3-martini-lunch routine of an executive. We are pampered and well-cared-for (especially in Humboldt County), but it’s not the glam-life that most non-writers imagine or would appreciate. And it allows me ample time to retreat within myself to be a creative, and a creative is who I am.