- by Amanda Smith
The 2014 theme at NE-SCBWI’s Spring Conference in Springfield, MA was Create Bravely: Make Your Mark (http://newengland.scbwi.org/). I pondered the theme, even before the conference. The “create” and “brave” parts I got. In this business you have to be brave. I couldn't quite see how that connected to making "your Mark", though. And it left me wondering: What exactly is MY mark? Is MY mark any good? And, with so many prolific writers, is there room for MY mark in the industry?
Now, I am certain I am not the only writer experiencing these doubts. You see, a short month after the conference, our very own, very talented 24 Carrot Writers voiced exactly those questions. How can you read The Fault in Our Stars and not wonder just a little bit about your own abilities as a writer?
As I allowed our collective self-doubt to wash over me, little word-seeds, planted in my heart by Laurel Snyder, started to grow.
The lovely Laurel Snyder was one of the key note speakers at the spring conference. She said, “Only YOU can write the stories that are in YOU.”
Only John Green could have written The Fault in Our Stars. He had a precious personal experience with Esther Earl and her family. He responded to her situation in a certain way and out of that came this marvelously written story. It is authentic because it is true to his heart. The cancer love story is as old as time. It has been done a gazillion times. But this one stood out because of what was in John Green.
This is also true about Jo Knowles and that bully scene on the bus in See You at Harry’s. I attended her seminar at a different conference where she read from Dear Bully her telling of the real-life event (“Kicking Stones at the Sun”). Her voice was filled with emotion, and her audience was sniveling. There is authenticity in her writing and characters because of what is in her heart.
The same can be said about Karen Day’s No Cream Puffs. Because it is based on her experience, her heart, the story has richness and depth.
I can wish to write like John Green or Jo Knowles or Karen Day. I can even try to copy them. But I will lose my voice and the story will be fake, unauthentic. The real challenge, I think, is exploring my heart in the story. What is it that I really want to say? Why do I NEED to tell this story?
Laurel talked about “your list.” Your deepest life-changing events. Your most vulnerable place. “Your bravest work comes from that list,” she said. She called it “your secret weapon.” Making your mark is brave business, because it requires digging into your heart.
We all have low, self-doubting moments. I think we should write through them. Let's write this brave story that needs to come out. FOR US. If, some day, there is a market for it, that is the cherry on top.
Laurel shopped her one manuscript around. She received more than forty rejections. She put it in a drawer. Moved. Got married. Had a baby. Years after she first submitted, she pulled it out again. Soon she found an agent and sold the book. The market was finally ready for it.
I LOVE this story.
This story says WRITE YOUR HEART!
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