|Author Ann Cannon|
Ann (A.E.) Cannon is living the life I want. There, I said it. Plain and simple, our lives need to be swapped. She’s a published author—having written several books for young adults including Amazing Gracie, Charlotte’s Rose and the children’s series Pirate Pete and Pirate Joe—and she’s also written columns for Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune. When she’s not busy writing, she’s selling books at the King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City and teaching creative writing workshops to aspiring young writers.
Wouldn’t you say her life is swap-worthy? I would. I even went so far as to tell her so in an email: “Dear Ann Cannon, I want your life.” When I asked for her advice to a would-be writer, one of the things she said was to enter as many writing contests as I could. In fact, she told me that her first young adult book to be published, Cal Cameron by Day, Spiderman by Night, was the result of her entering the Delacorte Press Prize. “That’s why I always tell people to enter contests,” she said. “You never know what you might win.”
But that’s not all she did to get started. As a grad student at Brigham Young University, she realized that most of her peers were doing lots of writing, but they were not actively trying to get their work published. She decided to go for it, submitting her work to anyone and everyone. “Obviously I got rejected a lot,” she said, “but eventually I started having things published in local publications… and then I started selling short fiction to national teen magazines about the same time.” And apart from creative fiction which she readily admits is her “first love,” she also wrote manuals for multi-level marketing companies, instructions, radio scripts and pretty much any job that came her way. “Whenever projects came along, I never said no.”
Her published short stories in LDS magazines such as the New Era led to a job with the Deseret News where she was a columnist for many years. Unfortunately, new management came in and fired almost half of the staff. She didn’t lose her job, but she didn’t want to wait around and see what was going to happen so she contacted The Salt Lake Tribune. “They hired me on the spot,” she said. I’ve read many of her columns in that publication and she’s always fun to read. Her December 2nd piece was entitled “If Only We Could See Ourselves as Others See Us” and talked about her recent cataract surgery, humorously relating it to our inability to see what others are thinking.
She’s very relatable and funny, that Ann Cannon. That might be part of her success. At the bookstore she gets an opportunity to connect with people that’s very different from the way she connects with a reader through writing. It’s more one on one. And although she says the everyday tasks of sweeping and shelving are menial, she adds, “It's thrilling to see all the new books out there and to talk to people about what they've read and loved. The workshops are fun, too, because I always learn a lot from my students--even those who see themselves as beginners.”
And that’s me. I’m a beginner. So I asked her to please give me her very best advice so that I could one day be an Ann Cannon. Her answer was less rosy than I expected, but very solid. She said, “Well, quite honestly I would say to have a backup plan. Most writers have to cobble together an existence like teaching/writing/speaking in order to make ends meet. But don't let that stop you. Go for it.” And do you know what? I think I will. Because if Ann Cannon can, why can’t I?