Sunday, August 14, 2011

She's Back!

So, it's been nine long months since my last post. I did complete NaNoWriMo, but who knew that was the easy part (yes, I'm still revising!). I've learned a lot of hard lessons in my time away from my blog, I've faced some difficult personal challenges, but I've remained committed to my writing. Here are the nine things I've learned in 9 months...

1. I AM NOT ALONE
I've just returned from the SCBWI annual conference in Los Angeles, CA. I've said this before and I'll say it again--I've found my tribe. I met the delightfully witty and charming Judy Blume. I spoke to editors and agents about my writing prospects. I pitched a book. I shared meals with other aspiring authors. I travelled across the country and met two African-American YA aspiring authors, also from Virginia. I partied in my pajamas--don't ask, just imagine! And I spoke to the author of "The Phantom Toll Booth." I was awe-struck, inspired, fearless, and overwhelmed. But what I wasn't was out of place. I found solstice with kindred spirits, other souls who also majored in English and wondered what the heck the degree would bring forth. This is my tribe, these are my people, and this is my dream.

2. I AM NOT PERFECT
And I am perfectly content admitting that I'm not perfect. The best that I can do is to commit myself to my craft. That means writing or revising daily. Taking at least one hour of the day (more when I can) for my writing, and forgiving myself when it doesn't happen.

3. I CANNOT WRITE IN THIS BLOG 3X WEEKLY
There are so many avenues to getting published. Creating a digitally connected platform is a step, but not the answer. There are no blueprints, answers, or maps. There is just creativity, diligence, and timing -- and not always in that order. I started this blog to capture my journey towards being published. The idea that I needed to write in this blog three times a week only brought unnecessary pressure and took me away from my craft of WRITING children's stories. This blog is an important tool, along with my website, twitter account, Facebook, and LinkedIn connections. I will nurture them all appropriately because they are stepping stones towards my dream. They keep me connected, informed, and honest.

So, I will write in this blog when there is something worthy to write about. And when I do, my adoring 15 followers will know ;-)...

4. LIFE HAPPENS
I will keep this short and sweet. In the nine months that I've been away, one of my younger sisters died from multiple strokes. The strokes went undetected because she also suffered her entire life from epilepsy. To the untrained eye, she was just having seizures. By the time doctors determined she had suffered from multiple strokes, it was too late. She would have been 30 this November. My heart is still broken, but my spirit rejoices in knowing that she is released from her suffering. Also, my husband's grandfather became terminally ill and took his place in heaven. And one of my other sisters gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, at long last making me an aunt. It's during times like these that I am either scarily creative, detached, or tending to family. In this season, I tended to family and my creativity took a back seat. Such is life...it happens...we cope...we live to tell another story.

5. I HAVE LIMITATIONS
I have a very demanding job as a PR professional for the District of Columbia Lottery. Sometimes I work long hours and come home to my small family drained and nearing insanity. That's when my husband steps in and carries the weight. But he can't work for me and he can't write for me--and unfortunately, sometimes I must choose. I will continue to fight for balance, but I know that I have limitations. I respect them and I move on.

6. I NEED A CRITIQUE GROUP
I have not let anyone read my stories, with the exception of my editor. It's time for me to take the next step and face my tribe. Within the next month, I will find or create a critique group. A little constructive criticism is just what the doctor ordered to cure my fear of publishing rejection.

7. I MUST STAY CONNECTED TO OTHER AUTHORS
I met a handful of aspiring authors at SCBWI. We talked about our work, but also how to balance our lives. They understood. My friends don't always understand. My family doesn't always understand. But other aspiring and published authors, they understand. I need their support, and it will serve my spirit well to give them mine.

8. TO PERFECT MY CRAFT, I MUST BE PART OF THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
So, I've been writing my stories based on instinct and instruction from how-to books (some very well written books, I might add). But, it's cowardly and foolish to believe that that's all I need. I have found a few online courses that I am considering, and I have applied for a Master's program at Lesley University. This is progress, and another step towards my goal of becoming a published children's book author.

9. I CAN WRITE PICTURE BOOKS, CHAPTER BOOKS, AND NOVELS
And, I know the difference! I have three complete picture book manuscripts, a middle grade/YA novel that I'm revising, an outline for a chapter book, and several ideas for more stories. I am not limited in my format, and have proven that I can cross genres. Yay for me!

So, that's it in a nutshell. Thanks for sticking around. It's been a wild ride, but I'm in it for the long haul. I hope you'll stay for the ride.

Always,
Athena


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