Guest Blogger: Alexa Bourne

11 May

I spent 9 years teaching in my own classroom. It’s a rewarding career, but so very challenging. I signed my first book contract in December 2011. Since then, being an author has also been rewarding, but you know what I’ve realized since my book hit the cyber shelves? Being a writer is a lot like being a teacher.

In both jobs, you have a lot of disappointment. Teachers must deal with difficult children and/or parents and administrative requirements. Writers must deal with rejections and bad reviews.

In both jobs, the pay doesn’t really reflect the work we do. Teachers spend hours outside of school preparing and planning lessons. Many teachers work part time during the year or work during the summer. Writers spend hours outside of actually writing. We have promo work to do and I’m learning how amazingly overwhelming that can be! Now, some authors can say they make beaucoup bucks, but the majority don’t. Many writers still hold down day jobs to pay bills.

Both jobs are definitely 24/7. I used to drive around my city on errands and see something that would remind me of my students. I would create an activity for an individual student who was having trouble or I might create a game for the entire class in hopes of exciting them to read or write. Teachers often get home at night and pull out papers to grade while they watch TV.

I also have come up with some awesome plot points while driving around. A simple thing like a police siren once led me to an entire plot for a full-length manuscript. I, as a writer, often have my laptop while I sit on the couch watching one of my favorite shows. I now get up 15 minutes to a half an hour earlier each work day so I can check or send emails that have to do with my books. (And anyone who knows me knows what a sacrifice this is. I HATE mornings!)

There are, of course, many positives too. In both jobs you have many pleasant surprises. A student or parent might bring a teacher a treat to thank her. A student might make a card or poster for you. (I had a rough start to one day last week and a boy walked up and handed me a poster he’d made for me and two pens with flowers made out of colored duct tape on the ends.) When a student “gets it”, there’s no better feeling. In much the same way, writers get that feeling when people say they loved the book. (I’m still giggling when people say that to me!) Writers might get awards or letters from readers that truly touch the heart. Making a best-seller list or readers’ choice list is much like getting nominated for Teacher of the Year.

And the biggest similarity between writing and teaching? People who aren’t teachers or writers have no idea how much blood, sweat or tears we shed for each student and each book. But that’s okay. We teachers keep teaching so we can help shape the future. And we writers keep writing so we can help people escape their own lives if only for a few hours. Why? It’s what we do.



Posted by on May 11, 2012 in Idaho


10 responses to “Guest Blogger: Alexa Bourne

  1. Janis McCurry

    May 11, 2012 at 7:13 AM

    Alexa, you’re so right about the writing-involved activities that don’t require putting words on the page. I think about my WIP when I’m at my day job, driving the car, watching TV, etc. It’s always there in my mind, trying out and discarding ideas.

    Thanks for being our guest at Gem State Writers!

  2. Liz Fredericks

    May 11, 2012 at 7:26 AM

    Good analogy, Alexa! Thank you for blogging with GSW.

  3. Peggy Staggs

    May 11, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    A kindred spirit! Okay, except for the morning thing. I too, love to ride around and look at things, watch people and go to places and take in the world outside Idaho.
    I’m a notebook girl. I have them stashed all over the house, in my car, purse and locker at work. They’re filled with sparks of ideas, snippets of dialogue and random stuff.
    Thanks for blogging with us.

  4. marsharwest

    May 11, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    Love this analogy, Alexa. Retired educator, but never thought of the comparisons between the two jobs. You certainly nailed the disconnect between the public and our real lives. Readers may get a bit more about what the life is like from following their favorite authors blogs and postings in social media. But the folks in state legislatures (for the most part) are entirely clueless about what they ask of teachers, administrators and staff. They’re lack of willingness to fund public ed is appalling! Okay, off my soapbox and back to work. 🙂 Not supposed to do that according to some social media gurus. Thanks for the great post.

  5. Alexa Bourne

    May 11, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    Thanks, ladies! Peggy, I have to write every new story in a notebook first. THEN I transfer it to computer as I revise. Th closer it is to being done the more time I spend on the computer. Marsha, the connection didn’t hit me until a couple of weeks ago.

  6. Clarissa Southwick

    May 11, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    Great comparison, Alexa. I find that it really cuts down on rejection stress when I can see these parallels. I can take a big breath and say, “No problem. I deal with this in my day job all the time.” Somehow that makes it easier to take the emotional ups and downs we go through as writers.

  7. Mary Vine

    May 11, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    Thanks for stopping by, Alexa. I’m in education, too, and I never made these comparisons, but I makes sense now I see it. Oh, and I like the guy on your book cover 🙂

  8. Alexa Bourne

    May 11, 2012 at 9:25 PM

    Clarissa, I also realized another comparison a while back. In both jobs, we are expected to hone our craft with workshops and conferences. We often look for ways (with or without the help of admin or industry professionals) to become a better teacher or writer.

    Thanks, Mary! And yes, isn’t he just awesome? Of course, he was nothing like the man I’d used in my head to write the character, but this picture totally fits the description I gave the artist as well!

  9. Irene Preston

    May 12, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    So glad I’m not a teacher – the writing thing is overwhelming enough. Hats off to all the faboulous writer/teachers who shape so many lives!

  10. Alexa Bourne

    May 12, 2012 at 5:20 PM

    Irene, I honestly thought I wanted to go back into my own classroom, but I realize now that writing is where I want to put my energies. Thanks for stopping by!


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