Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

It’s hard to believe that our blog, I.N.K., is four years old this month, and, as a charter member, I checked the archives and, sure enough, I posted my first contribution on February 6, 2008. So It seems that today I'm launching our anniversary celebration with this post. I want to congratulate I.N.K.'s founder, Linda Salzman, for her courage and perseverance in starting something that has proven to have staying power and real influence in the nonfiction world. For me personally, however, becoming a part of this blog was the beginning of a life-changing experience and I’m not exaggerating. Let me elaborate:

I remember the conversation with Linda when we chatted about my joining her blog. (I think we chatted over the phone but maybe it was by email.) I asked her if it paid anything. She said no. I thought to myself, “No news here” and I immediately responded that I was on board. My marching order for committing to something is:
1. I might learn something.
2. It might lead someplace
3. It pays well.

Two out of three and I do it. I figured that once a month wasn’t that big a chore and I had a backlog of various articles I had previously written that could plug in if I wasn’t inspired to write something new. Obviously, I had a little insecurity that I had something of value to contribute.

A little backstory here. I grew up pre-woman’s movement when it was not uncommon for girls to believe that men were more intelligent than women. As a young girl, I remember thinking that no one would ever be interested in my opinion about anything. I gravitated toward science partly because talking about science gave me some authority. I was talking about stuff that was verifiable, accepted knowledge, something I could believe in. And it wasn’t easy to acquire this knowledge because when I got to the University of Wisconsin at the tender age of just-turned 16 and discovered my interest in science, I was told that a science major was discouraged for girls because we’d go have families and not use our education. So I transferred to Barnard (a woman’s college) and when said I wanted to major in zoology, I was in, instantly.

Four years ago, when Linda recruited me, I guess I was worried that the well would run dry—I would run out of things to discuss as a regular blogger. There was also a little residual angst about anyone being interested in my opinion. Au contraire! Somehow blogging made me discover that I had LOTS to say. I want to talk about science, about learning, about how teachers can have more fun while they teach and more than meet educational standards by using our books, how our publishing world is changing in this digital age, and how students can learn to love the learning process. I started keeping an idea file for future posts but I hardly ever consulted it. Somehow the topic of the next post welled up in me several days before it was due and I was propelled to my keyboard to start writing. In September of 2010 I started writing a regular blog for Education Update and they can’t post them as fast as I write them. (It’s not like blogspot where we post our own.) It’s as if a spigot was turned on in me and now I can’t shut up. (They say this happens to some women of "a certain age.")

So now let me talk about the Elephant in the Room. The truth is that, for the first time in my career, I have no outstanding book contracts. ( I have a couple of old books currently being updated. That's it on the new book front.) School visits, where I made a very good living, have dried up. I don’t want to retire and I can’t afford to. Scary. Rather than sit and wring my hands with worry, or pretend that this isn't happening, I've been very proactive. This absence of commitments has given me the time and the drive to establish iNK Think Tank and to explore other aspects of contributing to education so that students benefit from the hard work and clear thinking of authors. We are pioneering something very exciting and very new in iNK, although we haven't yet made any money. Through blogging, I have discovered that I am a true writer—I’m happiest when I’m writing. Thank you Linda, for giving me an outlet and a community, through this blog, that has allowed my career to take a new direction.


Jim Murphy said...

Vicki -- what a wonderful, honest, and challenging post. What do I mean by challenging? Well, you have hinted at the changes that have happened/are happening in publishing and children's books and that we're all trying to deal with on a daily basis. For many years, I have been telling myself that I have to study the books that are getting attention (starred reviews, on "best" lists, and receiving awards) to see if there are any lessons that I can learn from them and incorporate in my work. And then there is the technology thing that I struggle with and worry about, but which I try to figure out. The INK community is an amazing resource of talent, knowledge, and comfort. I no longer think I'm alone in trying to find my way into the future and I thank you, Linda, and everyone else for the guidance you provide.

Linda Salzman said...

Thank you, Vicki, for setting such an example for all of us.

Lets all keep pushing on!

Annalisa said...


Alexandra said...

Thank you for your perspective, Vicki! I am grateful to be a part of iNK and its pioneering spirit.

Peggy T said...

Happy Anniversary I.N.K. and thanks Vicki for showing us that there is always something new we can work toward. You've been a leader in children's nonfiction and now you're leading the way with the think tank.
For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson

Vicki Cobb said...

I appreciate all the support, including some of it that came from those who wrote me directly. I had to take a deep breath before I wrote the last paragraph. The truth can be embarassing and reveal vlunerabilities. The good news is that I now see the way out of this morass and it will be good for us authors and even better for education. As Linda says, "Onward!!!"

Steve Sheinkin said...

On the good news front, I just visited a public school in Harlem, NY, yesterday, and they had 4th and 5th grade ESL students on a steady diet of narrative non-fiction! They really want to both challenge and engage the kids, and feel this is the way to go. The educators there feel strongly this is a growing trend. So in the midst of tough times, there may be a growing demand for what we do...

Loreen Leedy said...

We all have to be like Calvin and learn how to transmogrify ourselves!