Tag Archives: community

Returning to Battle: Second Time’s a Charm?

6 Sep

I’m doing it again! Pitch Wars, that is.  And can I tell you how excited I am?

It really happened!

I feel more fortunate than ever.  Because with Pitch Wars, the odds are most definitely not in your favor. This year, Brenda Drake’s epic contest garnered the highest number of entries yet–somewhere around 2600.  That makes the odds of getting in about the same as getting into the Ivy League. (!!)  But if you do get in, the odds of getting an amazing, super-cool, loves-you-like-their-own mentor is extremely high. These mentors are in it for the love, man. They love writing, they love writers and they love helping you make your manuscript the best it can be.

I’m thrilled to have Cass Catalano and Shauna Holyoak as my mentors this year (yeah–I got two! Bonus!) Together with me and my fellow mentee, Gaye Sanders, we are Team oMG. For the uninitiated, MG means middle grade, which means readers typically between 8 and 12 years old. I love writing MG because those years are such a pivotal time in life. It’s exciting and scary, and books can be a great companion, helping you figure it all out.  Actually, that sounds like me, now, with my mentors!

oMG squad hug

Seriously, although I entered hoping to get the opportunity to put my work in front of some top-notch agents, no matter whether I connect with one or not, I know I will get something hugely beneficial out of Pitch Wars this year: a community.

I first entered Pitch Wars three years ago and I gained a lot, including becoming a stronger writer, but most beneficial was the community I became a part of. Our group of over 80 mentees is still in touch, supporting each others’ writing and celebrating each new book published by one of us. And so far, there are a lot!! That deserves a separate post, which I promise I’ll do soon. I also connected with a super-supportive mentor, Lisa Lewis Tyre, whose writing I love. You can check out her debut novel, Last in a Long Line of Rebelshere and she’s got another book, Hope in the Holler, coming out in early 2018.

This year’s Pitch Wars class is turning out to be incredibly supportive and fun. I’m loving being a part of this group and am learning everything I can from them as well as Shauna and Cass. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about–taking my writing to the next level so that (hopefully someday) my words will be out in the world, touching the hearts of children.

The next step is revising, revising, revising and honing my pitch for the agents. I’m ready to take on the challenge!

Prepare for battle

The Myth of the Solitary Artist

14 Mar

Though the image of many famous artists is that of the painter or writer slaving away by themselves in their lonely studio or hunched over their antique typewriter high up in a tower somewhere, I have learned the exact opposite about the art of creating art.

Smithsonian castle sepia

Smithsonian ‘castle’

Art is never created in a vacuum. At the very least, artists are inspired and informed by the world around them. For some it is cities, for others: mountains. Or flowers or waterfalls or people. They observe color, light, movement, sound and they translate it onto their canvas, whatever canvas that is. For me, it’s a page and my paint is made of words.

My fellow writers are a treasure trove of stories not only because of their vast imaginations but because they feed their imaginations. Many love to travel, some to the opposite side of the globe, learning about different cultures and traditions; others to the closest subway station, eavesdropping on the conversations around them. The world is their collaborator though it doesn’t always know it.

In my experience writing is a team sport. Beyond gleaning from their interaction with the world, writers actively partner with many, many people most of whom give of their time freely in order to help that writer’s vision come to life. Here’s a short list:

  • Critique partners who give honest and necessary feedback in the earliest stages (love ya OWLS!)
  • Fellow writers in the community and at conferences who give encouragement and support
  • Bloggers who provide information, resources, and sometimes exposure and connections
  • More experienced writers who serve as mentors (thank you Lisa Lewis Tyre!)
  • Beta readers who give even more feedback once the story is complete
  • Industry professionals who attend conferences and contests giving information and sometimes feedback
  • Agents who generously provide feedback even when they’ve decided your work is not a fit for them
  • Agents who say “YES” and agree to represent you who help you get your manuscript into shape to sell and then work their tails off to sell your book on only promise of payment IF they sell it
  • Editors who read your work and provide feedback even if they will not be acquiring it
  • The editor who does agree to acquire it (squee!!) who works with you to polish it into the final product

Okay, so the list isn’t that short. And it doesn’t even include the whole team at the publishing house who helps ensure your book actually hits shelves (physical or electronic) with cover art and a minimum of typos. Which proves my point. Writing is a team sport. Don’t go it alone.

Without my writing “team”, I would not have completed two novel-length manuscripts and I wouldn’t have been able to see my stories with fresh eyes and take them to new levels. Of course, I haven’t yet added an agent or editor to my team. But I hope to soon. I’ve got some fabulous agents reading my work. Keep your fingers crossed that one of them is the right match for me.


Nancy – Inspired by Giving Back

22 Nov

I have been a follower and supporter of the Four Chicks for a long time now.  While I enjoy reading the stories they post and have even dabbled in creative works of my own, only recently have I been inspired to share this creativity with others.

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer for a few hours at a local food bank, America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend (www.fightinghunger.org/).  While we were there, the volunteer coordinator gave us a tour of their facilities, which are amazing, and told us a little about what their organization does.  I was saddened to hear that she herself, a United States Military veteran, had been a recipient of their services.

This group, with the help of their parent organization – Feeding America, the USDA, and generous donations from and area businesses distributed over 5 million pounds of food last year, and served 44,000 people in one month alone.  Their service area includes 11 counties in the Big Bend area of North Florida.  The statistics are staggering.

  • 1 in 6 people do not know where their next meal will come from.
  • Of those, 1 in 4 is a child. 
  • For many of these children, the free or reduced breakfast or lunch they get at school on Monday is the first meal they have had since the same free lunch the previous Friday.  

I can only imagine the terror and desperation that a child who is hungry feels.  I hope I never know the hopelessness a parent must feel seeing their child go hungry or, possibly worse, depending on that child to provide food for the family.  The sad truth is that you never know what circumstances will bring to your life.  All you can do is prepare the best that you can, and hope you never have to rely on those preparations.

You may be asking yourself what all this has to do with a creativity blog.  I actually thought of the Four Chicks and their idea of finding inspiration and creativity all around us while listening to our coordinator talk about all of their different projects.  When you are battling against such overwhelming statistics and serving such a large community, you have to get a little creative.

  • BackPack Program: Children receive backpacks on Fridays with food to feed their family through the weekend.  It’s not five course meals, but it keeps them from going wholly without.
  • Summer Food Program: Children receive meals and snacks at a sponsored site.  Have you ever wondered what those children who need the free and reduced lunches do when school is out?
  • Brown Bags for Seniors: Bags of food supplies and groceries are provided for impoverished seniors.  Elderly in need are often as helpless as children.  When your fixed income doesn’t cover your basic needs, where do you turn?
  • Second Helpings: Excess prepared or perishable foods from local restaurants are distributed to partner agencies who serve prepared meals.  This not only adds to the number of people fed, but also reduces waste!
  • Food Fund Drives: Through the efforts of Feeding America, these food banks can purchase food supplies at significant discounts.  Your dollar goes further when donated directly to the organization than if you buy the food yourself.

These are just a few of the creative ways they battle against hunger.  I imagine few, if any, of their staff and volunteers consider their work to be creative.  All the same, it was a muse to this budding artist.

Inspiration and creativity live everywhere.  You may not be an artist, musician, writer, or any other traditionally “creative” person.  This doesn’t mean that creativity doesn’t exist within you.  Any time you are inspired by something, a little creativity is blossoming somewhere inside of you.  Reach for that creativity and let it guide you to your outlet.

Nancy Williams, Orlando, FL

It’s up to you to reach out

3 Feb

I am reflecting once again on the idea of community in creative work.  We talked about it in our Week 10 video, and literally every day something happens which makes me so aware and so grateful for the wonderful creative community out there.

Last night, I was on a group chat on Twitter called #yalitchat.  If you tweet, you are familiar with this concept, but for those not familiar, the basic deal is this: a chat is set for a date and time and anyone and everyone who wants to discuss that topic joins in the conversation by watching all the tweets with that hashtag.  If they tweet anything themselves, they mark it with that same hashtag so others can see it.

It’s like being in a big virtual room with a bunch of people who are interested in the same thing you are, and you can hear every conversation.

I learn something new, find new people and blogs of interest, and encourage and support others every time I join this particular chat.  It’s a community!  Like a flash mob, it is constantly changing and only temporary, but it’s a community just the same.

This is just one example, but if you feel like you are creating your art in a vacuum and need some support, it’s up to you to reach out.  A critque group, a class, Twitter.  These are just a few of the possibilities.  Carpe diem!

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