Article first published in April 3 issue of Writer's Weekly.com
Reprinted in Absolute Write, September 15, 2004
Someone Moved the Goal Posts
(@) 2002 Elaine Ingalls Hogg
It was a private dream and I'd had it since childhood. Over the years several friends encouraged me to pursue it. Their words watered the seed, dormant for so many years but there were still a number of obstacles to overcome. Perhaps the main one was my lack of conviction that the dream was really attainable. I had no trouble encouraging my friends to believe their dreams would come true but I did have a problem believing in mine.
When the lights were off at night and I lay listening to the darkness, I'd think about my dream. I wanted to be an author. Alone with my thoughts, I'd think about the kind of story I'd write someday but when morning came, the duties of the day pushed aside those thoughts and nothing appeared on paper. One morning I was thinking about how I had always enjoyed telling stories to children. Thats what I should do, write stories and tell them to children. Your own children are adults and you havent told stories for years, my inner voice reminded me. But this time I didnt listen for long. Before my feet touched the floor, I made my decision, "I'll never know until I try," and I set out to do just that.
About this time I made a visit my grandchildren. When I went to leave them after tucking them in for the night, they asked me to put on their tape. It was then I discovered the tape they listened to every night before going to sleep was Grandma Loves You, a story I had written for them. In the morning, the oldest grandchild told me she needed more stories. So that night I sat up late and wrote a story about my mischievous dog, Ben Nevis. Now it was time to try the stories out on a wider audience so I volunteered to do a story day at the local library.
When I was introduced at the library two weeks later, I can't say that I was prepared for the sea of fifty-six little faces milling about before me. "There's such a wide gap in their ages! How will I keep them entertained?" the thoughts ran through my mind. Well, you don't have time to figure it out, If you don't start now they'll be climbing the bookshelves. I took a big breath and began. Aidan Alexander had one wish. When he woke up in the morning he said, "I wish," but his mother said, "Shhh! I know what you are wishing and you can't have it! But Aidan Alexander wished his wish every morning. He wished his wish when he went to school and he wished his wish when he went to bed at night. Aidan Alexander said, "I wish I had a real live wiggly puppy."
The room became quiet. I had their attention and for the next hour I told stories. The children smiled when Aidan brought home a fluffy white dog named Ben Nevis for a visit. They held their breath when Ben chased the cat and knocked over Mrs. Alexander's plant. They laughed at the white dog with one ear up and one ear down wearing green plants and brown mud in his fur and they gasped when Mrs. Alexander scolded him and told Aidan she didn't want a messy dog in her clean house. To me, the hour was like magic.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed someone was snapping pictures. Later I learned there was a reporter in the audience and she had decided to do an article about the Grandma who was taking up a new career. I think the day I read the article in our provincial paper, I became a tiny bit suspicious that this decision to try to write just might go further than I had expected.
Being totally na´ve about how to become an author came in handy. Back then I thought all I had to do next was contact a publisher; they would assign an editor to make sure my spelling was correct and viola, I would be a real author with a book. I had a lot to learn. The first lesson came when a rather abrupt publisher told me they had more to do than theyd ever get done and I wasn't to bother them again. Oooh! Ill try someone else. The next person was kind enough to offer to look at the story and sent back a few words of guidance and encouragement, but they too were busy. In the meantime, there had been a second invitation to visit the local library and a two-page spread in our local paper, as well as invitations to tell stories in local classrooms. But still no publisher wanting my words and definitely no book.
After some reflection on the events to this point I decided to publish a book myself. Living in a rural area and having no prior experience in writing in publishing, the mistakes compounded. I wasn't fully aware of my resources. God bless my library and local bookstore but at that time I hadn't met any other authors; I wasn't aware of the various Writer's Federations; the self-publishing societies and was totally Internet challenged. But I had a dream and I had promised myself to pursue it, so I did.
Being inexperienced in the field, I continued to make mistakes. My biggest was when I trusted a printer to know how to publish a book and didn't get everything he promised written down on paper and signed. (I stood up to him and eventually did receive satisfaction and my 500 books are sold out of their first printing.) Another mistake was not being prepared for the fact that most bookstores want a 40% mark up plus the right to return any copies not purchased.
These oversights and others, such as having no marketing plan in place, was a clear recipe for disaster. However, sometimes the truly na´ve are protected and I believe that I was in that category. The very day my self-published book came back from the publisher was the day that CBC radio had arranged to come for an interview and a taping of a story time I was giving for the local Historical Society. This publicity, support from family, friends, the local library, several small schools in the out lying areas, our bookstore, local papers and radio all made links that formed the chain of events that lead me to take the next step.
When I look back over the past four years, I have to admit my first dream has already come true and now there is a new dream. For I have had various articles published in books and magazines and a publisher accepted and published my second book to help parents talk to their children when death visits their home. But like my brother said, when I was dreaming, someone forgot to tell me that once you accomplish one dream, someone moves the goal posts. Today, four years later I still have a dream; to have another book published, to finish my novel, and to tell more stories to children.