The Thing About Dreams…

This is the inside cover of one of my Sweet Pickles books.  Remember them?  Handyman camel, that messy goose, the kangaroo who was always up to no good…

A few years ago I was reading one of my old books to my young daughter and a square of paper fluttered onto the floor.  It said,

Samantha Hall, author

The color had faded away from the edges of the paper, but I recognized it from a square stack of papers that used to live on my childhood desk.  The early attempts at cursive were also mine, the signature of “Samantha Hall” as fancy as my eight year old hand could manage, the name clearly my nom de plume.

There’s something unnerving about unexpectedly encountering your childhood self.

There’s also something heartbreaking about facing your unrealized childhood dreams, your own child on your lap.

There I was, thirty, avoiding answering emails from high school friends asking what I had ended up doing with my life.  How would I tell them that in college I longed to be a parent and so studied education, that in graduate school I wanted to get on with living and so stopped after my master’s degree and got married, that while working as a teacher I cried every time a friend got pregnant, and that after becoming a mom I sat in my home and looked at my daughter wondering what happened to the big ideas of that little girl who sat and practiced her penmanship on that square stack of rainbow colored papers?  I couldn’t tell them any of that.  So I deleted their emails.

Then something happened – desperation.  The five year stay-at-home plan was coming to a close and so with one year left until I had to return to the classroom having to put my five year old in before school care and my three year old in full time daycare, I started this blog.  The goal I shared with the world was to start a freelance writing career and make enough money to contribute to the household bills.  The goal I quietly shared with myself was to find the voice that I knew was hiding somewhere deep inside.  I took a deep breath and wrote about my car and my couch.  I prayed.  I pressed publish.  And I waited.

This blogging world was good to me and I quickly became passionate about what I saw happening all around me.  Women were connecting via social media and through this new platform finding ways to finally “have it all.”  I wanted to know more and began to interview hundreds of women collecting data about their childhood dreams, the messages they received about having it all when they were little girls.  I queried literary agents.  I blogged about the topic I was calling Together We Rise.  I announced to my husband that I would have a book published by the time I was thirty-five.  Suddenly I was able to face myself again – not just my thirty year old self, but that eight year old future author.  I attacked this new goal with naive bravado, responding to interested literary agents, writing sample chapters and book outlines.

And then the project fell flat.  The first few interested agents turned out to not be that into me, and simultaneously my social media  marketing business began to grow.  I told my dream to wait, that I needed to take the offers for work while they were being made because certainly this Twitter Party thing wouldn’t last.  I gave it six months and then I could get back to what I really wanted to do – write.

From 2009 to now my business has grown 600%.  I have not sent a query letter to a literary agent since the fall of 2008.

In the summer of 2010 an editor from a major publishing house reached out to me to see if I had ever considered writing a book.  Yes, yes I had.  I had considered only thousands of times ever since I was old enough to read a book.  In fact, I had already written a whole children’s book series, written my memoirs David Sedaris style complete with drowning puppies and squirrels’ tails on bicycles, written an inspirational tome for women sitting at home with their children and wondering what had become of their own childhood dreams…all in my head.  I said yes, I would like to hear more about a potential parenting book.  I signed the papers when a literary agent came to me after hearing that a publisher was interested in me.  And then I got back to the day in, day out of running a business by myself with only sixteen hours a week of childcare, the closest family four hours away, and my husband out of the house for eleven hours on a good day.  I periodically exchanged emails with the editor.  I worked on the book outline in stolen moments.  I heard almost not at all from the opportunistic agent who sat waiting for the contract offer she could negotiate.

2010 became 2011.  2011 turned to 2012.  June approached, work began to slow to a simmer, childcare became a bit more organized, and I heard that voice again.  That little girl who thought Samantha was a much prettier name than Amy.  That little girl who thought the best job in the whole world would be writing books.  So I emailed that publisher…sorry I’ve been out of touch…no longer with that absentee agent…would love to send that proposal to you if you’re still interested.

I’m sorry, we are no longer publishing parenting books.  Best of luck shopping the proposal around to other publishers.  You should definitely try to connect with an agent again.

I watched my dream-put-on-hold flutter away from me, like that faded square of paper floating out of the book and onto the ground at my child’s feet…

The thing about dreams is that when you finally admit that they’re there, it hurts when you watch them slip away.

~ Update ~


Leave a Reply


  • Now I can’t stop crying. Damn.

    • I’ll bring tissues this weekend. See you soon, friend.

  • And yet, with every beautifully constructed sentence, the imperative of your dream remains evident. Times and seasons…

  • Kelly Loubet @Childhood

    You, my friend, are truly inspiring. I too have been faced with my own faded sheet of paper dreams and it’s time to go out and grab them. Thank you. I love you. xo

  • Oh, sweet friend! It is soooo not over! This is just the beginning. I have no doubt that it will happen and I can’t wait to rejoice with you when it does.

    • Thank you for your belief, Becky! You always were my brother’s nicest friend 🙂

  • Dude, I was totally not expecting the O. Henry ending. And yet, I’m certain that it will only be a matter of time before I’m giving you a big old Woot! and sharing exciting news about you on FB.

    • You referencing O. Henry just made my day, and it’s only 7:24 right now. I’ve got literature major goosebumps.

  • Write the book. Write it without anyone else’s approval. Don’t use life’s events (or the publisher) as an excuse. And if they won’t publish it, do it yourself. One of the few long-lingering items on my life list is to be published. I also had a pen name as a child and I was constantly writing something. I tell myself that I don’t have the time, but I think this is one of the few areas I’m nervous to really tackle. We should start a support group. 😉

    • Christy, that is exactly it! “I tell myself that I don’t have the time, but I think this is one of the few areas I’m nervous to really tackle.” I built a successful business in a market that didn’t even exist because I had very little attachment to the idea and therefore no fear. The absence of time is a glorious excuse when you’ve got a dream that is so important to you that failure would be devastating. But finding out you’ve waited too long and missed an opportunity is equally devastating. Now about that support group…

  • A.Smith

    Funny thing – the last words of my most recent comment on your blog were “you should write a book” but I deleted them before I hit ‘post’ because I thought to myself – nah, I really shouldn’t say that because if she wanted to write a book she would’ve already written it. The thought stuck with me though because although you do throw one heck of a twitter party – I really think you have much more to offer in the grand scheme of things. I believe everything happens for a reason and a straight up parenting book just doesn’t sound like it’s the right fit either. Your style is more of a coping/self-help/modern parent soul development sort of genre. It’s a very difficult niche to master because some are just to abrasive, some are too guarded to put themselves out there and the rest just aren’t entertaining enough to keep their readers engaged.

    I’m trying to figure out how best to say what I’m trying to say so I’ll give you an example – I get hundreds of emails a day from all sorts of different bloggers, sites, forums, you name it, from every possible walk of life. I bet I could count the ones on my right hand that consistently peak my interest and hold it through the entire post… on every post. You are one of them. They all try but like I said, it’s very difficult to maintain a connection with a reader because the industry is flooded with people who really shouldn’t be writing. I don’t mean that in a bad way but it’s the truth. It’s like a singer, you either have it or you don’t and you have it. Trust me – I read an awful lot and you definitely have something that is worth sharing with others on a more universal scale. You don’t grandstand or go for shock value like most, you don’t fake your way through a post just to get something out there – you speak from the heart in a humble yet humorous and intelligent way that is incredibly relatable.

    So this time I’m ending on the right note… Amy, you should write a book 😉

    • And now I’m the one sitting here sobbing. You have no idea what this comment means to me. Thank you. Thank you so, so much.

  • I don’t think it has to flutter away. It doesn’t have to be now. It can be at another point because you do have something valuable to say and offer and you just need the right fit and it just isn’t the right time probably.

    Also? I sort of hate when people say, “You should write a book.” It’s a beautiful, faithful, uplifiting comment in some ways but in others I feel so much pressure to fufill what I think I should have already done by now (like you) and then another thing to the giant list I’ve already got going on.

    You’ll write that book. I’ve always thought so. Just not now.

    • Yes, and as women our lists are long and never-ending. I have this grand plan where I retire from social media marketing in two or three years and begin to work only on my own projects. I also laugh uproariously when someone says, but won’t you get bored? My son is six. He has no baby book. My living room walls have nothing hanging from them. I have not had a photograph printed on actual photo paper since mid-2009. And there are at least four books in my head that I’d love to write. No. No, I will not get bored.

  • Thank you, I needed to hear this today!

  • I don’t think it fluttered away. I think it was released from a death-rut to run free down the path of adventure again. You were looking in the wrong place – an agent who wasn’t as passionate as you, and a publisher who, if you had published a year ago, would have dropped that genre (and thus support) halfway through the process. Your dream is not freed to find the right support system that will make this a brilliant success for you.


    Angela <

    • Thank you, Angela, and thank you for your chat today! I know in my heart that you are right. Changing directions is frightening, but it’s still right.

  • Oh sweet Amy, look what you have done, look at what you have created out of nothing. Dream? Writing a book can still be your dream and that is by no means over. But, look at the new dreams you have created…I can’t tell you how much you inspire me, no, we haven’t met. I started a blog for much the same reasons,(long story) with job situations being questionable at best for my wonderful husband. I wanted a way to contribute and not give up the very most important job..ever. Being a stay-at-home mom. Anyway, you and your wonderful blog/company were the first “mom” company I came across…you have inspired me everyday since then. So, thank you, thank you, thank you for having new dreams…it has affected some of us in more ways then you will ever know. Blessings!!!

    • Thank you so much for sharing that. You are all making me cry today!

  • “I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”
    ― Marilyn Monroe

    I have lived by that as my quote as my motto my entire life. Your book, well it’s just not time yet. When it is you will know it. And the reason it didn’t happen sooner will be crystal clear. I have no doubt in my mind, NO. DOUBT. it will happen for you. As sure as the sky is blue. And when it does you know we will all be jumping up and down with you! <3

  • Did i really type “by that as my quote as my motto” lol. #tiredtypingfail

  • The fluttering is just a butterfly’s wings that are too wet to fly…yet.

    Sometimes exactly what goes away from you simply makes room for more, better, and bigger. You have much to offer the world, Amy. With all your wonderful accomplishments, you have only simply begun to spread your wings.

  • anne hill

    how did the puppy drown? makes me sad.

    • Oh Anne, that’s a long story! That could be a whole chapter…

  • The thing about dreams is… they are reverberations on the timeline of our life. We feel those reverberations because they are present in our souls. You were right to follow all the other promptings in your life, even if you cried at the things that you desired. The book is there. It will happen. The sadness only comes when we attach a number to it: “I will be published by the time I’m 35.” Go easy on yourself. Honor your dreams. They will happen.

  • Or as Melanie’s daughter (Big Mama) told her, “sometimes we have to walk towards our goal when what we really want to do is run.” The dream hasn’t slipped away until you let it.

  • If you can inspire those who read your words, then there will always be those who seek to hear you! I wish you the best in fulfilling that dream. But keep on writing until you do!

  • …I can’t tell you how much you inspire me, no, we haven’t met. I started a blog for much the same reasons,(long story) with job situations being questionable at best for my wonderful husband. I wanted a way to contribute and not give up the very most important job..ever. Being a stay-at-home mom. Anyway, you and your wonderful blog/company were the first “mom” company I came across…you have inspired me everyday since then. So, thank you, thank you, thank you for having new dreams…

  • […] I wrote The Thing About Dreams last week, I went through every Sweet Pickles book on the shelf looking for that slip of paper I […]

  • “Everything will be okay in the end. If it is not okay, then it is not the end” Or, something like that… Can’t wait to read the book you do write.