On June 1, 2011, I walked across the stage at Trent University’s convocation ceremony with a skip in my step and a smile on my face. I was sad to move on from 4 wonderful years but eager to see what was coming next.
I had visions of living in the big city and having an endless slew of published works before the mall even started decorating for Christmas.
In an act of desperation, I did what any new graduate would do. I emailed Robert Munsch.
Then I entered the real world and quickly learned how delusional I was.
I was broke, employed in a field other than what I ultimately wanted, and continuously encountered people with more talent than me.
Every night I would sit on the couch and, in between episodes of Breaking Bad, frantically search the world wide web for jobs. I tweaked my cover letter 4 times a day. I sent follow-up email after follow-up email. I researched companies, telephoned managers and wrote “WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?” every night in my journal. I made lists of what might be wrong with me and marvelled at how long these lists became.
In an act of desperation, I did what any new graduate would do. I emailed Robert Munsch. Yes, the children’s author who penned such classics as The Paper Bag Princess and Thomas’ Snowsuit.
“Hi Robert Munsch,” my email began. “I have recently graduated from school and am interested in pursuing a career in writing/publishing/anything to do with books.” I went on to say that it came as no surprise to discover that finding jobs in which I was remotely qualified for was insanely challenging. I assured good ol’ Bob that I wasn’t asking for a job by any means, but was simply asking if he had any tips or words of wisdom.
Within 2 days, a response had landed in my inbox.
This simple fact – seeing an email from the author of Mud Puddle and Stephanie’s Ponytail and all those wonderful stories that I grew up on – was enough to plant a twinkle in my eye. Robert Munsch was emailing me! ROBERT MUNSCH was emailing ME!
His email gave insight as to how he began his career in publishing. I learned that he started out by telling stories in daycares and was encouraged by his boss to actually send them out to publishing companies. He faced a lot of rejection until he was scooped up by Annick Press.
“That was in 1979 and Annick had only done 2 books and was just barely existing,” Munsch wrote, demonstrating firsthand the lesson we are so often taught but reluctant to practice: you have to be open to starting small. Furthermore, Munsch discussed how Scholastic Book Club didn’t take any of his books until he had already been publishing for 5 years! We hear stories like this all the time about successful people who had to first face failure, but it helped hearing it from Bob himself.
Robert Munsch composed a list of helpful hints, including names of companies that have useful resources for amateur writers, and also simple advice like, “Read as many children’s books as you can.” I must be honest – I’m stoked that I can now justify my love for Arthur the Aardvark.
Regardless of whether I continue to dream of being an author and Bob’s advice is put to use, the simple fact that I corresponded with Robert Munsch made me stop wailing over my lack of job offers. Instead, it made me realize that I am where I am right now and someday that will change. And, as Bob so eloquently ended his email with, “you just gotta keep trying.”
If all else fails, maybe emailing celebrities can simply become a new hobby – a creative outlet, if you will.
Ellen Degeneres? I think you just might be next.