It always amazes me how the lessons I learn from riding horses so easily transfer to other areas of my life. It is particularly easy to find parallels between riding and writing, for both have a harsh way of humbling their participants.
Here is an example that is still painfully fresh in my memory. Last night, I went to the barn for my semi-weekly riding lesson and rode a beautiful, athletic mare I have never ridden before. I was excited because this horse is not suitable for beginner, or even intermediate, riders. The mere fact that my riding instructor thought that I was capable of riding her made me smile from ear to ear. Ive made it!, I thought to myself while happily trotting her around the ring. I started to notice the mare picking up speed. I tried to keep her speed her consistent, but she was so different from the docile horse that I am used to riding. When we started jumping, the problem became even more pronounced. SLOW HER DOWN! my instructor yelled over and over again. I tried everything I have learned over the years to slow down a horse: I circled, I sat back, I said whoa!, and I pulled the reins until I had blisters on my hands. The mare galloped faster. A small crowd of people gathered to watch the spectacle. Just when I was on the brink of tears, something clicked and I was able to calm her down. I was lucky I did not fall off, like the rider in the photo, but Ive definitely been there before too! Through the ordeal, I realized I still have plenty to learn. A part of me wanted to quit after last nights disaster. My confidence was bruised and my muscles have never been so sore, but Im going back in a few days to ride the mare again. It is the only way to become a better rider.
Ive had plenty of similar experiences with my writing. On numerous occasions, Ive spent months writing and revising a story until it is perfectonly to have it ripped to shreds by my critique group or rejected by a publisher. But this is the process (sometimes more painful than being thrown from a horse and landing on the ground with a mouthful of dirt) that leads to better writing.
Has the story you thought was perfect been rejected? Get back in the proverbial (or actual) saddle and dont give up. And always remember this piece of cowboy wisdom: Keep calm. Keep confident. Keep going. Not surprisingly, this applies to both riding and writing.
Now please excuse me while I take some Advil.
Not surprisingly, Im always looking for quality picture books to read to my kids. Ive found a great resource in childrens author Susanna Leonard Hills blog segment, Perfect Picture Book Fridays. Every Friday, she provides a glimpse into a favorite picture book. She assures us these are books we wont regret lugging home from the library or spending our hard-earned money on. All of her past picks are also listed by category, so it is easy to browse for a specific topic. I highly recommend checking it out next time you are looking for that perfect picture book.
In honor of Perfect Picture Book Friday, Id like to tell you about one of my personal favorites, SILLY DOGGY!, by Adam Stower. (April 1, 2012, Orchard Books). I often try to emulate the style of this book when writing. Reading SILLY DOGGY! always reminds me to leave room for pictures in my own writing. It is a great example of a picture book that tells at least half the story through the illustrations. I realize Adam Stower is an author/illustrator who did not have to relinquish control of his vision to an unknown illustrator. Nevertheless, he does a brilliant job of telling the story and conveying humor through the use of adorable pictures. My kids and I never tire of reading this one, which makes it perfect in my book!
Do you have a perfect picture book? Or a picture book that has helped improve your writing? Please share!
Amazon.com Description of SILLY DOGGY!:
Join Lily and her brand new pet a lost, loveable, and very large bear that she mistakes as a doggy- as they share a fantastic day together.
When Lily looks out of her bedroom window, she finds the best surprise ever: her very own lost dog! But this is no normal puppy, this is actually a lost, lovable bear! Nevertheless, Lily and Doggy quickly become fast friends. Sure Doggy doesnt eat his dog food, cant do any dog tricks, and never ever does what Lily tells him, but this rambunctious pup still steals Lilys
However, Lilys mommy knows that every lost dog has a home of their own with people who miss them dearly. So Lily creates a Found Dog poster about their fantastic day together. But what happens if someone actually claims Doggy?
I am excited that March has arrived and not just because Spring is on the horizon. As you probably know, March is Reading Month! I volunteer at my sons elementary school to bring in guest readers from around the community once a month (and once a week in March.) I love to watch the kids faces when they see some of our local celebrities sit down to read them a few favorite picture books. Today, our towns Chief of Police was the guest reader. He read the 1996 Caldecott Medal Book, Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathmann and the kids LOVED it!
The Chief of Police seemed to be enjoying himself too. He told the kids how he used to read this book to his girls when they were young. His story revealed all of the meaning and memories this picture book held for him, not to mention his daughters who are now in college. I love seeing the power of the picture book in action. It is a reminder of what I strive for as a writer.
And one more great thing about March: Happy Birthday, Dr. Suess! Im sure he would love to know there is a whole new generation of fans that love to rhyme one-syllable silly words. My 5 year-old son is no exception!
Ill leave you with one of my favorite Dr. Suess quotes:
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. Youre on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one wholl decide where to go” Dr. Suess, Oh, The Places Youll Go!