Monday, February 20, 2012

Athena's West Coast Wonderland

In 12 days I'll be on a plane destined to Monterey, California, the recipient of arguably the best gift I've given myself in my journey to becoming a published children's book author. When I started down this path about 18 months ago, I couldn't even comfortably call myself a novice. I was, in fact, simply aspiring.
On September 22, 2010, I posted on this blog about my adventures in Wonderland, comparing my foray into children's book writing and publishing with the enduring popularity of Alice's adventures. I was prompted to craft the Wonderland post by my discovery of an editor. See, as an aspiring author, every step in the process...every discovery...every stumble...every class...every work in progress is wondrous, and can at times feel preposterous. Yet, my sense of wonder has not diminished and continues to burn brilliantly bright with each word that I commit to paper.

In 2011, I discovered a workshop that promised "a hands-on intensive weekend designed to ready [writer's] manuscripts for publication." I was intrigued, but skeptical. Not that anything created in the spirit of Henry Miller could disappoint -- but I was fearful that my work would be an utter disappointment to the cadre of published authors, editors, and agents assembled to guide the work of new writers. That my talent lived only in my imagination and would crumble under scrutiny. So, I watched from the sidelines. I attended the SCBWI annual conference. I took a picture book writing class. I wrote another manuscript and began revisions with an editor. I even wrote a novel (now two). And as I scuttled between adventures in my wonderland, I kept an eye on the Big Sur Writing Workshop.

The decision to submit my work was not easy. Though I've learned a lot in the year since I first discovered Big Sur, there still exists doubt. First, I made money my excuse for not attending. Then I decided that my work in progress needed more revisions and wasn't ready for the light of day. And as the deadline crept closer and closer, my excuses began to fade. I did have the money, if I prioritized. And my work in progress was just that -- a work in progress that might be made better once examined by professionals whose one goal is to help aspiring authors become published. 

My excuses vanished and I took the plunge. I paid my fees, submitted my sample chapter and query letter on February 10 (the last day to register)...and then I waited...

I checked my personal email account every hour. I re-read my submission countless times. I conjured up scenarios of why my work would be denied. I imagined receiving an email thanking me, denying me, and encouraging me to keep trying. I thought the biggest hurdle was the submission; I discovered that the waiting was far worse.

If you're reading this, then you might be wondering what the big deal is with Big Sur, and why I wanted it so badly. Here's just a few reasons why.

1. Writing is a solitary endeavor that can be equally rewarding and punishing to your spirit. Until your work leaves the confines of your solitary world, you wonder if it's good enough and if it can survive. The best options for learning comes from your peers and those in the industry (writers, editors, and agents). At the Big Sur Writing Workshop, I will have access to some of the most well-respected professionals in the industry:

Agents from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Editors from Chronicle Books, Disney-Hyperion, and Viking, and
Authors, as well as special guest, literary manager and producer Brandy Rivers

2. I love the conference format. When it comes to my writing, I can be an introvert and hesitant about sharing (yes, I want to be published but am afraid to let anyone read my work--I know it sounds crazy, but it's true). Usually, I prefer bigger conferences where I can gather information and settle into obscurity. But at Big Sur, I will meet and work with three faculty members throughout the workshop. With a ratio of faculty to writers of five-to-one, the level of attention I will receive is better than any of the many classes I've taken in my more than two decades of education.

3. The schedule includes critique groups, lectures, and rewriting time. I can devote the entire time to my craft under the guidance of a faculty of authors, agents, and editors. Pinch me, I must be dreaming!

4. And lastly, what could be better than writing in Monterey, California! While I will not be able to take advantage of all that Monterey has to offer, it's not lost on me how geography can impact the muse. Traveling cross-country to write and be critiqued might not be appealing to many; but for me, it's the stuff dreams are made of.

As it turned out, I was not forced to wait and wonder. On the same day that I submitted my sample chapter, I was accepted as a participant in the March 2-4, 2012, Big Sur Writer's Workshop. I count my acceptance as a triumph and an extension of my wonderland to include the West Coast. What awaits me on this next adventure remains to be seen. But like Alice, I am up for the challenge and can't wait to meet my West Coast cast of characters. Armed with my Greta Garbo fountain pen, my faithful MacBook Air, my brand new portable printer, and a full copy of my young adult novel -- Taketh Away -- I will not slip down this new rabbit hole unprepared. See you on the other side!