Disappointed, plus some birds.

I went to a lecture by some published children's and young adult book authors. I was so disheartened and discouraged by the end of the 50 minutes that I actually shed a real tear on the way home. It wasn't a wah wah tear, just one that made me realize how much I do care and believe in art and writing as a way of shaping the world for good. It was more in the way that I get emotional way too easily and I can't help it, I am a watery-eyer (you should ask my cousin about watching the Biggest Loser every Tuesday together). Luckily, I don't think Carl noticed the pauses mid-sentence or the brisk wind in my eye.

In this lecture, nothing about artistic merit or quality work was even close to mentioned. Rather, the discussion revolved around the fact that you don't have to write anything of value, or be a good artist or writer to publish, you just have to know how to play the game right. And contributing something new? something not done or a piece of work that might really make people think? Don't even consider it. The publishers want something "new and fresh", but that's already been done before. No boundary pushing. You won't get anywhere that way.

Don't we want our kids to think hard and question? Don't we want the parents who have to read the books to children to also think and be uplifted by what they are taking into their home. The books I read as a kid literally shaped my view of the world; Roald Dahl, Rudyard Kipling, Strega Nona, The Eleventh Hour, Blueberries for Sal, Beatrix Potter, the old Winnie the Pooh, Beverly Cleary, a rather extensive list could continue.

I am so grateful for my parents and grandparents for having good books and for reading them to us, or for sometimes not reading them to us, but just looking with us. Bless especially my mom for taking us to the library every single week, sometimes with bags of books so big it took two of us to carry them to the car. In the lecture today, there was not one comment about the purpose of children's literature or the possibility it has to make the world a better place.

Granted, the people speaking were successful in the business, and I imagine that they do care about their craft, and they are correct about many things, but I feel like it was not the place for me, I wouldn't be successful in that arena. They were nice people and I think given a different context, I would have a lot to learn from them, but the overall picture was hard to swallow. So where does that leave me? I've been thinking about it all day. I think I may just self-publish a small run of books and do a book tour of sorts. I would rather 500 people receive a book that means something to them than make a bunch of money that I don't feel is my honest effort or intention. Does this sound totally snobby? I hope not. I think it might. I was just so sad to realize that one of the areas in which I felt that creativity and intellect were valued over making tons of money was actually not so. (that is not to say that i have all the creativity and intellect, just that I hope to challenge myself in that direction). So this has turned into a bit of a rant. I do feel like there are things to learn from understanding the industry, and the professor I met with earlier that spoke a little tiny bit in the lecture was so nice, and I've heard many fantastic things about him, I just feel like I don't know where to start with this project in terms of making things beyond little watercolor paintings. Any suggestions, advice, corrections? In the meantime, here are some birdies.
This cardinal does not want to stay inside and practice the piano. All his friends are playing four square outside.
This bird just bought a new blue mink for the fancy party downtown. She thinks it was perhaps a bit overpriced.
This warbler is sweet and obedient, like a second oldest child.
This blue bird wants another piece of cake please.


Heather said...

I don't see your amazing blue mink bird in the shop...

ashmae said...

I forgot blue mink, but she's there now, poised and ready.

david. said...

it's always disheartening when those in charge are not how you expected them to be.

but that blue bird is just how i imagined him to be.
would someone PLEASE get him another piece of cake?
i would, of course, but i'm at work.

e. del mar said...

I agree with everything here. I decided a long time ago that I would write the most beautiful thing I could. And who cares if I make money.

And I do love your birds. I'd love to have one or two to put in the grandma house.

New Provo said...

Art's essence should cause some tears. I love the warbler.

PS: The tears freely flowed at the b-day party too! You must be closer to Mother Earth than Winnie the Pooh.

ashmae said...

Tod! that comment made me laugh and laugh and laugh. I thought no one saw me get teary-eyed at zack's lovely speech! I'm such a baby!

k. double-u. said...

Oh, oh. I'm proud of you for not wanting to sell out.

If/when your small book tour becomes a reality, please tell me. I'll be first in line and I'll tell everyone I know.

zlb said...

ashmae you stick to your guns girl. who cares about being 'successful', success is measured by the hearts you reach, and your little paintings reach my heart each and every day. so keep doing them. and making little stories about them. and trust me, you will find your audience. don't sell out and don't do it the way 'they' tell you to. xoxo

K8 said...

i get so sick of the commercialism of the so-called "publishing" industry. here's what i believe:

there is always a place for beauty & grace & intelligence & morality & love in this world.

especially when children, art, and words are concerned.

i know it is hard to not be discouraged by the words coming from people who say they know. i am learning (ever-learning) who deserves my trust and confidence when it comes to my art.

when i open HIP (which i will do) trust you me, you'll be getting a series of phone calls. and my kids? they will love your books. and ask me to wait to cry at least until i can finish the story.

britt said...

Seriously, forget all those people who are just trying to play the game, because honesty and truth are what connect to people, and your art and words could do wonders for our ill world.

Brett and I love Biggest Loser, too! This season has been incrayablay (French incredible?).

britt said...

And I love the blue bird that wants more cake.

Lindsey P said...

once my sister caught her 7 year old son crouched on the floor reading by the light of his night light after he was supposed to be asleep. I was so happy when she told me about it because I get so nervouse that there is too much media that distracts from reading, and that the buisness has become to much of an entertainment industry. but i think there will always be a place for people who are inspired by books.

Little Lisa said...

Hey, let's go into childrens' book-making together. I'll write. You illustrate. I'm really good at cliches. Your art will get us noticed.

Whaddya say?

(I am being serious).

lia said...

a. your birds are perfect

b. this is a conversation i would love love love to have with you in person. the conjunction of the world of our ideals and the world of our reality doesn't necessarily meet at one point, and though there may be disappointment embedded in the presentation of one of those points, it can't/must not be everything. does that sound like jibberish? probably.