Friday, October 12, 2018

Taking Myself "Back to School"


I've so enjoyed reading my fellow TeachingAuthors' posts about the various ways they continue to school themselves in the craft of writing. Bobby kicked us off by discussing a new book on craft she's studying while also re-reading a favorite classic. Esther shared about being inspired by a new collection of essays from fellow teacher Sharon Darrow. Mary Ann also turns to books for her re-education, not only craft books but new fiction, too. In contrast, Carla's ongoing education comes from talking to and working with other writers.

So what can I add to this discussion? Well, this fall, I went "back to school" by attending the SCBWI-Wisconsin 2018 Fall Retreat and Conference held in Green Lake, WI. I was invited to attend the conference as a presenter on a panel discussing "The Truth of Creating: Rejections, Waiting, Perseverance and Inner Critics." You can see the panel participants in the photo below.

Left to right: me (Carmela Martino), E.M. Kokie, Deanna Singh, Stef Wade,
Joanna Hinsey, and moderator Michelle Houts
But being a presenter didn't keep me from being a student, too. While I don't recall learning anything specifically about the craft of writing, I came away with insights into more productive ways to approach my writing process. For example, one of the breakout sessions I attended was "Come to the Page as You Are … Wired," presented by Genevieve Artel, a creativity coach. I reflected on the impact of what I learned from Genevieve in my latest Creativity Newsletter. If you're not a subscriber, below is the gist of what I said:

In the presentation, Genevieve talked about how understanding our personality type can help us improve our creative life. She notes in the session description:
". . .  every individual is uniquely wired with cognitive preferences, flow states, and strengths. Many of the frustrations we experience on our journey are the result of a perceived set of practices that go against our intrinsic nature." 
I rode to and from the conference with fellow Illinois author Cathy Velasco, who attended Genevieve's session, too. We were both intrigued by the presentation, and Cathy later sent me a link to this piece on The Myers-Briggs Types of 101 Famous Authors. (If you aren't familiar with Myers-Briggs, the article includes a brief explanation at the beginning.) There are lots of online quizzes to determine your Myers-Briggs type, but I've found the results to be inconsistent. That's why Genevieve recommends working with someone like her who's specifically trained to do personality profiles.

However, I have received a consistent result from all the quizzes I've taken regarding one of the Myers-Briggs traits: Introversion vs. Extraversion. The definitions of these words in Myers-Briggs terminology don't exactly match our everyday usage. (Which is why I'm using the Myers-Briggs spelling for Extravert and Extraversion.) For example, I am definitely an Introvert as defined by Myers-Briggs. That doesn't mean I dislike being in groups or public speaking. The fact is, I enjoy teaching and presenting. But I can only be "out in the world" for so long before I start to feel drained. To put this in Myers-Briggs terms, I draw energy from being alone rather than from being around others.

Even though I've known this about myself for a long time, I never thought about what my introversion means to my writing habits. Inspired by Genevieve's talk, I spent some time researching the topic and found a terrific website called Write with Personality by Andrea J. Wenger. On the site, Wegner provides helpful strategies for writers based on their Myers-Briggs personality type. For example, in this post, she emphasizes the importance of what she calls "Playing to Your Strengths." The post links to other articles on the site specifically for either introverted or extraverted writers. Wenger also notes:
"The 'right' techniques are the ones that work well for you, even if they don’t work at all for your coworker or critique partner."
At the SCBWI-Wisconsin conference, Genevieve shared an important tip for Introverts like me: we need to recognize our need to be alone and give ourselves permission to do so. But as Wegner points out here, too much alone time can cause introverted writers to "lose sight of their audience." She provides ideas for how to avoid that problem. Conversely, if you're an Extravert, it may help you to know this tidbit from Wegner; ". . . there are more extraverts in the U.S. population, but more introverts among writing instructors. If you’re an extravert, the natural writing process of introverts may not work well for you at all." I'm glad that even though I'm one of those introverted writing instructors, I always tell my students there is no one right approach to writing--you have to find what works for you.

I'm so glad I attended the Wisconsin retreat, and I look forward to continuing my education at future events. The next will be the ACFW Chicago one-day Write to Success Conference on Saturday, November 3, in Schaumburg, IL, which will feature topics of interest to both beginning writers and published authors. In addition to expanding my own education, I'll be presenting on the subject of "Turning Life into Fiction." If you're in the Chicago area, I invite you to join us. Even if you can't attend the conference, you're welcome to browse the free Book Expo that will follow!

See details here.
I'm also looking forward to attending the Windy City RWA retreat Feb. 22-23, 2019 in Naperville, IL. James Scott Bell will be presenting a full-day workshop on "Writing a Novel They Can’t Put Down.Registration is now open if you'd like to join us.

Don't forget to check out this week's Poetry Friday round-up hosted by former TeachingAuthor Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids.

And remember to always Write with Joy!
Carmela

Friday, October 5, 2018

Learning from Friends


In honor of the start of another school year, we TeachingAuthors have been writing about various ways we “school” ourselves.  As usual, my fellow TAs have written eloquent blogs on this topic in a wide variety of ways.   I’m taking a different direction.  One of the ways I believe we as writers continue to learn is to talk to other writers.   Most of our families don’t quite “get” what we do, or why we do it.  Sometimes I don’t understand it myself.   That is why developing friendships with other writers are critical.  They understand.   

I’ve had the blessing in my life of having a fellow writer in my local area.  Darcy Pattison is a nationally known author, writing teacher, and independent publisher.   Click here for Mims House Books.  We met for the first time many years ago when her first book came out (a picture book), and mine (an adult inspirational) was about to be released.  We got to know each other slowly through our local SCBWI chapter—which Darcy started in our state.   

I was beginning to write my first nonfiction book for young readers in those days.  I bought stacks and stacks of how-to books, which are still in my bookshelf.  I devoured books about character and setting and formatting manuscripts and on and on.  Learning all these things was necessary.  But at some point there comes a time in a writer’s life when you have learned enough about how to write and you need to actually do it.  The next step is what I call: Put your seat in a seat and work.   In some ways that is when your real education as a writer begins. 

As the friendship between Darcy and I grew over the years, so did each of our published books.  (Her list is far longer than mine!)  Our writing styles and the types of books we each write are very different but we have been able to help each other.   The main way I believe we help each other is not in the form of manuscript critique—although we do that for each other.  It is in the way we discuss our work—over countless cups of coffee, phone conversations, emails and texts.  We bounce ideas off each other.  We brainstorm together.  We discuss how to handle various situations that come up in publishing.  We support each other.  We are sad for each other when disappointments come.  And we rejoice with each other when good things happen.   

In the words of E. B. White in Charlotte’s Web:

It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.  Charlotte was both.”


My friend Darcy is both.  I look forward to a friendship that lasts for many more years as we learn from each other.  

I hope each writer who reads this blog will find a writing buddy-or maybe a whole group of friends to support them.   

Carla Killough McClafferty





Darcy Pattison and I with our books at the Arkansas Reading Association conference.  



CONGRATULATIONS TO COLLEEN K, the winner of our TA giveaway!! She will receive a copy of Great Morning! Poems for School Leaders and Read Aloudby Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.  Enjoy the book Colleen K.