THE WRITER’S JOURNEY – AND MAKING THE MOST OF IT

I’m about to get on a plane to Nevada, and attend the SCBWI Nevada writing weekend at Fallen Leaf Retreat.  So my mind has been very much focussed on my writing journey, and how I got to this exciting place in it.

When I was seven years-old, I was asked to recite my poem at school assembly, and that was the day I decided on my future career.

It took a while to get a book published, but no matter where my life has strayed, I have always been and will always be a writer at heart.

Of course a bestseller would be nice – but most of all I write because it’s an intrinsic part of who I am.

Letters to Leonardo Book CoverI was discussing this with my teen boys the other day and we were talking about goals, and how fulfilling them is what the journey is all about. My fifteen year-old wants to be a stand up comedian. My seventeen year-old is a scientist and great people person, and would like to combine these talents.

We are all different, but we realised we have something important in common – we ALL care about the world we live in, and in our own way, we want to make a difference.

This is what keeps me writing – helps me rise above rejection, battle through writer’s block and scrape the money together to do things like the mentorship I’m embarking on (although I was extremely lucky to receive a financial contribution from CAL to enable me to take up this opportunity.)

I write to make a difference in people’s lives. I write for the girl who came up to me at a school visit and said that Letters to Leonardo was the best book she’d ever read.

Hope for Hanna_CovWebI write for the boy who read Letters to Leonardo and said how great it was to find a book about someone who had a parent like his (one with a mental illness).

I write for the kids who read Hope for Hanna, and were inspired by it to raise money for a village in Uganda.

I write for kids who need a voice, for kids whose life is hard, and need reassurance that they are not alone, and for kids whose life is simple and good, but who will develop empathy from reading about kids who aren’t so lucky.

My writing journey has had many ups and downs, but they have all contributed to who I am today as a writer – and I have learnt so much along the way – not just about writing – but about making the most of the journey.

HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE WRITING JOURNEY

  1. Celebrate every success, no matter how small it seems
  2. NEVER compare yourself to any other writer or to their successes.
  3. Try not to dwell on the rejections, the hard times. Allow yourself to be disappointed, upset etc but move on.
  4. Always have something to look forward to – a pot at the end of the rainbow. It doesn’t have to be anything big – it could be attending a writing event at your local library, networking with another writer, sending out a new submission – anything to help you feel you are moving forward.
  5. Network with other writers – sharing a problem/experience can help diminish the pain of rejection, and it’s so much fun to be able to share good news with people who get how significant it is.
  6. Be patient – even if you’ve written a fabulous book, it could still take a while to get published.
  7. Stay true to YOUR vision for your story – listen to advice but only take on what works for you.
  8. Involve your family and friends in the journey – kids can be great critiquers, partners can be great supporters and friends can help you stay focussed (particularly writerly ones).
  9. Take risks – be prepared to step outside your comfort zone.  A few years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of hopping on a plane by myself and going to the US.
  10.  Enjoy the ride.

MY FIRST PICTURE BOOK – AGED 11

Below are some images from the first book I ever wrote and illustrated. I think I was about 11.

I have to confess that some of the pictures were copied from a beautifully illustrated version of The Ugly Duckling . The storyline was definitely original though – it was about a duck who got her neck stretched and became a swan. (I wasn’t very well versed in biology in grade five:)

IMAG4496

IMAG4498IMAG4494 It is fun to reflect on your writing journey and look at where it all started, and where you are now. It helps you realise how far you’ve come – even though at times it might not seem like it.

If you have tips to share on how to make the most of the writing journey, please feel free to include them in the comments section of this post.

The Journey Continues

I arrive in Nevada on Thursday 24th October and while I’m there I’m going to try and blog daily about the experience and share what I learn.

Happy Writing:)

Dee

Tuesday Tips – The Importance of Writing Goals

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 9.04.07 PMIn just over a week, I head to Nevada to start my mentorship with New York Times bestselling verse novelist, Ellen Hopkins. I’ll be developing my YA verse novel, Hating Ric (formerly Street Racer).

I’m attending a writing retreat at Lake Tahoe where I’ll meet all the fabulous mentors and mentees in the program, and I can’t wait.

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The mentor program is by run by SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators ) Nevada, and I’ve been very lucky to receive funding from CAL to help pay for the trip.

I’m so excited to be going, but one of the things I’m most pleased about is that applying for and getting the mentorship is a writing goal that I have actually achieved:)

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 9.07.09 PM My very good writerly friend, Maureen (Mo) Johnson first put the seed in my head when progress on my novel had stalled.

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 9.09.03 PMIt seemed like a really good idea, but also an impossible dream.  Nevada was so far away from Victoria Australia, and expensive to fly to, and apart from that, there was no guarantee that my mentorship application would be successful.

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 9.11.27 PMThanks to the encouragement and support of Mo and good writer friends Alison Reynolds, Sheryl GwytherTania McCartney, Karen Collum and others, I wrote the mentorship boldly on my list of writing goals and set out in hot pursuit.

I attended every available seminar  to find out as much as I could about putting together arts’ grant applications. (And blogged about it here). Then I set about applying for every available arts grant – no matter how unobtainable or obscure it seemed. I figured it was good practice anyway.

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 9.07.36 PMI was overwhelmed to find that not only had I received a mentorship with Ellen, but I had also secured funding – so now I could definitely go.

I’ve unsuccessfully applied for both mentorships and funding before, but this time it was different – this time I made the mentorship a serious writing goal.

Nothing comes easily in this business, but one of the many things I’ve learned from this experience is that it does pay to have writing goals – and it does pay to give them priority.

MY WRITING GOAL SETTING TIPS

  1. Set goals that are realistic
  2. Don’t be afraid to aim high
  3. Set goals that you want to achieve, not things you think you should achieve.
  4. Don’t compare yourself or your achievements to others – your goals should be ‘yours’.
  5. Set goals that you can achieve – that you have control over (you’ll don’t have control over acceptances or publication dates)
  6. Set  a manageable number of goals
  7. Set goals that are specific but realistic achievements

I hope you achieve your writing goals. For me, they have helped me keep the dream alive.

I was also fortunate to have a book trailer made by an optimistic and very talented friend, Svetlana Bykovec.  When I watch my book trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZs78xyveTQ, I feel that this book could be/will be published.

Book trailers are not expensive to make if you do it yourself – perhaps you can use one to help you keep your dreams and hopes alive – it could be one of your writing goals. If nothing else, making a book trailer is great for helping you understand the essence of your story.

If you have any tips on goal setting, we’d love to hear them. Feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

My mentorship has been made possible thanks to the generous assistance of the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund which provided me with Creative Industries Career Funding. http://www.copyright.com.au/cultural-fund