Thursday, September 16, 2010

Am I for real?

Last week, when I sat down with my son’s teacher to discuss the upcoming year, I mentioned that since I worked from home, I was available to help in the classroom if she ever needed it. “What do you do?” she asked. “I’m a writer,” I replied, cringing a little because I feel like I’m lying when I say this. Her eyes lit up. “Really? That’s excellent. We’re doing a whole unit on authors and writing right now! Maybe you could come talk to the class?” And even though I felt like a total fraud, I said I would.
Am I scared? Hell, yes.
Not only do I have to control twenty 3rd graders for thirty minutes, but I have to face that room full of nine-year-olds and act like I’ve got some reason for being there. I feel like I’ve got to prove to them and the teacher that I’m legit.
Sure, I’m a core contributor of fiction for a magazine and I do some non-fiction content development (and these things help pay the bills), but so far, the book thing hasn’t happened. And for some reason, I find it difficult to believe I’m a real writer in the world’s eyes because I don’t have the agent, the book deal, the name recognition. In fact, I've stopped mentioning that I'm working on a novel because I don't want to deal with the "When's your book being published?" issue.
So my question is this – when does a writer become a “real” writer? When you get paid for something? The first time you get something published? When you quit your job to write full time? When you make sacrifices so that you can write?
Do you tell people you are a writer? What's the reaction?
And on another note, if you have any suggestions for my 3rd grade debut next week, I’d love to hear them. I plan on showing a photo prompt, and then going around the room letting them take turns giving me characters, setting, problem (conflict), the events, and the solution. When we’re done, I’ll read their story back to them. Thoughts?


  1. I don't tell people I'm a writer. Ever. However, if you believe you're a writer then you are. You write, you're a writer.

    I would focus on one thing. Maybe characters because they're young. I think the prompt thing is good.


  2. Sounds like you've got it covered! What a great idea, be careful or you will have all the teachers asking for you!

  3. i was going to suggest what you said, but you have ity all down just go out there and be your amazing self. I'd say you are in the publishing system now so you are a writer.

  4. What a world we live in that in order to take on the description of something you are it must be legitimized by someone else. If you like to jog, does someone else have to validate you in order for you to call yourself a jogger?

    But I know what you mean. If I've mention I'm learning to write fiction and am asked if I've been published and I say I have not, you can see the look in the asker's face.

    But you are a writer ... You've also been published. You're no fraud. I've found that writing is as much about the experience as it is with the end result.

    Great ideas for the class. The kids will love hearing a story they helped develop.

  5. Thanks for the comments -- I appreciate the boost you all are giving me. Actually, being a member of this writer community is what makes me feel like a writer. So don't worry...this wasn't me fishing for reassurance (although the post title does make it sound that way -- sorry).

    I'm more curious as to whether you tell people you are a writer. Or how you feel about yourself as a writer. As Weaving says, how sad it is that we feel like we are not legit without some kind of financial seal of approval.

  6. I've never had a problem telling people I was a writer... even when I wasn't writing. Bah-ha! But seriously. I started not feeling awkward or embarrassed about it after I was writing on a regular basis (25+hrs/week, like a part time job) and even more so when I started producing/finishing/submitting/publishing pieces. The discomfort was only there when I would write for a week and then not write again for another 8 months. You know what they say... A writer writes. :)

  7. LOL! Girl, this same thing happened to me only it was with a KG class! Buncha glazed-eyed five year olds... Of course, that was talking about my job as a *newspaper* writer, which is sort of on the way out... :D

    Bring a book like Junie B. Jones or something and show it to them. Visuals are great--and you'd be surprised. I am suddenly on my 3rd grader's radar since I started trying to write *books.*

    News features, not so much. :D

  8. You're a writer.

    No, really, you are. If you write "seriously" - whether for yourself or for publication - and you work at it, that means you're a writer.

    Of course, it's always easier to tell people that. I myself don't say "I'm a writer", because I'm a teenager and saying that makes me feel weird and uncomfortable and makes me sound arrogant. Because of that, I usually stick to "I write".

  9. I agree with all the above. When you finally feel you are a writer you are. My mom taught 5th grade for a long time. When she talked about writing, she would walk them though the steps of writing a story, they could illustrate it if they wanted, and then they would "bind" them.

    By the end of the unit they were published authors. They would make a couple of copies and then they could swap with the other authors in the class.

    When are you doing the class? I can ask her how she did the books. I've seen them and they look like real hardbound books. You can email me at if you want me to call her.

    Good luck!

  10. I was asked to speak in front of my kidlet's class last year, but timing didn't work out. (Thank goodness) LOL

    Good luck!

  11. Of course you're a writer - own it. If you said you were a published author when you weren't, that's a different story. And you know more than you think - certainly more than nine-year-olds. Good luck!

  12. Oh, I feel your pain! I'm always afraid to tell people for the same reason, I've no physical proof (for them) that I'm a writer.

    You'll do great with your son's class, I've no doubt. Have a great day!