Friday Speak Out!: Write Like a Pro, Guest Post by Sioux Roslawski

Friday, April 05, 2013
“I’m a writer.” When I tell people this, I automatically know what is going on inside some of their heads.

I pad around in my jammies, free as a bird, with occasional bursts of brilliance as I nibble on chocolate and mainline coffee. The words? The words just flow out effortlessly. At least that’s what some folks think.

They also assume my mailbox is full of checks and my email box is full of acceptances. In their brain, I’s sure they imagine me skipping down the driveway every day (in my PJs, remember?), cradling a stack of envelopes from publishers and agents, and they’re all full of contracts.

First off, I should explain that writing is not my full-time job. During the day I teach third graders, and as much as I’d like to be able to say to my students, ”Guys, I’ve got my critique night tonight, and I’ve got nothin’ to share with them. Would you all mind working on something independently while I work at my computer?” I can’t. Teaching is my mission; writing is my love. Writing is crammed in during the evenings and sometimes during the weekends; it only gets a portion of my waking hours.

And coffee is too bitter of a drink, in my opinion. But if you were offering up a bottle of Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Chai Tea, I’d start tapping away at my laptop with a frenzy.

We’re making scads of money, you say? Anyone who writes knows that only a few of us are getting rich. We often get more rejection than praise, yet we continue to plug away. We become excited if we get into an anthology and get $10. I could make more money—per hour-- running the hot dog machine at Costco than I do at writing.

Furthermore, those who are not obsessed with a well-turned phrase can’t even fathom why writers contribute to markets that pay absolutely and positively nothing. Sometimes we have a publisher who was responsible for our first acceptance. Out of loyalty and gratitude, we will send them a story or an essay when they have a new anthology they’re developing. They supported us, and now we’re just returning the favor.

Sometimes, we just want the opportunity to have our writing out there. The joy is not in the money or the possible fame. No, the joy is in the process. It’s exhilarating to be able to see a piece of writing evolve from a steaming pile of poop into something that is capable of moving others. We don’t always need a monetary reward for the job we do. (However, it is delightful when it does happen.)

So when you say, “I’m a writer,” to someone, be prepared to share a bit of your “reality” with them. Or, let them hold onto their delusions.

‘Cause sometimes, fantasies are nice to entertain, if only for a moment…

* * *
Sioux Roslawski has been published in three (so far) Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, as well as several Not Your Mother's Book collections. A third grade teacher with the Ferguson-Florissant School District, she is also one of the five founding members of the famed WWWP writing critique group. Her musings can be found at
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Audrey said...

Sioux...thanks for this post. I think you will enjoy the humor in my comment. Right before I read this, I furtively peaked out my kitchen door and dashed quickly to my mail box...still in my nightgown. Unfortunately, the similarity ends there, because they were no contracts or checks waiting for me.

Margo Dill said...

The images in this are hysterical. First, I love thinking of you skipping down your driveway in your pjs.:) And I love how you referred to our first drafts as a pile of poop!HA! HA! :)

Think of all the time you'll have in the summer when you are not teaching those third graders. I mean, teachers do NOTHING all summer long but eat bon-bons anyway, right? :) LOL You have the unfortunate advantage of having two professions where people have no idea what you do with your time. :)

Thanks for the smile, and the reminder that everyone who is not in our world does not understand what it's like. Sometimes, that can be very frustrating.


Unknown said...

Oh goodness, it's so true isn't it. I almost cringe when someone asks me what I do for a (cough, cough) living. After over 20 years in a professional, paycheck occupation, it makes me laugh to start over again and call myself a writer. It's like being in an internship all over again, paying my dues, waiting for the breaks. We're all behind you Sioux. Heck, we're all right there with you in our sweats, jammies and hair in cute little knot buns!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Audrey--You're welcome.

Just yesterday, I got so excited because I received an email regarding a submission I had sent--and I had just sent in the story the day before, so I was surprised by the speed of the response. It was a "No thanks" which instantly burst my bubble.

Maybe we should have a pajama/pity party? ;)

Margo--If it smells like poop and reads like poop, it IS poop. And if it's hot off my laptop, it's still steamin'.

Yes, as a teacher and a writer, you know what writers and teachers do. With my third graders, all I do is sit at my desk, point to the chalkboard and give them verbal directions. And they do it. And I sit there and grade papers and create lesson plans for the next week and read a book while they quietly toil away. Yeah, that's my Monday-Friday life...

Julie--Getting into conversations about writing does create some cringe-worthy situations. Sadly, my hair is way too short to be put into cute little knot buns--it just stands on end in scary spikes.:)

Lynn said...

You are always so inspiring with your words and honesty about the writing life.

Val said...

I certainly hope you slip into some Crocs before you go skipping down the driveway in your PJs. We wouldn't want you to stub a toe and go down in a flurry of fluttering contracts.

Maybe you could combine your mission and your love, and assign your third-graders a query letter, each to a different agent or publisher. They get practice writing, and you get a full mailbox.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Lynn--That's like the pot callin' the kettle black. You can be brutally (and beautifully) honest with YOUR writing.

Val--Brilliant idea. (The letter-writing bit. I already LIVE in Crocs.)

I'll get them started today. One letter a day from each student equals 20 letters a day and 100 letters in a week. That means I'll be sending out a truckload of queries by the end of May...

If only their little hands can hold out...

Marcia Peterson said...

Cute post. I loved the image of having your 3rd graders just allow you to take some time to write while they manage themselves. I've helped out in my kids elementary classes, lol. My oldest is now 14 and has started to drink chai tea lately, like you. ;)

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