Tuesday, January 13, 2015

And The Scholarship Goes To...

A few months ago, poet and dear friend Shaun Leonard sent me an email with application instructions for the SCBWI Student Writer Scholarship. (For those of you not in the know, SCBWI is the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators.) We had just workshopped a chapter of my children's novel The Marrow World, and he thought a trip to their winter conference might be a good opportunity for me. So I applied. You know. Figured I'd give it a shot. Figured it couldn't hurt.

But then I won.

Initial reactions:

Look at me, using gifs like The Kids These Days.

In all seriousness, though, I'm really excited! I get to spend three days in New York City hobnobbing with lots of children's publishing professionals; what more could an aspiring writer ask for?

There's so much I hope to learn at this conference. One goal of mine, for instance, is to settle the question once and for all of whether my novel is middle grade or young adult. I've been writing it with the Harry Potter crowd in mind, and apparently the internet can't figure out whether Harry Potter is middle grade or young adult--probably because it's both, I'd imagine. The earlier books are middle grade, and as the characters age, so does the reading level. At this point, I feel like my novel is written in the style of a middle grade work, but the themes and actual situations it deals with might be more appropriate for a young adult work. Maybe? Perhaps I'm worrying about it too much. Either way, it's possible that someone at this conference, someone with years of experience in this field, could tell me what it is! Or what I need to do to fix it.

I'm also looking forward to learning what feedback from publishing professionals is like, as opposed to feedback from peers and professors. When I joined the MFA program at UNLV, I'd never taken a writing workshop before. As an undergrad, I'd studied English Literature and History, but never Creative Writing. I started my own workshop in Chicago after I graduated, which certainly helped hone my craft as well as my ability to give others feedback. Nevertheless, when I arrived in Vegas, I was still nervous to get into a classroom and have my work critiqued formally. (It went well, though, as this old post reminds me.) Now, in the Writers' Roundtable Intensive, I'll get a taste of what the next step is like. Am I anxious about it? Absolutely. But I think it will be good for me. Great for me, in fact.

Anyway, I can't thank the SCBWI enough for this opportunity! I'm so glad they saw potential in me and my novel. I also can't thank Shaun enough for sending me the information, or Maile Chapman, for writing me a letter of recommendation. Also, thank you, friends and family, for being so supportive of me, and not saying things like, "you're going to graduate school for what? Isn't that a waste of time?" I'm so glad to be surrounded by people who do not think art is a waste of time.

And now I'd better get back to my novel, actually. These things don't write themselves.

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