The last day of the conference came too quickly.
But I'm left feeling hopeful and inspired with tools I can use as I revise my work.
We began our Friday workshop sharing the homework assignments that we'd each been given to improve our novels. The excerpts shared in our class blew me away. It was amazing to see a group of skilled writers transform their words and take them to a higher level over and over again.
The panel of agents and editors offered great advice, as always. In short, here's a recap for writers who are getting ready to put together a submission:
What Keeps an Agent/Editor Reading?
The burning question of, What happens next?
An unexpected storyline.
Surprise! I don't know how to say this, but I need to share, so here it is.
During the closing webinar of the conference, I was awarded a Fellowship Grant for the middle grade novel I'd brought to revise. Yay!
It's hard to put into words, how I felt at that moment, and how I continue to feel today.
When I realized that the words being read were my own, my first instinct was to dive under my desk and seek shelter. Lucky for me, I have a small desk. I couldn't get away from them.
Getting this grant feels surreal and at the same time, hard to believe. I met many talented writers this past week, and each are creating amazing stories. It's impossible not to want the same for them.
For me, the timing of this grant award culminated in an important Take-Away.
I'll preface this Take Away with a bit of backstory.
March, April, and May were busy months. A handful of professional critique opportunities unfolded. I prepared what I could, the WIFYR grant being one of them. By the first week of June, I'd heard back from those critiques (but not the WIFYR grant.). One agent thought my MC was too whiny. Another liked her, and thought the story held merit in discovering how the relationships would unfold. Another agent didn't have much to say. Which is all fine. I can fix "whiny," and yes, I like my relationships, I think they're worth sticking with to the end. And clearly, it's good to discover agents who aren't a good match along the way to finding "the one."
I found similar reactions in my writing workshop. Some authors loved the manuscript. Others liked it well-enough, although I suspect it wasn't their cup of tea. Which I get. Different readers develop different tastes. I respect that.
And then, my manuscript won the Fellowship Grant!
What?!? How is that possible?
At the very least, it means something, or a few things, are working in my story. And I'm hoping that the tools I learned this week will help me get all of it right.
If anything, the rollercoaster I've been on with this manuscript over the last 12 days shows two things.
1) Connections to a manuscript happen on personal level. Some readers will love it, others won't, and that's OKAY. There isn't one story on the planet that will appeal to everyone. For example, I own the book, Where the Crawdads Sing. My mother loved it; my mother-in-law loved it; my daughter loved it. I've begun reading my copy on two different occasions. But I haven't been able to "get into the novel," that has sold more than a million copies... Soooooo. Reading and loving a book is personal, although I suspect I'll be able to finish Where the Crawdads Sing when the timing is right.
2) Write your story! WRITE IT. Throw up all over your pages, and then revise, and make it beautiful for you and the readers/writers/critique-peeps that get it from the beginning. Because stories that find a way into your heart, are wanting to be told. YOU are the person who needs to tell them.
YOUR story isn't knocking on the door of the writer who lives down the road.
It's knocking on yours.
So welcome it in.
Give it a place to put its feet up.
And then give it wings.
This is my revelation,
my take away.
My wish for you
is for you to keep writing,
and for you to revise,
and for you to maintain hope,
until your story takes the shape it needs.