This is the story of an almost-quitter. I’d been writing for a very long time, and my submissions were being ignored. I was ready to throw in the towel.
Years earlier, I’d had a VERY encouraging start with an excellent agent—but that was when I was a baby who’d found a pen, scrawling stereotyped characters in an overblown narrative, and I knew it. So I decided to drop the pen and learn to walk. I obtained a Masters and developed a successful illustration business, writing on the side, and lamenting what could’ve been.
But then I won the scholarship for Writing for Children, and everything changed. I revised the towel-chucking plan. It was a blood, sweat and tear-soaked rag, but it was mine.
The course helped me see that my struggles weren’t unique, nor mine to bear alone. Turns out the writing community is a ship full of stubborn fools just like me. And writing a story that captures, engages, and satisfies is a very difficult thing to achieve.
I was glad when the tutor—the brilliant Martine Murray—was more interested in stories than sales. She proposed that children’s books should delight, verbally and visually, and inspire the imagination. And, well, however she did it, I found myself inspired, and creating in a way that I’d struggled with before.
And the floodgates opened.
I came up with dozens of new picture book ideas (to date, over sixty), such as the story of a … hang on a second! What are you doing? Are you taking notes? What—you think I’m just gonna let you steal my ideas? These things are gold, baby, gold!
Well, I learnt how to develop these ideas into satisfying narratives using classic structures as well as new modes of storytelling. And I gained the confidence to enter competitions and apply for mentorships. I decided to stop letting rejections bother me. To do this I convinced myself that I would lose everything I applied for, but that I would apply for everything I could, anyway.
Since the course, I HAVEN’T won a fellowship, a mentorship, a reality TV contestant position, and a writing community membership. AND I’ve had a manuscript rejected by one agent and ignored by four publishers.
But since the course, I HAVE written a poem that won a prize worth almost $1,000; I was runner up in a national mentorship competition—winning a manuscript consultation; and also runner up for a prestigious illustration prize. AND I have an agent interested in my middle grade fantasy novels and graphic novels, and a publisher interested in my picture book series.
If I can hold onto this raggedy old scrap of towel a little longer, I might finally get the chance to create stories that inspire children to dream, and help adults to be childlike, and encourage families to come together.
And that will be thanks, largely, to the Faber Writing Academy, and the encouragement of the scholarship, coming right out of nowhere, at just the right time.