By Beth Navarro, Children’s book author
I’ve always kept my eye on the prize. The end game. The ultimate success. I keep my eye way out there. Fortunately, and by accident, my eyes were diverted to the side of my path and my narrow view widened. Big.
I want the huge book deals. I want a world-wide audience. I want financial freedom and writing to be my one and only job. And I’m moving closer and closer to that. My first picture book, Grambo, came out last year. Another is on the horizon and I’m working on a young adult novel I’m really excited about. I am laser focused on my end game.
“Hi! I have a question. Can you tell me why you like writing?”
A boy asked me this after one of my first book signings. The boy had eager eyes. Listening. Curious. Laser focused. And it hit me: I need to pay attention. My own laser focus was giving me blinders. And when that boy asked that question, the blinders fell to the ground. What I really wanted was happening now.
The kids, the story’s impact, the absolute joy in writing. It’s all happening now. Success looks different than I thought. There are all this successes along the way I never imagined. And you have to pay attention. They are there. The impact my stories would have is the collateral blessing on my way to my big goals. That is the real end game.
Do I still want to publish more stories with big publishing houses and get a wider audience? Absolutely. Did I know the road there would be paved with so much success? No. Not having everything I want in my career yet should not take away from the success that is happening right now. The journey truly is the success. I’d heard that before. I always thought, “Yeah, yeah. Whatever. I want the result.” But I finally got it. I was missing out. There is not one big prize. There are many prizes. I don’t want to be so focused on the result that I miss them.
Because of this I speak to kids in their classrooms whenever I get a chance. And the drive and passion for connecting with kids deepens with every visit. A friend of mine, who is a teacher, told me about a kid in her class whose parent plainly didn’t believe in this child. The parent had given up on his own kid. My heart hurt. I speak to all kids, but that kid is who I think about when I go to classrooms. I believe. I hope they feel that. I visit classes in person when I can (I just spoke with a fabulous fourth grade in Beverly Hills!) or through Skype. I got involved with Skype In the Classroom and have done many classrooms visits through them. In the last month I’ve talked with a kindergarten class of kids from military families in Texas, a third grade in Kansas and eleven year olds in Pakistan. Stories connect people. Everywhere. Talking to kids all over the world I have found that kids are kids. Period. The kids in Pakistan asked: “Do you have kids? What do you like to do in your free time? What sports do you like? Come visit us in person!” It wasn’t until I went to bed and they went to recess that I remembered they were 10,000 miles away in a different country. Kids are kids.
In my classroom visits, I talk about my writing journey. I talk about how writing is not easy for me all the time, and how finding your thing, weather it be writing, video games or soccer etc., is important. And it doesn’t have to be something you are good at right away. You can always practice and get better. It’s about doing something you love. I also love to tell them about Tiny Notebooks. Big stories come from small ideas. Write down your ideas. Write about anything. Writing is freeing. Then we make a tiny notebook from a single piece of paper.
Q: “Why is the beginning so easy and middle so hard?”
A: Oh the mushy middle. I feel you! You aren’t alone in this. The middle is hard for me because there is where you have to put your character through a lot to get to where they need to go. Keep going. Write it wrong. You can always go back and fix it.
Q: “How old are you?”
A: How old do you think I am?.....
……“Older. At least twenty.”
Q: “What are your favorite books to read over and over again?”
A: The Harry Potter Series. Hands down. Don’t you want to go back to Hogwarts? (This always brings some cheers.)
Q: “What is the better writing or reading?”
A: Is this a trick question? I can’t decide. For me they go hand in hand. You have to be a reader if you want to be a writer.
Q: “You are so cool!”
A: Thank you!
Not a question, but a kid called ME cool. That is pretty awesome.
Q: “What is your favorite thing about being a writer?”
A: Well this is my favorite part. You and you and you. Meeting readers. Talking to kids about stories. It is absolutely my favorite part. And that’s no exaggeration.