Friday, April 17, 2015

Fox Cities Book Festival - Linda Sue Park

In the years I was away from the Fox Cities, they started an annual book festival in April. This year's events kicked off a week or so early with a visit from Linda Sue Park, Newbery medal winner and author of many children's books, including "The Single Shard" and the fascinating book she was promoting, "A Long Walk To Water."

Image from

The book is based on the true story of a boy who ran from war in Sudan, becoming one of the "lost boys." He trekked hundreds of miles to Ethiopia, where he lived in a refugee camp for 10 years before going to America. 

Now he is going back with a purpose, to bring water to South Sudan. He chose to go back to his country and live in a hut with no electricity and miles from an iffy water source to bring machinery to drill for clean, safe water. 

I always admired Linda Sue Park's ability to make other countries and cultures accessible with her books. Turns out her presentations are even better. I only wish I had $15K to buy one of these wells to bring clean water to the people of South Sudan. Although if you visit her website, she describes ways to help with The Iron Giraffe Challenge.

Like most authors, she set aside time for questions, describing how it felt to win the Newbery Medal. She explained how every book was special to her and she couldn't pick a favorite. She talked about her inspirations and her passions, like sports. 

Being a Cubs fan helped prepare her for the life of a writer, she said. Following a losing team inspires great confidence and hopefulness at the beginning of the season, only to get your heart broken every year. She compared it to getting rejections after writing a book, then poor sales after first publication, then even poorer sales after second publication. 

These days she is faring better than the Cubs, but she is putting money where her mouth is. Linda Sue Park and her husband sponsored one of those wells in South Sudan. 

I am thankful the Appleton Library arranged this visit, but wish they had arranged for book sales on site. I would have bought "A Long Walk to Water" and had it signed in this rare opportunity with a medal winning novelist. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Walking Old Paths, Seeing Those Same Old Trees

For several years, I was doing a lot of freelance writing. I wrote articles and blog posts for various companies, and I made a pretty good hourly wage that was directed into my PayPal account. I mostly used that money to buy plane tickets and shoes. One of my clients paid for me to attend an international writing conference. It was a good life, but it also had its frustrations.

I got tired of the hustle of finding new work all the time and wanted to spend more of my creative energies on writing fiction, so I accepted an editing position at a local company that hired remote workers. It was a bit of a paycut if you look at hourly wage, but the work was steady and I still worked at home. I have a 401K, vacation time and a paycheck that goes to my checking account, which unfortunately goes to groceries and bills rather than Zappos and airlines. 

I had thought I would freelance on the side, but I haven't, until now. 

I've been getting emails from one of my old haunts. They are making changes for writers. I wonder if they are making things easier, better, taking out the hustle, perhaps. I still have accounts at several hubs for work, and picked up an article that I was particularly passionate about. 

I spent a Saturday afternoon writing this article that should have taken me less than an hour. The actual writing and research was easy, it was a subject I know well and had a lot to say. I had to check guidelines that changed in the last two years and find the format for references. I felt completely drained after sending it off, and remembered feeling like that every single day. I waited weeks for that article to be reviewed, which was new. That company used to have a quick turnaround time. After three weeks, I nearly gave up, and then I got an email with a lengthy rewrite request, one that would compromise the integrity of the article. And then I remembered that annoyance too. 

I don't like to burn bridges. I like to keep all doors of opportunity open, in case I need an escape route, but I am pretty certain I won't be opening the freelance writing door again unless an amazing new opportunity falls into my lap. Those old clients were great for me once, but they are not a fit anymore. I've seen those trees, I've walked that path, I remember now why I moved on.