Last Saturday I attended the SCBWI Midsouth conference for the third time. For the uninitiated, SCBWI is for writers, illustrators, and enthusiasts of children’s literature (which includes young adult). I always walk away from this conference feeling ready encouraged, inspired, and ready to improve my craft. I always meet wonderful people who feel like my people. I could go on about what I learned, but there’s something else in regards to this conference that has got me to thinking: How did I get here?
I believe whole-hardheartedly that things work out the way they do for a reason. I also believe that God is the one who orchestrates all these events in my life and weaves them together just so. But regardless of your beliefs, you have to admit how things come together can be pretty awesome.
I often tout that I had a worthless major in college. And I stand by that. But two things happened in the course of this “worthless major” that I believe led me to SCWBI conferences:
- I took a fiction writing class my last semester, because I needed another elective.
- I couldn’t get hired straight out of school, so eventually I ended up in a string of temp positions.
The fiction writing class is what got me back into writing. I clung to writing during that time of unemployment when I felt so useless. As for the temp position, that is where I met the woman who first told me about SCBWI.
At my first SCBWI conference, I really had no idea what to expect. I went in there thinking I knew one person, but reconnected with another girl who lived in my town that I had known from church. We ended up in the same critique group at the end of the day, and we kept in touch. That day I also met another girl who lived in our town. We stayed somewhat connected, though we did not hear as much from her as she became a new mom. Then several months ago, she reached out to me and the first girl, and we have been meeting and critiquing each other pretty consistently ever since. It was so great to sit with both of them at the conference this year.
I also learned about publishing from my first SCBWI conference. I was mostly blind to the whole process, but I learned about agents and queries and editors and the whole nine yards.
Before my fiction writing class, I had also been very afraid of sharing my fiction writing. That class was an epiphany – exactly what I needed – the kick in the butt to share. So I was able to share myself, my writing, at these conferences, with these girls I have come to know (and some others as well).
Before the conference this year, I paid for a fifty-page critique of my novel, and it was not an easy thing to do, but it was the right decision. A decision I would have never made, a place I never would have been ready for, had it not been for SCBWI. I got some much-needed constructive criticism. After that critique I improved the first few pages of my story to bring to the conference, and got even more feedback. So I’ll be revising again, on those first few pages and on the rest of the manuscript.
My goal is to have another full revision by the end of this year, ready for some beta readers. This is with the goal of being ready to query sometime early next year. I have made goals like this before that I have not met, but I KNOW I really am much closer this time. Between the paid critique service and my critique partners and what I hear in these conference sessions I know I am headed in the right direction. I am completely convinced I can make my dream to become a published author come true.
And I wonder if I would even be here right now had it not been for that “worthless major.”
So no, I did not get published at 25, I probably won’t have a physical book of mine out by 30 (but hopefully, maybe, I will have a book sold by then?!), but that is OK. I believe publication will come at the right time.
Right now, my own story is being written.