Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I Ponder Wednesdays: What do you value in the writing community?

In April I attended my first SCBWI conference. I thought I'd be nervous. I thought I'd feel out of place. But the truth was, I didn't feel either of those things. Overconfidence? Maybe. Inflated ego? Definitely not. I just felt... Comfortable.

When it came time for our first speaker (lucky for us, it was none other than the sensational LIN OLIVER!), I was downright giddy. I'd met up with my pal, Elizabeth Stevens Omlor (yes, that one!), had a delicious pastry, and I was sitting with my incredible critique group. Now all that was needed was for Ms. Oliver to pass all her knowledge onto me- I mean, us. She spoke about very poignant things that are vital to writers, and gave fantastic examples and quotes that will stick with me forever.

However, in the beginning she spoke about how she got into writing, and how she eventually started SCBWI. She mentioned how she'd written letters to some pretty famous writers (one even being THE Dr. Seuss!) asking their advice after she'd gotten a job writing a bunch of children's stories. She had the audience guess how many writers actually got back to her... Want to know? Every. Single. One.

Cue light bulb moment for Bethany.

"We in the writing community are nice. Plain and simple." she said.

I wrote down a bunch of notes, but I don't remember much of her speech after that. And here's why:

I have been in many situations where I felt sub par. I've felt like the underdog. I've worried about fitting in. But I can honestly say, I have never met a children's book writer who has ever treated me with anything but encouragement, honesty, love, and a whole lot of smiles. I can't say that there are too many industries out there today that are like ours. And maybe that is why at my very first conference, I felt so comfortable and at ease. It wasn't overconfidence (I swear!), it was the few hundred people in the room showing me that I had an entire supportive army standing behind me, should I ever need to call on them. And what made me feel the greatest? I was standing behind them.



My question this week is sort of a twofer (two-for? How do we use the slang, here? Hmmm...). And since we are all so nice, please make sure to not name names or get too specific with the second question:

What is it about the writing community
that you value most?
And
Have you ever encountered a rude writer
that left you discouraged?


As you go today, I'm going to challenge you... Encourage ONE person. Just one, to keep going. Our community is vast, but tight knit as well... But it can't stay that way if we don't continue to hold one another up.

16 comments:

  1. Your post gave me goose bumps! I wish I could have been in that audience with you guys. This makes me want to get to a conference so bad. Thanks for sharing this Bethany.

    As for your questions, I value most from the writing community the never ending praise and support- just like you said in your post. In the past I encountered a rude writer that had left me discouraged in the early stages of my writing. I so badly wanted to write that person back to tell them how poorly they critiqued my work without much constructive feedback, but I didn't. Maybe I should have so others wouldn't be subjected to that?! Either way I did end up with a few positives from the critique and grew a tougher skin.

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    1. Always the first to comment! I wasn't even awake yet! Haha

      I love that you enjoy the support just as much as I do. It helps, right? I feel like it really keeps us going.

      As far as the "bad critiquer", I think you've already shown them that what they did, didn't stop you. GOOD FOR YOU!! That's the best thing you could do!

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  2. Wow. Lin Oliver's experience is so awe-inspiring, but so true to the spirit of the children's writers community. Emma Walton Hamilton mentioned the same kindness of spirit in children's writers, illustrators and editors on my blog today.

    I so appreciate the generosity of others in the kidlit world, and the way I'm treated as a "member of the tribe" (I think it may have been Richard Peck who started using that term). I also appreciate how much I have learned by being a part of this community, not just about writing for kids, but about how to "be" as a person in this world.

    I don't know if it's all writers, regardless of genre, or if the kidlit community is special. I have a feeling that the fact is the kidlit community is very special, indeed.

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    1. I agree with you, Beth! We are a community that *is* generous and uplifting. It makes it easier to continue on with each idea we want to develop.

      Thanks for your input! As always, I marvel at what you have to say.

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  3. When you dive head first into to something new (writing), it IS scary. This writing community allows you to be vulnerable, to show your soft underparts in an environment that is nurturing, generous and supportive. I can't tell you how much that means to me. This community pays the kindness forward in so many ways. Great Ponder Moment, Bethany

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    1. Thank you, Pam! Couldn't agree more. :)

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  4. I have never encountered a writer who was rude to me personally, or down on my writing, but I have unfortunately witnessed the kind of writers who think the world is against them. How they get that idea, I don't know, but I hear them complain that editors don't understand them, that their work is superior and no one appreciates it, or that they just can't get their big break. They're just negative about the industry as a whole and I find that sad, because there are plenty of opportunities for learning, growth and development of one's craft if you're willing to be open and accept criticism. Talking to those people makes me uncomfortable, but I always try to give them a boost. But there's only so much you can do for these people. Eventually they have to help themselves.

    Whoa, that went a little off topic...!

    I have benefitted from the wisdom and encouragement of published authors, and now that I have a few contracts, I try to give back to those who where I was a few years ago. Pay it forward!

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    1. Hahahaha!! No, not off topic at all. I feel the same way and yet, I find myself having those very negative moments too. Although, it doesn't go further than my poor, innocent husband's ears! It's rough to deal with Negative Nancys or Debbie Downers. You're right, they must help themselves.

      Congratulations on another book, by the way!! I'm so VERY thrilled for you, and cannot wait until MONSTORE comes out!!

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  5. I love this community, plain and simple. So many wonderful, generous, kind people! I do think writers in general are nice people, but I think Beth is right that the kid lit community is especially amazing. I don't think I've encountered a rude or mean-spirited writer. I've met a couple who are maybe a little more blunt than they probably intend to be, but if you understand that's just their way of communicating - not anything personal - their hearts are still in the right place :)

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    1. So glad you feel this way, too, Susanna!! Aren't we lucky gals, to be involved with such a fantastic group of people WORLDWIDE?!

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  6. Funny how late the email notifications are coming in (just now at almost 8:30 pm Mtn time). Everything everyone else already said I can agree with about kindness, support, generosity. I find any critique can help you grow, good or bad - it is one person's opinion, but always worth taking a deeper look at. But what I truly love the MOST is the humor shared with the written word! The rhyming, the puns, the utter silliness! Attempts at phonetic dialect and original slang! SO MUCH FUN MAKES ME FEEL GREAT!

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    1. Oh Julie... You're hilarious! Thanks for stopping by, even when it's almost bedtime!!

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  7. Awww... Bethany! Thanks! It was so great to meet you as well as some other realy amazing writers at the Spring conference. It was an amazing feeling to stand with so many other people who have both literature and the hearts of little ones in mind. I feel as if the generosity and enthusiasm of this community keeps me afloat. I love this place!

    I have not yet any rude people yet, but I am sure they are out there. =)

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  8. I had the same experience as Lin Oliver when I contacted poets for Poetry Month -- and the two who responded the fastest were the two who are at the top of kids' poetry right now. They didn't all do videos, but they all responded with enthusiasm and encouragement, and that just reaffirmed what I had already learned so quickly after I joined this community six months ago -- that the kidlit community is simply generous and supportive. Meeting all of you has been a revelation. :)

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  9. Great post, Bethany! I've yet to meet a mean writer. The kid's literature community has been nothing but helpful and welcoming. My favorite part would have to be critique groups!

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  10. At times I find myself feeling frustrated when I don't know the answer to something writing related. It seems I can always find a writer(s) willing to answer my question. I hope there comes a day when I can truly pay it forward.

    I once left a critique group because one of the writers made me feel like I wasn't good enough to be in the group. It wasn't anything he said about my writing it was how he treated me. He was more experienced writer then I was but we all have to start somewhere! I ended up finding a better critique group so it worked out in the end.

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