Monday, March 16, 2015

A Lifelong Dream Come True

 "A long, long time ago, in a small village surrounded by a dark forest, there lived a little girl..." I still remember Dad's deep voice talking into the night. Snuggled warm beneathe my covers, I listened in wonder as he told stories of enchanted forests, mysterious witches, trolls, fairies, and everything magical in between. Much of the time, Dad made these stories up from the top of his head. Other times, he spoke from memories of childhood fairytale books. I begged Dad for his bedtime stories. He was the best story teller of anyone, anywhere.

After the little girl in the story learned her lesson to never enter the evil forest again, Dad would sometimes turn to me and say, "Now it's your turn to tell me a story". My heart skipped with excitement. There was nothing else I loved more than putting my imagination to work!

So I'd start my story about a poor, lonely little girl who ran away to a magic land with colorful ponds and trees filled with magical fruit that made you fly! And other silly things like that. Dad would say something like "What a story! You have a good imagination!" and that made me feel good. I wanted to keep making up stories forever.

When I began writing, I loved drawing pictures for my words. I remember one of the first "children's book" I wrote when I was 8. It was called "The Magic Adventure".

("A murmuring mermaid taught Annie Ann Anderson how to swim, swing and sing, and sway")

I absolutely loved putting words and drawings together. I remember feeling that passion and excitement even then about creating a story.

My love for writing and creating and imagining never stopped. I'd spend hours outside, by myself, thinking up a storyline for a movie. I'd think of the music in the beginning credits as the camera was following me in my back yard, wading through the trecherous, thick ivy, trying to reach the top of the pine tree where there was a magical wooden monkey (a yard decoration) that I needed so I could bargain with an evil witch in order to get the silver key which would open a box of treasure in the back yard shed!

In highschool, my English teacher gave us the assignment to write a Children's Book explaining a diverse culture. I had so much fun writing and illustrating "Kicha and Gochi", a story of two girls from different tribes living in Timbuktu, 700 years ago.

After reviewing my book, my teacher told me "I really think you could get it published". That made my heart ache a little bit. It ached because I knew that was my dream - I had ALWAYS wanted to publish a book. But I also knew that I didn't know HOW. I didn't feel like I knew anybody that could help me pursue my dream, and it felt impossible. 

In college, I wasn't sure what I wanted to major in, so because I had such a passion for it, I started off with English. I felt like it wasn't a "realistic career" for me, so I knew I'd choose another major later. In the meantime however, I loved learning more about English and writing. I remember looking up a professor in the English building who taught Children's Literature, and thought "Maybe I could ask her about publishing my stories!" So, I sent her an email one day. I got a long response. She told me all about how you can submit your work to publishing companies, and it's the slimmest of all slim chances that anyone will ever look twice at your work, but it's worth a shot and don't give up, etc, etc. Her email made me so excited! Just that I finally was able to talk to someone who knew ANYTHING about how to even begin to THINK about publishing, was great news!

I tucked the e-mail away in my heart and mind. I pursued a nursing degree and changed my major when I got accepted into nursing school. Then I met my husband and we got married, and I was busy working as a nurse. All the while, I never stopped writing stories whenever I had time - stories that I felt like I could publish one day.

It was 2 or 3 years ago that I decided it was time to start publishing my books. I decided to start with one I'd written a few years before called "Itchy Mitchie". I was going to illustrate it too. I was going to stop dreaming and actually get it done, dang it!!

I began researching online. I was  discouraged to read the statistics of publishing houses and how difficult it is to get an agent and an editor and blablabla. Then I read how if you want to write AND illustrate your book, your chances for being picked up by a publisher are next to none. It felt just like the moment I told my career counselor at college that I wanted to get into the nursing program. He sat me down with that you and EVERYBODY else, honey look, and said "You realize this is the most competitive program in the school." He seemed to be saying "This is too hard to attempt, so don't even try". Yep, that's EXACTLY how this felt.

Was I ever going to get published?

Well, then I heard about self-publishing. My heart lit up with hope! This sounded perfect. I could be the writer and illustrator and I'd be able to publish my book...with a hefty fee. Hmm... But at least it was possible!  I discovered Createspace. They had a program where they'd help me design my book, give me tips, editing help, and more. So I decided I'd do it! I worked and worked on my book, getting it edited to exactly how I wanted it to be, and spending hours drawing up the illustrations.

Now, I'll explain how all the illustrations went down in a future post, but let me just say, that I finished my book and I knew it wasn't where it needed to be. I had to re-do all the illustrations if I was going to be happy with it.

Well then, I got pregnant with twins. And THEN, I had the twins! But I kept working on my new illustrations and over a year went by and finally (just about 2 months ago), MY BOOK WAS DONE. And this time, I was proud of it. I knew it was the best I could do...well, I think I could always do better, but...I was satisfied. I felt so confident that I even wrote some queries to book agents. I did have a little hope in that, but I knew it was a long, long shot, so in the meantime, I continued with my self-publishing plan. (PS. I still hope to get an agent one day. I'll continue querying because, hey, why not try!)

Well, after the year-long break I took from Creatspace, it turns out they didn't offer design services for Children's Books anymore. I was so discouraged. What was I going to do now? They did offer a program where you can submit your book for free, but you have to know how to format all your text and images yourself, which I SO did not. Ugh.

So I did more research, checked out other companies, talked with other authors, and finally, my solution came. I decided to hire a private graphic designer who my friend happened to refer me to. The designer charged me 400 bucks to get my book all formatted to submit to Createspac for free. The fact that Createspace stopped their services for Children's book was actually a huge blessing in disguise. Hiring my own private designer saved me over 600$. YES!!

And now, here I am. In my journey of realizing a life-life dream, I'm about to cross the finish line. Last week, I submitted my finished files to Createspace.  I just got a "proof" copy to look over. Hey, I'm really proud of this!  Now the very last thing I have to do is click the "approve" button online, and then it's official...I'm published! In just a few days, my book will be available to the public.

So, it's really happening. After years and years of hoping, wondering, not knowing how to proceed, my dream is finally coming true. The dream I started so long ago... I know it sounds very cliché  and to some, it might not seem like a big deal, but you know what?... it's still my dream. And...  AHH! I'M FINALLY GOING TO PUBLISH MY BOOK!!!...

...Do you have a dream of doing something you've always wanted to? Do you ever feel stuck because you don't know how to proceed? Before I sound too much like an infomercial, I just want to tell you what I've learned: Please don't give up! Keep trying and keep working at it. Search until you find the answers. Get to work. Even if it will take years, don't let that discourage you from reaching your goal. A year will go by, and you'll be like "I'm so glad I started working on this for an hour each day a year ago, because now I'm done!" Remember to be realistic and weigh the benefits. Be aware of what your capabilities are and don't bet a million bucks on something you know is not worth a tenth of that.  But please be believing of what you know you can do. Encourage yourself.  And most of all, whether it's getting into a nursing program, or creating and publishing your first children's book, don't listen to any of those voices saying you can't do it. Just listen to God, and listen to your heart.

Now I better go push that"approve" button already. Wish me luck!

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