The Evolution of a Writer: Part Two
You've got the notebook. You have a writing goal. The plot bunnies are leaping over each other to get out of your head. Now what? Well sit back and let me offer you a big helping of my own humble-berry pie.
Like many aspiring writers, I started out toward my big audacious goal with a lot of inspiration and not much education. I was on my first maternity leave, with way more oxytocin than any women should ever have. Everything made me cry, so logically everything I wrote was emotional genius. But here was the reality: despite years of reading across genres, collections of personal journals and too many formal reports to count, I knew zilch about writing fiction.
But that didn't stop this sleep deprived hormonal-driven momma from entering her first writing competition. I spent ... maybe three hours creating the best bed time story ever written. It was going to win. For sure. I had already picked out my illustrator of choice.
When I received my first ever rejection e-mail, shortly after the contest window closed, I gawked. Denied. Reflected. Cried a lot. And then I did something even more audacious. I crafted an email to one of the contest organizers. I had perused her website and discovered that we had more in common than aspirations to write children's books. She was involved with international charity work in Africa, she loved theater reading scripts and books aloud, and she owned the cutest dog. Well, that was all I needed to fire off an unedited, extremely unprofessional e-mail. Hormones can make you do crazy things.
Fortunately, the organizer and best-selling author who received my response, was perhaps one of the kindest women I could have messaged.
You may know Kathy Stinson from her many award winning children's
books and novels, my personal childhood favorite being, Red is Best. But, let me tell you, she is so much more than her books and literary acclaim.
Kathy went above and beyond in her response to my e-mail. Not only did she reply to all my questions, but she accepted an invitation to join me for Rooibos tea. At my townhouse. With my five-month-old infant. That month!
My house had never received such a deep clean in short order.
When that completely surreal afternoon arrived, we talked about so many unexpected topics: donating laptops, breastfeeding, community theatre, online distractions. And then briefly, near the end, we touched on books and writing. It was the perfect introduction to a sincere and passionate person who also wrote amazing books.
What did I take away from that conversation six years ago?
1) Every writer starts out with an unquenchable thirst and that initial thirst is what drives us to learn and grow.
2) The experiences we have and the relationships we cultivate are the basic ingredients to start on any creative writing project.
3) If we are patient, eventually we can meet our writing goals
4) It's never too late to start writing.
On a more practical note, Kathy was very candid with me about the reality of children's publishing. She shared that it can be tough to break into the picture book market, to not lose sight of that interest, but to explore other areas of children's publishing. And to consider my broader passion and experiences. She suggested reading broadly, particularly within the middle grade and young adult ages.
These little seeds of wisdom completely revised my trajectory. I now had a focus for my learning and exploration. And after copious amounts of reading, my passion evolved. I started to write for young adults (YA). And it felt right. Even without the super charged hormones.
What are your current unquenchable passions? Have they changed after influential conversations? What words of encouragement did you receive that are helping you persevere toward your goal?