Homework for 2014 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR)

This June I will be attending the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference, in Sandy, UT. This will be my fourth year at the conference and part of me worries a little about becoming one of “those people” who are perpetual conference attendees, but who never actually take the next step to revise, revise, revise, and then hunt for an agent, and try really hard to get published. Nevertheless, I push along, knowing that there is a price to pay to learn a skill and this conference is one of my favorite places to pay it.

This June I will be in Cheri Pray Earl’s week-long workshop on “The Murky Middles”, at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference. I had considered doing the bootcamp class, but then life happened, and I found myself bogged down in the middle of my novel. It seemed like a cosmic tap on the shoulder, so I signed up to wade through the murk.

A few weeks ago, an email arrived from Amy, our mighty teacher’s assistant, warning us that homework was headed our way. She advised us to pay attention and try to make the time early on so we wouldn’t be too bogged down during the days just before the conference. She also warned us that we would be working like mad on fresh homework during the week of the conference. I guess I’d better put my family on notice for that. Just because you see me, doesn’t mean I’m actually here.

I worked on homework assignment #1 yesterday – “Write your plot in three sentences and then write a strong story opening (no more than 300-500 words).” Maybe I finished it, I don’t know. I’ll look at it again tomorrow. I do know that the beginning of my book is better now than it was before.

We also have some reading homework. I just finished reading Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. Reading this book was an interesting experience. I actually read most of it by listening to the unabridged audio book. Sometimes this is the best way to keep myself from getting bogged down in rumination when I read non-fiction. Reading this book was, at alternating times, like having my wrists tied together and being dragged behind a horse across a desert – unrelenting and blistering – and then being lifted and carried through the air to be dropped into a soothing snowbank on the shady side of a high mountain – cooling my despair and watering my dry desperation. Then do it all again. And again. In the end, though, I think the book helped. The primary message of the book is, Yes, the writing life is hard, and wonderful, and aggravating. Don’t quit. Fall down. Cry. Laugh. Mourn. Rejoice. But Don’t Quit.

We’ve been asked to read like mad as part of our preparation for this workshop, and then discuss what we’ve read. I’ve been wanting to reread one of my favorite books for a little while now, so I’m going to submerge myself in Mrs. Mike, by Benedict and Nancy Freedman. Ah, happiness.

Bucket list: One day I want to see the northern lights.