Just out of college, I published with a very small religious press, two books. They were, in a word or two, stunningly dreadful, but I was, as I said, just out of college, and not brilliant at anything but being twenty-one and regurgitating facts to get grades. I was lacking life experience, but what I had, I was (alarmingly) willing to share. These books were rather moral-of-the-story tales where everyone was either safely and stultifying good or they were bad and justly punished, and all lived happily ever after. I like to think they weren't that predictable, but I know for sure the narrator's voice was wrong -- the wrong character was speaking because I was too fearful to let the boldest character take over the story; too afraid to let things get that out of control. (This is a tendency I hope to avoid in the future!)
I remember just after the books were released having an acquaintance ask "Don't you want to write something else? I mean, something better than just writing for kids?" To his mind, the combination of publishing both a slightly religious book and a book for children was just the kiss of death. I mean, no Nobel Prizes here, no borrowed glory in which he might bask. I was, of course, offended...
But then the idea took hold. Couldn't I do better than this? Shouldn't I? Were series the thing? Didn't Little House get read forever? What about Make Way for Ducklings or Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. Shouldn't I be writing a Classic?
The books faded quietly out of print, and after a bit more life and a bit more school and a lot more practice and thinking, I've got another chance.
Now Read Roger has asked The Question again: "Is there a mountain a writer is expected to climb? Do you feel the need to write a Big Book?"
What is a Big Book? Catcher in the Rye, which I kind of hate? Or something close to Judy Blume's Forever? Do we have to write The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? Something that gets film optioned or picked up by a television studio? What does "Big Book" mean to you? A series? An award-winner?
I could wimp out and say that I'm too new to the game to have any answers but all I can say for sure is that no matter the metaphorical size of the book, the fact that I'm able to share what I write is still a gift. Sure, I want to sell books, justify my school bills and all, maybe even one day write a Big Book, some Magnum Opus that garners me a National Book Award and a lot of flashbulbs, but in all honesty, the idea of that gives me hives. The gift to me is the ability to write -- that someone is allowing me publication is still a major thrill. I'll worry about Big Books -- the next Chris Crutcher/Rob Thomas/Catcher in the Rye/Forever amalgamation -- maybe next week...
'Til further notice,
From where I'm standing,
My grass is green.