Well…I’m a writer.
When I’m conducting writing workshops in public schools, my students seem to think of me more as a teacher than a published author. Online, I don’t talk about my career much, unless I’m peddling titles to raise funds for a cause or something fantastic develops for one of my books. Online, I spend an inordinate amount of time and space showcasing my pets.
I’ve received many new friend requests since Marvelous Mabel, my fourth picture book, and Who Is LeBron James?, my second middle-grade biography, were published in October 2022 and February 2023, respectively. I’ve also been fielding accusatory “I didn’t know you were an author!” messages across my social media, from people who’ve known me for years.
A neighbor kid once came to my house to declare, “You’re famous!” I swelled with pride, thinking said fame was the result of my endless supply of popsicles, animal skeletons, and water balloons, but then the child held out one of my books and asked me to sign it. I’m still more known for my garage lab, my dead aim with a slingshot, and my first aid kit (It’s massive!), but my secret’s out.
I don’t hide that I write. But I probably don’t talk about it as much as I should in terms of growing my “brand.”
Back in olden times, when I’d just left my editing job in the sports department at the Boston Herald, I submitted my first romance novel and my first picture book manuscript to publishers. Both manuscripts were contracted within two days of each other, and both were published in 2005, the romance novel in June and the picture book in September.
I’ve been writing full time since.
I branched into educational text in 2006. Educational text is like a sonnet. There are specific criteria I have to meet and parameters to which I must adhere, but within them, I can do what I want.
In 2013, I ventured into self-publishing. I was living in St. Louis when the Boston Marathon bombing took place, and I so wanted to do something to help the victims. I self-published a book and donated the royalties to a trauma relief fund in Boston. Since then, the royalties from my self-published books have gone to the relief fund, schools, two food pantries, and a veterans organization.
In 2015, the ten-year anniversary of the publication of my first picture book, Catching the Moon: the Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream, actor/director and sports fan Kevin Costner chose it to read aloud for the literacy website StorylineOnline. Mr. Costner’s interest helped the book reach an even wider audience, five million views and still climbing on YouTube.
My writing career came to a standstill when I was diagnosed with a stage IV adenocarcinoma of the colon.
All my published books were written in my former home of Wakefield, Massachusetts, between 11pm and 2am, my designated writing time. The time when the house was quiet and the world seemed to stop, giving me a chance to write about it at my leisure.
Then cancer came along and stopped me.
The space between 11pm and 2am was no longer my writing time. It was the time spent with my arms wrapped around the cool porcelain of my toilet bowl, my cheek pressed to the seat after retching up the yellow acid in my guts. Writing, which had been my therapy, my truest love, my most reliable source of comfort, had been replaced by my toilet.
I had weekly chemotherapy for six months. Treatments were comprised of five-hour infusions at the Cancer Center at Missouri Baptist Medical Center on Fridays followed by a take-home 46-hour infusion I carried everywhere in a fanny pack.
Surviving cancer and taking care of my children took precedence over writing, although I took freelance editing assignments to maintain an income. I became chief editor for a high school sports magazine. I also edited fiction and nonfiction books for New York publishers. I edited for writers whose manuscripts were eventually contracted by publishers.
Cancer was easy compared to its treatment, which left my skin hypersensitive to sunlight. The colon resection to remove the tumor gave me digestion issues that make eating a literal pain. I developed pancreatitis, which led to diabetes. I have neuropathy that pains my limbs and hands, hearing loss in both ears, and my eyesight is wrecked. And my hair just hasn’t been the same after two regrowths.
The chemotherapy that caused so many other issues saved my life. I’m in remission.
Most of the writing I’ve done since cancer has been work for hire. I execute an editor’s assignment. I enjoy the challenge and give my all and best to every project, but I also want to get back to my own writing. I want to regain the mojo that enabled me to fearlessly submit manuscripts of my own creation to editors and publishers.
I miss the urgent love that compelled me to set pen to paper and transfer the worlds in my head to this world right here. It’s been so long, I hope I can pick up where I left off.
Publishing constantly changes, but I reckon one aspect of it won’t. Tell a good story well, and the rest will take care of itself.
So I’ve got a date tonight, between 11pm and 2am!
No…Wait…I live in Central Time now.
I have a date tonight between 10pm and 1am.
I’m a little anxious, but mostly, I’m excited!
Crystal Hubbard is a bestselling and award-winning author of more than thirty titles across several genres. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, she teaches writing workshops to students in grades 2-12 as a volunteer. She is the founder of Mother Hubbard’s Cubbard, which provides groceries to students, senior citizens, and veterans living in food insecure homes. The Cubbard also supplies classroom with needed supplies. (Connect with Crystal on Instagram @crystalhubbardbooks, on Post. at crystalhubbard, on Twitter: @XstalBooks, and on Facebook at Crystal Hubbard Books.)
- This giveaway is for a copy of MARVELOUS MABEL by Crystal Hubbard. Many thanks to Lee & Low for donating a copy of the book to one of our commenters.
- For a chance to win this copy of MARVELOUS MABEL, please leave a comment about this post by Saturday, April 29 at 6:00 p.m. EDT. Stacey Shubitz will use a random number generator to pick the winner, whose name she will announce at the bottom of this post, by Thursday, May 4. You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter the giveaway.
- Please leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so she can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.
- If you are the book winner, Stacey will email you the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – HUBBARD. Please respond to Stacey’s e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.
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Congratulations to Maureen Ingram, who will receive a copy of Crystal’s book.
5 thoughts on “No, Really. I’m a Writer”
This post makes me think of a “conversation” that happened on slice of life posts about reading slumps….and how we can still be a “reader”, even if we have slumps. Your story makes me think about how we can still be a writer, even if there are gaps in our writing life. I have been thinking more about how to talk with students about reading slumps, but hadn’t thought about talking about taking breaks in writing in a similar way. Thank you for sharing your experience and helping me think about how I can help students think about the variety of ways people can hold their identity as a writer.
Love reading your story. I also went through cancer and can say in remission. Your hair is not the same and I’m beginning to believe that’s just fine. Continue writing, as we need authors like you.
My goodness, what a journey you have been on; so glad the cancer is in remission, and that there is a bit of a return to your favorite routine of writing in the middle of the night. It must have been so painfully sad to give up your passion of writing during this time, something that clearly feeds your soul. I am in awe of your night writing, wondering how you function by day (though I totally understand the need for quiet). Thank you for this wonderful insight into the craft of writing – and, also, thank you for your giving work of “Mother Hubbard’s Cubbard”; this is simply beautiful.
Thank you for sharing your story with us. 💗
Bless your heart…the mountains you have conquered. I love that you call your writing time ‘date night.’ I was born and raised in St. Louis, and your Marvelous Mabel cover sent me traveling back to my ice skating days on Creve Coeur Lake every winter when it ‘froze over’ (I don’t think that occurs much any more.) I would flit and glide across the ice as if I were the next Peggy Fleming! I’m glad you were spotlighted this week and will check out more of your books for my grandkids all living up there in your area. 🙂
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