Friday, April 9, 2010

Sandy Asher: Keynote Speaker

Been There, Done That: 40+ Years of Writing for Publication and How Not to Become Rich and Famous with Sandy Asher

Friday night's keynote speaker was author Sandy Asher, of Lancaster, PA, who has written more than two dozen books for children, from picture books to novels, many of which have won awards. Her picture books include TOO MANY FROGS!, WHAT A PARTY!, and HERE COMES GoSLING! Her novels include JUST LIKE JENNY, THINGS ARE SELDOM WHAT THEY SEEM, and MISSING PIECES. Sandy also published more than 200 magazine articles, stories, poems and plays.

Sandy began her speech by sharing the secret formula for becoming rich and famous: Do one thing, do it well, and do it over and over.


Sandy didn't know this rule, and if she had, she probably wouldn't have followed it. Each new project she took on was always unlike the last one--and she enjoyed every minute of it!

There are two kinds of lives we can live, Sandy says, a roller-coaster or a journey. The roller-coaster is thrilling, but predictable. And it's easy to do over again. Just buy the ticket and get in line. The journey, Sandy says, "follows a route we can plan but not fully anticipate." It takes us to new places, where we can learn new things.

Sandy's journey has had it's own ups and downs, but she has enjoyed every minute of it! These are the things she has learned along the way:

REVELATION 1: There's a lot to be said for patience and persistence.

Sandy first realized her desire to write picture books at the age of 14, while reading GOODNIGHT MOON to her little nephew. Her first picture book was published in 1990--her nephew was 34. Her second picture book was published in 2001--her nephew was 45. Her third picture book was published in 2005--her nephew now was the father of two little boys.

REVELATION 2: When editors say what they want, or don't want . . . believe it.

During Sandy's college years, she sent of a poem to a poetry journal without doing any market research. She liked the title of the journal, so she sent it to them. Two months later, the journal bought the publication rights. After this, Sandy marched forward with the naive perception that "this is easy"! By the end of that decade, she had published 1 in 50 pieces submitted.

REVELATION 3: Finding an agent does not guarantee living happily ever after.

In the 1970s, Sandy found a agent for her first YA novel, but after years and years the books not selling, the two decided to part ways. She found another agent, but again no results. Eventually, they too parted ways.

REVELATION 4: If you write successfully, you'll be asked to speak.

It's inevitable, so be prepared for it and decide what you'll do. While speaking at a school in Missouri, a child raised his hand and asked her age.

REVELATION 5: Just keep typing.

In the 90s, big changes came to the publishing industry. Houses were merging. Houses were bought by major corporations. Books became "products" and "units." Manuscripts weren't selling. It felt like the world of publishing was drying up. Sandy decided to find a way to stay in the game. She wrote a few non-fiction books, gathered writers together and published an anthology.

At the turn of the century, Sandy asked herself what she really wanted to do. "Write picture books!" her inner voice said. She published her second and third picture books in the next several years, which were followed by others.

REVELATION 6: Not everyone has to write for publication.

Story-telling tradition has been nearly lost. The histories of our lives and the lives of our family members. These stories should be told, even though they are things that will be published.

REVELATION 7: It's not necessarily the people with the most talent who get there and stay there.

REVELATION 8: Anything that keeps me writing is good; anything that keeps me from writing is evil . . . Avoid the latter.

Enjoy the journey!

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