SCBWI Monday

SCBWI group pic 2013
image courtesy of: Group Leader, Stacy’s FB

Ladies and Gentlemen, here are some of my SCBWI writing group peoples!

I know I have probably spoken a little about this in the past, but here, let me elaborate. For the last three months, I have not been able to make it to my writing group. Between irritating car issues and at times, health issues, I found myself M.I.A. at the meetings.

I remember, what feels like ‘way back when’, a certain YA author graciously met up with me and answered all of my naive and ignorant questions about a world I wanted to delve into but had NO clue about. One advice she gave me was for me to become a member of SCBWI (Society of Children Books, Writers & Illustrators). Then, join a writer’s critique group through the SCBWI database. All across the nation, there are Writing Groups you can join.

I connected with Stacy–our group’s leader–and soon, ventured off to my first meeting, shaking like a leaf. I was feeling so wrecked inside. I felt like a fraud, an amateur, inadequate–the list goes on and on. Here was I, a girl with no college degree in English, I’m not a librarian or any other stereotypical label I thought was expected for anyone saying they were pursuing writing.

I was in the middle of writing my first draft for the first concept, (remember, the one I chucked?) and though I was passionate about the story and finishing it, I still felt naive. I get there and meet Stacy, who is a spit fire, Jewish background woman with red hair. She had me laughing the first ten minutes. Then came everyone else–experienced writer’s who know the industry and have been acclimated within for years. Again, *gulp* what was I doing there?

Just a few months before that, I was trying to get back into Acting, after a ten year hiatus. See, at the time, I never saw myself as a writer (I still kind of don’t but…shhh). I never counted any of my past creative outlets through writing as legit. To me, they were things I did because, it’s me. It’s what I did. I constantly had thoughts, stories, emotions fluttering through my brain and needed to let them out however I could. That was through screenplays (movie scripts), scripts for theatre dramas, songs, poems, etc.

I believe it was my third meeting where I found the…hmm, “guts?” Sounds too small. I found the “cojones” (pardon my French…well, actually, Spanish) to bring in my first chapter of my first concept to read aloud. They each had a copy to write their critiques on.

I flubbed and butchered reaching out loud. Looking back it was hilarious and sad. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die. I had read my manuscript out loud to myself and my bestie a couple times. There’s something about reading out loud to a group of acquaintances who have knowledge in the matter, that can suddenly perk your ears up to mistakes you never noticed before. Here I was reading out loud and wincing as I read over another redundant word or clear sentence structure mistake. Ugh. “Earth, swallow me hole,” I thought.

I’ve written about what happens next already so I won’t bore you with that again. In the end, as difficult as it was to hear–for the first time–your baby critiqued, I’m so grateful for them. It helped me remold my story. It challenged me to take a step back and let go of the first concept. I fell in love with my first concept, which made letting go ache but it was necessary.

It’s been months, and I have now a much better concept. It’s tighter. It has more tension.

Three months later, I returned to my group. I sat there at first a little nervous. Had I lost the momentum of connection with them? I am still fairly new. I still haven’t really become a part of the group. Some of these people have been together, in this same group for almost ten years. Ten. Years. Some of them are published already, which is so exciting and encouraging. I wasn’t sure how to feel or what to expect when I got back there on Monday.

I didn’t bring any of my new chapters to read yet because, well, I was just coming back and didn’t feel confident doing that yet. We read other peoples pages and together discussed it. Something happened. Unlike the first few meetings, where during the critique portion of the meeting, we write notes on the others MS (manuscript), I had NOTHING to contribute–still feeling like a fraud during those days–suddenly…I had ideas. I had things to contribute and hey, look at that! A couple of things were actually useful? Made sense? What’s the word? Well, a couple of ideas I contributed, the group either agreed on and or the writer agreed with. I had a feeling of belonging.

In the last ten months, I have been pursuing writing hard, with conviction and asserted passion. I haven’t ducked away, writing to myself for no one to ever see because I never believed anyone would want to see them. I chose to, without shame from my lack of knowledge or experience, put out there my writing pursuit. With that, I’ve become intentional about learning all I can. I’ve sought out other authors and picked their brain or blog posts they put out there with advice. I have purchased recommended books and of course, read. A lot of reading.

Something clicked for me on Monday (our group meets once a month–first Monday of the month). I felt like I might have a shot at doing this. I just might be learning and grasping ideas that can in turn, actually give one of my manuscripts a shot in the future.

Something else clicked. I was truly grateful for this group. I appreciate their warmth and welcome. I appreciate their knowledge and experiences which they are willing to share. I appreciate their view of the ‘little guy’ who though naive, desperately wants to learn and be apart of this wonderful community. I appreciate that they’re willing to take us novices in. Other groups are more strict about who they allow in the group. Some will only take already published, seasoned writer’s with a community reputation. They’re not interested in a wet-nose novice in their group and though that may sound like a jab stemmed from bitterness *winks*, it’s not. Its the truth and I get it. I understand.

When it comes to creative outlet careers (entertainment industry, fashion, writing, etc), it’s really hard for new, fresh meat talent to find mentors. Rarely do people want to take the time and invest in them because it’s time consuming. Usually those with the ability to “mentor” those “below” them, are seeking to climb themselves and so the focus stays there. The climbing. I personally believe both can be done, simultaneously but to each their own. It’s like leaving college with your degree (so now you have a driven focused career path) and you apply for a job in that field and they tell you,

“Sorry, you need two years experience before you can work in this entry level position in your desired field which you just spent years going to school for.”

“Um, okay. But I can’t get experience if you don’t hire me…”

*cricket cricket*

Yeah, makes a whole lot of sense, right? Our microwave generation wants the quick, the marketable, the baby geniuses who somehow are already gifted with super powers in their field or better yet, those who know people and get hooked up. It’s always about who you know.

Well, that leaves the other 80% of us clueless on how to proceed.

All that rant to say,

Thank you, writing group, for taking little ol’ me in and mentoring me through your stories, advice, and even plain old hospitality and friendship.

Writing can be a very secluded and lonely lifestyle. I think the biggest thing the reading/writing community has is just that–community. It’s so important, necessary, for us to connect with others who understand our quirks and passion for books! No man is an island and we should not be afraid or intimidated to reach out and ask for help.

I was. I was petrified. I usually don’t know how to ask for help because I’m such a shy, introvert and you’d never know it from meeting me because I’m also friendly and easy to talk to. I’m told I smile a lot…like….a lot (don’t know how to feel about that) so I come off even more energetic and happy. If I had given in to my intimidation, I would have never found the, again, ‘cojones’ to write that author and ask to meet. If I gave in, I wouldn’t have made the hour and fifteen minute drive north to my writer’s group. If I had, I would have not returned after the first meeting.

I’m glad I didn’t give in. The long drive, (it’s only once a month) is worth it. It’s worth the sacrifice to go and connect with these people. 4 meetings later and already it’s helped make me a better, and slightly more knowledgeable writer.

Any aspiring children’s book, middle grade, young adult writers and illustrators out there who are starting out or have been pursuing for years and haven’t connected with SCBWI, I definitely encourage for you to find a writing group in your area and join! You can find one through the SCBWI database. Also, you can just gather friends who write and read as well and meet up wkly, bi-wkly, or monthly and read each other’s stuff. Even if not all of them write and/or read the same genre you’re writing for, fresh eyes of all reading interests benefits. Toss fear and intimidation out the window. We need one another to pursue these dreams.

Well, back to work. Gotta get to writing. *smiles* 


Till next time…

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