It was a dream that started when I was just six years old after reading Roald Dahl's BFG for the first time. Lots of girls dreamed of their weddings. Others dreamed of being mommies. But me? I dreamed of writing books.
I used to lock myself in my room, staple paper together, write stories, and draw pictures. For hours. Day after day. Reading. Writing. Drawing. My family was essentially my first critique group.
As a third grader, my teacher Ms. Weiss always gave me 10 sheets of paper during creative writing instead of the four she gave everyone else. She'd learned early on that it was easier to just give it to me ahead of time rather then me keep asking for more.
As for the rest of my "writing/growing-up years," it went something like this: Language Arts student of the year. Yearbook editor and newspaper reporter. English Major with emphasis in Children's Literature. Poetry magazine staff. Part-time marketing assistant for the University Press.
Eventually I had the wedding and became a mommy -- dreams I discovered I had after all. But while this odd resume of sorts might sound like I'm desperate for words of affirmation (they are my love language, but NO), my point is this: I have always been a writer, even built my career on it, but it took me almost 30 years to be able to say that.
It also took getting diagnosed with cancer to jolt me into finally taking my lifelong dream seriously.
Yep, cancer. You read that right. On my 33rd birthday nonetheless.
I was dismayed at the thought of never giving my dream of writing children's books a solid chance and then leaving this earth without knowing if I could have done it.
So I took the chance.
I joined SCBWI thanks to the advice of talented and gracious author/illustrator friends. I joined a critique group. I attended conferences. And with each of those opportunities -- rejections included -- I learned more about my writing style, the industry, the craft, and the stories that I had in me that needed to be told.
Over the years, the feedback grew more positive. Mentors took me under their wings. I published a few non-fiction children's books. I entered some contests. I won! I won again! And though there will always be rejection, and I will always be learning, I will also always keep dreaming and always keep working.
As cliché as it is, life is too short. I know that for a fact. And I hope that whatever might still be on your list of lifelong dreams to pursue, you give them a solid chance.
Dream BIG. Work HARD. And always, always be GRATEFUL.
Your dreams are worth it. And so are you.
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