Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sailing the High Seas of the Publishing World

The following is an excerpt from a talk that I gave at the SCBWI-LA Writer’s Day in 2006.

I know almost nothing about sailing and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been on a sailboat. But one thing that has always fascinated me is how boats manage to sail against the wind. It’s easy to see how one sails with the wind–you simply stick out your sail and the wind pushes you forward. But how do you get back where you came from–or how do you reach a destination that is in the opposite direction?
The answer is that you tack. You sail across the wind in a zigzag pattern. You reach your goal by aiming elsewhere. And sometimes, as you are zigging and zagging, you make new discoveries along the way, like the ancient Polynesian navigators who sailed in one direction from their homeland in central Polynesia and found Hawaii, and went in the other direction and discovered a tiny speck of land now called Easter Island, or Rapanui.
Tacking against the wind also has its application in writing.  Whether one is an already published writer or hoping to be published, the most direct route to your next book may be to change your course and try something new. It could be something fairly simple such as changing your point of view or writing for a different age group, or it could be a more drastic change such as adopting a while new format or genre.

Today, nearly ten years after I gave that talk, the publishing world continues to evolve. The key is to evolve along with it, while staying true to yourself.

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