They always say you have to start somewhere, so I guess I'll start at the beginning. July, 2006. I was unrepresented by an agent; I was about 70 pages into my book; I'd never finished writing a novel before; and I was enrolled in the Sierra Nevada SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) mentorship program with the amazing Ellen Hopkins as my mentor and the wonderful Suzy Williams as Regional Advisor.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
And then it happened: I met Patti Gauch at the stupendiforous Highlights Foundation's children's book writing conference at the Chautauqua Institute. And my life has never been the same! At the urging of a couple members of the faculty (and ONLY because they gave me permission to do so) I asked Patti to read the first 10 pages of my manuscript. And she did. Right there at a table in front of me. It was a milk of magnesia moment. My palms started to sweat as I stared at the back of her head. I had to sit down, sure I was going to pass out. After two eternities passed, she called me over. She liked it! She wanted to read more! And in a few weeks she'd read all 70 unfinished pages. And she still liked it enough to offer a gift. The gift was her time. Her encouragement to finish it. Herself. It was one of the best gifts I've ever received. So I put my nose to the grindstone and I started writing!
In this blog, I'm going to go ahead and lay out some of the writerly lessons I've learned, and am learning, during my journey to being a published author. Not because I think I know so very much, but because I hope it might help someone else out along the way. It takes a village to get a book published, or at least it did for me. I hope whatever I write here might become part of the village that helps you achieve your dreams.
Lesson #1: Invest in your dreams.
With both your time and your money. If I hadn't gone to the Highlights Chautauqua workshop, I would have never met Patti Gauch. And if I hadn't applied for a scholarship to the workshop I could never have afforded to go. Take the time to research good conferences. Start with the less expensive one-day seminars. Apply for scholarships. Use those frequent flier miles if you have them. Save your money. Make a conference part of your family vacation. But however you get there, GET THERE!
Lesson #2: Network.
Conferences are where you meet people who can help you learn more about your craft, people who can publish your work, and people who share your interest in writing. I used to think networking was a dirty word, the implication being that if you are networking, you are merely using people as rungs on your personal career ladder. I've seen it be that way, and it's ugly. But it doesn't have to be. Networking can also be a great way to meet new friends who share a common interest. It's all in how you look at it. And how you do it. I can't tell you how fun it's been for me to see friends I've made at conferences go on to amazing successes. It's a joy. And they cheered for me when I sold my book, too.
Posted by Fran Cannon Slayton at 1:18 PM