This month, I was able to attend my very first writing workshop. In a way, registering for it was my way of proving to myself that I was a real writer instead of simply pretending to be one. It was called “The Insider’s Guide to Writing and Publishing for Young Readers”. What an experience!!! I’m excited to share some of the highlights from this 3-day event.
The workshop was put on by the University of Prince Edward Island in partnership with Humber College. Our facilitators were certainly experts in their fields. Cynthia Good was formerly a publisher and president at Penguin Canada, and Rick Wilks is the co-founder of Annick Press, which was the publisher that discovered Robert Munsch. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit intimidated.
We had a reception the first evening, and were given the opportunity to mingle. The problem was that in a room full of writers, most of us are introverts. Luckily I had a friend with me, but I had to push myself out of my comfort zone BIG TIME in order to introduce myself to new people.
On the second day, there were lectures on various topics including trends in publishing, age categories for children’s books, etc. It reminded me of being in university (which I LOVED), and I didn’t want it to end. And yes, I geeked out over taking notes and asking questions. If only I could make a living being a student!
We also broke into groups to discuss our writing samples that we had submitted to Rick a few weeks prior. There was a roundtable discussion for each person who wanted to participate. We were given copies of the manuscripts to read the night before, and we shared our impressions and some constructive criticism. This was a really fun and insightful exercise. Actually, let me clarify… it was fun talking about others people’s work. When it came time to discuss my own short story (a work-in-progress called “Spilled Milk”), it was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life.
I received some very positive feedback, which was encouraging, and some concrete things that I can work on. There were a few teenagers in our group, which was especially helpful since they are my target audience. They gave me some helpful hints regarding dialogue, etc. It’s been quite a while since I’ve spent any amount of time with teens, so I definitely welcomed their feedback.
Over the course of the weekend, we had an amazing line-up of guest speakers, including Paulette Bourgeois (the creator and author of the Franklin books), Sharon McKay, Dave Atkinson, Tom Ryan, and Terrilee Bulger of Acorn Press. They were fantastic!
I loved hearing stories about how they went from being just like us to being successful published authors. Everyone’s path was so unique. Hearing about their struggles was almost more inspiring than hearing about their successes. We got a taste of how hard it is to make it in this business. But the ultimate message was that it CAN be done. It made the dream of being published seem a bit more tangible.
I think my favourite part of the weekend was feeling like I found “my people”. Don’t get me wrong, my friends and family have been nothing but supportive since I told them about my writing goals. But to be surrounded for 3 days with people who share the same dreams, the same challenges, and the same passions was SO good for my spirit. I think no matter how old we are, or what we’re interested in, we all want to feel like we belong somewhere. This definitely felt like a place where I belonged. I also met some new writer friends that I hope to stay connected with.
If any of you are debating whether to participate in an event like this, DO IT! You won’t regret it. I can’t wait until I can attend another one.
Have you ever attended a writing workshop? If so, how was it?