Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Welcome Back!

 Fall always seems like a new beginning to me. It’s those years spent as a school librarian. New plan books on my immaculate desk. Books lined up, Dewey Decimal numbers in perfect order, outward facing on the very edges of the shelves. Not a missing encyclopedia, not a single computer crash, not a book returned with bubble gum attached to the last chapter.

Then the kids showed up.

To tell the truth, I liked the chaos of the kids a lot better. Oh I know, by week two, the books may have been a tad disarrayed. My prep period and lunch duty were certainly not what they seemed on those first pristine pages of the new plan book. But the kids were excited to see their friends, meet new teachers, read new books. How can you not love that?

That’s a little how I feel now. Excited to begin something new.

So it’s only appropriate that our fearless leader Kathy is greeting us at the front door, showing us off, asking her gang to introduce ourselves like eager third graders ready to please the new teacher.

Actually, I’ve been itching to re-introduce myself, patiently waiting for my classmates in this amazing Southern Authors blog to take their turns. Because this fall, if I had to write that What I Did This Summer essay thing, I’d have more to say than read a few beach books and discovered a great new Italian restaurant (though I did that, too).

If you don’t consider that prizewinning poem published in the Memphis Commercial Appeal when I was ten or my stint as editor of the Cleveland MS High School Newspaper, you might say I’m a late bloomer to the writing thing. For me, writing full time, all the time is a second career. Or a third or fourth if you count lifeguard, doctor’s office assistant, camp counselor, parent volunteer. (All fodder for a great writing life, as John Grisham said so articulately in this recent Labor Day essay: Each year from January through March I was at the State Capitol in Jackson, wasting serious time, but also listening to great storytellers. I took a lot of notes, not knowing why but feeling that, someday, those tales would come in handy.)

Yes, a few of my tales have also come in handy. Isn't that what our Past Lives are all about? Fodder for fiction? Now I write book reviews and the occasional personal essay, but my true love (no surprise!) is kids’ books. More specifically, what we in the business know as Middle Grade Fiction.

So why was this such a spectacular summer? After ten years of writing, rejections, classes, and critiques, I found an agent who loves my story as much as I do. After a few back and forth passes and a lot of help from my writing friends (Thank you, Leslie, Teddie, Sue, Melissa, Janet and Joyce), she took me on as a client. Within a week, my agent had an offer for my book. And now, the most amazing editor I could have imagined has bought my novel.

Although one of my writing buddies loves to say that ten years is about normal for an overnight success, that seems a long time to birth a book. But there’s a lesson here, one that I’ll bet every single writer on this blog understands: Keep Dreaming. Keep composing from those past lives. Surround yourselves with good books and good readers, whether you are eight years old or eighty. Imagine the most unlikely things. Write them down and work hard on revising. Because dreams, fueled with a lot of hard work, do eventually come true. 

Augusta Scattergood lives in Madison, New Jersey and St. Petersburg, Florida. Follow her blog at http://ascattergood.blogspot.com.
Her first middle grade novel is set in a town not unlike her hometown in the Mississippi Delta in 1964. But she made the whole thing up. Honest.


Peggy Webb said...

What a great background for a writer of children's books! You'll have fun working with a great editor. Mine is John Scognamiglio, and he's so brilliant I think he walks on water.

Best of luck with your book!

Anna Michaels said...

Congratulations, Augusta! A first book can be very exciting. I have a debut novel in the works, too, and am thoroughly enjoying working with the wonderful Abby Zidle at Simon & Schuster (Pocket). I think a good editor makes all the difference.

clara Gillow Clark said...

Congratulations, Augusta!Your story is very much like my own. Persistence and hard work do pay off. Looking forward to your book!

Augusta Scattergood said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I do think it helps new writers to understand that publication can take a while, not to mention a whole lot of hard work. I'm still thinking about that Bricklayer image in Susan's post yesterday! (Glad I like hard work and learning new things...)