I like to think of myself as many things. Some of them are irrefutable. I am a mother. I am a teacher. These are simple facts. I have a son, therefore I am a mother. I go to work each day and spend the day teaching fourth grade students, therefore I am a teacher.
What else am I, though? And how do we verify these different identities?
Lately I’ve been a writer. How does one become a writer? By writing, some would say, but many others would say that one becomes a writer only when one’s writing has been published. Even that definition isn’t sufficient for many people. I’ve heard the argument that in order to be considered a writer one must be published and paid for one’s writing.
Well, I do write. And I have been published. I publish here, in my own little corner of the internet, regularly. Nobody pays me for it, though. I’ve also been published on other websites, like Scary Mommy and Education Week. Again, no money in that, but to me it’s still pretty cool.
I have actually been paid to write. Not much, but I’ve submitted tips to a teaching publication that have been published and I’ve been compensated for them. I also designed a fish quilt that not only made it to the cover of Quiltmaker, a well-known quilting publication (it’s an inset photo, but hey, it’s still on the cover), and the design was turned into a kit complete with gorgeous watery indigo fabrics and magentas and purples for the fish. I was paid for that too, not much, but still they cut me a check. That one, however, wasn’t really a writing win, even though I was published.
I’ve been writing for NaNoWriMo, too. I finished a manuscript during NaNoWriMo in 2013, and I’ve been revising it with help from my critique group (another thing real writers do, I’m told). Now I’m into a new one story, about a young English teacher who needs to solve a mystery that threatens the security she’s found amongst the quilters she meets in a small town. See what I did there? Teaching, quilting, things I know and like.
I also teach writing. I teach it to my fourth graders, sure, but I’ve been teaching it in the summer too, for the past three years. Kids from seven to seventeen have come to these camps, and working with them as they explore the creative side of writing has been such a privilege for me. We’re not focused on grammar, structure, or spelling in these camps. We’re focused on imagination, empowerment, and risk-taking. We’re helping kids to develop their voices through their writing, whether in a poem about a leaf or an ode to their dog or a comic about super heroes and villains or an introspective look at their own strengths.
This type of writing is so powerful for kids that I’ve begun an after-school creative writing club at my school that is well attended. Both boys and girls come in to write and share their writing, blasting the stereotype we sometimes hear that “writing is for girls.” I’m sure Stephen King, James Patterson, Dav Pilkey, Neil Gaiman, Alberto Ríos, and many others would disagree.
So yes, I’m a writer, even though you won’t see anything I’ve done on the shelves at Barnes & Noble and if you search me on Amazon you’ll come up empty. I’ll keep at it, though, and maybe someday you will see my work there. Maybe someday soon.