Monday, February 28, 2011

This scribbler's sojourn

This scribbler’s sojourn began in 1987 when I was in the 8th grade.  It was my first year in a public school – it was this farm girl’s first time in a real library.  I fell in love with the ‘choose your own adventure’ books that were all the rage back then.  I decided to write a few of my own and shared them with my two younger brothers and any friends who could be talked into reading the jumble of lined papers. 
That same year I completed my first “novel” titled Gundi’s Great Adventure.  It was about a little gnome and his friends who took to the mines and rescued the poor people of their land from the clutches of an evil villain.  It was written in pencil and stapled to death.
The following year I made a submission for the first time.  I don’t remember the name of the magazine or the competition they were holding, but my short story was about a unicorn.  My reaction to losing was that of a typical confident, cocky thirteen-year-old – I felt they were totally wrong to choose another as their winner.  My story must have been the best.  I’d been reading adult novels since I was eight for crying out loud! 
I pouted.  The pencil was put down.  I didn’t attempt writing again for sixteen years.
In 2004 I met Pulitzer Prize winner, Anne Tyler.  I shared my hopes of becoming a published author someday and she encouraged me to follow that dream.  I took up my pencil with renewed vigor, and she graciously mentored me through the writing of my first real novel.
The confidence from my childhood returned and quickly morphed into arrogance when Anne said I would someday be signing a book for her.  She wrote letters of introduction to a few agents who agreed to look at my soft romance manuscript. 
Of course Laura Langlie and Amy Berkower didn’t understand the big thing they decided not to get in on.  Donald Maass’ critique of was off the mark – he certainly didn’t know what he was talking about.  So I thought. 
The fourteen agents who agreed that my writing was ‘jarring’ and ‘sloppy’ cracked my self-confident shell.  My arrogance was shredded by each till all that remained was a woman who realized she had a lot to learn.
I set aside the romance and settled in front of my laptop to write what I know.  Fantasy.  I researched for a few years before beginning an epic story of a young woman’s flight from inner demons and her supernatural powers that she despised.  It’s still a work in progress.
I joined a critique forum two years ago and met a group of helpful, humorous, and encouraging people.  Lydia Sharp,  one of the forum’s moderators and a published author, reviewed my first chapter and offered advice that completely changed the way I write:  Show don’t tell.  Other critiques from my fellow forum-ites have helped me hone my skills and rebuild my confidence enough to begin submissions once again.
I made an attempt at flash fiction last week and had an editor from Every Day Fiction magazine review it for me.   It was my first step toward submission in five years.  Unfortunately, my story wasn’t something he thought they would be interested in, but he told me I’ve got the tools to write a good story.  Those words took the sting out of the set-back and encouraged me to continue my journey. 
The determination of the thirteen-year-old farm girl has doubled.  But this time I’m willing to learn and glean from those who know what they’re talking about.  Stop in once in awhile to see how my journey progresses.  I hope I’m able to impart some knowledge of my own and help you on your scribbler’s sojourn.