Friday, March 20, 2020

Leaping Over the Inner Critic . . . to Fly with the Hive

     I know these are trying times as we struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, but I'm trying to stay positive. So I want to begin by saying Happy Spring! and sharing a photo I took on my walk yesterday:

Walking outside improved my mental health, and seeing these blooming snowdrops gave my spirits an added boost!  🌷🌷🌷

I also want to say happy Poetry Friday! See the end of today's post for a link to this week's Poetry Friday roundup.

     Now to continue our current TeachingAuthors topic: I've enjoyed reading all my fellow TeachingAuthors' posts on taking leaps in their writing and careers. One of the biggest writing-related leaps I've ever taken was my decision to apply to the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. I first learned of the program from Sharon Darrow, a wonderful teacher I had the privilege of working with many years ago. When Sharon explained the low-residency program to me, I knew immediately that I wanted to attend. At the time, I was working on a YA novel that was in great need of revision, and I figured the MFA program would be the perfect place to fix it. But when I considered the possibility of applying, my inner critic started screaming at me about how ridiculous the idea was. After all, my only published work at the time consisted of nonfiction articles for newspapers and magazines. How could I pursue a graduate degree focused on fiction writing (which was my goal).

SCBWI-Network Meeting at Fountaindale Library, January 2020
     I've been thinking a lot about dealing with the inner critic lately because I recently gave a talk on the subject at an SCBWI-IL Network meeting. (That's where the above photo was taken.) Back when I was considering attending Vermont College, I didn't have the tools I have today for quieting the critic, so I hesitated. But when several unexpected events coincided that would allow me to attend the MFA program, I took it as a sign that I was meant to apply, and so I DID! Keep in mind, I'm afraid of heights, so attending Vermont College felt like I was taking a giant leap across the old stone quarry near my home. But I'm so glad I didn't let my inner critic (or my fear of heights) hold me back. I made HUGE leaps in my writing while I was in the program. I ended up putting my YA work-in-progress aside to focus on a project I'd never expected to write: a middle-grade novel inspired by events from my own childhood. That novel was later published as Rosa, Sola by Candlewick Press. The MFA program also gave me credentials to be a teacher. (You can read a bit about my path to becoming a TeachingAuthor here.)

     But just as important, Vermont College was the place where I connected with many wonderful writers, especially those in my graduating class, which was known as the Hive. You can see us in the photo below. I'm standing on the right side, wearing a red polo shirt. Directly in front of me is fellow TeachingAuthor Mary Ann Rodman Downing. The woman at the far left of the front row is former TeachingAuthor Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford, and in the middle of the middle row is another former TeachingAuthor, JoAnn Early Macken. Some other authors you may recognize in the group are Gretchen Woelfle, April Pulley Sayre, Carolyn Crimi, Carolyn Marsden, and Gretchen Will Mayo. As members of the Hive, we called ourselves "Bees." (You can see a stuffed bee perched on Gretchen Woelfle's shoulder in the front row.)

Hive graduating class, summer 2000 
     Even though the members of the Hive live all over the United States, many of us have stayed in touch over the years via an email group. We've had several mini-reunions, too, where subsets of the Hive have gathered to critique, celebrate, and support each other. I'd hoped we'd have another reunion this summer to commemorate the 20th anniversary of our graduation (gasp!), but in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, that's unlikely. Still, I'm so grateful to be a part of this amazing group of writers.

     Our class graduated in summer of 2000, which, like 2020, was also a Leap Year. Completing my MFA was a career leap that truly helped my writing take flight!

     Be sure to check out this week's Poetry Friday round-up by Michelle Kogan.

Remember to always Write with Joy!


jan godown annino said...

O goody, dear Carmela!
This post bursts with JOY.
I love knowing your writing path & this photo.
So thrilled to see names/faces of authors of titles dear to me & some I even know a bit, via Poetry Friday.

Wishing you spring teas & candied violets.

Jan/ Bookseedstudio

Damon Dean said...

I loved Rosa, Sola! Thanks for sharing part of your writing journey. I have a problem with my inner critic, so this was especially encouraging. Thanks.

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks, Jan. Candied violets sound yummy! Stay well!

Carmela Martino said...

Hi Damon, so glad you found the post encouraging. And I'm thrilled that you loved Rosa, Sola. Take good care!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Carmela, Jan's right ~ your post DOES burst with joy. And what an amazing class you were part of!

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks, April. I'm really trying to stay positive. And you're right, it was an amazing class and they continue to be a wonderful, generous group.