Last year was my most successful writing year to date: I got an agent, my picture book biography Cixi, The Dragon Empress was released by Goosebottom Books, four of my ten-minute plays were produced in Los Angeles, Santa Rosa, Guerneville, and Sydney, Australia (one was accepted for production at the Short+Sweet Festival in Singapore if the festival itself hadn't been cancelled at the last minute), I had an article published in Faces magazine, signed a contract to write Sacajawea of the Shoshone for Goosebottom Books, due out in Oct. 2012, and sold a picture book manuscript, Goldy Luck and the Three Chans, to Charlesbridge Publishing (pub. date Jan. 2014). But I certainly didn't make enough money to support myself as a writer.
This all leads me to thinking: what does it take to be a successful writer? Okay, we've already ruled out money, obviously. My friend, YA novelist Jody Gehrman, and I recently discussed how the yardstick for writing success keeps moving up. First, you want to be published; then you'll really feel success if you had more than one book published; next, if you make more money than you spend as a writer; then if you make enough money to support yourself as a full-time writer. When you finally get there, the yardstick will probably move again. You'll really feel like you've arrived if a publisher will offer you a multi-book deal. Then what? The Newberry?
Face it folks, we're not in it for the money, right? We write, and we write for children, because we love the process, the journey. It's a hard, long road. Whether it's on a magazine article, a play program or a book, the thrill of seeing our name in print and sharing our stories is why we do this. The J.K. Rowlings of the writing world are few and very far between. Success in whatever form requires hard work, perseverance, a willingness to be open to feedback and to spend countless hours revising to polish that manuscript. The writing life isn't for the faint of heart. Laura Backes, publisher of Children's Book Insider, has a great article on The Mindset of the Successful Author.
So, relish in the journey, and may the Muse be with you!