Soon after my 2015 book was released, I made a pilgrimage to one of my very first schools. By that I don’t mean where I attended kindergarten. I visited the school where I first worked. Where I learned—in the trenches— to be a librarian.
Although the neighborhood looked unfamiliar and the streets were busier, once inside what we called the Library Resource Center (LRC), the years melted away.
Could I dig deep into the “Everybody” shelves and uncover a copy of Caps for Sale I read more than once to first graders? Was there a dusty World Book volume bearing my fingerprints lurking in a backroom? Standing in front of kids in every possible shape and color, sitting exactly where I’d first seen their parents’ generation, something seemed very right.
I wasn’t introducing the visiting author. I was the author.
How had this happened?
Although in fifth grade I knew I wanted to be a librarian (I know, geeky kid and proud of it), I also loved to write. I was blessed with teachers who encouraged me to read, parents and grandparents who were storytellers, and librarians who inspired me. When I was in fourth grade, I won our newspaper’s poetry contest. In high school, I was an editor for the school newspaper. Childhood diaries and recent journals have trailed me from one state to another.
But a book? I never dreamed I could write a book! A book was what I opened with the tenderest of care, unpacking new boxes full at the beginning of each school year, stamping them, covering them, shelving them. A book was big time.
I had no clue how to begin.
I did have a dream though. And I had role model books. Mentor texts. Once I dissected my favorite middle-grade novels set in the South— books like Because of Winn-Dixie, Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia, Missing May, Shiloh— I understood how a setting that was such a part of me might intrigue kids, too.
Could my own experiences with Freedom Summer and my own childhood in a small Mississippi town be a story worth telling?
I left the library world.
I joined SCBWI and a critique group.
I took a class and a workshop or two.
Bird by bird, right?
One of my favorite bird-by-bird techniques evolved from Kirby Larson’s suggestion to write scene ideas on 3X5 cards.
(I had stacks and stacks— abandoned catalog cards!)
After a while, those cards morphed into Scrivener notes and folders, writing software I dearly love.
And I finished an untidy manuscript: “Junk Poker.” Over the next five years or so, I revised and re-titled it. I sent it around and around and around. When it finally found a home, it had been almost ten years since I’d booktalked or shelved or cataloged a library book.
What did I learn on this journey? Well, first of all, hard work does pay off. Reading many, many books is a good thing. And your name doesn’t have to be on a book to make you a writer. I know now that I was a writer when my teacher posted my poems. I was a writer when a critique partner praised a sentence I’d struggled to perfect.
And seeing that spine label and library stamp on The Way to Stay in Destiny and Glory Be where I’d started my career? Icing on the cake and a cherry on the ice cream. Truly, it doesn’t get any better.
(Posted by Stacey.)
This giveaway is for Augusta Scattergood‘s books, Glory Be and The Way to Stay in Destiny. Many thanks to Scholastic for donating her books for one reader. For a chance to win this copy of Glory Be and The Way to Stay in Destiny, please leave a comment about Augusta’s blog post by Wednesday, May 20th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winner, whose name I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Friday, May 22nd. You must have a USA mailing address to be eligible for this giveaway.
Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, my contact at Scholastic will ship your book out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.) If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – SCATTERGOOD. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.
Comments are now closed. Congratulations to Susan whose commenter number was chosen.
Updated on 5/29/15: I didn’t hear back from the original person whose number I drew so I did another drawing. This time the book will go to wahooteacher.
There were so many things that I appreciated about this post because it has inspired me in so many ways! First, the reminder that the journey to publication takes time is something that is so easy to forget. This sentence also captured my attention: “I understood how a setting that was such a part of me might intrigue kids, too.” The power of the setting cannot be underestimated.