By Meg Bratsch, Free Spirit’s acquisitions manager (and erstwhile editor)
Now is the time of year we start making our summer reading lists and stocking our bookshelves, beach bags, e-readers, and smartphones with hot new titles. But this summer, instead of only reading books, how about trying your hand at writing one?
As a teacher, counselor, youth leader, administrator, or other professional working tirelessly on behalf of kids, you probably have more wisdom, advice, and ideas than you give yourself credit for. Educators always seem to be the first ones to selflessly attribute their ideas to the larger group. But the fact is, you do have unique ideas, and you probably share them willingly and often with colleagues, bosses, parents, and friends, which is wonderful.
And yet, what about that one idea or strategy of yours that you can’t seem to share often enough with enough people—the one you keep returning to again and again, refining, researching, and jotting notes about? Is it enough to keep it within your personal circle, or does it deserve a wider audience? Are you content to blog, Tweet, or Facebook about it, or could it, should it, might it be . . . a book?
You might be thinking:
“But I’m not a writer.”
“I’ve never written a book.”
“Who has time to write a book? Especially during the summer?”
To which I reply:
“Many people—particularly educators and counselors—are more than capable of writing a book, with a little patience and planning.”
“Everyone has to start somewhere.”
“Summer is often the best time to write.”
Picture this: You’re relaxed, stretched out on a lounge chair in the sun, a sweating glass of lemonade at your fingertips. You’re not obsessing over workloads, teaching, conferences, or staff issues.
Still, you can’t stop your mind from turning over those little gems of wisdom you’ve collected over years of helping your young charges—their stories, their successes, their struggles. What worked for them, what didn’t, what you’d do differently next time. You imagine the faces of your colleagues—from a peaceful vantage point now—and recall the invaluable lessons they’ve taught you. You muse over the books you’ve read and presentations you’ve seen that have inspired you so much in your career . . . and where their threads may have left off.
And you grab hold of a thread, adding to it your own ideas. A first line. A second line, a third. Writing is something like knitting, only much easier to fix mistakes. Best of all, it’s yours. Not your colleague’s, not your boss’s, not your student’s or her parent’s. Yours. Your book is a space to liberate your ideas. To play, experiment, build, make messes, and really listen to yourself and respect your thoughts. The process needn’t be stressful; it should, in fact, be sort of fun—especially if you’re writing a book for us!
So what makes a good Free Spirit book? Well, to begin with, it’s friendly. It’s down-to-earth. It’s fresh. It’s hearty. Most of all, it’s “relentlessly practical” (as one of our authors once put it). A Free Spirit book aims to get out there in the world and make an immediate, lasting difference in the lives of kids, teachers, counselors, and youth leaders. It’s dog-eared, bookmarked, written in, creased, coffee-stained, and maybe even (almost!) falling apart . . . never content to sit on a dusty bookshelf in a stuffy office somewhere. And it has a voice. Not a generic “education” voice—an author’s voice. Your voice.
Your Free Spirit book is simply you, talking teacher-to-teacher about a new program or classroom tool, counselor-to-counselor about a unique strategy or approach, adult-to-child about a sensitive issue like bullying, anger, friendship, or hope. You speak with hard-won expertise gleaned from years of research, observations, conversations, and experience.
You involve your readers. You make each one feel as if your book were written for her to sit down with at the end of a draining day at school or the office, or in his bed at night under the covers with a flashlight (kids still do this!). Yes, it’s a lot of work, but, as I hear from my authors continually: “If even a single child’s life is made easier because of my book, it was worth every minute.”
So this summer, remember the sunblock and forget the writer’s block. Kids and the adults in their lives are still reading (on screens, on paper), and they need books to support and inspire them in navigating their world—perhaps now more than ever.
For details about how to submit a book proposal to us, check out our Free Spirit Author Submission Guidelines.
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