Growing with WIFYR

Years ago I thought I wanted to write picture books. I began playing with words, and joined a critique group and read a lot of books to my children. But the defining moment for that manuscript came when Carol encouraged me to take Rick Walton’s class at WIFYR. I polished it into a beautiful work of art, and learned that a writer understands the writing rules and knows when to break them.

My children grew and we began reading more middle grade fiction together. My heart turned to the idea of writing a novel. I’ve always loved historical fiction and when Jeanette Ingold came to WIFYR, her workshop was a perfect fit for me. With all I learned though, the defining moment of this class was not the manuscript itself, but the moment when I said to Jeanette that maybe I should stop writing the manuscript I’d brought to workshop. “Why?” she asked. The sincerity of that question stuck with me. Although I did move on to something else, her question has often reminded me in times of doubt that I can do this.

The next year I attended the morning workshop with Ann Dee Ellis. We laughed and cried as the group shared touching chapters and personal experiences. I was working on a contemporary middle grade that year and I began learning to look for emotion in my characters and bring it to the page. But bigger than that, I started believing it was okay to call myself a writer. It was good to embrace the quirky manuscript I’d been working on and be proud of it. I’d been writing for years, but I finally began believing. Believing what I was writing about mattered enough to be taken seriously.

Then I jumped to fantasy writing with Kathleen Duey. I looked at the world through her eyes and learned from a mentor who has created success for herself. I realized what it means to understand your character and learned that interviewing them helped accomplish this. I experienced greater success creating those characters as I viewed the world through their eyes and learned to describe it as they would.

Every year I attend WIFYR, I leave with something priceless that helps me improve my writing. I wonder what gems I will take with me this year.