The Art Versus Money Dilemma

I know I said I was done writing under contract. My agent's excited about my 2008-2009 goals to hone the craft and write a better story than I've ever written before -- I fear she's dreaming about an auction that makes headlines at Publisher's Weekly. In truth, though, we're both hoping I create a story that readers will check out of the library again and again, and the thought of climbing fresh literary heights is invigorating.

But now I've been asked to write a children's book by a start-up on-line company. They need a story that's a tie-in for merchandise they'll be selling, so they have definite plot parameters along with a deadline. The catch is that they've offered me a fairly sweet financial deal.

Suddenly, I've tumbled from the lofty peaks of art to the desert reality of money -- the two sides of my full-time vocation. What to do? Here's the strange self-talk running through my brain:
  • You're not in your twenties, girlfriend; when it comes to time left for storytelling the hourglass is upside down. 
  • If you pass on opportunities like this to free up time for "real art," do you even have what it takes to create a so-called "great story?" And what about your literary reputation?
  • Chill out, snob, who's to say a merchandise-related story can't be defined as "great?" Heck, it could give joy to kids who read it -- why is that a lesser achievement than a starred review in the Horn Book?
  • It's only 6000 words or so; you could probably write it in a couple of months starting in the fall after revising Bamboo People this summer.
  • But a story, any story, takes creative energy. Is that a renewable resource?
Any advice?


Vivian said…
Tough decision. Ultimately though, what would drive me to the final decision, would this something I would be proud to have my name on?

Best of luck!
Jenny said…
Sounds like a difficult decision --I don't have any particularly wise advice... but I wold love to know what you decide to do!
AC Gaughen said…
To address your concerns point by point:

1) You are so not out of time to tell stories! Stop that!

2) The more children you get to open a book--whether or not it comes with a theme-related doll and t-shirt--the more successful you are as a writer and a person (and there is no shame in giving merchandise a literary backbone)

3) Creative energy, in my opinion, is a skill and a muscle. The more you work it out the deeper, stronger, and more complex it becomes.

This being said, the only mistake you can ever make is to go against your heart. The rest just takes you on a winding path to your goals.

Best of luck

x AC
Mitali Perkins said…
Vivian, you're right about being careful about the "brand" that is my name.

Jenny, thanks for stopping by and chiming in. I appreciate your interest.

Thanks, ac! This is very helpful and why I blog about these dilemmas -- communal wisdom is the best kind.
Jennie said…
Gail Carson Levine didn't lose respect in my eyes when she wrote the anchor books for the Disney Fairies series, because I hear she still told a story worthy of her name and worthy of publication even if it weren't Disney Fairies. (I haven't read them yet, so I can't say for sure.)

So, as long as you can do the same, then it'll be ok!