To take my mind off of my symptoms, I've decided to do a 'series' of blog posts sharing my journey. This will accomplish a number of things: it will keep me busy, it will let other writers know how I came to this stage in my journey, it will assure you that you're not alone, and it will help me prepare for a workshop I'm giving next month about writing picture books. The workshop is in three weeks at a local Children's Festival so I will do this blog series in three parts. The beginning, the middle, and the end.
In the beginning...
About three years ago, when my oldest daughter was almost eight, I began writing a story about a girl that was almost eight. I wrote the story and shared it with my family. It was cute and I had the idea that maybe I could get a local artist, Stephan Baker, that I work with through my school (I am an elementary school teacher) to draw some pictures to go with it. In my mind, I was thinking that maybe it would make a nice gift for my daughter: fun story that mommy wrote. I was very nervous about sharing the story with someone outside my family. I framed it as, "I wrote this story and wondered, and you can say no, if you would maybe, and you don't have to, draw some pictures to go with it." He read the story and said that he liked it and would really like to do some pictures for it. So we began sharing ideas while he did some sketches that suited the story perfectly. In the midst of the sharing, he told me about an idea he'd had but, being an artist, not a writer, he thought of the story in pictures. So I set to work on this story.
About a year later (we worked in bits and pieces at a time) Stephan had multiple pages of illustrations to go with a story I'd titled Jessica Bean. It was wonderful to see this story I had written come to life through his illustrations. We had talked more about just putting the story 'out there'. We'd written it anyway, so it might be worth the time to see what others thought of it. I let my librarian read it as well as a few of the classes at school. Likewise, he took the story to some of the schools where he taught art. It was well received.
A friend that I work with suggested that I attend the Surrey Writers Conference with her as that could be a chance to share our work. At this point, we had an illustrated version of Jessica Bean and I had written a story based on Stephan's idea that he'd shared with me. The story is about a Princess. He hadn't worked on many illustrations for this one, as we'd focused on Jessica. On my own, I had written a story about a little boy who doesn't see the world the same way his classmates do because he sees through autistic eyes. It placed in the second round of entries in a contest for the Writer's Union of Canada, as did Jessica. Making it that far granted me the luxury of getting some professional feedback.
On October 17th, 2012, I drove into Surrey with my friend. I had to miss We Day Vancouver to get to the evening festivities for the conference. I remember thinking, I hope it is worth missing Craig and Mark Kielburger for this conference. That night, I had dinner with my friend followed by an unbelievably inspiring and enchanting evening with a group of well known writers. Honestly, I felt like a kid who finally gets to sit in the staff room with their favourite teachers. I sat and listened (because I was too shy and nervous to speak) to Diana Gabaldon, Jack Whyte, Sam Sykes, CC Humphreys, and Michael Slade laugh and joke. These admirable and talented writers were REAL people! It was an honor to sit and just observe. They were all very lovely and funny and it will remain one of my favourite memories though I do wish now that I had overcome my nerves and engaged in conversation with any one of them.
The next morning, I was due to have a blue pencil session with Tanya Lloyd Kyi. I had read her bio and chosen her because she wrote for children, was local, and, honestly, she looked nice in her picture. Her picture was not lying, by the way. She was lovely. A blue pencil session is when you get the chance to have a professional look over your work and provide you some feedback. I am grateful that I had my blue pencil session before my pitch session with Carly Watters, though at the time, I didn't know it would make a difference. When you pay for the conferences, you can book a ten minute blue pencil session and a ten minute pitch session. Not being a professional writer, I had no idea how important both of these sessions could and would be. Not knowing, I was extremely lucky that both of my sessions (which I will talk about in detail in my next post) went so well. I had with me: both the stories that had earned some notice in the Writer's Union contest, one of which I had fully illustrated, a story I was just starting, and the story about a Princess that was not illustrated.
I'm not good at living with suspense, so I'll tell you a few things before I end:
1. In hindsight, I was not well prepared to pitch and I'll explain why and give you helpful advice in next week's blog.
2. I'm now an agented writer on submission so it went well despite not being as prepared as I now wish I had been.
3. Attending the conference was WELL WORTH missing Craig and Mark Kielburger.
Tune in next week where I'll talk about meeting the lovely Tanya Lloyd Kyi and Carly Watters, how getting professional feedback and attending the conference made me look at what I wanted to do with my writing, how submitting requested work to an agent opened my eyes to the writing world, and how I've become a better writer since realizing that I want to be a writer.
Have you attended or thought of attending a writers conference? The Surrey International Writers Conference will be happening again this year from October 25th-27th. You should go.