Saturday, January 07, 2006

I was long over due for an SCBWI meeting

I learned a long time ago that if you can hold your breath, suck in your gut, crunch your abdominal muscles until they are practically touching your spine — you can prevent your stomach from growling while attending a quiet but large crowded gathering. I had the opportunity to put these skills into practice this morning when I attended a long overdue SCBWI meeting.

Since I've lived in Austin, I've only attended, maybe, two meetings. I have this problem with getting active with anything that involves social interaction. Had they figured out a way to video stream those meetings right to my computer screen, where I could participate all by myself, I'd have been an active participant a long time ago. But I went; I'm so glad I did, and I'm still alive, though $18.00 poorer ‘cause I can't visit a Barnes and Noble without purchasing something.

Author Julie Lake led the meeting. Her discussion, The Zen of Revision, was very informational, covering much in the short time we spent there. I now have all sorts of ammunition in which to attack my writing goals. When this fall's SCBWI conference rolls around, I'd like to have a complete finished first draft novel, and at least 10 pages that are agent-ready for prime time show.

I walked away with two things ringing in my ears:

1. Write the dang novel. Each time I sit down to write, I let too many things stop me from proceeding. A little voice in my head starts telling me that I'm not good enough, not educated enough, not smart enough. It tells me that in order to write a novel, I need to have a Vermont College, or equivalent degree. The voice says that my ideas aren't interesting, and that getting published will be too hard, if not impossible. It likes to remind me that I'm black and tells me that no one cares about books for black kids anyway. This voice is so loud that I end up setting my novel and picture books aside.

2. I won't write the dang novel in a day. When I was in high school, I worked as a burger flipper for a chain restaurant. The motto there: work with a sense of urgency; get it done, and get it done fast! As a commercial artist/illustrator I've lived by those same principles. Deadlines are tight, and in most cases, the end product can be held in your hands, if not the next day, in a fairly reasonable amount of time. So the idea that it may take anywhere from three years to a lifetime before I even get some agent or editor interested in my work does not mix well with my get-it-done-tomorrow mentality.

But, I'm gonna try anyway.

On a scarier note: While at Barnes and Noble today, I noticed that actor, Michael J. Fox, is currently on the cover of AARP! Oh. My. Gosh! He ain't much older than I am. I'd better get this novel written if I don't want to do my first book signing from the nursing home.


Susan Taylor Brown said...

How often does your SCBWI group meet? When I lived in New Orleans we had a monthly meeting which was nice. But out here in CA we're spread into several regions and I really only connect once a year at our conference. I miss that monthly interaction, though like you, it's hard to do the social thing. A critique in person isn't quite the same. We've started having smaller schmoozes in my area but I haven't managed to make myself go to one yet.

As for the novel, yes, use the BIC method (butt in chair) and just write the dang thing. A word after a word after a word. You know you can write...I mean look at how many words you've blogged. I'll be looking forward to seeing that novel of yours on the shelf some day.

rindambyers said...

Don't fret so much now about other people's rules or time tables or anything, Don, just stay in that safe play zone, your creative space, and just play! Just write and enjoy yourself and get the words out there! That's my only rule when writing! Pay attention just to me and my words! Except I sometimes have to get a away to a good coffee cafe to do it!

Varian Johnson said...

When I start a novel, I can't look at it like I'm trying to write 200+ pages. I try to break it down chapter by chapter, or even scene by scene if possible. It seems a lot less intimidating if I think about it this way.

Plus, I write all the stuff I like (dialogue) first, and then come back and fill in the blanks (narrative) later. It helps me to push forward with my writing.