One of the surprises of the last month has been answering people’s polite, “and what do you do” questions.  And the answer has changed, just like my official address, from, “well, I nanny, and tutor, and blog, and I’m working on a children’s novel” to simply, “I’m a writer.”



Sometimes, if I’m meeting someone with Evan, he’ll explain how he’s just finished a Masters in Teaching and is looking for a secondary social studies position. Then people will get so excited talking about who they know who could be a good contact, that the conversation never circles around to what I do. I’ve escaped for the moment. Also, I am extremely interested in those connections for Evan; that is the current and large project of the spring: find Evan a good job.



But it’s also that introducing myself as “I’m a writer” seems so audacious. Sometimes, it feels like someone might say, “no, you’re not.”  I would nod, because sometimes I don’t feel like I’m a real writer either.



Saying I’m a writer seems to be tantamount to saying I’m a good writer or good at writing. Then someone could simply read a paragraph of my dyslexia, grammar, and syntax error filled prose and declare that I’m neither good at writing nor a good writer.  But, so far, no one has said that. People say a whole lot of different things, but so far no one, except in my own imagination, has told me that I’m not a writer.



I think I hesitate to tell people also because for so long it’s been a secret. It’s been a hidden part of me and my heart. And I’ve worked on writing a book in secret. Some of this is my own protective reflex to hide the vulnerable part of me that has received so much criticism from teachers over the years. And some of the desire to be quiet about the book writing has been respected advice from others: don’t talk much about a work in progress because people can be unhelpful in their comments or criticism.



I have found that to sometimes be true. I used to work hard on having a good summary, an elevator pitch of my book for people. But I stopped that after someone rather close to me said, “Oh, so you’re ripping off Narnia.” I certainly hope I’m not.  I was torn at that moment from being rather hurt at that accusation, to almost laughing because it was almost comically rude. So sometimes just to keep people from saying something inappropriate, I’ve kept my description rather vague, for their own sakes. I usually say something like, it’s a children’s novel with dragons and fairies and gnomes.  Although last Sunday, I did have a sweet older man at church ask with some concern about whether vampires were going to be in my story and seemed quite relieved that, as far as I know, they are not.



But the truth is, that we moved here in large part so I could “be a writer.” It has been years of preparing for this transition, Evan going to back to school, me writing along side tutoring and nannying, and moving 750 miles west. So now that we’re finally here I have to, or get to, introduce myself as a writer.  It’s a vulnerable thing. It’s an audacious thing. It is in many ways, an act of faith. I feel God’s call on my life to be a writer, dyslexia and all, so I need to step out and say that I am a writer.   I imagine that I would feel more official and real with an agent or an accepted manuscript, or a published book. But perhaps it would, or will, not. Perhaps claiming that I am writer will always feel mostly like an act of faith.



The funny thing about wanting to write for children, is that I actually talk with children about my writing very little. I mainly talk with adults (and I hope they’ll read my work too). But two weeks ago, Evan and I were invited to Sunday lunch by a sweet family with two little boys, six and four. And then at the lunch table, the question circled around to me “What do you do, Amy?”

“I’m a writer. I have a blog, and I’m working on a children’s novel,” I answer.

The sweet six year old asks, “What is a children’s novel?”

“Well, it’s a book for kids, but it’s a chapter book, so it’s a longer book.” I explain.

“What’s it about?”  The younger brother asks. And I throw caution to the wind, all the good advice about not telling people what it’s about. I just dive in. “It’s a story about a little girl named Molly…” I begin.

And they are solemn, their blue eyes almost unblinking as they listen to my words about the beginning of what I have been filling notebook after notebook with. I finish, leaving them with the quest that the children in the book will have to undertake.



The conversation turns to something else. But five minutes later, the six year old, blurts out, “Are there pictures in your book?” I know in his head it is all finished, that I have just left it at home. I explain that I draw pictures for myself, but I’m not very good at drawing dragons. He, who loves to draw too, seems to understand this. Dragons are hard to draw. (They are hard to write, while I am on the topic.)



It was a magic moment, and one that I treasure—the excitement to read what I have written. And honestly, there have been quite a few adults who have after we finished said, “I want to read it!” And I want them too.



I still feel like I am play acting being an adult and being a writer, but perhaps that is what it means to be a writer: to play with words, make believe on paper, so you can give a child a book with drawings of a dragon in them.



How has the way you’ve introduced yourself changed over the years?


11 Responses to Introducing myself as a writer

  1. Amy Bruno says:

    Amy Rogers Hays, Writer, I can’t wait to read your stories!! And I love your drawings, too! Miss you!

  2. Anne Hays says:

    I would reinforce the thought that you are a writer if you think of yourself as one and are working at being a writer. Don’t be afraid to say so.
    I haven’t read any of your book, although I would like to, so I can’t comment on that, but I think the drawings that you have added to this blog are excellent. Do you write about something first or draw the illustration? I like your drawings in black and white. Do you do some in color?

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thanks Grandma Anne! I love that phrase “working on being a writer.” About the drawings, well I usually just use the pen I’m writing with, so they’re all in black and white. I’m trying to think if I write or draw first, it’s often at the same time. They are often doodles or maps, I think I sort of will let myself just think about a scene while I’m drawing part of it. For this post I tried to pick drawings without too many notes on them. I want to do more drawing during this time, I have good pencils, so I hope that some colored drawings will be the future. I have a short story that I’m sort of playing around with the idea of doings some drawings for. Love from Wisconsin, Amy

  3. Cate B says:

    I don’t know if I’ve ever said this to you–or if it just repeats over in my head– but I enjoy reading your blog. Your writing is honest and compelling. Of course you are a writer! A children’s book about dragons and gnomes by Amy Rogers Hays sounds magical.

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thanks Cate! I really appreciate your encouragement. It seems like so long ago I would go and wait for Evan to finish his work in that old Ballroom in Maryland. Everyone seemed so much older than me, doing important history work. I was so intimidated but it all. Evan and I talk a lot about how unusual it was for so many people in that department to be so great, people we would have been good friends with for a long time if we hadn’t moved away and done different things. But I suppose that was partly what made people so great, they were interested in so many different kinds of things, history was just one of them. I hope that I can sneak some good history into my writing too, hidden between the magical bits! Hope you’re enjoying the Spring!!

  4. I read this thinking how much I can relate. You are at the very brave, vulnerable stage where you have “nothing” to show for your work, and that makes talking about it feel so strange. Please take this from someone farther along the path: you´re exactly where you need to be. All you are doing is valid and legitimate. Go forward in confidence!

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thanks Caroline. It really is so strange. I don’t know what I didn’t think about this being a thing. I think in general I thought that moving here would involve so much less transitioning, like I could just wake up and start writing for hours. But I find that actually, I can write only for as long as I could in Maryland. Like my writing/concentration muscles aren’t strong enough to do more, and the days are filled with endless errands that take up two or three times the space and time I think they should. It’s just slower I suppose than I thought it would be. Thanks for those good words: valid and legitimate. May I continue to be a good caretaker for the time and energy I have, and know how to share what I’m doing with others.

  5. I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH. In part, because I can relate. It feels really audacious to introduce yourself as a writer. (I generally stick with stay-at-home-mom, because it sounds so much humbler and doesn’t require further explanation.) I also tend to avoid going into detail about the things I’m writing about — it makes me feel so vulnerable. I’m no good at talking about my writing. (Or anything, for that matter. That’s part of the reason I write: because talking is hard!)

    I’m also SO excited to hear more about your book! EEK, sounds so awesome!! I definitely want to read it when it’s done! I love children’s fantasy!!

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thanks Kathleen! Introducing ourselves is such a funny thing. It’s like when you’re in a big group and you sort worry you’re going to say your own name wrong. (I have a hard time deciding if I am going to try and push people using both my names, or just let myself get labeled as Mrs. Hays.) I love all the things you write about, and I imagine that you’d be really fun to talk with in person too. But I worry that people are going to get bored when I talk about what I write about (on the blog or the book) and I find myself being really brief. But I like when other people go into details about what they love, I don’t think it’s lecturing or boring. The friends I love talking to most of on the phone are often those who I know are interested in whatever I’m saying, so I don’t worry too much about just talking about whatever unprompted. Thanks for your enthusiasm about my book, I am going to try to share more about writing in this space in the coming months! Miss you on instagram, I hope your Lent is going well!!

  6. Deb Rogers says:

    Your gift for putting words on paper goes back many years. I believe it was either 4th or 5th grade when you and your writing were acknowledged by teachers and essay judges outside of Randall Elementary School. Remember the beautiful “Planets” prose and dance you and Anna Kate (as I recall) shared with your third grade class? I’m one of your biggest supporters even when my feedback and editing suggestions were not as helpful as I had hoped. Please keep writing. Remember what our dear friend, June Young, wrote in a Christmas letter a few years back, “Everything takes longer than you think, everything.” May you enjoy the development of your many creative expressions and the refining process regardless of the amount of time it takes. Love you. Mom

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