Hey cHEwY gum gums
I was a panel about writing for children at the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival, with Morris Gleitzman, Anna Fienberg and Colin Thompson. They probably have a century of writing experience between them.
And then there’s me haha.
Our chair, Jane Hutcheon asked us if we were jealous of other writers.
After a moment of silence, Morris answered this question head on. He said that jealously is something that all writers have to face.
Wait, even legends like Morris Gleitzman get jealous?
I’ve been asked this question by kids at school visits too. My stock answer is that children’s authors all like each other, and we all have a common goal, for kids to read books, any books.
Which is half true, and it helps explain why the children writers community is seen to be more supportive, though the same could be said for other genres like sci-fi and romance.
Maybe it’s a professional jealously, like what Morris described, when you read someone else’s book and you admire their craft and technique. You think, ‘dang, I wish I could have written this.’ I felt a bit of that as I read Karen Foxlee’s ambitious and original, ‘Lenny’s Book of Everything.’ That narrator voice, yikes! Just wow. But that’s the curse of being a writer-reader. You’ll always be forever enjoying and analysing books.
Now if you never feel jealous of anyone or anything, then I envy you haha. It’s only natural that writers around you, some of which are your friends, will ‘get ahead’ and score that book contract/win an award/write a best-selling series/get invited to a festival/signed a Netflix deal…and you kind of have to deal with it. Sometimes it’s masked with another emotion like joy (because you are happy for them) or anger (shake your fist at the sky and yell, when is it my time!).
For me, jealously sometimes can be mixed with disappointment. When the kid-choice awards, KOALA and YABBA shortlist was released, I was a bit sad that my books didn’t make the list. Yet, I didn’t look at the other authors and felt jealous. It’s out of my hands. Awards and shortlists are a bonus, so when it does happen to me, I see it as a blessing.
Dealing with jealously depends on your outlook on writing life. When unchecked, jealously can lead to bitterness and toxic disillusionment among other things. But there are some things that remind me to stay grounded. I know that everyone has their ups and downs. I know that for every author you wish you were, there are writers who would do anything to be in your shoes. I think Morris hit the nail on the head when he said, you could spend hours and hours being jealous, but he chooses to focus on his characters. He just gets on with it and writes killer books. You can insert any cheesy, motivational quote here. For me, when it comes to jealously, you can get bitter or get better. Everyone’s writing journey is different.