Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Celebrating First Steps (And Those That Follow)

What better way to begin this New Year than by writing a post that celebrates Beginnings, those Very First Steps that - hopefully - lead to others.

For instance,
take a gander at four members of a spanking-new Writers Group that launched last night at fellow writer Michelle O’Looney’s Old Town Suite Lounge.
(From left, Corinne Dean, Kathy Mirkin, Denise Gallagher and Michelle O'Looney)

Could it be that only three months ago they’d met for the first time, members of my Fall Newberry Library Picture Book Workshop?
They 'fessed up that first September night: each was more nervous than the next, doubtful, reluctant, questioning her choice. Each, though, had committed to learning this new format, to acquiring the tools to tell her story to young readers; by November, they’d bonded to form a writing community.
I traditionally vet the first session of any and all Writers Groups that grow from my classes. I brought along chocolate (dark, milk and white) as well as my copy of Becky Levine’s most helpful The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide (Writer’s Digest, ’10).

Here’s a peek at the cover of first-time author Wendy Kupfer’s picture book Let’s Hear It For Almigal, illustrated by Tammie Lyons (Handfinger Press). I smile at the year that’s come and gone as I worked with Wendy to help her write and ready this story of a spirited Life-loving little girl who just happens to wear a cochlear implant. The book creation business and its seemingly-unending series of First Steps could understandably overwhelm even the most jaded; yet not once did Wendy falter. Now she begins the next necessary First Step: launching her book this May to coincide with Better Hearing and Speech Month.

Yes, indeedy: beginning that story you’ve always wanted to write is quite The First Step, one deserving of praise, of back pats and champagne.
But once you complete it, once you write and revise (of course) the story you're telling, all sorts of challenging yet doable satisfying First Steps follow.

I learned from emails the past three weeks:
a former Novel Workshop student began querying agents;
a writer with whom I worked this year began querying editors;
another prepared to enter her manuscript in the National Children’s Book of the Year Award Contest;
a new non-fiction writer now seeks her MFA degree;
a young adult novelist who earned her MFA now seeks a second Writer Residency.

As for me, next week I begin - teaching my University of Chicago Writer’s Studio Novel Workshop.
I’m almost done reading my way through Anderson’s Bookshop’s Mock Newbery List and the recent blog posts of the Apocalypsies, 2012’s debut middle grade and young adult novelists.
I'm ready to email students the link to PW’s Fall 2011 Flying Starts.
(IMHO, it's never too early to take that First Step.)

So, Hurrah! Hurrah!
Once for this Brand New Year.
And once for the chance to bravely begin.
No matter the endeavor, more delicious First Steps follow.

Esther Hershenhorn
Hurrah, too, for our TeachingAuthors readers who helped us reach our First Books 2011 holiday goal.
Talk about First Steps!  Thank you from the bottoms of our six hearts.


Becky Levine said...

I love that you go to the first meeting of these groups. Okay, I also love that you bring my book, but--really--what a support you're offering these writers by being there as they get started!

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

Congratulations to all first steppers. Since starting out critique group, We have, as a group, started a blog; finished at least four novels and five picture books; queried a lot of agents, have had 3 requests for full reads, one sale, and we continue the process.
This year we've made resolutions.

jan godown annino said...

Feeling the generous energy of this group & all your connections far away here in
the land of frozen oranges.
Uplifting post! Continued good luck to this group.

And - is it true that a children's writer has her own watering hole? Quite fabulous & a must-see stop on a Chicago area trip. Can we have a link to it perhaps.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

FYI: I recommend your Writers Group Survival Guide to - all - of my classes, Becky. :)
May the group that grew from my Fall class be as successful as the Pen-and-ink bloggers's group.
In fact, may - all - Writers Groups be that successful.
And, here's the link, Jan, to Michelle O'Looney's Old Town Martini Bar - :)
My Fall class boasted a lounge owner, a pediatrician, a yoga instructor, a cook book author, a children's lit professor, publicists, administrators....just to list a few day-time occupations..

Linda B said...

I like hearing about all the news from your busy life, quite different from my teacher life & we only really connect online or in writing a little. It sounds like you had a good year, & have some things to be proud of. Happiest of 2012's to you.

jan godown annino said...

That was fast! I visited in cyber - looks quite wonderful.

Your bizee & supportive January plans in the writing world make me aspire to triple my efforts. MANY thanks!

Kathy Mirkin said...

Thanks for coming to our first meeting, Esther!
Your groupie,
Kathy Mirkin