The Road to A Calling Is Rarely A Straight Line
My guest this week is Chrysa Smith, one of those very special people who write books for children.
by Chrysa Smith
You never know where writing is going to take you. This is what I tell students during my elementary school author visits. It might sound like some vague, empty-worded statement. But I can honestly say that it’s been tried and true for me, as I’ve spent the better part of the past three decades just ‘going’ where the road has taken me. And it’s all been due to a series of seemingly unrelated events that had something to do with writing.
The love for stringing words together came early. An essay contest in 8th grade won me some nice accolades, and I think it was then, that the light bulb went off and it may have been the first time I realized that I was really pretty good at something, other than kick ball and jumping rope. And it continued, through those blue book essay tests, a stint as my high school newspaper editor and some well-written college papers. Yet I never fancied myself a writer.
So, I majored in business; the thing to do in the 80’s. And I did learn some very useful skills–time management, marketing which as most writers know, is invaluable. And a little about finance, which I’m sure should have come with a minor in chutzpah, since I always want to be ‘nice’ when discussing my fees (ok, Catholic school girl guilt, but that’s another story altogether).
The jobs came in marketing and sales promotion. But my first gig landed me right back in a communications role as layoffs benefitted me in picking up the role of one of those less fortunate. And again, accolades came from my peers where writing was concerned. Yet again, I never fancied myself a writer. But the next gig was at a magazine, but back in a marketing role. Yet once more, I benefitted from my writing skills and was eventually promoted to Business Editor. But I still didn’t fancy myself a writer.
So I wound up in another sales promotional role in a very corporate environment, but was drawn to writing copy. And it was then that my second light bulb went off, and I realized that I might really desire a career in writing. It’s good that I was such a quick study, huh? So I left for a freelance writing career, but it was once more on the corporate side. And I can honestly say that I had little interest in the topics, even if the money was pretty good. So an entry into the magazine biz finally afforded me some very interesting assignments—speaking to international chefs, trips to resorts, fashion showrooms, ice cream parlors, trade shows. The pay wasn’t great, but I should have been more gracious when I look at today’s ridiculously insulting pay rates for a skill not shared by a large portion of the population.
So with technology, for me, there went the magazine business and I was left to figure out what the next trick would be. And it was then, with not much on my plate, that I began observing my dogs—-taking me back to my opening statement. When I looked around, there were some pretty funny events happening in my house, but I never really noticed. My pets always gave me joy, but they began to tickle me. So, hey, what about capturing their antics on paper? It would be fun to finally try a hand at fiction. But mostly, it was just for my own jollies.
I now knew I was a writer, but not a fiction writer. So I took some classes and was encouraged. I showed my work to some elementary school teachers and librarians and was encouraged. I got a further lesson in the rules that applied to children’s writing (loosely) and I went off on my own, having all that corporate marketing and sale promotion experience behind me, to go out on my own and take a ride with The Adventures of the Poodle Posse. That decision has led to a four book series, with over 8000 books sold (ok, not setting the world on fire, but not bad for a self-published, self-marketed set of juvenile fiction). But more importantly, I’ve found my calling.
As much, if not more than writing itself, I love the teaching–the visits. I love it when kids are mesmerized by my presentations, when the lightbulb goes off in their head, when they start furiously writing their own stories. I’m a writer. And finally, I can say it with my head held high. My life has let me tell the stories all around me. And even if my pockets aren’t as nourished as my sense of accomplishment and internal reward, know what? That’s my story.
And a great story it is. Thanks for sharing, Chrysa. I can’t think of a calling more noble than inspiring kids to express themselves with words.