Graduation Lessons

Thursday, May 31, 2012
Oh, yay! One day left in May and it’s mine!

I love May. May is spring rains and jasmine trailing around the fence. It’s wild-crazy freedom and singing at the top of your lungs, “School’s out for summer!” It’s joyous, exciting, hopeful graduation days!

I love those wonderful beginnings that graduation brings. I even enjoy commencement speeches. Especially one like Neil Gaiman’s keynote address to The University of the Arts.

Now, honestly, I’m an unabashed fan of Neil Gaiman. I love his novels, his picture books, his graphic comics. And when I saw him speak here one rainy evening and saw his kindness to the kids in the audience, I sort of crushed on him even more. So I would love whatever he had to say. But as it happens, you do not have to be an unabashed fan to love what he had to say. You don’t have to be a writer, either, but there are some really useful bits for us.

If you’re a freelancer, you’ll want to listen extra-carefully when he imparts his Secret Freelancer Knowledge. And you don’t want to miss what he considered his best piece of advice ever that he received from Stephen King. You’ll probably find it interesting that there are problems that come with success as well as failure.

And perhaps most interesting of all, he recommends that you make mistakes. I agree wholeheartedly—and I have the mistakes to prove it.

My first short stories were horrendous. Stunk with a capital S. But that didn’t keep me from sending them out. And then, a contest judge felt compelled to point out just how much one of my stories stunk. I learned from those mistakes—and my short stories improved.

I have a HUGE file of Chicken Soup essays that were rejected. But eventually, after lots of head banging on the desk and rewrites, I figured out what I was doing wrong. Now, my file of Chicken Soup essays that have been accepted is almost as huge as the rejection file.

The novel manuscript that I have revised over and over and over again has nearly brought me to tears (Okay, that’s a lie. I have literally cried.). But with each revision, with each critique, the corrections have made the novel stronger. And I hope, someday, to see it published. That’s when I’m going to throw my own joyous, exciting graduation celebration!

Boy, I really, really hope it’s in May.


Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I loved that Neil Gaiman speech, especially the advice from King. And I'm with you on crying the tears for those manuscripts - all that work plus all that watering has to make them "grow" better, right? :)

sally said...

I'm not a huge Gaiman fan. I have never forgiven him for The Trouble with Susan. I've tried other books and can't get into them. Not even The Graveyard Book. But...I do love his speeches. He's very smart and very talented. I don't love King, either. Don't read his fiction at all. But loved his book On Writing. So...I can recognize the creative genius even in men with twisted minds. :) Thanks for the link. Neil is really a good speaker.

Unknown said...

I too have cried over my novel! Thought I was being neurotic glad to see I'm not alone! One day I hope that the tears will have been worth it!!!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Oh, no, Samantha, you're not alone. There's a TON of us. (See above comment from Madeline! ;-)

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