Embracing the writer in…you

Several months ago I decided it was high time to make a proactive step into solidifying myself as a writer. Sure, I slaved over my laptop at both home and the day job. I punched out nearly 160k words in six months without batting an eyelash. I alienated my family and friends because “I have to finish it.” But did that mean I was a writer? Maybe, maybe not. I still felt sort of – transient – I guess is the best word. I didn’t really feel like I was part of that world. The fantastic writer world where imaginations fly free, and we are surrounded by creative minds. Where words are plucked from the air like a ripe grape. Nope. I was still sidelining.

After doing some checking around I found several writers’ groups. You know, the big dogs. The one’s you have to fork over some dough to be a part of. The serious kind, for serious writers. One that looked promising was the Romance Writers of America (RWA). This sounded good. But I was not a fully fledged ‘romance’ writer, was I? My forte was more YA fantasy with, of course, kissing. When I picture “Romance Novel” I see a corseted red-head gasping in the arms of some super steroid, long haired (don’t forget the leather cord holding the hair back), half naked Adonis. That is SOOOOO not me. The thought actually makes me giggle uncomfortably.

Next up, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Now here we go!!!! This is more like it. All things KidLit. From tots to teens and everything in between! Heh, I’m a poet and didn’t know it… Sorry, shiny ball happened. Anyway, I looked into it and felt it a good fit so, wa-bam, I signed up. This was my claim to writer-dom. I was now a member of something! Big girl writer panties are ON yo!

When I received the email about the Winter Conference in January I knew I HAD to go. There were no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. I was going! By late December, I had everything booked. Now terror set in. Non-refundable flight to a HUGE city I had never been to, a nice chunk of change forked over to a hotel that I had never seen, and a registration fee paid to an event where I would only know me, myself and I. Holy CRAP what am I doing?!

As I got on the plane last week, I mentally went over the multiple places I had stashed an ID, credit card, and cash in case I got mugged somewhere. But that was so negative, and I didn’t want to begin this journey on a negative foot. I sat in the seat and focused on having the most amazing time. I would not allow the big-bad-city to scare me. Sure, I’m from Tennessee, but I grew up in Sacramento and visited San Francisco often enough to befriend a bartender (whole ‘nother post on that, lol). I was not a stranger to big cities, but NYC was just – different.

All my positive thinking mojo did the trick! It was a FANTASTIC weekend! NYC was awesome and the SCBWI folk were beyond amazing. I met a fellow writer, and Twitter friend, and we hit it off. Happy to call her an actual friend now. 🙂 And met dozens of other writers and illustrators.

Up until this point, whenever I talked about what I write, it was sort of awkward. When I mentioned I write YA Fiction I generally get hit with the pregnant pause and “Ooohhhh… That’s cool” with an exaggerated nod. Not so much with the SCBWI crew. They wanted to know what I write, how long I have been writing, what was my story about, am I pitching yet, have I written anything else, am I published, etc etc… Whew! So many wonderful questions from people who were just like me! It was AWSOME! I did not feel awkward discussing my writing at all. The only times I felt ill at ease were when I ran into someone who had been writing since the womb, but then the next person I talked to was an elderly lady writing her first novel. How much more awesome can you get?

The speeches were better than I could have ever dreamed. Damn you Chris Crutcher! You cannot share stories like that and NOT have a mom cry uncontrollably!!! Cassandra Clare gave us the inside tip on love triangles and I totally fan-girled her. She signed my name badge!! Jane Yolen was phenomenal! And a surprise visit from the one and only Henry Winkler was inspirational.

Over the course of two days, all-around awesomesauce surrounded me, and I could not have been happier. By the time I boarded my plane in LaGuardia Sunday evening exhaustion took on a whole new meaning. Not only did every limb ache from standing and walking, but my brain was surely reduced to ooze. But the good kind of ooze.

I learned so much in that time that I will never forget. The nitty gritty of what makes a good novel; voice, hook, plot, action, emotion, show – don’t – tell, and a story that is not like any other! But it was more than that. The things that really stuck with me did not have to do with the nuts and bolts of writing a novel or picture book. It was the other stuff, the beating heart of writing; the writer.

I learned that no matter what, if you believe you are a writer, then you are. If you have a story to tell, then tell it! It does not matter if you are published or “pre-published.” It does not matter if you’ve had ink stained fingertips since birth or if you picked up your first writer’s notepad yesterday. It does not matter if you cannot outline to save your life or if you have a whole database dedicated to every micro detail of your books. It does not matter if you are grammatically incorrect or if the folks at Webster’s or Idiot’s Guide to Writing consult you before publication. It does not even matter if you are 40+ and writing books for teenage girls and boys! You know why? Because you are a writer. We come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, education, experience, ages and outside professions.

That is what’s so fabulous about being a writer. It does not matter when the bug bites you, as long as it bites, and bites hard. I will never forget the inspirational words for a newbie writer like myself. Never give up, never back down, never lose your voice, never stop challenging yourself, never let go of an idea because it’s ‘too risky,’ and by GAWD do not EVER stop writing! These are my new ‘words to live by.’ My new mantra. Why? Because I am a writer…