Writerly Myths–and How to Bust Them! with Lindsay K. Bandy

Lindsay.pngMeet Lindsay K. Bandy.

I’m the Assistant Regional Advisor and Blog-master for the Eastern PA region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), of which I’ve been a member since 2014. It’s been my pleasure to lead workshops and help plan local SCBWI events, organize our annual art and poetry show, and interview authors, illustrators, agents, and editors via Eastern Penn Points blog, which has been a steadily growing resource and platform for our members over the past four years. My novel, REMEMBERING REAL, was a Top 10 finalist for the Helen Sheehan 2018 YA Book Prize, and I recently sold two poems to HIGHLIGHTS HELLO, which are slated for upcoming publication.

-Follow Eastern Penn Points, the official blog of Eastern PA SCBWI, for news, interviews, upcoming events, and craft posts: https://easternpennpoints.wordpress.com
-Like us on Facebook: SCBWI Eastern PA Chapter
-Follow us on Twitter: SCBWI East PA (@SCBWIEastPA) | Twitter
-Tweet to Lindsay @bandy_lindsay Lindsay Bandy (@bandy_lindsay) | Twitter

Guest Post

Writerly Myths–and How to Bust Them!
(Spoiler Alert: SCBWI Really Helps!)

Myth: If you get good grades in English class, you’re all set to write the great American novel (for kids)!

Busted! Ever since elementary school, I was told writing is a process. My teachers gave me little charts and prompts, and five-step plans for revision. I learned how to give a paragraph unity, how to craft a topic sentence, how to dissect a poor, unfortunate sentence into its bloody grammatical parts. I aced my essays and decided to study English in college. But I still had this silly idea that being a “good writer” meant that one day, the Muse would come for a visit and a novel would appear, followed by fame and lots of money. Cha-ching! Um, no.

Clearly, I needed help, and I turned to SCBWI. I started reading craft books, started connecting with other writers, and attending events. Turns out, the Muse is just another name for Hard Work! And Hard Work has a little friend called SCBWI.

Myth: Going to a writers’ conference for the first time is like sneaking into a country club.

Busted! When I went to my first writing conference four and a half years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom with a toddler and preschooler, dreaming of having the time and guts to write my first novel.  I was sure the conference was going to be the KidLit Country Club, with everyone vibing artsy-cool confidence and toasting their own genius. So, I planned my usual “hide-in-the-bathroom-during-breaks” routine, hoping that maybe, just maybe, I might aspire to belong there someday.

But here was a surprise: I already belonged.

There were people of all experience levels, people willing to open up about their struggles, frustrations, challenges, and dreams. They didn’t all have awesome outfits or perfect teeth. They were people – shocker – just like me! I attended workshops that gave me inspiration, direction, and hope, workshops for newbies and seasoned pros alike. I left energized and excited for the next event!

Myth: You shouldn’t join SCBWI or go to a writers’ conference until you’re sure you’re “ready.”

Busted! If you write, you’re a writer. You might be aspiring to publication, but you’re not aspiring to write. Say it with me, “I AM A WRITER!”

When I started out, I was terrified to tell my friends and family that I was writing, because I was sure they would expect me to sell the book next week. They’d start telling me I should just self-publish, or fold more laundry. But what I realized was, the journey to publication is just that: A journey. You have to start. You have to pack up your little suitcase, and then you have to pack up a bigger suitcase. Nobody starts out “ready” to do it all. You just start out ready to start. And then, you learn and meet awesome people and get ready for the next step. Journeys are way more fun with travel buddies! And maps. You really need maps.

So, if you love books and want to learn how to write better—whether you have an acorn of an idea or a sprawling oak of a novel, you are a writer. If you write and/or illustrate and want to connect with other creative people who understand your passion, doubts, insecurities, and triumphs—join SCBWI! You’ll be in great company, because SCBWI is all about the process.

Myth: Those SCBWI people have all the help they need. I’ll just hid in the corner over here.

Busted! At SCBWI, we’re all volunteers. We don’t get paid, so we have other jobs, too. We rely on volunteers to make events run smoothly, to fill our blog with awesome content, and to help coordinate critique groups. When we get an e-mail asking if we need help, we always say YES! You don’t have to know what you’re doing. You just have to show up and want to learn! And just FYI, we’re huggers. So if you decide to volunteer, you’re going to become our friend.

I didn’t go to my first event as a published author—but I went. I learned. I made a few friends. And eventually, I sent an e-mail asking how I could help out in my region. It turned out, nobody had time to run our regional blog – but I did! So, I started writing about what I was learning, and interviewing authors, agents, and editors. I finished my first novel, got professional critiques at SCBWI workshops, then signed with one of the agents I’d interviewed. I helped to organize a workshop devoted to poetry, and eventually ended up selling several poems of my own. I learned about the Helen Sheehan YA Book Prize, entered, and made the Top 10. I’ve survived rejections, endured crises of self-doubt, and sweated through the long waits of the publishing world thanks to many friends who are sharing this process with me.

All of this, because of one e-mail.

Myth: Once you get a contract, you’ll be a beacon of self-confidence. Until then, you should just hide.

Busted! The fear of failure can keep us hiding in the bathroom, feeling safe while dreaming of success. It’s easy to look out at all those successful authors and feel like they must be some alien species of awesome. But most of them will tell you their secret: they’re still scared of failure. They’re still worried about their reviews on Goodreads, whether or not their editor will publish their next book, whether or not Kirkus or SLJ will give it a starred review. At every point in the process, we’re facing down our fears. Rejection always sucks, at every level. But for me, SCBWI continues to provide the resources and relationships to overcome – and succeed!

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