Living The Dream

Those of you who have known me long enough have read stories of my hopes to be a published author and all of the trials, travails, failures, and bumps along the way I have faced as I pursue this dream.

Along the way, there have also, of course been some successes, but these only came after much failure, many rejections, and more than a few (sometimes harsh) criticisms from those in the business of publishing. 

I have been told that I don’t write well.  I have been told that I don’t understand the story arc.  I have been told that my stories are too nice.  I have been criticized for the lack of ability to develop a single character let alone multiple characters.  I’ve been dismissed, ridiculed, laughed off, ignored, and insulted by people in the industry.  All of these more than once. 

The best (it was really the worst) was the time I paid hundreds of dollars to attend a writers’ gathering many hours away from home where I would get to hang with fellow writers and meet some literary agents who would supposedly help us all on our paths to achieve our dreams.  When I finally got my appointment with the literary agent, after waiting many hours for this special opportunity, she looked at me, and after reading some of my picture book stories, said simply, “Amateur.”  That was the most I got out of her.  I paid good money for 15 or 20 minutes with this agent, and spent many hours in my car shuffling to this “event,” but I certainly didn’t get my money’s (or time’s) worth.  There was no “conferring” with this agent.  There was no positive feedback.  The discussion was non existent.  In fact, I felt like I was an intruder on the agent’s time – time I was paying good money for the “privilege” of having. 

Over the years, there have been more than enough reasons for me to quit this dream and just give it all up as a bad idea.


Quick side note – NEVER give up on your dreams.  Never, ever, ever.  Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t or you won’t. 

You can and you will.  In order to succeed, you just have to push through the rejection, the doubts, and the failure.

And there will be disasters along the way… sometimes lots of them.  In spite of the set backs, moving forward is always the direction to go.

Even when we go backwards in pursuit of our dreams, we’re moving forward. 


Even with all of this, I believed in myself.  I know what I can do – and I also know to never let anything stop me in my pursuit of my dreams.  In addition, plenty of other people told me that they loved the way I write and that they loved my stories.  These were smart people, some were even published writers.  It spite of the plethora of discouraging feedback, there were positives.  

We must always believe in ourselves.  We can all achieve more than we think is possible.


My picture books about Principal Sam were published first by a small publisher.  That publisher also printed my book of essays, Impossible is an Illusionbut soon after it changed it’s publishing approach and gave its authors a chance to seek publication elsewhere.  I ventured out into the wilderness again…

Success followed by failure.

Right now the Principal Sam books are self-published, but this is only temporary.  A smart publisher will pick him up.  It’ll happen.  Soon.  I keep trying.  Failure is just a quick stop on the way to success.  

Late last year, Impossible is an Illusion was picked up by a bigger and very well respected publisher, Wipf & Stock.  It’ll be available through that publisher very soon.  They like the book so much that it’s coming out in hardcover.  Things do have a way of working out!

I also have an offer to publish for my follow-up book of my essays titled Possibility is Everything.  

Z Publishing included an essay of mine, Marblesin its newly released New Jersey’s Emerging Writers anthology.  

And, possibly the best news of all, my great novel (Scattering the Ashes) will be published in October by Artemesia Publishing.  They are making its first published run in hardcover – they believe that much in me and my story.  (And they’re right.  The story is worth it…trust me.  Scattering The Ashes will be the next great American novel.)

In short, I am (slowly) achieving my dreams.

A few years ago, I had nothing published.  I’ve now taken a few small (or big) steps forward.

The best seller’s list is just ahead. 

It is.

I know it. 


Success comes in many ways. 

It was during our school’s February recess that I had a chance to really live one of my dreams… 

On Tuesday, February 19, I was the visiting author at a wonderful elementary school in Fairfax, Virginia.  The school librarian asked me to come to share Principal Sam with the students.  


Imagine that?!

I was the guy, the visiting author, who all the kids and teachers would come to see. 

I was the special assembly that they would be looking forward to.  

I was the guy who would get to entertain and tell the kids about my writing journey and read one of my books to them.

A school reached out to me to be their visiting author!

And it was awesome.




“Are you the author?”

“I love your books.”

“Principal Sam is so funny.”

Previously, I had gotten a little bit of this type of recognition as I have “toured” the local library circuit, but never before had I had hundreds and hundreds of kids (who I didn’t even know) looking at me and being excited to hear me speak and read my silly books about a confused (and very silly) principal.

(Did I say this was awesome?)

The kids and the teachers laughed at the right spots, the made connections to the character, they asked questions.  And the smiled and smiled and smiled.  

For a few hours, for at least for one morning in a school in Virginia, I was a superstar.  Kids were talking about a character I made up.  Hundreds of people were reading my book.

I saw, quite clearly, again, that dreams really can come true.


In our lives we are told (more times than we probably care to admit) that there are things we can’t do.  It’s said explicitly.  It’s said between the lines. It’s hinted at and it’s yelled from the mountain tops.  We’re told in so many ways so many times and in so many respects, “YOU CANNOT DO THAT.”

Sometimes all that negativity makes it easy to just give up.

But, I’m here to say the opposite.  You can.


Among the people I know, I am often the least talented person in the bunch.  There are so many things I can’t do.  If I can achieve a dream, if only for a day, you can as well. 

Think about your goals, dream your dreams, and work to make them come true.  They can – and they will.



But, most importantly, it’s not about us.  This is the message we need to teach to our students and our children today and every day.  Always.  We need to teach the students that they can be great and that they can achieve. 

Because they can…

And they will.

But, as they grow they will also be told by others that they can’t and that they won’t, and that they shouldn’t even try.

We need to tell them – and convince them – that the opposite is true.

They need to remember our encouragement when others spread discouragement. 

We need to teach them that success is always just around the corner.  It’s so so so so so close. 

This it true for all of us, always.

All it takes is hard work, a willingness to fail, and the ability to get up again and move ever forward.

Ever forward.

Always Forward.



2 thoughts on “Living The Dream

  1. Wow!!! How wonderful, Paul! So inspiring I intend on putting pen to paper (more likely finger to keyboard) this morning.

    I do agree with your thoughts and think I have ingested environmental negativity as “getting real” for many years only confronting that idea recently. But the encouragement you suggest we all hold on to and promote IS real. I see students respond to it like blossoms open to sun.

    Keep on shining and writing, Dr. Sem!


  2. Doing positive things has always worked for me … always show excitement … others how to lead. Love the words above in this article.


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