It’s nearing Thanksgiving and my brain is shifting into stuffing-mashed-potatoes-and-pumpkin-pie (a la mode) mode. I’m recalling those big family gatherings where the grown-ups sat one table and the kids at another. The kids’ table was typically of the folding variety on hiatus from the front closet. It was set with the B-list china and plastic cups instead of stemware. But that was okay. You were with your cousins or sibs—away from the cheek-pinching, bum-patting relatives—and there was pie. Life was good.
When I ventured into children’s writing half an ice age ago, I didn’t know I was sitting at the “kids’ table.” I plunked myself down with such enthusiasm, I’m sure I toppled a glass or two. But everybody was new to me and nice to me. I couldn’t tell the adults from the kids.
Since then, in meltdownable moments, I’ve pushed my chair away from the table a few times, surmising I’d be wise to walk away, but something—typically someone—pushed me back to the table, shoved a fresh crayon in my hand and insisted I keep on writing. And I did.
But as the years stack up like so many pie plates, I’ve begun to feel like that cousin you see only once a year. Everybody is so shocked by how big she is. She’s actually in junior high now, for turkey’s sake, but still she’s sat at the kids’ table. That’s how I feel. I have OCS (over-grown cousin syndrome (don’t bother looking it up—it hasn’t made it into the DSM yet)).
And as I’ve grown as a writer and more than outgrown my little chair, I’ve watched as some of my dearest tablemates picked up their plates, glasses and silverware and one-by-one excused themselves to go sit at the grown-up table. I’ve felt happy for them. Absolutely. Their dream of getting an agent and a publishing contract came true. Their name would be next to the word “by” on the cover of an actual book. And, no point in denying it, I’ve swallowed hard and pushed back tears too (sometimes unsuccessfully).
Being at the kids’ table isn’t as fun as it once was. But you know what? As long as I’m here, for as long as I’m here, I figure I may as well make the best of it.
Here are 4 perks of sitting at the kids’ table:
- No kitchen timer—expectations are a lot lower when you’re pre-published. No deadlines. No reviews. No line edits. It’s just you and your muse.
- Always new guests at the table—and if you’ve been at the table awhile, you’ll have something to share with the new kids about which “menu items” to avoid, which funny looking “veggies” are actually good for you and which “pie crust” is just a little too flaky.
- Loads of time to load your plate—this tour of duty at the kids’ table offers opportunities to grow, listen, network, take classes on craft, join a critique group, establish an online platform, eat pie, eat pie (did I say that already?)
- Room to master your manners—like any business, publishing has its own etiquette. Sitting at the kids’ table gives you time to learn which fork to use and where to put your elbows before you move to the table with the big folks.
You bet your drumstick I want to move to the grown-up table, but until I do, there’s pie here and friends, and at least four perks. I can wait my turn. (But I would appreciate a bigger chair.)
And just because I like you, here’s a pre-Thanksgiving treat from The Onion.