Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Working Through The Self Doubt

I was chatting with a writer friend of mine recently, and was sharing that as I have been going through what is hopefully a last rewrite of a manuscript, I’ve been at turns thinking to myself, HACK, BRILLIANT, HACK, HACK, BRILLIANT, HACK, HACK, HACK. As in, whom am I fooling?

I’m still pretty new to this writing thing. Yes, the title of this blog indicates that the writer is a FLEDGLING WRITER. It has been suggested that since I have a contract for a book coming out in the spring the word “fledgling” no longer applies. Au contraire. This hack, brilliant, hack, hack episode just proves my point that I am still a fledgling.  At least I think it does. Maybe.

As someone who is still learning the craft, I have my moments of self-doubt. Plenty of moments of self-doubt. Hence the whole hack, brilliant thing. But, do the more seasoned writers suffer from this affliction too? I’ve read that they do, but I cannot help but believe that it isn’t the kind of panicky, self-flagellation-inducing, uncertainty that those of us less seasoned writers tend to experience. 

Always one to look for the learning experience, I’ve asked myself “Monica, what can you learn from this?” I came up with the following:

  • Though you are still learning the writing craft, you have learned enough to recognize writing that needs work.

  • When you come to a scene or page or paragraph you think is brilliant, take a moment and celebrate. Then look at it again and see what you can do to make it even more brilliant.

  • Don’t forget that every writer, in fact every artist of any kind, has her/his moments of doubt. You aren’t special.

  • Remember when you were in high school drama and you learned that the best acting happens only after experiencing stage fright. Over confidence on the stage often leads to poor acting. Now apply that to writing. 

So I continue to learn and grow as a writer. I’m currently working on a prequel to the novel that comes out in the spring. Though I’m happy with the writing in the to-be-published book, I’m much happier with the writing in the new work. And I’m getting happier with the manuscript mentioned at the beginning of this post. Learning…still learning.

Happy writing!!!

Monday, October 7, 2013

On Meeting My Literary Idol

Two years ago this month I attended my first ever Wordstock convention. For those of you outside of the Portland area, it is a reading and writing extravaganza with scores of wonderful authors speaking and/or reading, and loads of great writing workshops to choose from. For me, that first Wordstock experience was especially momentous because that was where I discovered the multi-talented YA author/musician/composer/artist/race car driver/goat keeper, Maggie Stiefvater. If you haven’t read my post on my absolute adoration of Maggie you may want to read it/skim it/glance over it before reading further. (click here) Her talent simply blows me away.

Fast forward two years—Maggie is back at Wordstock, as a part of her book tour for her latest book, THE DREAM THIEVES. This year I took a family friend/former student, 13 year old G. (We’ll just call her G. here.) I couldn’t wait for her to hear the always humorous and delightful Maggie. I bought her a copy of SHIVER, which was where I began my reading of all things Stiefvater. We had time to attend several other presentations, because Maggie’s panel was the last one of the day. As the time approached G. and I switched roles: I became the 13 year old fangirl who was spazzing out, and she became the poised, responsible adult. About an hour before The Maggie Hour, we happened to see her walking around the convention and I just about lost it. G., however was a little surprised by the object of my adoration. G. knows me as the ever proper teacher, and when she saw Maggie in her usual high-top Doc Martens, ripped jeans, and short black leather jacket, she gave me a LOOK. It said, “Really, Mrs. K., YOU are crazy about an author who looks kind of edgy?” YES, G. I AM!!

The time finally arrived for the panel. Maggie worked her usual magic, and G. was entranced. Then Maggie told the story that is the reason I’m writing this blog post. She told about the time about a year ago or so, when she met her literary idol, Susan Cooper. Maggie had adored her since forever and the idea of meeting her idol made her a little crazy. She envisioned how it was going to work: she’d put out her hand and give Ms. Cooper a warm handshake, and proceed to tell her what an influence she’d been on her. The moment arrived—she was standing before her idol. But her hand didn’t reach out to give Susan Cooper that warm handshake—no she froze. Maggie’s hands were in fists, up by her chest and she was just GAH!! She ended the story there, but I’m quite sure the rest of the exchange went very well. She is Maggie Stiefvater, after all.

Twenty minutes later I had my own Susan Cooper moment when I got to meet Maggie. God bless G., she decided she had to get her new book signed, so she rushed to the line for Maggie. We waited patiently, while I began to feel increasingly ill at the prospect of actually speaking to my idol. It was our turn! And it was perfect. G. and Maggie and I chatted and laughed—I got to ask a question I’ve been dying to know the answer to—and Maggie was as warm and delightful as could be. I didn’t freeze up. I didn’t faint. I just had a fantastic, memorable moment with my literary idol. Thank you G for making sure that happened!!

Epilogue: It was quite the day for meeting authors you adore. Earlier in the day G. and I saw another favorite YA author of mine, Portlander Laini Taylor, walking through the exhibits. After politely asking if having hordes of people approach her disturbs her we had a lovely conversation during which I calmly and articulately told her how much I admire her work. She was adorable and very gracious.

A fabulous, memorable day at Wordstock. Thank you Maggie and Laini! And G.!